Open Mic: Ryan Sipes

Open Mic: Ryan Sipes

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When Rockstar Energy Racing announced its 2014 lineup, Ryan Sipes was not on it. But he did, oddly, get in one more race on one of the 2013 bikes via last week’s International Six Days Enduro. He did well, too, taking third overall out of all the Club riders and finishing as the top 450 Club rider (ISDE separates teams into four groups—Trophy, Junior, Club and Women).

How did Sipes, a lifelong motocrosser, end up racing this event? And what’s coming next? We rang him up to find out.

Racer X: You rode the ISDE? How did this happen?
Ryan Sipes: I’m good friends with Taylor Robert, and I rode with him a lot in Arizona when I trained with Steve Hatch. I didn’t ride much moto, it would be out in the desert, trails, hitting corner tracks he made. He’d do some crazy stuff, down in creek beds, and up over mountains! He’d like to say we’d ride in places you can’t get to on a motorcycle, or places where no one has ever been. So Taylor was telling Antti Kallonen, the team manager for ISDE, that I can do well in some of those technical things, and I got a phone call. First, they wanted me to be on the Trophy Team. Thad DuVall said he wasn’t going to go, but then I guess he got some money together and was able to do it, so there wasn’t room for me on the Trophy Team. But Antti still said he wanted me to go and get my feet wet and see what it’s all about. So they put me on a Club Team.

So you are thinking down the road of going back again as part of the Trophy Team?
I hope so. But our Trophy Team is really, really, good. I’m not saying I’m any better than they are by any means, but I feel like I was getting the hang of it by the end of the week, and I had fun.

We talked to Osborne and he said he was just worked, mentally, by the fifth day, much more than he was physically. What was it like for you?
Day four was the hardest, physically. Not from a cardio stand point, just more like, you dabbed your foot a bunch of times the day before, and now your toe hurts every time you dab. You have monkey butt. And even your neck and shoulders hurt because you’re on the bike for seven hours a day. So Day 4 was getting tough, physically, and Day 5 was the hardest, mentally. You’re tired and you still have to follow arrows during the transfer sections. You’ll be on a regular road, and then there will be an arrow that tells you to go off into a gravel road, and then it’s single track over this mountain. And you have to follow these, and if you miss one you’re going to get lost and you’re going to be late. Luckily I didn’t have any problems.

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Sipes navigates the rocks at the ISDE in Italy.
Steve Berkner EyeOnSixDays.com photo

Terrain wise, you were able to handle that stuff?
Yeah, there was some challenging stuff, some hillclimbs and big downhills, and one rocky section, it was basically a creek. But the rocks weren’t square, they were round and slick. The special tests were tough, not like you’re going to get stuck and not make it, but because it was just dry, dusty fields, with rocks everywhere. I got to go fast on this crap? This is sketchy! I had some crashes trying to push it too much, then I had some slow times where I wasn’t pushing it enough. By the end of the week I had found a happy medium.

Those dudes in Europe, they’re pretty amazing at that.
It blows my mind how fast they can go. I’d be thinking, ‘I did pretty good in that one’ and they’d be 20 or 25 seconds ahead. I’m like, ‘How in the world can they go that much faster?’ But toward the end, my times would get a lot faster. I learned a lot. Since it’s grass track, you have to sweep it like a road racer, coming in wide, cutting it tight, then sweeping back out. You have to straighten out chicanes, that thing. You can gain a lot of time once you learn it, so I got closer. I was still blown away with their times, though.

I’ve always heard the cornering technique at the ISDE is the complete opposite of motocross.
Well, everyone on the Trophy Team was telling me, especially Mike Brown, they were saying, “You’re not going to run any of the same lines that you would on a motocross track.” And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ In moto, you might come all the way down the inside of a corner to miss the bumps, get to the rut, and just follow that along the inside. Here, you can’t do that because that makes you slow down too much. Sometimes you just need to hit the bumps, and you’re two-wheel drifting, on the edge, and you try to find a powder berm and take off. Hopefully you don’t hit a rock inside that berm! So it was kind of the opposite of what we’re used to doing.

What about working on the bike?
That went well. We had a couple things go wrong. I had to replace a wheel bearing, so that was pretty tough. And I ran the Rekluse clutch and I had to adjust it in a time check. It’s like, you have four minutes to do this, so that was tough! But changing the tires, once you get used to it, it’s not hard.

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Riders at the ISDE have to do their own bike maintenance. Here Sipes is changing his tire at a check point. 
Steve Berkner EyeOnSixDays.com photo

So you rode one of your motocross bikes?
When I found out I was going to go, I told the team [2013 team, Rockstar Energy Racing] and they thought it was cool. They said they would help with a bike and parts and stuff. Jamie Ellis, our engine guy, he was fired up! So I booked him a flight and he built the bike—I think it was one of our old race bikes. He made an engine with real smooth power, and then I had my buddy Todd Sanford do the suspension. I just told him to make it softer than you think. It was really plush, and that was great on the rocks and roots. We shipped it over there in August.

Were you spent when it was over?
Well, what’s crazy is you fly over the week before and walk all the tests. So you’re there a long time. The tests are 3-5 miles and we’re walking up to six tests a day. So we hadn’t even started racing and I was tired. My feet hurt! Then we took the weekend off before the race and got to relax a bit.

So what’s next for you? Do you have a ride lined up for next year?
No, I don’t. I’m just kind of decompressing from this trip, and then I’ll get back after it here soon.

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Sipes hopes to race for the Trophy Team in the future.
Steve Berkner EyeOnSixDays.com photo

What’s that mean? Literally working the phones?
You’ve got to go after it and call people, try to put something together. Hopefully it all works out.

How did you feel about your season?
For sure I wish I had done better. I felt like my speed was still good and everything. I broke my hand in supercross, missed time there, but I had more injuries after that, that were behind the scenes. I was in a lot of pain and trying to race, but no excuses, I wish I had done better and I probably should have. But I learned a long time ago that as long as I gave it my all, that’s all I can ask for. All I can do is give it my best, and some years my best is winning races, and some years my best is fifth to tenth.

You’re not in panic mode yet over a ride, or are you nervous?
Umm, no, I’m not really nervous, everything kind of always works out for me. I’ve been really stressed in years past, but I’m not going to be like that anymore. You’ll see, there are going to be some big changes coming for me soon—but for now I’m just kind of going with the flow.

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