ICYMI | Catching Up with Topher Ingalls
By Billy Rainford
#13 is kind of controversial. I say controversial because it’s a number that most riders avoid like the plague. However, there are some characters in this sport who thrive on the unusual and unconventional.
When I think of those two words, one rider pops into my mind, Topher Ingalls.
Topher is the rider from Central California who kept us entertained from the day he arrived on our scene. He did things his way and was super fast on a dirt bike.
I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that Topher was great for our series. We don’t have characters like him on the line and in the pits anymore. He’s a dying breed in the new-style days of robotic riders who never venture from the mechanical paths laid before them.
Since we don’t have anyone who runs the #13 in our series, I decided to contact Topher to find out what he’s been doing since he walked away from racing in 2015 (has it already been that long?!). Here’s how our conversation went:
Direct Motocross: Hello, Topher. Let’s start at the beginning like we always do. How old are you, where are you from, and how did you get started in the sport of Motocross?
Topher Ingalls: Woah. I’m from Templeton, California, I’m 29 now, and got into riding from my cousin who had a dirt bike. I got one as a young kid and went from there.
What was your first number and how did you choose it?
My first race number was 999. I picked it because I was a skateboarder as a youngster. I started riding for Hurley right when they started which was 1999 and they used to put “999” all over their clothing because it was kind of their number. Because it was when they started and I was one of their first.
My mom sent out my sponsorship video and she said, “Hey, this Hurley company…” and I was like, “Who? Never heard of it.” It was right when they first started.
Anyway, when I first started racing and I quit skateboarding, Hurley told me then that…you know, I was one of their first athletes and they said, “We’ll sponsor you for life.” So, even when I quit skating I got clothes for probably like another 6 years.
I was 16 years old, all through middle school, they’d send me packages every month. So, to support Hurley and their number 999 and I kept it for pretty long, actually. I kept it all the way until I got an AMA number.
At the nationals where they’d made you switch, I’d picked #99 at Loretta’s and I ran 999 for most of my amateur career.
That is a horrible number but a great story!
It’s the highest number possible. It was the Hurley days. I was a little skater kid and I just a beginner on a dirt bike, but…
“When 15 rolled around…I was just like, “Nah, I’m just going to start a new journey.”
You mentioned Loretta Lynn’s. What was your best amateur race?
I remember I was a Yamaha support rider and they had bonuses for the nationals but it was only for the top 3. It was tough. I had guys like (Zach) Osborne and (Nico) Izzi, and (Austin) Stroupe and all these good guys. I remember getting 3rd at World Mini’s in Las Vegas and getting the bonus for the first time.
The contingency I made I would always just put back into our race program to buy parts etcetera but the Worl Mini’s bonus my parents let me keep it and I bought a really good mountain bike.
That’s the one I remember. That’s the only one I really got a top 3. I was always getting 4ths everywhere.
(Ryan) Dungey too, but Dungey wasn’t the Dungey we all know as a Pro. He was actually probably one of my biggest rivals. He was a bigger guy and I remember in Texas being able to beat him in the stock classes and then he’d beat me in the modified ones. I was this little skinny guy in the stock class and I could handle it a little better.
What year did you turn Pro and what brought you up to Canada?
I turned Pro in 2009. I privateered it in Supercross and was really an unknown. I made like half the mains. I probably made 4 mains that year out of the 9. Then in 2011, Frenchie (Luc Caouette) mentioned Canada and I hadn’t given it any thought, really. I discussed it with Eric Nye I think a little bit but I hadn’t gone there mentally or had any thoughts about it.
Frenchie talked about the Leading Edge team looking for a rider and he was trying to push to get me on Leading Edge. I don’t know how close I was but they ended up picking (Tyler) Sjoberg that year.
Somehow, from there, Eric Nye told me about Gopher Dunes and I rode the Suzukis that year for Gopher Dunes.
I hadn’t given it any thought before that. It was super snap of the fingers and I got the opportunity so I went up there. I had so much more fun than I ever expected and kept coming.
Looking back, what would you say was your best Canadian race?
I mean, my only win was Gopher Dunes, but 2013 all as a whole was my best. I won a couple motos and was top 3 on most weekends. I was consistent. I was close in points coming into the final few rounds.
I remember I was 16 or 12 points down on (Austin) Politelli going into Moncton, I believe. I had a DNF there and that was the end of that, but the whole year was just great.
