Monday Conversation: Tyler Bowers

By Shan Moore

It was a surprise to see Tyler Bowers riding the National Arenacross Series Prequel in Des Moines, Iowa, this past weekend, as the Kentucky-native was making a last- minute deal with Babbitt’s Kawasaki to ride the entire series instead of returning for another year on the supercross circuit. According to Bowers, he’s just one of the many top-level riders struggling to find a spot on a supercross team. And instead of riding for free, he has elected to go the arenacross route. It looks like Bowers made a good decision. Bowers won his heat race in Des Moines and out-ran a bevy of former Arenacross champions to easily win the main event. After the race, we spoke with Bowers, who was sporting a full-on Amish-looking beard.

Racer X: What made you decide to ride the arenacross series this year instead of supercross?
Tyler Bowers: I was having trouble finding a ride because everyone was undercutting each other in supercross. It’s not really a good job market in supercross right now; there aren’t any jobs and guys are riding for free. Some really, really talented riders are riding for free and that’s one of the reasons I got let go this year and I had to go somewhere where I could make a living. The respect level is a little bit higher over here in arenacross and they’re a little bit more appreciative. Plus, it’s fun getting back to the grass roots. I don’t want to say it’s a step down for my career; I want to use arenacross as a step up and I think Babbitt’s Kawasaki is a great team and they gave me a great opportunity. When I did the BooKoo Arenacross series a few years ago I had to race Darcy Lange and he was on the Babbitt’s team and that was like my dream team, to see those guys… everything was so perfect on their bikes. And Denny Bartz has another great team and when I got the offer I had to take it.

What do you think about the series going back to 450s in the main class?
I think it’s good. I like riding 250Fs indoors, but at the same time, the 450 is so much easier to ride, especially for my weight. I’m a big guy and I don’t have to watch what I eat the night before a race and I think because it’s heavier the bike handles a little better.

What’s the biggest difference for you between racing arenacross and supercross?
I’ve been riding arenacross all my life so it’s not a big problem switching from outdoor to indoor or supercross to arenacross. It’s a lot tighter in arenacross and the only problem for me is your breathing. There’s not as much time to rest and even on the straights, especially on the 450, when you crank the throttle you’re holding your breath the whole time. Arenacross is so intense—I don’t think it’s any harder than supercross, I just think it’s more intense. Every turn there’s someone coming in on you and there’s no rest. But I think it’s really fun riding arenacross.
How did the deal with Babbitt’s come about?
I’ve been talking with Denny for a while and we had just been waiting to see what was going to happen in supercross, and like I said, the market in supercross is horrible right now. I’ve known Denny since I rode the BooKoo series a few years ago and we just kind of put it together at the last minute.

You had an impressive win here tonight. Was this what you expected to do?
I was really nervous coming in here tonight. Josh [Demuth] and Chad [Johnson] are really, really, really good and I knew they would be tough competitors. I was nervous coming from supercross because I was supposed to be better, but this is a totally different game and I was nervous about how I was going to do. I got over the nerves in practice and I just rode smooth in the race and it worked out okay. I just tried to not make anybody mad because we’ve got a long series ahead of us.

You put a pretty hard pass on Gray Davenport. Hope he’s not mad about that.
Poor Davenport. I feel bad because I knocked the crap out of him at the U.S. Open this year. I came into a turn and there was a jump into the turn and we came into it hot and I was on the inside. He left the door open and I was going to bump him a little, but I slid out in a mud puddle going in over the jump and so I came into the turn backwards, like over the hay bales, and I hit him and we both went down. I’m picking up my bike and he’s cussing at me and I was thinking, ‘OK, if you had been picking up your bike instead of cussing at me maybe you would’ve still qualified.’ I feel bad because I did the same thing to him here tonight. I came in hot and hit him, but I think my pass the lap before on Kelly Smith was a lot more aggressive. But Davenport wasn’t expecting me and he cut the turn short and we hit pretty hard. But he’s a tough competitor and he’s awesome at getting the holeshot. So I’m happy he’s cool about it and I get to race him another race.

I take it you’re happy you decided to ride the arenacross series?
For sure. I’m happy here, they’re happy with me, and I’m comfortable with this group. It’s a great series and Jayme Dalsing is doing a great job of promoting it. Everyone at Babbitt’s is taking great care of me and the team is great and I’m already comfortable on the Kawi and I’ve only got two days on it.

One last question: is the beard your signature look now?
I wanted to shave it about three weeks ago but I had to try out for the Babbitt’s team and I was thinking the beard might make me more memorable. And it did, they wanted to hire me. It was a funny story. I have this big, lifted, jacked-up redneck truck and so I show up in California for this test in my truck and the AC is broke and I hop out with nothing on but cut-offs—no shirt or shoes—and a big ole beard. My hair is all messed up and they’re all like, “you showed up in this big redneck truck all lifted up, walking around barefoot with that beard and we were worried. Then you went out and hauled on the track and you’re a really cool guy, so you got the job.” Then I was going to shave before this race and I thought, “What the heck, keep it.”