On Top of His Game(s) - The Ryan Nyquist Interview

Jun 17, 2017 at 9:19
Jun 17, 2017
by Official Crankworx  
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Crankworx Les Gets 2017

Photo Clint Trahan

Looking at Ryan Nyquist's 2017 Crankworx season, by the numbers, it seems to be all about the number two.

Two - the number of bike disciplines he now competes in (BMX and MTB)
Two - the number of years he’s now been competing in Crankworx slopestyle competitions
Two - the ranking his second (there’s that number again…) run earned him at Crankworx Rotorua earlier this year (he was eventually bumped to fourth after stellar second runs by two (ha) of his fellow competitors, Torquato Testa and Emil Johansson)
Two - the number of times he’s now been invited to compete in the Crankworx Les Gets Slopestyle

Two is not really a number the BMX legend is used to. Competing since he was 16, the 38-year-old has won every major dirt competition in BMX - X Games, Gravity Games, Vans Triple Crown, and the King of Dirt. Can he reach the same status in this new realm of mountain biking? Can he ride the wave of success that’s been building since Crankworx Rotorua and hit the podium? While he’s clearly on top of his game, in both disciplines, can he push it all the way to the top and join the elite ranks of slopestyle champions?

We've got questions. We figured Ryan Nyquist might have answers. He chatted with us ahead of the second Crankworx World Tour stop of 2017 in Les Gets, France.

Photo Sean St. Denis

Let’s start off with Rotorua - how did it feel making it to the bottom of the course at Crankworx Rotorua after having as solid a run as you did, then seeing a score of 91.33 that pushed you into second?

It felt good, especially because in my first run I was almost to that point, but I crashed on the seventh bar stand. So I knew it was a kind of a do or die situation. When I finally got down to that last jump I was just telling myself “Don’t do anything crazy. You know how to do this.” And when it worked I was like, “Yesss.” I knew it was going to be a good run, but I’m still pretty new to the judging and the contest and stuff, I just didn’t know how it was all going to add up. And to see it put me in second place, I was like “Oh my gosh. This is amazing.” It was definitely a really, really nice feeling, 1) to be able to stomp on that course, and 2) just to be able to see that the run I did and the tricks I did were appreciated by the judges and everybody there. I felt very satisfied.

Your score eventually landed you in fourth, in what’s been described as one of the highest scoring Crankworx slopestyle competitions ever. What’s that mean to you?

It’s a huge confidence boost for me because I’m still fresh and I’m still learning and working to understand the world of slopestyle, so for me it just let me know I’m on the right path. The things I’m doing, although they're a little different than a lot of guys do, they’re still valid and appreciated. So it’s a nice feeling to finish a run and have people really excited, and have the judges excited and give you a good score. It definitely was a good moment for me. Rotorua for me - I’ve been watching that on the live web feed even before I started, and I always wanted to ride there. Once I got to ride there I was like, "Man, it’s as good as everybody says," and then to compete there...it was just a really nice weekend for me to be able to walk away with a good placing and a really good vibe and a good time. It just solidified it for me that I really enjoy slopestyle.

Photo Sean St. Denis

Last year before Red Bull Joyride, you said you weren’t 100% where you wanted to be just yet. Where would you say you’re at now?

I’m closer. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% where I want to be, because there’s always things I’m striving to do. I still have a lot of work to do. I’m not super comfortable with every obstacle out there yet. The boner logs and the flat drops and stuff, those are the kind of things that I’m a little bit out of my element still. I’m getting more comfortable on them, but I just don’t ride them enough to be 100% solid. I still go to the events and I’m like “Ok. This is a big drop. Remember last time I was able to 360 this. Let’s see if I can do it again.” Each time it’s a bit of a hail mary, but each time I’ve tried it it works, and that’s just the way it is right now. I’m still striving to progress and learn, and that’s the fun part of it too, just showing up and being like, “Alright, let’s see what else I can do.”

Given your extensive experience in BMX, is that a feeling that ever goes away? Or is that something that just comes with the sport? Is this sport just so challenging and scary, in a way, that that feeling is always there, or given your experience, is that something you’ve eventually become comfortable with?

For me, my background is in BMX, and BMX probably has a range of jumps I’m pretty comfortable hitting, and so when I come to the slopestyle events, a big jump is like 40 foot, and that’s way beyond the realm I’m used to jumping on BMX bikes, so when I show up and see this massive jump I’m still kind of freaking out because my mind hasn’t fully shifted from BMX. It’s like, "Woah, this is massive." But then I have to realize that these bikes can handle higher speeds, that they’re a lot more stable in the air, so it just works. So to answer your question, I don’t think those nerves in competition ever really go away. I think there’s always going to be nerves. There’s always going to be that scary moment the first time you drop in to hit a section you’ve never hit before. That’s always there. It’s kind of just an extension of what I’ve been doing all these years in BMX. Now it’s like, I’m showing up, I’m nervous because it’s an all-new experience, it’s a different bike I’m used to, but it’s also like these bigger courses and it’s nerve-racking but also extremely exciting at the same time. I look forward to going to these events, especially the courses, like Rotorua where it was like, I’d seen it before and heard people’s interviews where they were saying “This is the best course ever." It just works. It’s so smooth. It just flows. And then even when you talk about Joyride, everybody’s like “Dude, it’s the craziest course ever.” That makes me nervous and excited at the same time to see if I’m up for the challenge.

