This week’s “Privateer Showcase” presented by Race Tech Suspension interview is with Coastal Racing / Husqvarna GNCC regular and part time professional motocross rider, Ryan Sipes. Ryan retired from motocross and supercross at the end of 2013 and has gone on to chase success in the off-road scene. Since retiring Ryan has not only become a threat in every GNCC he enters, but two years ago he made history when he became the first ever American to win the ISDE individual overall trophy.
The ISDE individual overall is the most prestigious accomplishment in the off-road racing world and GNCC is the most grueling American off-road racing series, but Ryan still finds time to race some moto. The Kentucky-born rider showed up and won the 125 Dream Race at Thunder Valley and then signed up for the 450MX class at High Point and finished 15th overall.
Some professional riders race because it is their job and some race because they simply love racing dirt bike. With Ryan, yes he supports his family with dirt bike racing but the latter is why we still see him making appearances at nationals. After his 15th overall at High Point, we gave Ryan a call to talk about his 125 Dream Race win in Colorado, his High Point National and his upcoming run at helping Team USA defend their ISDE championship in August.
How have you been Ryan? Are you racing Muddy Creek this weekend or no more time in the calendar for moto?
I won’t do any more moto this year, but I have a GNCC this weekend.
Yeah, I saw you got second in the last GNCC. Slow start for you over there, but it looks like you’re starting to get the ball rolling.
Yeah, it’s getting better. I hit a rough patch this year, but it’s getting better. I had a couple of injuries, couldn’t train or ride for a while and it kind of put me behind. Then I started trying harder and that just made it worse. (laughs)
You raced the last two nationals—the 125 Dream Race at Thunder Valley and the 450MX class at High Point. How was the Dream Race for you?
It was cool. It was like being a kid again—so much fun. It brought the fun back for me. Like I said, I was trying so hard and doing so bad at GNCC that I wasn’t having any fun anymore. That opportunity came up to do that and I thought that sounds like fun. It seems like it’s turned things around and I started having more fun riding again. I’m going to credit the 125 to some of that for sure.
I saw you out there and, yeah, it looked like Ryan Sipes at a local race—just you in the van, doing your own bike work and having some fun racing.
Yeah, for sure. It was my team owner [Coastal Racing], Scott Kiger, he let me use the bike. I had a buddy, Brandon Perish haul the bike out there, and I just flew in. I actually flew there, raced and went home. It was super fun and I’m thankful for all the people that helped out.
Yeah, then you showed up two weeks later and High Point on the 350 Husky. What brought you out there?
I always do at least one moto a year. I used to do three in my first couple years of GNCC, and then last year I was hurt for all but one. This year, the way it works out, I’m only going to be able to do that one at High Point. I usually do Indiana and maybe Budds Creek, but I’ll be in France for the ISDE.
Did your speed surprise you at all? At one point I saw you on the board in the top three in qualifying. You ended up 10th fastest by the end of the session, but you were on the pace.
No, I can still ride a motorcycle. I mean I didn’t forget. I still do a couple motos and I ride moto for practice back home. With how muddy and rutted it was in practice, that’s right up an off-roader’s alley. What I’m used to riding is ten times that bad. Those ruts really weren’t that bad compared to what we ride all the time. The speed’s are different, but I get a lot of practice in the ruts. That’s why you see guys like Aaron Plessinger being so good in the rutted technical stuff. He grew up racing off-road. It was cool being tenth in practice, but it’s just practice.
In the motos, you ended up going 14-15 on the day for 15th overall, the second best guy—Freddie Noren finished 13th—not on a factory moto team.
I wish I would have rode a little bit better in the motos. I was a little tired coming into it. I had a crazy week and a half before the race. I dropped off a little at the end, but not bad. I held my position, but I just wasn’t catching anybody anymore. Actually, for being on the 350, I had better starts than what I ended up. Both motos I was in the top 15 around the first turn and guys went down in front of me both motos. I ended up going back to 22nd or whatever and working my way back up. It could have been a little better, but for as little prep as I put into it, it was okay. I rode my suspension for the first time on press day. It’s just things like that. I didn’t have testing time and practice I would do if I was doing it full time. It’s just something I wanted to do for fun and I’m good with top 15.
