Features 4 Mar 2021

Five Questions: Ryan Dungey

Multiple Supercross and Pro Motocross champion on launching RD Coffee and more.

It’s been over three years since Ryan Dungey called time on his professional career as the reigning Monster Energy Supercross champion in 2017 and, despite considering a comeback for this season that didn’t eventuate, it’s his RD Coffee business that has become his newfound focus since launching mid-last year. MotoOnline asked the 31-year-old Five Questions about his company, life after racing, his career and this season’s 450SX title-chase as it stands entering Daytona.

Image: Supplied.

When did the idea for you come about to start RD Coffee?

I would say the deal was born probably back in 2010. I was very passionate about coffee early on in my racing career, but probably 2010 was initially the first… An idea sparked in my mind that I wanted to do this. But of course, with racing we were pretty full-time, and I chose not to really dive into any business ventures until I’m done racing, just because I didn’t want it to take away from my career, so that was the beginning. I didn’t really see a sense of rush on it. One, just because, like I said, the time commitment, but I also thought it was…. I kind of enjoyed the process through the time while we were racing, traveling, trying different coffees and learning more, understanding more about it. I just really took that time to really let it be a natural experience and just learning as we go firsthand – with the coffee that is – so by the time that when I was done racing, I was very much more informed and understood about the sourcing, the roasting and basically all aspects of the coffee business.

How is life in business from that perspective? And tell us a little bit more about the four different blends of coffees that you have.

We were able to launch back on June 1st, that was the official public launch that we did last year, so that was the very beginning. At the base, when starting out, I was pretty small, of course – I just was just getting into it. Actually, I built out a little facility in my garage and I did it up really nice and I bought my roasters and I was kinda doing it all myself, really [laughs]. Not that I didn’t want to fully commit, but I felt like I could kind of introduce it and if it took off and went well, then I could slowly expand from there. I had a really nice build in the garage and again, I was doing one roast only, that was our first roast that we started, which was Accelerate, which is a Peruvian coffee. Even prior to launching that one, we sampled a bunch different coffees and I particularly liked that one, but I was like, ‘okay, I want to make sure’, so I checked with my wife, I checked with family and my friends, basically, just roasting and getting coffee. We’re like, ‘hey, what do you think of this? Does it have potential?’. Then fast-forward to June 1st, that’s when we launched, and from that day forward, it’s been going ever since. I have to say it’s been received really, really well, especially within the motocross industry. People have been hugely supportive in ordering and reordering, sharing it with friends, so from that point forward, I quickly out-grew the garage. I ended up working with a roasting partner so we could expand more with the demand and then, with that, still being able to have… I needed to grow, but what I didn’t want to do is sacrifice the quality, so making sure that we were staying in line with the integrity of what I wanted the business to be about – top of the line specialty coffee, everything from the sourcing the beans, you name it. Making sure we were in line with that, which we are, and being able to have control personally on each individual, each roast, and making sure we’re doing it the right way is important. Now we’ve expanded to three single origin roasts and one espresso blend, so it’s growing and it’s been an awesome journey. I think the coolest thing of it all is just to be able to share that passion with others and to see the joy that brings them is pretty positive, so it’s been amazing. It’s been a great challenge too, I should say, but with that challenge, it’s been also been a lot of fun.

What was the best season of your professional career, looking back in terms of drawing the most satisfaction from?

I think the first ones were definitely special, but when I look at the whole picture and the performance and the depth of talent that was there each and every weekend, to me, I’d have to say 2016, the Supercross season, was probably the one that I looked at as the one I felt really good physically, I feel like the set-up was good. I feel like there was a lot of competition out there, a lot of guys who could run good on any given night. I just feel like when I look back at all the seasons and, of course the first ones are really special – they’re all special for that matter – but if I had to pick one out, I would have to say that 2016 season, especially with the most Supercross wins I had won in that season. There was just a lot of positives and it checks all the boxes for me and the team… I just felt like the program was solid that year.

