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Between the Motos: Ryan Capes

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How far have you jumped a motorcycle? Ten feet? Fifty feet? A hundred and fifty feet? Whatever it was, it probably seemed like you were hanging in the sky for an eternity. But in the full spectrum of motorcycle jumping, your miniscule hang time barely even registers. And I don’t mean to belittle your most daring leap. I mean, I’ve jumped at least 160 feet and I’m a sissy in comparison to the guys that really know what they’re doing. Ryan Capes is one of those guys. After going back and forth with Robbie Maddison, Ryan reclaimed the world distance jumping record recently by jumping 391 feet.

  • Ryan Capes
Racer X: Tell us about the jump you just made.
Ryan Capes: You know, it’s just one of those things where I wanted to take back the record. Me, Maddo and Seth went to Australia to do a mock jump-off and it was kind of weird. Maddo was coming off his New Year’s jump and he just wanted to win. I knew I could go farther down there but I didn’t want to go back and forth with him and keep pushing the distance for nothing. We could have gone over 400 feet already if we both went back and forth but we would be blowing paydays out of the water. He has freestyle to fall back on but this is what I do for a living. I let him have it down there but I told him that when I got back to the States I was going to take the record back from him.

You two have gone back and forth a few times with the record now, right?
Yeah, Seth had it first then I had it at 310 feet, Maddo jumped 322 in Vegas, I went 324 in Australia and then Maddo jumped 351 at the end of the night. He unofficially went 371 in practice that day, too. I’m just trying to bump it up slowly instead of just pushing it out to where nobody can ever beat it. We’ll get there eventually.

What kind of a bike were you riding?
A Kawasaki 450. Pro Circuit does the whole bike for me. It has a full race motor, a slipper clutch and some really stiff suspension. Obviously, gearing is super important to get the speed we need.

How fast are you going when you hit the ramp?
For this last jump, I was going 102mph.
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Do you ever “what if” yourself when you are approaching a ramp that fast? If anything went wrong it would be really ugly...
I think that’s the difference that Seth, Maddo and me have. There are lots of racers capable of making these jumps but they don’t have the mindset. When I look at the take-off and landing, I think I’m crazy for what I do. But this is what I do for a living. Bubba is a racer, you race Supermoto and my thing is distance jumping. It is scary because the distance we are at now is life or death. There isn’t any walking away from a crash on the landing. There are people dying doing twenty-foot jumps on motocross tracks. There is a big unknown variable in distance jumping.

So, how far is this madness going to go? What is the farthest anyone can go?
I’ll tell you right now: I think it is going to be somewhere around 500 feet. Terminal velocity is 120mph and I think that is going to put the brakes on how far we can go because we won’t be able to get a 500 or a 450 to go any faster. But I think with the right ramp, we can get to 500 feet at that speed. Once we have the technology to break the 120-mph barrier, it will be a whole new world. That is the rate of inertia; the rate of speed falling. So, if I hit the ramp at 130, am I going to go another 100 feet further? We just don’t know.

Maybe you’ll leave a trail of fire up the ramp and end up in another time like Michael J. Fox. You know, the flux capacitor and 1.21 Gigawatts and all that?
Ha! We just don’t know what is going to happen. But that is what draws people to watch distance jumping.

Do you have any other jumps planned?
I signed a deal with a major network to jump over 400 feet. You’ll see that before too long.

What else is going on with you?
I’m working on moving down to California and I’ll be switching bikes. I’m going to get back on a two-stroke. I’ll be on a Service 500 with a Kawasaki 250F frame and chassis with a 500 engine. It is lighter, faster and it lands softer than a four-stroke.

What does it feel like to jump that far? I thought I was never going to land when I jumped 160 feet.
When I come off the ramp, I just hold on. There isn’t anything you can do with the bike until you apex. Once you get to the apex you know you have it or you don’t. From the peak, which is about 74 feet for me, it’s like flying in a small plane. You see so much ground underneath you going by that it is amazing. I guess it feels like buzzing the ground in a little plane. Then, the last part is setting up for the landing and making sure the bike is leveled right and you absorb as much of the impact as you can.

Who do you want to thank?
I really have to thank Pro Circuit. They make the best stuff and I appreciate their help. I have to put so much faith in my equipment and I’m glad they are part of my team. Monster Energy is also a huge supporter. They are like family to me and they are always there to help me out. It is an incredible company to be associated with. Fox is going to be with me this year and I am stoked to get started with them. Also, Toes MX Park lets me practice my jumps out there and I can’t think him enough. RV Town sets me up with a motorhome and Weekend Warrior, and that is huge. I have some good people behind me.
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