Photos by Swanberg and Emery
We haven’t heard much from Tyler Bowers in the past month, and while laying low on social media he’s been healing up and making his return to riding, along with getting his program in line for 2017. Spotted yesterday out at Cahuilla Creek MX aboard a stock Yamaha, Tyler put in some fast laps and after we headed over to his truck to catch up. He was happy to let us know he was joining the 51 Fifty Energy Yamaha team for next year, and is working on the rest of his contracts as you read this. This was pretty rough on Bowers, and we sat down and chatted about his new deal and what it was like to be a free agent looking for a ride in 2016. Expect official PR from 51FIFTY Energy in the coming weeks once they have all of their team deals finalized…
What's up, Tyler? We're out at Cahuilla today and you're riding a new blue bike, and have really been kind of flying a little under the radar lately…what have you been up to?
Yeah, this summer I filled in for the factory Kawasaki 450 team, and then ended up getting hurt toward the end of the season. So around August I broke my femur and separated my shoulder, and had some time off the bike. I was kind left with nothing going into 2017, I talked with a few teams but nobody really had anything for me. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do, and wasn't in a huge rush to get back on the bike because I had some healing to do, but then I got in touch with the 51FIFTY Energy Yamaha guys and we ended up working out a deal. I went out and tried the bike at Milestone about two weeks ago, met the crew, and I was really impressed right off the bat. The Yamaha is pretty badass right out of the box, and the crew has a lot of wisdom – Jamie Ellis on the engines, Craig Monty is the team manager, I think Dave Dye will be my mechanic. I just have a lot of faith in the crew, the whole package coming together is going to be really good and everybody is really excited about it and that makes me happy. Their appreciative, and I'm appreciative of this opportunity with them. I'm ready to go kick some ass and open up some eyes for the team's sake and my own.
Going back to your injury, this sport is in a weird place right now where there are some heavy hitters without contracts yet. Getting hurt must have been a tough pill to swallow knowing it was a crucial time to prove yourself for a ride, and all you could do is sit and watch the races from home.
Yeah, for sure. And this last season was just hell for me, coming back from having Epstein Barr and my back injury…I was just never ready. After taking three or four months off the bike, last week I just got back on and I am already able to do more laps then I was able to at the end of Supercross when we started riding outdoors. I'm already in better shape than I was at my peak last year. I just struggled all Supercross season, and was always playing catch up. Then outdoors I was finally starting to get it; I went 11-11 at Washougal for tenth overall and was really starting to feel pretty damn good. Then broke my femur like two weeks after that!
That was a practice crash, right?
Yeah, we were out at Glen Helen and I hit a kicker that I've hit a million times before but that lap I ended up wadding it down Mt. St. Helens! I was a long day. I was fortunate though because I had broken my femur before and already had a rod in there, and I didn't bend it in this crash. I walked into the hospital and sad "Hey, my femur kind of hurts too", and they checked it out and it was broken. The rod saved me from needing surgery! So basically I finally started feeling good again, and then ended up eating shit and that didn't help out negotiations for the next year at all.
It seems like many professionals have a year or two where they just can't seem to catch a break, and at the very least it shows how good the highs are when things are going your way. It can only go up from last year, right?
Yeah, I think like you said there it's kind of crazy you know – we all have those years and sometimes it feels like "What the hell is going on?" I think I tried harder this year than I ever have, and nothing was working. It was like a square peg and a round hole, you know?! Nothing fit. But everything is coming together, and everything is lining up just perfectly. We all have our hard years, but there's nowhere to go but up from there and I'm really excited coming into the new season.
Relate it to the average guy what it's like to be a professional shopping for a ride. There are very few around this year!
Dude, it's absolutely nuts – if you look at the 450 class there are how many guys that are really, really, really good guys who are all past champions or championship contenders that don't have a ride. A guy got hurt last week and I got offered a fill in ride for free, I'd have to go ride for free. I'd have to pay out of my own pocket, which sounds all cherry to the message board guys but when you end up with a broken femur and all these hospital bills who ends up paying for that? Or like Jessy Nelson in a wheelchair, there's so much risk involved with our sport. People don't understand, when we get hurt they just move on – nobody really helps with the hospital bills and many times you're just home alone with few visitors just trying to take care of yourself. You know it's hard, and it comes and goes… the industry is in a hard spot and I think we're putting too much pressure on the teams and manufacturers to pay the riders salaries and I think there needs to be some kind of movement to figure out a way to give more money to the riders and teams.
It’s definitely smart to stand up and not take a free ride if it's not worth it, because only those that see behind the scenes understand the long and hard hours go into being a professional racer.
Yeah, exactly. And sometimes it could make sense too. To have the opportunity with a good team to prove yourself and ride for free and it makes sense then it can be a good thing, but you have to know your worth. I think right now teams are taking advantage of the supply of riders searching; it's supply and demand!
It's cool to see you're deal is set. You mentioned it was signed a couple nights ago?
Yea, I mean I've been on the bike and stuff but we just got the paperwork all figured out and finalized last night!
So you're feeling healthy now and ready to move forward.
Yeah, I feel good. I'm excited. I haven't been able to feel this good in a couple of years, my quality of life is good. I'm able to wake up in the morning and not be tired all day! (Laughs)
And the time frame from now until Anaheim looks pretty good for you.
Yeah, I think it's going to be good. Like I said, I'm already 115 times better than I was at this time last year. I'm so excited.
Good luck to you and thanks for your time.
Follow Tyler on Instagram: @tylerbowers
Follow 51 Fifty on Instagram: @51fiftyenergy