Nuclear Cowboyz: Motocross gone wild

Professional motocross rider Derek Garland, his fuzzy ZZ Top beard peeking out of his helmet, is part of Nuclear Cowboyz. This touring show combines freestyle motocross thrills with theatrics. Dancers groove in unison and blazing pyro licks the air as riders soar through the sky busting their best moves. Garland recently parked his bike to tell us more.

Q: How did you get involved in Nuclear Cowboyz?

A: I've been involved since last year, the first year they did it. I basically grew up riding motorcycles and got into freestyle motocross. They were putting Nuclear Cowboyz together and luckily I was one of the riders they invited to come on tour and ride freestyle for them. I was invited back this year and everything has been going good so far.

Q: How does last year’s show compare to this one?

A: Last year's show was incredible. ... The top people in the industry all came together as one and had this idea. ... It was unbelievable. I've ridden freestyle for seven, eightyears now and I have done all kinds of different shows. And nothing comes close to this show and its theatrical element. Everything combined -- the riding, the lighting, the pyrotechnics -- is so different and cool from the norm and to be a part of it is great. Last year was awesome and everything came together real good. And this year they just took last year and improved it. They enhanced it, worked out a few kinks here and there and added some new things to keep it fresh.

Q: How do you describe the show to your friends?

A: It's hard for me to describe and sum it up. You have to really see it to believe it. Basically I describe it as a theatrical show involving freestyle motocross. Everything is real organized and choreographed. ... Everyone has to be on point and trusting. We're literally riding inches apart from each other pretty much the whole show. ... If you've seen the X Games or anything with freestyle motocross, multiply that by 20.

Q: You’re performing in the show with guys you normally compete against. Although it’s theatrical, is there an air of rivalry among the riders?

A: There is a little bit. ... In this, it's more friendly. We practice together and do our tricks. We may still try to do better tricks than each other, but at the same time it's all in good fun. We're all out there to put on a good show and not take each other out. We're feeding off each other's energy to step up and go bigger for the purpose of making the show better. It's more relaxed for us in that sense. And it's actually better when you take out the pressure of having to be the best out there. It's more like you're out there having fun with your friends.

Nuclear Cowboyz. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5. $20.55-$48.10. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive, Atlanta. 800-745-3000,