GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Ryan Sipes

Tuesday Toolbox: Ryan Sipes

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 | 11:15 AM
Tuesday, October 3, 2017 | 11:15 AM

Ryan Sipes is a well-known pro racer who has competed in a wide variety of disciplines and found success in everything he’s tried his hand at. After a successful pro motocross and Supercross career, Sipes became a full-time GNCC transplant where he was the first-ever American to take top individual honors at the ISDE. In 2015 Sipes was named Dirt Rider Magazine’s 2015 Rider of the Year in addition to being the 2015 AMA Athlete of the Year. Just this year Ryan secured the 125 Dream Race win at the Thunder Valley Pro Motocross National, but most importantly he just won his first GNCC at the Mountaineer Run in Masontown, West Virginia! I called Ryan to talk about his past accomplishments, first GNCC, and plans for the future.  

Ryan Sipes earned his first-ever GNCC win at the 2017 Mountaineer Run in Masontown, West Virginia.
Ryan Sipes earned his first-ever GNCC win at the 2017 Mountaineer Run in Masontown, West Virginia. Ken Hill Congrats on your first overall GNCC win! Can you describe the race for us?
Ryan Sipes: Thank you! Yeah, I’ve always … well, I wouldn’t say that place [Mountaineer Run] is my favorite track because it’s really rocky and technical. It is fun – if you’re riding good (laughs). It’s not fun at all if you’re crashing or struggling. I’ve been really frustrated with my results all year, the way that my finishes have been up and down. Sometimes it’d be me crashing, sometimes it was just me not riding well. Anyway, I decided last week that I was just going to go for it. Go out there and try to lead the thing right from the start, and see what I could do. I got a good start, like second or third, and passed Ricky [Russell] going into the third corner. I really tried to put my head down and sprint. I knew the dust was going to be a big factor, and I didn’t want to be the guy stuck in the dust, I wanted to be the guy making the dust! The first pit board I got was +45 seconds, and I remember thinking to myself, “that’s kind of weird, I wonder if everyone else crashed.” The gap yo-yoed all day though. I had kind of a pretty slow pit, with a bike that didn’t want to start and gas spilling all over me… 

Yeah, what happened there – and are you okay? I know getting race gas dumped on you can be pretty painful…
I’m fine but it hurt pretty bad. But I took my water bottle and sprayed myself down to try and get it to go away and after a couple of miles it kind of died down. Yeah, the fuel can just stuck open. Normally when you pick it up off the tank, it shuts off but for some reason it didn’t this time. It poured gas all over me, the bike, my mom who was pitting me. Then the bike didn’t start, so I was there for awhile. Luckily, I had a pretty good lead by that point. I had a couple of crashes too, but everyone was making mistakes. And if I had a clean lap, it seemed like I’d either hold my gap or pull a little bit. I just tried to put my head down and stay focused on that. Then on the last lap, about halfway through, they said I had 55 seconds, so I backed her down and brought it in.

How were you able to maintain your composure after having those problems at the pit stop? Because that’s pretty impressive, that you could hold it together even though you were watching your lead melt away right before your eyes. 
We work on that stuff a lot with my coach, Steve Hatch. Whether it’s a mistake or a crash or you get together with a lapper – when something like that happens, you just have to reset. “Pull a tear-off” and just refocus on the track and hitting your lines and looking ahead. All that good stuff. At that point I figured they were probably right on me after that pit stop, so I tried to sprint again the way I had at the start. It was tough at that point though, because my bike wasn’t running quite right. Something must have happened when we spilled gas on it, because it kept bogging down low, so I had to adjust my riding a little for that. I’m really thankful for all that mental training I’ve had over the years with Steve though, because it really helped me out.

If I sat down with you at the beginning of the season and said “Hey Ryan. You’re going to win your first GNCC this year” is this the place that you would have expected it to happen?  
No. Probably not. But at the same time, I’ve done well there before, as much as I might not like it all the time. In 2015, Kailub [Russell] and I went at it for two hours, neck and neck. He ended up winning and I got second, but I knew that I could go fairly fast on that track. You know, like I said, the week before I decided I didn’t care what the track was going to be or what was going to happen – I was just going to go for it. Luckily it paid off. 