And for me, a lot of it is the challenge. Walking towards something and saying “Yeah, I think I can do this.”

Photo Scott Robarts

Do you think your experience from years of dealing with the highs and lows of competition gives you an edge?

I definitely think it gives me somewhat of an advantage, just having all those years of being in pressure situations and knowing how to handle it. A lot of these young guys just may not be used to having a camera in their face or someone point at them and say, “Go. Now.” It’s all about making sure your head’s on straight when it’s time to drop in and do something crazy. Whether it be BMX or mountain bike, so much of the game is mental. If you’re not there mentally, physically it doesn’t even matter. You have to be mentally strong as well as physically strong to really pull this stuff off.

Emil Johansson, who podiumed in Rotorua at just 17, was in a SRAM Steps to the Top video after the competition saying “some of these riders are like my dad.” Does it feel that way sometimes? What’s the dynamic between you and the other riders?

Honestly it doesn’t. It’s been a really pleasant experience. That was one of the things I was worried about when I was joining the ranks of slopestyle, you know, like “What are these guys going to think? Are they thinking I’m just coming here for some kind of cush ride? Like, I’m 38-years-old and I’m ready for something easier?” It’s been the opposite though. Everybody was just super excited to have me out there and just came up and introduced themselves. I was excited to be there and meet new people too. It was a very exciting time. But yeah you meet guys like Emil, and you’re like “Dude, you’re 17-years-old.” I think back to when I was 17 and how much fun everything was, how new and exciting it was. In some ways you know, I feel like we’re kind of in the same boat. He’s on this amazing tier of riding well and getting deals and meeting new people, and he’s just on this amazing ride. And for me it’s different but it’s kind of similar, where I’m going to these events and I’m having a blast and meeting new people and riding these courses I never thought I was ever going to ride.

I was watching the slopestyle in Rotorua from the bottom of the course, close to where the riders were watching the runs, and it was a pretty interesting experience. You can really get a sense of how it’s clearly an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. It seems like a super supportive environment. Is that the same as BMX? What’s the difference in vibes between the two disciplines?

They’re very similar. Everybody really does rally around each other, and when you see an amazing run, you’re like, “Ooooh man.” You respect it, because you know what it takes. At the same time, you’re still hoping you’re the guy on top at the end of the day. It’s not maybe so vindictive as other sports where you’re like “Ok, that’s what I did. Let’s hope it sticks. Let’s hope nobody else pulls their stuff.” You hope you’re at the top at the end of the day, but you’re also kind of just enjoying the show and rooting on your friends. That’s the same with BMX and mountain bike. There is a camaraderie. It’s fun to be on top of the hill but it’s also fun to be down in the pits and just hearing the excitement, the criticism, just everything.

How does this most recent fourth place finish rank in your long list of accolades?

It’s definitely a nice thing. I was hoping I could get a podium spot, that that score would stick and put me on the podium, but for me, it’s up there. I keep mentioning goals, and every time I go out there I have goals and I’m always trying to do my best run possible, and whether that means I get first, second, third, whatever place, for me it’s more about when I get to the bottom of the hill and I finish that run, I’m content. Whatever score comes after that is almost a bonus. So, really, it’s hard to compare to things that happened in the past because when I’m going out there I’m not thinking about my past accolades, I’m more just like “Well, today’s a new day.” Even going into Les Gets, I’m not thinking about the fourth place I got in Rotorua, I’m thinking “Oh man, I wonder how the course is going to be. Hopefully the weather holds. And Innsbruck’s after that. I wonder how that’s going to be?” So I really can’t stand on my past accolades or past placings, because a fourth place in Rotorua really isn’t going to help me get down the hill any better in Les Gets or Innsbruck, other than maybe confidence-wise. So it’s really just about enjoying that moment in Rotorua, but when we’re in Les Gets it’s like, ok, this is Let Gets. Time to do it all over again.

So looking ahead to Les Gets - you don’t actually get to practice on the course until you get there. What do you do to prepare for an event like this?

