When he was 3 years old, North Fork’s Ryder Ellis sat on an off-road motorcycle and immediately decided motocross racing was in his future.
And that future, thanks to a June 11 third-place finish in his age group at Pala Raceway in Southern California, includes a “golden ticket” to the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Championships Aug. 1-6 in Tennessee.
Standing on a makeshift practice track at home next to his 50cc Cobra motorcycle, Ryder, who recently turned 6, said the best thing about the sport was having fun.
“Jumping and taking the corners, that’s the best too,” said Ryder, who has competed in at least 50 motocross races since he first laid hands on a motorcycle. “Oh, and doing tricks. I’ll show you, when I ride.”
Ryder’s passion for motocross perhaps speaks to his name - Ryder appeared born to ride, as he kept glancing at his bike, ready to get back on the track.
“He just wants to ride,” said his mother Amber Ellis, noting Ryder eats, sleeps, and breathes motocross. “He would ride all day, every day if he could, he loves it so much.”
For both Ryder’s parents, Rob and Amber Ellis, his love of motocross came as a surprise.
“We never thought we would be into it because we never watched motocross,” Amber said. “But everybody said he was doing really well when he started out, and we should enter him in a race, so it just took off from there.”
“I enjoy watching him,” Rob said. “I enjoy the competition, and the smile on his face at the end of a race.”
As he roared around the practice track, Ryder easily handled bumps, dug deep into turns surrounded by weeds, and flew over a four-foot-high ramp, showing off tricks like the “No Footer,” where he removed his feet from the bike’s pegs while in the air.
Both Amber and Rob said at times it was frightening to watch their son, but they couldn’t keep him from something he loved.
“No doubt about it, when he wrecks, it’s scary,” Rob said. “When he’s going so dang fast, it’s scary. But at the same time, it’s exciting.”
“He hops right back up and he’s good to go after a crash,” Amber said. “So really, it’s more the mom and dad who are scared ... and he just keeps getting better and better, so it’s one of those things where it’s hard to say no to him.”
Ryder smiled as he said he hardly ever felt fear on the track.
“Only one time,” Ryder said. “Because it was a big jump, bigger than six feet. But it wasn’t so bad.”
In order to keep his bike up to speed, Ryder and Rob - a union ironworker for a Southern California company - tag team on maintenance work, ensuring the black-and-yellow Cobra with Ryder’s 877 number is always ready to strike.
“I’m behind the scenes,” Amber laughed, adding Ryder loves to camp and fish. “It’s really more of a dad and son kind of thing, and they love it.”
That maintenance helps Ryder compete against some friendly rivals, like his 8-year-old sister Kaydynn and Ryan Herring in Northern California.
“He’s my buddy and he’s super fast,” Ryder said. “But not as fast as me.”
Ryder’s first “big race” was at the Save Mart Center in Fresno two years ago, where he placed seventh in the 4-6 age class.
He regularly rides at his home track, Little Okie in Madera, and has competed across the state while attending Spring Valley Elementary School.
Ryder’s sponsors include NorCal Cobra, ALiAS MX, Spy Optic, Mika Metals, DT1 Filters, Little Ripper Designs, and Dunlop Tires.