Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey and World Cup DH Champion Aaron Gwin were shooting videos with the Intense crew in the hills near the factory. Last time
we spoke with the pair, Dungey had announced that he was among a handful of investors who came on board with Intense to usher the brand into their rightful place at the races. Gwin had just put together the Intense Factory Racing team and announced that this was his first crack at being a team owner. Fast forward a handful of months and Intense is advancing in earnest and the World Cup DH season is upon us. While the crew was preparing for an early morning shoot, I spoke with Aaron and Ryan about riding bikes and how they were getting on with their new roles.
Ryan, how long you been riding with Aaron?Ryan:
Yesterday was my first time that I actually got to ride with him, out in the hills over in Vail Lake. We did some E-bike riding up and down the mountain bike trails and single track and all that.
That’s more like cross-country riding compared what you’ll be riding today, right?Aaron:
Yesterday what we were on was pretty similar to this kind of stuff. We were riding on enduro trails yesterday.
How was your first ride with the mountain bike DH champ?Ryan:
Yeah. It was a nice ego reducer.Aaron:
I don't think so.Ryan:
Put me back in my place.Aaron:
He was good. He surprised me. We took him to some sketchy trails, too.
What bike were you riding?Ryan:
Ah, yesterday we rode the Taser. The E-bike. Doing some filming, shooting some video.
So, 250 watts continuous is what a Tour de France rider puts out on an average race...Ryan:
That's the average?
Yup, Essentially, you had world champion legs. So really, it was just skills vs skills…Aaron:
It depends, which sport... I think we are pretty good, because he shreds on a mountain bike. Pretty good for a moto dude. I've ridden with a lot of
moto guys, and some of them are pretty sketchy. And, I'm decent on a motocross bike, so I feel like we are kind of even. Like, he obviously rips on the dirt bike, and I'm good. And I feel like it's the same on a mountain bike, but opposite.
Ryan, today you are going to be pedaling. What do you think your chances are?Ryan:
Scale of one to ten?Ryan:
Dude, we are out here to have fun. I'm not about to pick a fight with this guy. I'm just lucky enough to ride behind him and have him show me a few things - not to try to make a competition out of it. For sure.
It's fun, not to mention it's cool to be able to come over to his sport. Obviously, you can respect athletes in their disciplines, and what they do, so it’s cool to be able to see first-hand, the things that he's naturally just super gifted at and worked hard at. There were things yesterday he was doing on the bike. He's flicking the bike and you're just like, ‘What the..?’ Those are cool little things you can appreciate. You work hard in your sport and it takes years to develop what he's come into. So, it’s cool to see first-hand.
You know, it really didn't take years for it. He was almost a champion the very first year…Aaron:
I mean I started riding bikes when I was four though. So, there was still a lot of failing that happened before that success popped out of nowhere.
So, we've got two first timers. Ryan, you're a first time co-investor / part owner of Intense. And, we have a first time team owner as well with Aaron. So, what's it feel like to ride the brand that you're invested in?Ryan:
That's actually pretty cool. I think to be able to partner with something that kind of fits my lifestyle too. You know, with racing and dirt bikes, we spend a lot of time cycling. There's the endurance part of things, but also the technical side. We'd come out on the West Coast, we'd go up in the hills and do all the mountain biking and stuff like that. That was fun. With motocross, the racing brand and how that was years of trying to build up, and working with the team in that aspect – and now coming over here to Intense, also a racing brand…
It kind of reminds me of my career in a way, like with KTM. They were trying to make a big push and they hired me to come on board, and we all worked together to build it. Now, it’s like Intense: here’s Aaron, the top rider, and they are trying to make Intense what it is and grow it. So, it's a cool combination of both, and just to be part of it is special. And to work with some really good people too. I think that's the other part - that a lot of great mentors and people are a part of the program, which also makes it fun and enjoyable.
And Aaron: First time team owner with Intense, that’s a big change as well. What's it like after you've been in deep for a couple of months? Ready to ride?Aaron:
It's good now man. It's way more mellow now than last time we talked when we were just getting stuff ready for team camp and trying to launch it out to the public and all that. Everything’s pretty smooth now, we are just kind of in the final prep. We are just making sure everybody on the team has everything they need and training's been going well and everybody is healthy now so that's good. And, yeah, I think at this point we are just really getting excited to see how we stack up.
Which part of your plans worked out best and what was the biggest surprise that you didn't notice when you were going in?Aaron:
You know what, I don't feel like I had any big surprises. I felt pretty prepared. On the last team I was doing a lot of the sort of, managerial duties and that type of stuff with riders and contracts, and I've managed my own deals for a few years now, so that was pretty easy for me.
I think it's just getting things set up for other people. It's one thing to set up your own program, but to really figure out, kind of, how I want Todd to run the team and then really getting him dialed, so he has all the information, resources, and contacts. To sort of manage things. And same thing with John and a lot of the guys, just trying to get them set up so that their jobs are good, and easy, and fun. And they know kind of where their job begins and ends and there’s no confusion or anything like that. So, I think just getting those guys dialed in has been the toughest part, but in a good way.
So, I think all that and just setting up all the bank payments and working with taxes and, you know, creating a business. I wouldn't say it’s more work than I expected, but its work, but it’s good. I'm really happy with what we have now.
Ryan, both of you are on the business side now. As an investor, you've got to watch the bottom line as well. I mean, it's your money, right?Ryan:
I think that's always been an area that's interested me. As a racer, I never got the opportunity to be a team owner. I would say that I think that's a pretty cool opportunity and probably a dream for you, Aaron, but also a big task too. But, I think the business side always interests me in a way. I was always curious about it, but as a racer, there was so much going on throughout the year. I feel like I tried to minimize everything completely, to where I was just focusing on what I was doing.