I just try to get comfortable on the bike, and for me that just means getting out there and riding and doing some of the tricks I know I can do, because the stuff I ride at home, compared to the stuff I’m going to be riding in Les Gets or Innsbruck, it’s probably going to be really different. So it’s more for me just about being comfortable on the bike and being ready to hit these larger jumps or these bigger obstacles I don’t get to ride all the time. And I feel like once I get to the place where I’m going and I’m standing on top of that course, my excitement and my energy to just get out there and ride, it kind of blocks out the stuff I wasn’t able to do. I just get there and I just want to hit that course. I just want to get on there and get that feeling of going through it for the first time. That kind of erases any of that stuff in your head when you come off the last jump and you’re like “Ahh that felt amazing.” You just have this permanent grin on your face.

Tell us about the bike you’ll be riding.

Haro Bikes Steel Reserve 1.3
Frame Size: Long
Bar width: 25.5"
Grips: Sensus Swayze slip on
Stem: Deity Copperhead 35mm
Weight: Pretty light. Hahaha! Not sure of actual weight
Suspension setup: Fox 831 36 fork with 100mm of travel. Maxed out psi.
Pedals: Deity Bladerunner
Wheel size: 26"
Carbon vs. aluminium wheels: Aluminum Industry 9 wheels all the way. I could see Carbon neon beneficial in the front but I'm too hard on rear wheels to run carbon in the back wheel.
Brakes: Mechanical
Gearing: 30-12
Tyres:Maxxis Maxlite 2.0 front + Maxxis DTH 2.2 in the rear
Tyre pressures: 65 in both tires

Anything else we should know?

Sometimes I run pegs in the rear for rocket tricks.

Ryan Nyquist

It’s been a couple seasons now we’ve seen BMX riders take on this challenge of going from BMX to mountain bike, first Drew Bezanson, now you. Do you think it’s going to inspire more to cross over?

I’m not really sure. Everybody has their own motivation. I jumped on a bike and was immediately like, "Woah, this is harder than I thought. A lot harder." So when I was trying it, it was just because I wanted to see if this was something I could do. And then I fell in love with it. But juggling two sports is definitely not easy, especially two sports where you have to kind of pick and choose where you’re going to compete at that high level. I don’t know that we’ll see a huge movement of people, but it definitely appeals to some because there’s certain guys that just like to go big, and slopestyle has some seriously massive jumps. In that sense I think it appeals to a lot of BMX riders, but not many are willing to jump on the bike and really try it. I think it’s for a select few guys who really want to challenge themselves.

Recently, it seems your focus has been back to BMX. What do you think the long term future holds for you, in terms of these two disciplines?

I don’t know. A lot of my stuff is fueled by passion. I get really excited for big events on either side. I think what it really comes down to is when it comes time to have to choose a Crankworx versus an X Games, that’s going to be a tough choice because I want to be at both of those. I can’t honestly tell you which way I’ll go. A lot of it comes down to points and standings and what’s at risk. I have to weigh each one out. It’s tough, man, there’ve been times times when I’ve been like, man, if I have to choose...I honestly don’t know. I love both of them. There’s been Olympic talks on the side of BMX, and I think if the timeline works out to where I’m still feeling really competitive, I would love to have that as a goal for BMX, so if that came, who knows, maybe I’d have to take a year off from slopestyle to see if I could make that happen, but I’m just going to cross that bridge when I come to it. They haven’t really announced anything. We’re all just kind of waiting to see.

[Sidenote: After this interview, Ryan shared the news on Twitter that BMX Freestyle will be in the Olympics in 2020. What will this mean for his slopstyle career? Time will tell...]

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And between competitions and your family, it must be hard to look that far ahead.

Exactly. At the most I look forward like a week or two. With kids and their schedules and my wife, it’s a lot of craziness going on. I just try to make sure that the important things don’t get dropped and we try to keep everybody happy. It’s tough to juggle, but we’ve been doing pretty well for the past eight years or so, so hopefully that continues.

Looking ahead - how does your season roll out after Crankworx Les Gets and Innsbruck?

There’s X Games after that in July on the BMX bike, then August, hopefully I’m in for Joyride again this year. A lot of the BMX stuff kind of chills out and then it’s pretty heavy mountain bike for me, though there’s a bunch of FISE events mixed in, so I’ll be doing a bunch of those. I’ll basically just be juggling, going back and forth on the bikes and trying to make sure I’m comfortable. That’s honestly the biggest challenge right now, just getting comfortable on different bikes and making sure I’m ready for these events.

Photo Sean St. Denis

Let’s say you’re in for Red Bull Joyride in 2017. This will be your second time - do you have a Red Bull Joyride V2.0 goal you’ve set for yourself?

