5 Minutes with...Ryan Capes


It’s a typical Friday around the Racer X office today. The coffee is flowing, the air conditioner is freezing us out, and everyone who is here and not in Washougal is stressing about the next mag deadline. So you could imagine our surprise when distance-jumping world record holder Ryan Capes turned up at the front door. Turns out, Capes is in town this weekend to do a jumping exhibition in conjunction with the 2009 Wild and Wonderful MountainFest Motorcycle Rally, which takes place right here in Racer X’s hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia. Capes is actually going for the 250F world record attempt tomorrow when he jumps over some Budweiser semis on his Monster Energy-backed KX250F. We grabbed a quick word with Capes about the jump and his career.

  • Ryan Capes popped into the Racer X office today.
  • No, that's not the bike he'll be jumping tomorrow.
Racer X: Ryan, what the heck are you doing in Morgantown?
Ryan Capes: Well, the Mountainfest Bike Rally called me up and wanted me to come down and do a big jump, so I said sure. Monster Energy and I are working on a big tour, so this is the first stop for me. We’re doing a series of five stops throughout the U.S., bouncing back from the east coast to the west coast. Monster and I figured that we need to get the Monster awareness out on the east coast more than the west, so I’m trying to do as many jumps on the east coast as possible. I think it’s as good fit. Though Monster Energy’s main demographic is in the motocross scene, they’re now trying to reach out to a wider audience, and these bike rallies are perfect. Everyone from the age of 21 to 65 is here riding a motorcycle, so it’s good.

What other stops are on your tour?
We’re going to Sturgis; Reno, Nevada; Fontana, California; and our last stop will be Daytona Beach for Bike Week, and that’s where I plan on breaking the 400-foot barrier.

Four-hundred feet!
Yes, I want to be the first person to officially go over the 400-foot mark. It’s going to be live on Fox Sports, and we’re still putting it all together right now. It’s going to be a good deal. I do know that I’ll be on a Service Kawasaki KX500AF. Mitch [Payton] custom built that, and I’m running factory Showa suspension, which is a big step.

How does it feel being the only guy at a motorcycle rally on a dirt bike?
It’s cool. I got a lot of respect. The motorcycle rally guys, they haven’t seen a big jump like this, so it’s cool to come out and do it for these people. That’s the thing about distance jumping and being a daredevil: Your target audience is everybody. The Harley guys love it, as do the NASCAR guys and moto guys. Not every day do you get to see somebody jump over 200 feet.

Do you ever get the itch to hop on a Harley and go cruising?
Yeah, my dad has some Harleys at home, so if we find a nice day we go cruising. As long as I’m on a bike, I’m having a good time, you know? I’m a true, hardcore motocross racer and fan, though. That is my roots.

So you did race motocross growing up, right?
Yes, I raced amateur motocross as a kid, and that was when McGrath was winning everything. I just wanted to be the next Jeremy McGrath – I think every kid did in the ‘90s. I raced all the way up through the intermediate class and tried to make that push to be a pro, but just the lack of money and sponsorship was tough. Once I graduated high school, reality hit and I needed to make money. I wanted to keep racing, but I just couldn’t focus on racing – I had to work to be able to race, and that just wasn’t working.
       So that’s when the big freestyle movement came in and I just decided to build a freestyle ramp. I started doing shows and that paid my bills, so I transitioned from being an amateur motocross racer to a professional freestyle rider. I then teamed up with a local ramp builder that just started building ramps – H&H Productions – and we built a ramp. The first day I went out and hit it I ended up jumping 150 feet. The light bulb went off in my head. To make good money riding a dirt bike, you got to do something that nobody is really doing, and there was only one guy doing distance jumping at the time, and that was Seth Enslow. So I figured, let’s take a shot, because at that time there were a ton of freestyle riders coming up.

It looks like the move paid off for you.
It did. I’m the type of person who is very headstrong, and when I want something, I go out and do it. I’ve always been that way and I don’t sit still. I’m always striving to make myself better, so I kept pushing that ramp back. I was doing distance jumping in the early 2000s and was throwing tricks, beside Mike Cinqmars, then he got hurt and was out of it, so I was the only guy for awhile. I think I started the distance-jumping movement. I think a lot of other guys got inspired by me stepping up and breaking the world record. There were a lot of guys talking about breaking the overall world record in the early 2000s – it was 253 feet. I was the first guy in 2004 to break that point, going 260 feet for the world record. Since, I was the first guy to jump over three hundred feet. Then once I teamed up with Monster Energy I built a bigger ramp and just kept going bigger and bigger. Now I’m looking to go 400 and 500 feet.

  • There's no doubt that Ryan Capes goes big.
You and Robbie Maddison kind of go back and forth with the distance records. What’s the latest and who’s on top?
I’m on top right now. I went 391 feet and six inches at my practice facility in Washington. Monster and I teamed up last year to practice and go for the record. We wanted to get close to 400 feet, and we’re getting geared up to do a big Monster Energy live TV jump.

What bike were you on for that jump?
I was on a KX450F, custom built by Pro Circuit. I was going 102 mph and I had a 345-foot ramp gap. Just the ramp gap was the biggest ramp gap in history. The thing with distance jumping, you have to break the overall longest jump, but you have to do it with ramp gap as well. You can’t set your ramp at 100 feet and jump down a hill four hundred feet; that’s not a world record. For the world record you have to break both the ramp-gap and distance records. There are a few guys that are claiming they’re breaking the world records, but Maddo and I are the only ones truly breaking the world records.

What’s going through your mind when you’re fifth-gear tapped headed toward the takeoff?
To be honest with you, I’m just praying. I’m just going over what I need to do. Stick the landing, stay on top of the bike — just reassuring myself. I feel like I trained my whole life to do these big jumps.

Let’s talk about the event here tomorrow. On the Moutainfest website, it says you’ll be going for a 250F world record.
Yes. Now, there are different bike size world records. It’s all in displacements. The 125cc world record is 231 feet, set by Robbie Maddison. There hasn’t really been a 250F world record yet, so I’m setting a new standard here in Morgantown. I haven’t distance-jumped a 250F yet, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m using a smaller landing, so it makes the jump look that much bigger.

  • Wow.
I’m sure you have a bunch of good sponsors helping you out, so who would you like to thank, Ryan?
I definitely want to thank Monster Energy; they’re all about going big or going home, and that’s what I do, go big. I just couldn’t do it without Monster. They step up and make it all happen for me. I got a couple new sponsors for me, including Fox Racing. They opened up their doors for me. They make the best gear ever. It was really a lifelong goal for me since I was a kid to be sponsored by Fox, and I think that goes for anybody. Dunlop tires and Skull Candy are new, so thanks to them. And One Industries, they’re making my Ryan Capes signature graphics. I’ve been with One for a long time, and Danny and those guys are like family to me. I’ve definitely got to thank all the guys and Mitch Payton at Pro Circuit, because without them I couldn’t jump nearly as far. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re going to jump 400 feet and you have the best bike builder in the business building your stuff. I’d also like to thank Works Connection, VonZipper, Acerbis, Pro Taper, Kawasaki, UNI, DID, and most importantly my bike sponsor, Mt. Baker Moto-Sports.

Good luck tomorrow, Ryan.
Thanks, Billy.

For more information on Ryan Capes, check him out online at www.ryancapes.net and www.monsterenergy.com.  For information on the Mountainfest Bike Rally and for Capes' jumping schedule tomorrow, check out www.wvmountainfest.com.