Tyler Bowers | Bouncing Back

"I know that I'm capable of winning"

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INSTAGRAM | @tylerbowers

PHOTOS | Swanberg

The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series hasn’t gone incredibly well for Tyler Bowers. Expected to be a front-runner in the preseason hype, Bowers clicked off two eleventh place finishes in the opening rounds of the 250 West Coast region and seemed off the pace of the competition. Was something wrong with the 51Fifty Energy Yamaha rider? During a recent interview with the multi-time Arenacross champion, he openly discussed the struggles at Anaheim One and San Diego but reaffirmed his intentions to fight for every spot in the running order possible. Anaheim Two was an improvement, with Bowers taking eighth in the main event.

How’ve you been?

I’ve been better [Laughs]. At the races, I need to bring it. I think the big for me is that I’ve been sweating my fitness a lot, working on my base fitness and getting my laps in every day, but I forgot about going fast again. On the weekends I’m fit and consistent, but I’m consistently slow. These last few weeks we’ve been working on the intensity a little bit and I think that’s helped.

So when you’re at the practice track, you’ve just been rebuilding the stamina so you don’t burn out so quickly.

Last year for me was such a big deal. I was fast but I didn’t really have the fitness. I could go fast for a few laps but would lose it towards the end. This year I have been stressing to make sure I can run for fifteen minutes at a time and I tamed it down. It was almost like going into survival mode. When we got to the first round I thought, Oh shit I’m off the pace. Fortunately, the speed can come back quickly because fitness takes a while to build. I’m perfectly now, I just need to work on the speed and intensity a bit.

If we think back to a few weeks ago at Anaheim One, with all of the hype of the new year, did you go into a tailspin when things didn’t happen the way you predicted?

I’ve been doing this long enough, so you can’t fall into panic mode because things don’t work out. That doesn’t get you anywhere. I learned that for the first round it’s best to go in with no expectations, but hope that you do good and believe in yourself. At the first round if you’re off the pace, then you need to figure it out and that’s where I was at. I think I qualified sixteenth or something at the first round, which is horrible for me. I’m usually in the top-three most of the time and definitely on the board. To qualify like that, I was pretty pissed. After just one week, I improved to tenth in qualifying. It’s not where I want to be, but I’m making little improvements. Each week we will improve. At this point, two eleventh place finishes won’t get me far in the championship but I can improve. There are a few races and I need to do good by the end of the season.

From the first time we saw you on the Yamaha until now, we’ve all figured that you were going to come out and kill it right away. Does that get in your head at all? Do the media or fans change your expectations?

I’d like to say that I don’t worry about what everyone says, and a lot of riders are in the same boat. We try not to pay attention to the positive or the negative, even though our subconscious seems to read mostly negative, but we know it’s an eight-year-old kid or some man that never gets out of his chair at home. It affects us for sure, so I try to stay off the internet. The only good thing that came out of the two poor finishes that I had is that everyone seemed to shut up for a little bit. No one talks about you when you aren’t doing well. I don’t have that noise in the background, so now I can go out and improve every weekend. Unfortunately, in this industry, they forget about you quickly. You can be a good rider and have a few bad races, so then people act like you don’t have the talent or have done anything good before. But it flips pretty quickly because once you have a good race, you’re a superstar again. At this point, I think that’s what myself and the team are looking at and we want to capitalize on it.

This bike is a change from what you’ve ridden in the past. As someone that has turned laps on all of the 250s back to back, I know there are differences and I’m sure you can probably find even more.

I’m pretty touchy, so I can feel a lot on the bike. I like it to be strong on the front-end, because I ride over the front a lot and am a heavy guy, so I like it to be stable. I feel everything on the bike. I rode one bike for the almost last ten years, since the end of 2009, so this was a big change for me. I think I have adapted quickly to the bike and I liked it more right away because I feel like all the bikes are getting too small and skinny. One of my complaints about the new Kawasaki was that it felt too skinny for me, and when I got on the Yamaha I liked the solid feel of it. The seat was just a little bit wider. It felt like I was riding a dirt bike again, not a bicycle. The team has been great because there were a couple of things I wanted to change and they made it happen right away. We’re not working with the same budget as some other teams, but we have a really good crew. Our suspension and engine guys are great, and the Yamaha is a really good package already, so it’s been a work in progress. I can’t say that it was hard to adapt to this bike honestly because it came quickly and I was comfortable. If you watch me ride, I look comfortable but just slow [Laughs].

Were you slow at the test track? Or is this one of those things where you come to the races and the track isn’t something that you prepared for?

I will say the first round was a surprise for me. Anaheim usually ruts up a little bit and we set the bike up for that, so it would turn sharp and under the ruts, but we got here and the turns were loose and like riding on marbles. There were hardly any berms, so there was no reason to turn down. You had to have a longer wheelbase so that you could sweep around the outside of the turns. That was a surprise. During the week I’m not slow and I’m not as far off as I’ve been on the weekends, so I felt confident coming into the season. I was looking forward to finishing in the top-five and now we’ve had a wake-up call, but that’s not a big deal. I’ve been around for a few years and everyone at the team has been around longer than I have been, so we made some changes and I think it’s going to get better.

Sometimes people find out one thing that is going wrong and they focus just on that, but it could a few other things that could be the cause as well.

Last year arm pump was my issue. I felt fine for the full race, except that I couldn’t hold on to the handlebars anymore. This year I haven’t had a problem with it. A big key for me is when the front-end feels low, I try to pull up with my arms and that causes arm pump. This year I haven’t had problems with arm pump or fatigue, so I think that I need to push to be comfortable being uncomfortable, where I’m riding on the edge. I think it’s coming.

The championship is out of grasp now. Do you change how you approach each weekend now? Do you ride in “maintenance mode” to salvage a finish or are you still chasing wins?

You have to shoot high. I know that I’m capable of winning and that the bike is capable of winning. You have to set realistic goals, but you can’t throw out a number like, “I’m shooting for tenth this weekend.” That’s just stupid because I need to do the best that I can possibly do. If there is a guy in front of me, I have to try to pass them. Until we are in the lead, I’m not in maintenance mode.