These “Privateer Showcase” interviews presented by Race Tech Suspension at MotoXAddicts tell the stories of the guys in the trenches week in and week out trying to chase their dream of racing professional motocross and Supercross. While the riders at the front of the pack get the money, the T.V. time and the glory that goes with it, there’s a huge pack of guys just hoping to get a spot inside a factory semi. We tell their stories.
When the curtain draws up on the 2018 Monster Energy Supecross, an FIM World Championship series, there will be long list of very talented 250 and 450 class riders at Anaheim 1 that have found themselves in the tough position of calling themselves privateers. While most of the privateers in the SX pits are riders trying to work their way up through the ranks with the hopes of possibly being on a good team some day, there’s also the other side of the coin: former factory riders that find themselves unemployed and on the outside looking in. Tyler Bowers is one of the latter.
The former three-time Arenacross Champion and 250 Supercross main event winner has spent the better part of the last decade pitting out of semis as a factory-backed rider, but the last couple of years have been tough for Tyler. Rather than stay home and wait for the phone to ring, the new father is putting together his own program, loading the Kawasaki 450 into the pickup truck and going racing. The hope is to reignite his career on the 450 and possibly slide in somewhere as a fill-in rider as the season wears on and the field thins out. Last year, Dean Wilson gave every unemployed rider a road map back to a factory team and Tyler will try to duplicate what Deano did.
How you been lately, Tyler?
Just getting ready. I’m the mechanic, team trainer, nutritionist, rider and a dad.
You’ve taken on a few jobs this year. (laughs)
I’m trying. I went from very little, to trying to get it all done at once. I just dove in.
Was your Christmas good with the family?
Yeah, it was good—relaxing. It was just me, Bradi [wife] and Maxwell [daughter] here in California relaxing. It’s kind of a stressful time of year trying to get everything together with the season starting in 2 weeks. It’s a day where I didn’t do anything, so it was nice. Me, mom and baby just sat on the couch all day. It was cool.
That having to prepare as a privateer thing is definitely all new for you. You’re used to just working on riding and fitness and then just showing up. How has that been overall?
Like I said, it’s pretty stressful. It’s a lot of work making sure all the stars align right and everything is there on time. It’s just little things like when I went to Monster Cup on my own and thought I had it all figured out. I went out for the first moto, it’s daylight. I come back from the first moto and it’s dark, and when I get to the truck, I realize I forgot a freaking light. I had everything worked out, spare bike, extra parts and everything was peachy, but I couldn’t work on my bike because I didn’t have a light. I was like, wow! It’s those little things that you forget.
Speaking of the Monster Cup, you rode really well there on the 450 and finished top 10 overall. Did that ride move the needle at all in terms of team managers giving you a call for a 450 deal?
Dude, I don’t know what is going on with these guys nowadays. There are just so many guys that are willing to pay for rides or ride for free on teams. It’s really all about bro’ing down now, and I haven’t been at the races very much the last year. The 51Fifty team didn’t race outdoors and didn’t race outdoors with Mitch [Payton] either. You kind of get forgotten about. You could have a killer Supercross season, but if you’re not at the races, you’re forgotten. Monster Cup helped, but a lot of things were already in place. I’m just kind of waiting around for maybe a fill-in spot that might open up.
You were doing some impressive things on the 450 at MEC, too. There were a couple very technical sections where you were the only guy doing them consistently—like that step-over out of the sand section and that very tough and ultra technical 3-3-3 rhythm section too. You were one of only a handful doing it smoothly every lap. Did you kind of remind yourself how good you are on the 450?
Yeah, like that step-up thing. I think for sure, I reminded myself. I think also, I’m just so comfortable on this bike [Kawasaki 450]. I was able to ride a lot before Monster Cup, and I think for the first time since 2015—my first year at PC—I was able to ride a full month or more before the season started. I’m comfortable, my confidence came back and that was from riding a lot. Doing those things is not really an issue if you’re comfortable; you know how the bike is going to react and if something does go wrong you’re comfortable, confident and can react to it quickly. It’s a really good bike—a good package all together—so I can ride it and push it to the limit. I think Monster Cup was a bit technical too, and I think that’s a strong suit of mine. You really had to focus on your timing like Supercross should be.
Okay, so we know you’re racing the Kawasaki 450 in ’18 and you are focused on dialing in the program before A1, but what is the plan exactly? What does your privateer program look like for 2018?
(laughs) It’s always changing. Every second it’s changing. Some things came up like literally this week and mid last week, and now with the holidays, it’s kind of at a stand still. My plan was to pit out of a pickup truck. Kawasaki gave me a bike to use and I got some suspension from SHOWA. AHM Factory Services does my engine. They’re a big help. My engine guy’s just a huge help. Brandon, my engine guy over there at AHM, he’s been probably my biggest help because I’m also doing all of the mechanic stuff right now, but for the races I got Donk [Scott Donkersgoed]. He’s going to be my mechanic. He worked for me my last year in Arenacross. We won a championship together. He’s getting out of the industry, so he’s going to do like a farewell tour for me in January and February. That will help a lot. It was gonna be just out of the back of my truck, and then AHM, they got an old RCH box van that they said they could bring to some of the local races—so Anaheim would be easy, maybe San Diego—but Phoenix and Oakland I’ll be driving my pickup there. It’s not too bad; I did that at Monster Cup. I had a little trailer I borrowed from a friend, took it to Monster Cup, pitted out of it. Supercross is one day. It’s pretty easy. I just plan on trying to bring a spare bike in case shit hits the fan, but then some things came up this last week where I might be able to pit out of a semi. It’s still just a privateer thing, just me trying to make all my calls, get my parts, figure everything out. Just being able to pit out of a semi and look cool at the race, that’d be nice. I don’t have to worry about bringing my bike either. That’s the big upside, I think.
