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Part-time Canberran freestyle motocross rider Jarryd McNeil will ride in Nitro Circus

Jarryd McNeil, who will perform as part of Nitro Circus on Saturday night in Canberra.
Jarryd McNeil, who will perform as part of Nitro Circus on Saturday night in Canberra.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

When Nitro Circus star Jarryd McNeil is poised at the edge of the ramp ready to perform his trademark "whip" move at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night, the physical demands of flinging his motorbike around in mid-air won't be the biggest challenge.

Instead, the part-time Canberran sees freestyle motocross as all about the mind.

The 24-year-old says he is living the dream, having travelled to every continent in the world besides Antarctica performing with the Nitro team.

Before switching to freestyle motocross and its "different mentality" in 2007, McNeil was an accomplished Australian champion dirt bike racer.

"[Freestyle] is a real mental thing, getting your brain to tell you that it's OK to go upside down or let go of your bike while you're flying in the air," he said.

"It's kind of a mental struggle in a way.

"Whereas racing is more physical, it's really demanding on your body riding a bike for 30 minutes around a rough motocross track."

Although McNeil is now based in California, for the past five years he has lived on and off in his "hometown" of Canberra where his parents live, after growing up on a dairy farm in Victoria.

While it's not his first Nitro Circus before the home crowd, ahead of Saturday night's show McNeil was pumped for the thrill of riding in front of his friends and family with fellow Canberran and sometimes training partner Harry Bink.

Organisers expected a 13,000-strong crowd, with 12,000 tickets sold as of Friday afternoon, 3000 more than Canberra's first Nitro Circus in 2011.

"Coming home and getting to see everyone and then performing and showing them stuff I've learned while I've been away is great," McNeil said.

Since starting out on dirt bikes aged two-and-a-half, the worst injuries of McNeil's career came on home turf in 2012 when a particularly nasty spill while training in Canberra between tours left him with a crushed spleen and kidney, bruised lung, fractured back and broken ribs.

"It comes with the sport we do, but it's like anything, you can get injured walking out your front door," he said.

Although his hardest trick is a backflip, McNeil said his signature move, and the one that's given him three X-Games medals, is the "whip".

"It's basically staying upright on the bike but getting it whipped out 180 degrees and bringing it straight back or trying to get the bike up above my head without doing a backflip," he said.

"It comes down to technique, I'm not a very big person I'm only five foot six and not a massive build.

"It takes a real toll on your body and you've got to be very fit and in shape."

Extreme sports may have a reputation for traditionally being a male domain, but McNeil says it is just as popular with young girls.

"If you go out to local tracks you see a lot of girls participating in motocross now and you go to skateparks and you see girls on BMX bikes," he said.

"It's not like a football team … girls can go out and have a go at these sports and make a living as well."