We had like, thirty races, weekend after weekend, and I wanted to explore and do other things, but I knew it was going to take away from my racing. Ultimately, I knew on the mental side, I was already kind of drained. Now, after racing, I’ve been able to learn a little bit more about [the business side], and this deal obviously offered a great opportunity to learn. Especially where things are going - with the two-wheel space, and the electric bike's kind of coming into play. I want to be a part of that, you know. I spent a lot of years on two wheels, and I kind of want to continue with the trend and where things are going and kind of leverage those skills.
Aaron, same question. Are you going to be able to hang up your banker’s suit and switch back to a World Cup DH racer in the start box? Aaron:
I'll just kind of oversee it from the background. Really, Todd and John and the other mechanics are the key parts of the team. Once we get over there and make sure everything is running. I'm just going to be there as a racer like I always am. I'm not going to have anything else to do with the program, than what I've always done.
So, yeah, it was a lot of work to just get it set up like that. But, now that it’s set up, I can just go back to just being a racer and focusing on that, and I've got my guys that'll take care of everything else for me so... It shouldn't be a big deal.
It's hard to compare Supercross and the World Cup DH series as well…Aaron:
Yeah, I was going to say, our sport is a lot different. I can't imagine trying to run a motocross team as a racer, like Chad Reed and some of those dudes do. That would be a whole ‘nother world. For us, we've got a big off season, a lot of time to prepare. We've got guys in Europe that live there full time who take care of the vehicles and they'll just show up and be there when we arrive, and it's a lot easier- a lot less going on.
A lot less races too.Aaron:
(Laughs) Yeah, we've got, I think eight total, so it's a little different.
Alright. Back to bikes. What do you think now that both of you are now embedded in Intense. Now that you've been in it for a little bit, is there a sense of pride? Aaron, you are a local... I know Ryan isn't, but you are.Aaron:
Yeah. For sure. It's a different feeling than I've had with the other bike brands I've ridden for and I've been fortunate to ride for some of the very best. And we've had a lot of success everywhere and I'm thankful for all of that, but there is definitely, like, something unique about a company that's ten minutes from where I sleep at night. I can just drive into the office and talk to the guys and work on stuff.
You know, a lot of these brands are sort of divided with road riding and a lot of other things. But, I'm a downhill racer and to have a brand where that's their number one focus, is unique and it’s just fun. I think there's a lot of like-minded people over there. It definitely feels like home for me as far as a sponsor goes. It's a pretty unique thing and I'm definitely excited about it, and proud to represent the brand.
I know you like to have your hand in just about any kind of development there is. Have you become a pest yet?
No. I think Jeff is more of a product dork than I am. We are, so we like to talk about stuff and figure it out. I think it hasn't been too crazy yet because I really like the bike, so we just need to get it to some World Cups. See where we kind of stack up against the guys on those courses and really see how it works. Yeah, like I said, I was just pretty comfortable straight away. I think we messed with this bike less than any other bike as far as just the frame goes. We've tried a few things already just for giggles. I'm sure there'll be more, but right now I'm happy. We just want to get to the races and see what's up.
Ryan, most of the motocross people I've known, even back to the old guys like Bob Hannah are road riders. They don't spend much time on the dirt when they ride bikes for training. Are you a roadie, or do you ride off-road most of the time?Ryan:
For me, both are good, but coming from, like a moto background, I always enjoyed the mountain bike, especially being on the West Coast, being able to go on the hills. We were always working on the endurance side of things and, you know, when you are on the road, you are just kind of in a blank stare - which is fine - but that doesn't take much technical side. I always liked using my brain, having all your senses sharp - to anticipate what was coming. That was enjoyable for me, to be able to go on the trails and do the mountain biking.
I especially loved climbing. The Midwest doesn't have a lot of hills. So, I think just to be able to kind of- like moto - have to pick your line choices, be smart- you know, where's the limit? You are kind of on edge a little bit. I just say it's more exciting for me.
So what's your favorite bike at Intense right now?Ryan:
Lately, we've been riding the E-bikes - the Tazer - which has been a lot of fun. But, I'm going to have to hop on Aaron's M29. I've been looking at that guy. The whole line is pretty impressive, but I'm still working my way through each one.
Which is your favorite Intense? "I'm going to have to hop on Aaron's M29," says Dungey, Intense photo
So, honestly answer this: You've got a lot of fans in mountain biking and now you’re a brand representative. So, what are the chances of you racing some downhill?Ryan:
Well, I told you we're not turning this to a competition.
I am. Because Aaron came out of moto and he kicked ass – and you’ve come out of moto and there's still some ass-kicking left to do. So let's hear it…Ryan:
My brain thinks a little too much about other things. I've got a little one coming, so I've got things to think about, you know. But, yesterday I was like, ‘maybe.’ I saw where I linked up with Aaron and definitely, we're not at that level at all. It'd be fun to ride some downhill courses, but, racing? We did talk yesterday, I want to - now being a part of it. Before, I was just representing a brand, just riding the bike.
Now I've got some skin in the game where you care about the well being of the brand. It’s cool to see the people involved within it are passionate about it. That passion drives the perfection to have a good race team and good product development. I'm just pumped to - I'd be pumped to just go down the downhill course and experience it.
So, you're not saying yes and you're not saying no...Ryan:
More no than yes...
That's not very believable, but...Ryan:
Pretty certain there's no chance.Ryan:
There's no chance.