I guess the easy thing to say would be to just improve upon what I did last year. I got ninth last year, which was just amazing just to get top 10. So yeah, I’d love to get just higher than ninth. Top five would be great. Obviously podium would be unreal. I’d probably pinch myself and think that I was dreaming if I got podium at Joyride. Those courses are just so amazing and so well done, I’m just kind of excited to go there and ride. When I got there last year, the course was like nothing I’d ever ridden. Honestly, the course was just so long, and the jumps were so big. I was truly blown away. I got advice from people who said: “Trust me. When you get to Joyride you’re going to freak out, man. It’s massive.” You kind of take that with a grain of salt because everyone has their own definition of what massive is, but I got there and was like, “Holy crap, dude. Yeah, they’re right." I’ve never experienced anything like that before. That was cool in itself, but for me, to make it back to Joyride this year, I would just be aiming for something a little more than I did last year.

Now that your slopestyle game is pretty on point, are you looking to take on any other mountain bike disciplines? Do you jump on a downhill bike and ride the rest of the trails when you’re travelling? I bet there are a lot of people out there who would love to watch an edit of you shredding A-Line...

Last year, coming in to Whistler everybody was like, “Dude, you’ve got to get a bike and just go down the hill.” But you know I was just so focused on achieving this goal that I’d worked on all year to just make it there, that I was like, you know, if I was to go down the hill and go over the bars or slide out or hurt myself, and just make this whole journey for nothing, I would absolutely hate myself. So I stayed away from the hill and just basically focused on slopestyle. Would I love to be going down A-Line and all that stuff? Yeah. But it’s always hard to do that at an event when you’re so focused on one discipline, and stepping onto a downhill bike or even a trail bike is so out of my element. I’d love to say I’m just going to take advantage of every opportunity, but at the same time, I just value the time I have so much, it’s hard for me to step out of that and say, "Ok, I’m going to spend all day riding the trails," when I feel like I’m there to do a certain thing and I have my goals. It’s hard. When I’m home I’m very much focused on my kids, and when I’m on the road I’m focused on my goals.

I guess we’ll leave it at, never say never, but maybe not in the next couple weeks, or maybe not this season.

Who knows, man. I really can’t say what’ll happen. I mean if the competition is said and done and I have an extra day I’ll go out there and ride down the hill... The people I’m hanging out with on the slope course are very comfortable in that setting, and so it scares me a bit when they’re like, “Just follow me!” And I’m like, "No! I need to be with this little kid over here, who’s here for the first time, he’s got all the body armour on, I’m going to hang out with him because he’s going to go at my pace."

Watch Ryan fight for slopestyle supremacy and take on the quest for the Triple Crown of Slopestyle on Sunday - the Crankworx Les Gets Slopestyle will be LIVE on all your devices exclusively on Red Bull TV and crankworx.com, plus right here on Pinkbike.

Sunday, June 18, 3:30–6 p.m. CEST
Sunday, June 18, 6:30–8:30 a.m. PST
Monday, June 19, 1:30–3:30 a.m. NZST

MENTIONS: @officialcrankworx

Must Read This Week


  • + 16
 Talk about a man dedicated to his signature tricks... he runs rear pegs so that he can do rocket airs!
  • + 7
 I love it how he's two years older than me, got two kids like me, and he's still talking about his contest plans at the world level years in advance... like he just knows he's going to be up there for as long as he wants. And he is!

Me on the other hand, has been out about once a month for proper rides for the past three years and has accepted enforced retirement.

Keep bossing it Ryan! I wanted to be you when I was 16, and guess what? I still do!
  • + 6
 I'm sure with his bike handling skills that he'd be just fine on a DH bike, I used to ride with a good bmx' er and it was the trees that scared him, but the skills were definetly there .
  • + 1
 You get me more stoked to watch slopestyle than anyone. And your riding at Malaga vans cup this year was insane! Going huge on the BMX....I wondered if mtb helped you keep going bigger on the little wheels? Way to inspire people to keep charging. I think you've got the most impressive ongoing riding career out of anyone. I go out and keep scaring myself because of people like Mr Nyquist. Dude is the ultimate bad ass biker!
  • + 1
 Absolute LEGEND! I've been a Nyquist fan since I was a young kid. Had a Haro Backtrail back in the day. He is so real, humble, and epic.
  • + 1
 Gyro rear brake, steer tube front brake is the best combo. Now there's hydraulic gyro, so cool.
  • + 3
 Such a badass.
  • + 3
  • + 1
 Always loved watching Ryan ride, so it was beyond sweet when he chose to give 26in a try and killed it of course.
  • + 2
 He's a f*ing boss!!!!
  • + 0
 What are the rules on wheel size in these Slopestyle comps? A bike's a bike, right? Why not ride the 20"?
  • + 7
 Because I'd imagine it's too sketchy as the jumps/corners aren't perfectly smooth like in BMX dirt
  • + 1
 they would die on bmxs riding that stuff. I don't think they would be able to throw down anything aside from the most dialed tricks they have. One landing to deep or a case and it would be game over in a lot worse way than if that happens on a slope bike or hard tail. When you see the size of the step downs specifically, that's where I think a bmx would really suffer.

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