Why didn’t your widely-reported potential comeback end up eventuating this year, from your perspective?

I definitely seeked it out and tried, but I think it was just one of those things… It’s not really rocket science. Just trying to come back and get a factory ride in itself, those are pretty limited, and to be fair to the manufacturers, me coming to them was… Gosh, we’re talking July, August, September… so a lot of times these teams have things in place and that was tough, just being able to find an open door. I think there was openings though and the other factor came down to is, these guys and the team’s budgets were pretty well tied up and accounted for already. They had already allocated their dollars towards each and every individual item line and rider, you name it, so I think that in itself was a hurdle, but also, even just with the pandemic and the uncertainty of, what is going to happen. I will say there was probably a door there that I could have gone and raced for a pretty relatively low amount, for what I feel like would be low, but accounting in all the factors, of course, at the basis of it, my heart’s got to be in it, for sure. Also, coming back to race, the deal had to be good as well because I don’t want to come back and race for nothing. I think our sport, a lot of times, it’s a relatively respective amount that it could have been, but at the same time, there’s a lot of costs in our sport for the riders. It just was, when you really weighed out all my costs and then factor it all in and accounted for everything, it didn’t make sense. Those are some of the factors, but putting it all together, yeah, it just didn’t work out and these factories are pretty well tied up, which is understandable. I always feel like, you know what? I’ve got a hunch, seek it out, knock on the door and if it’s not meant to be, it won’t open and we’ll move forward. I just felt like the urge, the excitement, and, gosh, at the very basis of it, just feeling like the hunger to come back and do it again. It wasn’t meant to be.

Image: Supplied.

You did get back into a competitive environment last weekend though with MotoCar Fite Club…

I did. The whole experience was pretty cool, even from the time I got the phone call to be able to attend the event and be one of the drivers, it was fun. It was my first time in a car on dirt and it was pretty amazing. There was a little bit of a learning curve there, for sure, and of course, still is, but it was fun. I feel like I adapted well, understood the car and when to make changes and kind of just trying to feel it out. Not to mention, I think for me, out of that whole group, I kind of felt pretty fortunate. A lot of those guys, pretty much every single guy that got invited to attend that event, even down to Justin Brayton, those are guys that I all looked up to growing up as a kid. Reedy, McGrath, Ricky, and you’ve got Deegan in there – I was pretty pumped on the whole thing. Just being able to attend something like that was cool, but it didn’t work out too good for me in the main event! Me and Brayton got together a little bit and it sent me into the wall. Dang, I felt bad. I didn’t want to tear the cars up that bad, but we were able to manage and fix it, so everything was good. It just ended my night early, but thankfully wasn’t worse, right?

Who is your pick for the 450SX championship, leading into Daytona with Roczen and Webb now seemingly in charge?

Yeah, they always said, when it gets down to Daytona, it’s go time. Just kind of my personal take, I think what we’ve seen of this year, Kenny, he’s had moments that could have, depending on how he responded, could’ve frazzled him and they didn’t, which was kind of cool to see Kenny kind of turn the page. And it seems like his perspective… He’s in a good place. He’s got a good perspective on things, mentally in a good place as well, so I just feel like even despite all the controversy that he’s kind of had to face, he still has the points lead. He did lose some points, of course, in Orlando, but I still have a sense, just how he carries himself, I still have to have a sense that he he’s calm, he’s cool and collected and has the focus on himself. If there’s a position that I would want to be in, then it would be Kenny’s position. I always want to be leading the points, rather than trying to chase it down. I think Cooper, he definitely seems to be gaining some momentum here and catching up in the points, so it’s going to be close. The consistency’s going to have to come into play, good starts, so if he can maintain that, he’ll give Kenny a run for his money and possibly win the championship. I have a sense though that Kenny hasn’t let this bother him too much and he’s going to continue on, so it’ll be interesting to watch it play out. Between the two, there’s no telling… I don’t know [laughs]! It’s coming down to that battle with Kenny and Cooper, respectively for each rider, so they both just have equally as good chances.