Catching Up With Ryan Capes

This past weekend Ryan Capes did what many people once thought to be impossible—he successfully broke the 300-foot mark in distance jumping.

Growing up Capes was a racer, but like many of the freestyle riders today he decided to put his racing career on hold in favor of superkickers and ramps. And after a brief stint as a bona-fide Freestyler Capes moved onto what he feels he was made to do—distance jumping. It didn’t take him long to make his mark either, as he quickly got his name in the record books for jumping the furthest on a 250cc two-stroke machine. After that Ryan set his sights on the overall distance record, and as we mentioned above, he completed his goal this last weekend with a record-setting jump of 310 feet, four inches. Just what does it take to make humongous leaps like this, and what does it feel like? We decided to go straight to the man himself…

How does it feel to shatter the distance record?

It’s awesome. It feels like I achieved a lifelong goal.

What does it feel like jumping that far?

It feels like strapping yourself onto a rocketship.

It is true that the bike reacts differently when you are in the air for so long?

Yeah, it is a lot of bike control. If someone like Evel Knievel did this jump, he probably wouldn’t be able to hold on. It’s like Supercross riding where you have steep faces and steep landings; with those jumps you have to hit your rear brake to land on the downside. It is sort of that theory, but you actually have to work the bike in the air. Halfway through the jump your bike just wants to fall out from under you. When that happens you really have to stay on top of it and fly the bike. You have to brake and then gas over and over again. I probably hit the brakes and gas four to five times in the air on the 300-foot jump.

So you have to hold on with you legs and everything?

Oh yeah, it’s like flying the bike. You have to brake and gas, brake and gas, and brake and gas. You also have to collect yourself over and over. If you don’t by the time you are at 300 you will be so wheelied out that you’ll crash. Pretty much you have to fight the bike and stay up on top of it.

Is it true that for 300-foot jump you weren’t planning on going as far as you did?

With my gearing we figured that at 78 miles per hour I would land at around 280 feet—I just wanted to beat Trigger Gumm’s record by five or 10 feet at the most. In my second to last attempt I had a 225 foot ramp gap; I hit the ramp at 76 mph and landed at 251 feet, so I figured that if I hit it around two to three mph faster, and move the ramp back 10 feet to 235 feet, I’d be within the margin of breaking the world record. I did six speed runs and could only get my bike to go 77 mph in fourth. When I push my ramp gap back I do it ten feet at a time, and every 10 feet I hit the ramp two mph faster. I was trying to get 78 mph out of it and I did my speed runs over and over, and I could only get 77 mph. At that point I knew I needed to click fifth, and I knew that with my landing, and how big it was, I wasn’t going to overshoot it. I clicked fifth, came out at 78 mph. Once I got the okay to hit the ramp, I lined up for it, and I was on and off the gas coming up the ramp. Right when I was 50 feet away from the ramp I pinned it in fifth and landed at 310 feet four inches. It was pretty gnarly. I knew I was going to break the record when I came over the landing and was 20 to 30 feet above the safety deck. I ended up landing 75 feet down the tranny.

What was going through your head when you were about to land and you were still 30 feet over the top of the landing?

I knew that it was going to break the world record. I just reassured myself to hold on, and that I had it. At that point I was putting a lot of faith in my Pro Circuit suspension and my Pro Circuit bottom triple clamp. One of my worries was bike failure, since no one has jumped this far before. Basically, all I cod do was reassure myself that it was going to be okay, and brace for the impact. I landed with the gas wide open and rode out of it. It was a hard landing, but I really have to thank Bones (Jim Bacon) from Pro Circuit for making some really stiff suspension. It was the stiffest suspension that I have ever ridden. On my last jump (before going 310 feet) of 251 feet, I didn’t even bottom out. I don’t even think I bottomed out on 300 feet, and the suspension wasn’t even really working on 251 feet—that’s how stiff it was. After 250 feet to 300 feet is when the suspension is supposed to start working for me. In the end it held out and worked great.

On the subject of the bike, is there anything special that you do to your bike to prepare for this kind of a leap?

Oh yeah, I use Pro Circuit triple clamps that they specially made; they are a little thicker than the normal ones; there is also a titanium stem in them as well. I also use a Pro Circuit ignition, and the motor is done by Pro Circuit—ported, polished, ceramic main bearings, a lighter crank, and a V-Force reed cage. I just try to make the bike fast but strong so it can hold up to the hard landing. I remember talking to Bones prior to the jump and he just didn’t really know what to do. I told him to make the suspension for a 300-pound man; I’m only 160 pounds so they made it for a fat guy. They really never made suspension like that before, and Bones did an awesome job. It couldn’t have been a smoother landing at 310 feet. I also use different gearing so my CR250 will go 90 mph.

How much planning goes into your record-breaking jumps?

There is a lot of planning involved. There is a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t know about. First thing you have to do is go to the facility and know which way the wind blows at all times, and know the weather patterns and how dense the air is. The reason is that you could go to Colorado and hit a golf ball 400 yards and in Seattle you could hit it maybe 250 yards; objects travel further the less dense the air is. In Washington I hit my ramp in fifth gear at 76 mph and went 247 feet. On my previous jump in Vegas I hit the ramp at 76 mph and went 260 feet. Basically, there is a lot of stuff that goes into hitting the jumps that not many people know about.

What about the ramp, is it specifically designed with distance jumping in mind?

I have the most abrupt ramp in the industry. Trigger’s ramp is 26 feet tall by 80 feet long, and he is on his ramp for half to three-quarters of a second. My ramp is 12 feet tall and 50 long, and I’m on my ramp for a quarter of a second at 80 mph. It’s just a really abrupt and high shooting takeoff ramp. The difference between a poppier and steeper ramp is that I can hit it at slower speeds and go further. There is definitely a real advantage in ramps and the styles of them. I probably have the best ramp in the business, though.

What made you want to do distance jumping, it just seems so crazy to people that see you do it?

It is crazy. I would almost say that it seems like my purpose in life. The media is calling me “The One.” I have a strong feeling that God put me on this earth for me to do what I’m doing. I also remember when I was doing freestyle I learned that the only way to make money in this industry is to separate yourself from everybody else. When I started there was only one other guy—Seth Enslow—doing distance at the time; it wasn’t hard to beat him.

Did you race in the past?

Yeah, I did. I raced strong in the Intermediate class—I never made it to Pro but I competed at Loretta Lynn’s, Ponca City and The World Minis. I just never got the backing that I needed to take the next step up. That was when I got involved in Freestyle Motocross and stepped it up. I designed a mellower ramp and started pushing it back. Then at that point I began thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m jumping 160 feet and doing Indian Airs and Hart Attacks.” Then I ran down to Manny’s house where there is a 200-foot dirt-to-dirt, and hit that. After that I decided to make a world record ramp and go for this record stuff. Now, here I am today the first one to jump 300 feet. The cool thing is, there is going to be only one person who went 300 feet first, and it was me.down to Manny’s house where there is a 200-foot dirt-to-dirt, and hit that. After that I decided to make a world record ramp and go for this record stuff. Now, here I am today the first one to jump 300 feet. The cool thing is, there is going to be only one person who went 300 feet first, and it was me.