YOU'RE not alone in thinking that motocross and celebrities aren’t the perfect mix. Motocross racers fearlessly face the challenges of the track, despite knowing that one tiny miscalculation can turn into a big, and even costly, mistake. Celebrities have too much at stake to risk such a stunt and singer-actor Sam Milby definitely agrees with that.
“It’s probably one of the worst sports to get into, if [acting] is your job. When something happens to you, eh di wala ka ng trabaho, di ba?” he says earnestly. But ironically, he offers a simple explanation why he’s an exception to the notion. “I’m an adrenaline-rush kind of person,” says the 27-year-old almost instinctively. As far as Milby’s concerned, that’s part of his moxie as a man.
Coming from a strong motocross bloodline, Milby got to hop on his very first dirt bike at the age of 11. But, it wasn’t until he was 16 that he’d take to the hills and have his true taste of height and haste.
“My dad was really good pag maputik,” recalling his father’s motocross expertise — something Milby obviously inherited given his penchant for drifting in the dirt. With that, you may be quick to assume that he’s our very own version of Evel Knievel or Robbie Maddison, pulling off stunts without a hitch or hiccup. However, this is far from what he’s experienced on the track.
“The truth is if you do this sport, you have a 150 percent chance of getting hurt,” Milby says, who admits to suffering a broken hand and the usual sores and bruises from disorienting crashes — mostly from attempting jumps. Every injury, however, gives Milby a heightened sense of awareness, not just of the inherent danger of the sport, but of his own mortality. That it could be worse than it really is.
Yet, with all this at the back of his mind, he goes full throttle at every occasion. “Even though sometimes I tell my management, ‘I really take it easy,’ I [really] don’t,” he lets out a devil-may-care grin while showing a video of him in competition.
Despite the airtime and applause he gets when hitting a big jump, Milby knows that the only way to win a race is through brutal efficiency. Mastering the terrain, minimizing excess movement, and making critical decisions – sometimes in a split second – eventually lead to a strong finish. You can even throw the thought of poetry in motion out the window. “It’s just about who knows how to take the turns the fastest,” he sums it up succinctly.
Gauging height, calculating distances, and measuring up your opponents are part of Milby’s pre-race psyche. “You know, it’s about who knows how to work a bike and about timing,” he adds. Being unable to synchronize tactic and technique almost guarantees an epic wipe out.
And apparently, he’s a quick learner in taking up after his own advice. In his most recent tourney, Milby finished first in the Quirino Leg of the Enersel Forter Philippine National Motocross Series. Overall, he wound up third for the Beginner Open Prod Category. He certainly showed signs of a more than promising future if ever he rode professionally.
Building momentum and staying in rhythm have come to be mandates of Milby’s motocross manual. But for someone who defies death during his downtime, you’d be amazed at what his engine runs on and how he revs it at the most opportune of times.
While Milby blitzes through the motocross track without any second-guesses, it's “when I know I have to carry the show, kinakabahan ako,” he reveals. You'd expect the now six-year veteran to be calm and composed in front of a crowd or the cameras. Milby, though, admits to the opposite. “Normally, I can act it out like, ‘Yeah, I’m okay, I’m okay.’ But a lot of people and friends can kind of tell that you’re a little tense on stage,” he says. This apparent disadvantage, as a performer, is what actually keeps him grounded.
Like his motorbike, Milby requires some warming up before he braves the watchful eyes of a crowd. A racetrack can dish out random bogeys that can potentially throw you off-course. The same applies when Milby takes hold of a microphone, he claims. Spiels aren’t exactly his bread and butter.
And, it doesn’t help if that — in instances like the concert he did the night before our interview — rehearsals are rushed. This is one area where the initiative of hurry and hustle doesn’t favor him at all. “There were a lot of new songs I had like two days to learn. And I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, I don’t know the songs that well,’” he recalls. But, he’s come to acquire the ability to shun away stage fright and buckle down. And he does so — in impeccable fashion. “It takes that first step, that first song, okay na ako.”
As it is in a race, Milby acknowledges that on camera, economy of motion and action is key. “In acting, less is more. Also, I think, the really good actors are the ones that don’t even say a word, but they speak with their eyes,” Milby says. Despite his seeming mastery of the art, Milby will be first to admit he still has a lot of polishing ahead of him. “I know I have so much to learn. I have a lot of acting blocks,” he humbly says. Even the greatest of motocross riders have their fair share of tumbles. But what really matters is getting back up and gaining back your stride, no matter how high the fall or even slow it is you start. During the shoot of his 2010 indie drama, Third World Happy, Milby exemplified just that.
The plan was to capture a principal, tearful scene that would bookend the story of Milby’s character Wesley, who returned home for a loved one’s funeral. The film’s director, EJ Salcedo, was gearing up for what would showcase Milby’s on-cue acting chops.
“May hawak akong bata, close-up talaga, umuubo yung bata, wala. Lagpas ng one hour, walang nangyari,” he says with a hint of frustration, as if he was reliving the take where he failed to shed the needed tears. Salcedo began to weigh his options and opted for a compromise given the conditions. The same wake scene shot from a wide angle, this time with Milby approaching the coffin instead. Soon after the director shouted “Action!” to everyone’s surprise, “I just started crying. Tapos si direk nataranta,” he says elatedly of his performance in the clutch. This outing garnered him a Best Actor nod from the 34th Gawad Urian Awards headed by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
Motocross racing requires you to seize the moment in order to come out on top of a situation. Milby is well versed with this and is quick to apply the same on screen. Soon as he’s shaken the nerves off, he gets into his groove where he turns the moment to momentum. Armed with these lessons, Milby is about to take the toughest leap of his life — with a different set of hills in his sights.
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, FLOW
Let Sam Milby show you how you can outmaneuver every tight curve
1. “In motocross, you have to read everything. You have to see what line is the best, where the ruts are, when the ruts are really deep, mahirap. You have to know about everything.”
You have to be cognizant of the course that’s before you, whether a big life-decision or something that’ll just dictate tomorrow’s work output. Identify where you can capitalize and where you have to permit advantages to unfurl on their own.
2. “If you really believe you wouldn’t make it, you’re really going to fall and hurt yourself. You really have to say, ‘You know what, I can do this,’ Ganun, you have to really overcome your fear and say, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
A couple manifestations of misgivings are allowed, but do pick your spots. While it’s only you who can determine whether or not your cool is indeed “cool,” realize when it’s time to crank it up for the crunch.
3. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s like street riding, It’s like the bikes sa kalsada, kaya ko yung motocross.’ It is completely different. If you do motocross, you can do street riding, hindi pwedeng the other way around. Iba yung pag nasa motor talaga tapos dumadaan sa jumps.”
Assumptions are unfounded guesses that may push you into making shaky decisions. To debunk any myths for yourself, don’t be afraid to experience things first-hand.
Motocross — or dirt biking — takes motorcycles off the concrete and into the mud. You’ve snuck “I want to try that” looks at them for long enough, so get on one of your own with these tips from the US Men’s Health Adventure Guide.
If you’ve mastered balance and form on a bicycle, or even a horse, you’ll pick up dirt biking faster. You can choose to ride training-free, but safety courses or tagging along with an expert are good ideas to prevent bad habits.
First things first
The best way to learn the basics — like brakes and controls — is repetition. Tracks often have practice spaces so you don’t get run over. And respect the sport’s danger and don’t push past your skill level.
Stuck in the middle
Stay back in the middle to back of your seat. This is a natural defensive position for bikers. Just remember to keep your elbows up and your mind clear, and ride naturally.