I was impressed and I think a lot of people were. You obviously have help, but it’s basically a privateer effort just jumping into a series.
Yeah, we had our semi there because the team I ride for in off-road, Coastal Racing, their team race shop is only about six or eight miles from High Point. The semi was kind of of more hospitality than for racing, though. We actually had the bike inside the whole day to work on it and under the tent was the hang out spot. The family and friends of the team were hanging out and enjoying the race. We’re not a moto team, so we don’t have the resources.
The 350 is what you race in GNCC too, right?
Yeah, I ride the 350 there. It’s just works better in the woods for me. I rode a 450 for a year in GNCC and, for me, you don’t need all that power and it’s easier to maneuver a 350. The weight is almost the same, but it feels lighter and smaller. I kind of figured I’m doing it for fun anyway and I’ll have more fun on the 350. I knew I’d get smoked on the start, but I think I rode better once we got going.
When do you head for France for this year’s ISDE?
We leave in the last week of August.
How big would it be for the USA to not only back up their win last year, but to beat Team France in France? I mean France is basically like the USA used to be in the MXoN. They are the team to beat.
Yeah, it’s going to be huge. It’s going to be hard, but man our team is really, really good. It’s the same team we had last year—Taylor Robert, Kailub Russell, Thad DuVall plus myself—but I ended up getting hurt last year and they ended up winning it last year. I think it will be definitely tougher this year in France and going up against the French in their home country, but our team is really good. Everybody’s focused, and I think we have as good a shot of winning it this year as we ever have. I’m really excited for it and want to go over there, especially because I didn’t get to go last year. I think that kind of got ripped out from underneath me. I don’t have anything to prove, but I want to win it as a team. I wanted the overall as an individual rider and that was awesome, but I’ve never gotten to win it as a team. I really want to do that.
Man, congratulations on everything, Ryan. Since retiring you’ve accomplished so much at the highest levels. You fly all over the world, you’ve made history and pop in for some moto on occasion for fun and run near the top ten. It really looks like you’ve made the right move for you.
Yeah, for sure. I’ve been super blessed to be able to transition into and still come do moto and all that. A lot of guys, once they’re done with moto there’s nothing else, and they fall into a 9-5 or whatever. I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone, but it’s going to be really hard for me to do that and not have the adrenaline rush that we have. So I’ve been real blessed to be able to go to the GNCC and still get all that stuff, and also still be able to pay my bills and be home with my family where I need to be and support them. It is cool to be able to do moto once a year. I told my wife, “I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can be competitive.” There will soon be a day when I can’t. You know, I’m not fast enough or I’m too old or whatever. While I can still do it, I want to keep doing it.
I see you as a John Dowd or a Mike Brown type. You know, just guys that love riding dirt bikes and race competitively at the highest levels as long as humanly possible. There are guys that race because they have to and guys that just love it. You guys are the guys that love racing dirt bikes, and I think it’s why people love watching you.
Well, thanks. I definitely do. I do it non-stop and I won’t say that I love every minute of it, but I do love it. I do.
I gotta ask you, who’s this Thomas Sipes guy? (laughs) I got so many tweets asking who Thomas Sipes is. I figured it was your middle name.
(laughs) That’s my first name. It’s always been my first name, but I always went by my middle name. I’ve always signed up the same way with my full name—you have to legally—but I circle my middle name. The people that do registrations know me and always put me down as Ryan, but not this time. I got the same thing, though‐who’s this Thomas guy? (laughs) I’m like, it’s still me.
Thanks for doing this interview Ryan and good luck with the rest of the GNCC season and this year’s ISDE. Any sponsors you want to thank before we let you go?
Yes. Coastal Racing, Rockstar Energy Drink, Husqvarna, Leatt Protectives,
Dragon Motorsports, TM Designworks, Gaerne, Maxxis Tire, FMF Exhaust, Mika Metals, WP, Steve Hatch Racing, Bel-Ray, Airgroup Radiant Logistics, Acerbis, Hinson, CTI2, 343 Graphix, G2, Seat Concepts, Super B Batteries, Twin Air, IMS, FPS Radiators, ARC Levers, Hammer Nutrition