Fist pumps all-around as Sipes came into the last corner before taking the checkered flag at the Mountaineer Run GNCC!
Fist pumps all-around as Sipes came into the last corner before taking the checkered flag at the Mountaineer Run GNCC! Ken Hill

Were you concerned about being handicapped by your tendonitis from Six Days? 
Well, at the end of Day 5 at Six Days it was hurting pretty bad. I didn’t know what was going on, because I didn’t crash or anything. The doc checked it out, and he said that it looks like tendonitis. Day 6 was a little rough, but I got through it. But then at the Unadilla GNCC, I struggled with it really bad. After two laps I couldn’t pull the clutch in anymore, and by three I couldn’t even hang on anymore. So I tried to get into another medical doctor here in the states. People said I should get a cortisone shot, but I know that’s really just a band-aid and I really wanted to get to the source of the problem. So I called my buddy Mike, who is a massage therapist with a place in Louisville, Kentucky. He got in there and found some muscles that were tight. We think that the cause of my issue was that those muscles were tight and pulling on the others, which created an imbalance. He worked on it a bunch and I did some stuff on my own with it at home too. It definitely still wasn’t as strong as it normally is, but it didn’t hurt – so huge thanks to him! Two weeks ago I couldn’t even ride, and now I can go win a race with it. 

That’s pretty impressive; Mike must really know what he’s doing! So, how did you get started riding in the first place? 
My dad raced when he was younger, and I can just barely remember going to races with him when I was a kid and he was out racing. Once me and my brother both started racing, it was kind of too much for both of us to do it and him to do it so he got out of it and supported us. That’s another thing I’m really thankful for. My mom and dad have driven so many miles, so many hours, all through the night and everything else. And they still do, just so they can give me bottles of water and point lines so they’ve been a huge part of what I’ve been able to do. 

Did you always want to be a professional racer growing up? 
Yeah, for sure! I remember telling my first grade teacher that. She asked “what are you guys going to do for a job when you grow up?” and I said “I’m gonna race motorcycles!”. Then she said, “but you can’t make any money doing that!” (laughs) And I’m definitely not getting rich, but I’m making a living. We grew up watching all the races on TV, wanting to be like all the pros. I know I’m definitely blessed to have done it, because I know that a very small percentage of people that want to get to do it actually get to. You have to work hard at it and a lot of stuff has to go your way. 

For those off-road riders who aren’t as familiar with the early parts of your career, can you quickly describe your career as a motocross racer before you crossed over? 
I grew up racing moto, we never raced in the woods or anything. We did locals first, then started going to all the big amateur nationals when I was about 14. We did the whole Team Green thing, then I turned pro, full time in 2005. I rode for a bunchmof different teams, but had some pretty good success in Moto and Supercross. I won 4 supercross races and was on the podium in the outdoors. But at the end of 2013, I wanted to be here for my family more, and off-road offered that opportunity more. I could actually live at home, but still race, and still make a little money.

Sipes currently sits tied with points with Ashburn with two rounds remaining in the season.
Sipes currently sits tied with points with Ashburn with two rounds remaining in the season. Ken Hill

Do you consider yourself an off-road guy, having been around for what, four years now, or do you still think of yourself as a motocross guy who happens to ride in the woods? 
Uhh, that’s actually a tough question …… well, I guess I am an off-roader now! I mean, I don’t really ride much moto anymore. I only go to one pro national a year. I still ride and practice on it a couple times a month, but really the high-speed stuff is my strength, and the slow-speed stuff is my weakness, so that’s what I try to work on the most. 

What do you think is the biggest misconception that the motocross community has about the off-road community, and vice versa?
Until you do off-road as a motocross racer, you don’t know how tough the races are and how many different conditions you come up against. Not just the track conditions, though that’s big – there’s dry-slick, wet-slick, muddy, bottlenecks, hill climbs, all that stuff – but what’s been one of the hardest things to learn is the lines, being able to see the lines. Because in motocross, you have a set of boundaries; you can’t go outside the banners. There’s not a secret line over on the inside of the banner because you can’t go over there. In off-road there is, and they’re not even illegal. You have 25 feet on either side of that arrow. When you didn’t grow up looking for those lines, sometimes in the heat of the moment you just don’t see them. A moto guy would think, and I’ll admit that I did too, that you can come over and do well right away. But there’s a whole lot to learn. 