Are you in a good spot where you are open to fill-in anywhere, not locked into anything?
Yeah, this is the hard thing. I had some people help me. Trigger Racing, they worked with Henry Miller last year. He had his own rig, kind of his own team, but my program’s so good. My bike feels really good. I get help from good people. Like I told him, it’s going to be hard to really improve this. I just need help getting to the races, maybe some money for some parts that I have to get from Pro Circuit and stuff like that. We did it where he is like my title sponsor and I’ll be able to go to the races, but I do it with these guy’s per race because I don’t want to screw anybody either, you know. I don’t want to be locked in, but I’m not trying to get someone to give me $15 grand for the year for parts and then after somebody gets hurt at A1, I just bounce out. I try to do it as best as I can because I don’t want to burn any bridges with people either or companies helping me out. I’m trying to leave it open ended where I can fill in somewhere and tell these people, “Hey, let’s be honest. The ultimate goal this year is to get on a paying factory ride.” I have a daughter to support now, and it’s a little bit different. I can’t just be like scraping along without making a paycheck at all. The ultimate goal is there and we all have kind of the same goal, all of these people helping me out, we all want to see me make that next step. So I’m doing it per race. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but I’m trying to give props to the people that are helping me out as much as I can too.
Mentally, are you going into this year—after a couple of years of injuries that lead to lackluster results—are you just considering ’18 a rebuilding year?
I know what I can do on a dirt bike. I don’t know how people forget. It seems cocky, but come on. Let’s be honest. I’ve won races; I’ve gotten multiple podiums. There are dudes that, for some reason, people are thinking are better options than me who have never even landed on a podium much less won a heat race or anything like that. I know what I can do, so my plan is to stay healthy. I think that’s the biggest thing I can do, just make sure I’m healthy. Me riding at 80% has got to be better than most. I think if I can stay healthy and just be at all of the races, that’s going to be the biggest thing. I feel really good. Everybody says this before the season, of course, but I’m really happy with where I’m at. The bike I’ve been riding, Kawasaki let me borrow it at the beginning of the summer, and it’s got like 80 hours on it now, like the frame, chassis, rebuilt stuff. It’s pretty well wore in, but I’m really comfortable on it. It moves damn well, so I don’t think we need to change anything. Now I’m just really excited to get to the races. I’ve been racing a lot this offseason overseas, and I think that’s big help too. I think that was a problem before too, coming back from injuries where I didn’t have much gate time. Being able to do these offseason races for me I think is going to be a big help and get that race readiness back. I’m just really exited to be racing.
I’m just glad you didn’t throw in the towel and head back to Arenacross. You’re kind of a Superman over there. Was going back to AX ever an option in your mind?
It’s kind of not really there. I mean, I love it over there. Babbitts is always great to me over there and I have a great relationship with Denny Bartz over there at Babbitts still. It’s always there and I want to go back someday, but now is not the time. I’ve only been in Supercross three years now coming from Arenacross. I think if I go back, it’s kind of like I gave up here and it was a dumb attempt here. For some reason, people think it’s a dumb attempt even though I spent my first year coming from Arenacross getting multiple podiums, wins, everything. I know I have more to offer still and I know I can do better. I’m in an okay position right now, so maybe some day, but it’s not this year for sure.
It kind of feels like moving back in with your parents (laughs).
And I won a lot there, but they’ve got a winner right now. Gavin Faith is doing good. I think the Kawasaki boys have it kind of under control there right now. Maybe one day they’ll need my services, but I don’t think it’s this year.
One last question: what’s it like being a father? I mean, I’ve got five kids now, so I know, but…
Dude, it’s insane. You know, I can’t put it into words. Everyone told me going into it that you just can’t put it into words. It’s the most rewarding, coolest thing ever. It’s freaking so awesome. It’s definitely been hard for us, though, my wife and I. Our families are back East, so it’s basically just her and I out here trying to figure this thing out. I don’t know how she’s made it this far. It’s a struggle and every day we’re learning, and, you know, right when you think you get it figured out, Max decides she wants to change a little bit, change her habits or whatever she wants. We got lucky with her to start teething at like two months, so we’ve been dealing with the teething thing. It’s been crazy. Sleep would be nice, but we’re starting to get to the point where we’re starting to only wake up once or twice a night, so it’s pretty cool.
There’s nothing better than being a parent. Hope you guys all have a really Happy New Year, and I will see you at Anaheim 1.
Awesome. Thank’s a lot. I will see you soon.