Every weekend I was expecting to be on the podium, and I was. It was my most fun year. I was with RTR that year for the first year and they were awesome. I enjoyed that whole year.
My most accomplished feeling was 2012. Just that year and how gnarly and everything it was. The bike breaking and I rode Denaye‘s (Arnett) bike at one round and then Bryar (Perry) left and I was alone and it was mentally grueling and just pushing my boundaries and I was still able to pull of that 3rd in the championship.
I didn’t do as well, but I know I pushed my body and my bike was really slow and…all that stuff and I was still able to pull off a 3rd. That was probably my biggest accomplishment I ever had, even though I did better in 2013…it was just a lot easier…I had better equipment and all that.
12 is my proudest. Probably my proudest moment ever! More than here…just how far I pushed myself.
Best race? I’ve got to say Gopher Dunes going 1-2 and getting my only overall.
What was your favourite track up here?
Hmm. I feel like I have…man, that’s tough. I don’t know, nobody will agree with me but I kind of had fun….ya, maybe Calgary. I was going to say Nanaimo. I don’t know why. When it was the first one it had all the excitement and for some reason I really liked that track and I always seemed to do well there. But Calgary was always my best through the years.
It’s an awesome spot and then the Blackfoot Inn and the whole vibe of the weekend was always good.
Then you left Canada and never came back! What did you get up to?
I just stopped racing! I think mentally I just did everything I could. I just felt like I was ready for something else. I think, more than anything, the love for it wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t like it hadn’t been there and I just kept racing. It was just like there one year and then not the next. I think I’d just sort of outgrown it mentally and I was ready for something else.
I decided, I think in 2014, I was going to tell RTR and all them that this was my last year. When 15 rolled around, I think they even ended up calling me, and I was just like, “Nah, I’m just going to start a new journey.”
I came down here and I started working in real estate stuff and my dad is a contractor so I’ve always kind of done construction stuff. I’m starting my 3rd or 4th chapter working on post-racing and some new passion finding happiness in something else.
And the next time we saw you was that real estate video you did riding your bike that caused all the stir. Does that still come up? What was the end result of that?
Ya, that comes up all the time! The end result was positive. It was super-good…I’m glad I did it. I don’t think I’d do it again knowing what I know now but I went in sort of ignorant and blind or maybe intentionally didn’t want to think about what could happen so it all just worked out well.
It comes up all the time. Anyone around here in real estate, for the most part, they’d heard about it so it kind of gave me a little…clout, I guess.
Nothing came out of it, at all. Not a single call form the police or anything even though it was all over. I heard charges were sent to the prosecutor’s office because my brother’s a lawyer and he told me the prosecutors decided there wasn’t anything there.
I can’t say that I’d do it again, but I’d do it again. It gave me some confidence, in a way. It starts convos. Everyone around here sort of knows about it.
So, now you’ve bought a house and you live with your girlfriend. What’s going on with you these days?
Ya, I’m just selling real estate and doing some different construction gigs and stuff like that. I want to go in that direction a little bit more. My own projects. Buying and selling spec homes and something more where I can do it on my own and not have to rely on getting clients and having to deal with that.
I’m just growing in that area, career-wise, and surfing a ton. We moved to the beach. I was like 30 minutes from the beach before but now we can see it from our house. It’s paradise here. My girlfriend has a little Vespa and I have a vintage motorcycle and we just ride around town and down to the beach in this super-cute quiet little town (Morro Bay, CA). That’s about it.
OK, one last stupid question. What should we all be binge-watching on Netflix?
Netflix? I’m sort of a Hulu-er [of course he is]. On Hulu you should watch Manifest.
Thanks for talking with me today. I’m happy to hear you’ve got a great post-Motocross life for yourself. Do you want to thank anyone to end this?
My family. Everyone who helped me through racing. I got so much out of that and I’m glad I was able to get all those memories and grow as a human. Ya, so everybody who helped me back then. We keep talking about doing a trip up to see the Dubés (Eric Dubé and Denis Dubé) in Kamloops to do some sledding. We talk about it every year, I just never make it.
Same with Matt Bannon. He’s such a cool guy and so we keep planning on him coming here, me going up, and us all riding bikes and having fun.
But everyone who helped me out along the way. It was super-fun and I’m glad I was able to share all those memories with you guys.
I wish I would have run that #13 again in 2014. I love that number. I use it constantly now! It became my favorite number because of that year in 2013 racing up there.
OK, thanks. See you. Thanks for thinking of me.