Now for off-road misconceptions about moto, it’s probably just how fast the speeds really are. Because people will say, man, you do three hours now, it should be not problem for you to go do 30 minutes, you won’t even be breaking a sweat. It’s the total opposite though. The intensity is so high in moto, and your speeds are so high. In off-road, you can’t push like that. It’s impossible to push as hard as you do in moto, because there’s only so fast you can go over roots and rocks and through trees. The limit of how fast you can go on a moto track is a lot higher. I can go three hours, but now when I go back to moto, the intensity gets me immediately since I don’t ride it as much. For the first couple laps my heart is beating fast and my lungs are popping out of my mouth. and I’m dying because I’m not used to that intensity anymore, because I don’t really train for it anymore. 

At round 1 this season in South Carolina, Sipes had a strong start rounding out the podium in third.
At round 1 this season in South Carolina, Sipes had a strong start rounding out the podium in third. Ken Hill

What are your goals and plans for next season? 
I’m working right now to try and put together a program with the help of Husqvarna and some other sponsors. I still want to do off-road, but I want to do some more moto too. I guess the overall idea of this is to hit the races that will do the most for me and the sponsors, exposure-wise. I can do off-road, I can do moto, I can do a lot of different events… so I kind of want to do that. I want to be able to bounce around a little and do a bunch of things. I think it’ll be fun, and be good for everybody. I will definitely be at some GNCCs, I’ll do some Pro Moto, some Sprint Enduros, some 125cc races, I’d like to go do the US MXGP, and shoot, maybe even the Monster Cup or the Daytona Supercross, but I still have to pull everything together to be able to do that. 

Kind of related to what you were just talking about, I read your race report, and you mentioned that you have won a Pro Supercross, a National Enduro, the ISDE and now a GNCC, which is really impressive! What made you decide to compete in such a wide range of disciplines, and why are you continuing to do that?
Well, moto is still super fun to me, and that will always be my first love. I can still do it at a fairly competitive level, but there will be a day, probably not too far off, when I won’t be able to anymore. So I might as well do that while I still can, I don’t want to quit it entirely when I can still go have some fun and run up front. I just like riding dirt bikes and like doing a bunch of stuff. If I can go run a pro moto race, I will, if I can do a 125cc race, I will, and that was actually one of the most fun things I did this year. So as long as I’ve got the support, and I think I’m going to, since my sponsors are awesome and behind me 100%, that’s what I’ll be doing – a little bit of everything. I know it’s not really normal to bounce around like that and not run a full series, but when I sit back and look at it, value-wise, the exposure that I get for myself and my sponsors is going to be greater doing that than if I just ran a full series. Not sure if I can pull it off or not, but that’s the plan! 

What do you enjoy doing away from the track?
All I really do besides ride and train is spend time playing and hanging out with my kids, which I love to do! We ride motorcycles together, both of my kids ride. We’ll go hit baseballs, and my daughter likes gymnastics, so I’ll go with her to that. I do like to hang out with my buddies, watch football, or play ping-pong, stuff like that, but it seems like this racing thing takes up a whole lot of time. So there ‘s not a lot of extra time for other things outside of my career and my family. But I’d rather be doing this and putting everything I’ve got into it now while I still can, than be doing much of anything else! 

Ryan was all smiles while he shared the podium and win with his son, Jack.
Ryan was all smiles while he shared the podium and win with his son, Jack. Ken Hill

Who would you like to thank?
First, I want to thank my mom, my dad and Holly. I also want to thank all my sponsors: Costal Racing, Rockstar Energy Drink, Husqvarna, Leatt Protectives, Dragon Motorsports, TM Designworks, Gaerne, Maxxis Tires, FMF Exhaust, Mika Metals, WP, Steve Hatch Racing, Meade Crossfit, Bel-Ray, Acerbis, Hinson, CTI2, 343 Grapbics, G2, Seat Concepts, Super B Batteries, Twin Air, IMS, FPS Radiators, ARC Levers, DP Brakes, Hammer Nutrition, MoTool, Work it Out Massage, Tyler King, Scott Kiger and Barry Hawk.