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Husqvarna Factory Rally Team - Skyler Howes

This week on Pit Pass Moto by Evergreen Podcasts, we discuss the World Supercross Championship and how Harley-Davidson's CEO has bucked the idea of the staff returning to their HQ. Then, we also jump into a conversation with Husqvarna Factory Rally Team, Skyler Howes.

Photo credit: Rally Zone.

Note: This transcript is machine generated and may contain spelling and grammatical errors.

[00:00:16.960] - Dave

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings the biggest names in the motorcycle industry right to you. I'm Dave Sulecki.


[00:00:27.160] - Dale

I'm Dale Spangler. And this week our guest is Husqvarna Factory rally team racer Skyler Howes. This episode is brought to you by MotoAmerica. MotoAmerica is the homeowner Bayma superbike and North America's premier motorcycle road racing series, with some of the best motorcycle racing on two wheels. Rewatch every round of the 2022 series and catch all the action from each race with the MotoAmerica Live Plus video on demand streaming service. Or visit the MotoAmerica YouTube channel for race highlights and original video content. Look for a complete 2020 free schedule coming soon at motoamerica.com. And be sure to follow MotoAmerica on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for real time series updates. Well, everybody, welcome to episode 142 of Pit Pass Moto. What's happening, Dave? What's going on? How was your weekend? Last weekend for me, riding season, I think, is officially over. We dropped into the upper 40s here over the weekend, and with overnight freezing and lucky enough to get in one last 220 miles ride last Thursday when it was nice 70 degree weather. So, yeah, looks like it's time to get out the winter.


[00:01:40.630] - Dave

Dudes, you were dead on last week. We got a blast of winter here, but it cleared up and we had probably one of the most beautiful weekends. In fact, we still have it 70 plus degrees weather and got some motorcycle time in and everybody's out riding a lot of people with the racetracks. So really, I think we got our Indian summer here in Ohio. So one last to Hurrah before the snow flies, I hope.


[00:02:00.760] - Dale

Yeah. So I did get in a little bit of a world super cross action from this past weekend, the final round, round two slash final round, which is kind of weird to say, but what did you think of the event overall? I'm just kind of curious before we jump in here, like, your overall impressions of the two round series.


[00:02:18.540] - Dave

Well, I'm glad we got to see two rounds. I mean, kind of gives you some idea where this thing is headed and how it's going to settle in. And I'm trying not to be cynical, but I kind of have my doubts. Didn't have the quite the feel that I expected. Some things I was a little concerned about, but some of the action on the track was good. So I think at the end of the day, as I've said before, watching any kind of racing this time of the season is pretty cool to me. But, yeah, we're Monday morning quarterbacks. We can all pick it apart and say what we didn't like. And I'd say overall, the action was great. I had some sketchy race tracks, some slippery race tracks. Not a big fan of the format, but like I say, at least we got to see some racing. What you think do?


[00:02:59.230] - Dale

Yeah, there are some things that really kind of stood out to me. Like, I thought from round one to round two, they certainly made some improvements overall. And again, not like you said, we're armchair quarterback in this thing, so we're just observing it from afar. But being fans our whole lives, I think it's somewhat valid us being fans of the sport. But I thought some of the stuff that really stood out to me, the drone follow cam, like, wow, how cool is that? And it was actually pretty high quality. But the random cams, I'm going to call those random cams, the ones that they stuck on the swing arts and stuff, they still need to kind of figure that out. Those kind of stuck in my mind.


[00:03:32.890] - Dave

I agree with that. Video quality is not great.


[00:03:35.100] - Dale

Yeah, but the drone thing, when they were following on their hot laps, I thought that was super cool. And I'd never really seen that name a supercast. So they're thinking differently. I'm just going to be putting all the pieces together. But yeah, overall, I thought there was some confusion here and there, and that's to be expected with the new series. But overall, from what I was reading online, the crowd seemed really into it, although you really couldn't hear that in the television coverage. It looked like a huge crowd. People were having a good time saying they had a super positive experience. But in case you're wondering, though, it is a world championship. I don't know if you knew that.


[00:04:11.290] - Dave

I guess maybe in the back of my mind, that's the thing, I feel it just doesn't at that level, doesn't feel quite legit. But I guess we got to give it a chance. It's only two races, it's only their first year, so to be fair, you got to wonder how much better it's going to be next year.


[00:04:27.540] - Dale

I thought the three moto format is still a little bit questionable, too, especially from the rider's perspective. It seemed like they would try and interview racers and they were scrambling to get ready for their next moto because it's three mains in a row. And so when Roxen got a flat, which is another subject we'll talk about, which is unreal to me, they're getting flats at the pro level still, but he was scrambling after he got that flat to get everything ready for the third moto, and I think he had like, a backpacking against the wall. And so it's just like it seems like it's a little chaotic for the riders and stressful, at least that's my kind of impression I got.


[00:05:00.460] - Dale

Yeah.


[00:05:00.670] - Dave

And as a racer who wants to feel that as you're trying to line up and potentially win that next moto we expected from Roxson, it was kind of going to the season. I know I had my prediction talk about the action and the results, but Roxton was kind of the chosen one to win this. And as it turned out, that's pretty much how it went. Interestingly though, tomac finishes 6th overall in the world, he only raised one event, but he won three motives. So I think Roxen won two out of the six.


[00:05:33.600] - Dale

Actually, only one.


[00:05:34.470] - Dave

Was it one? I thought. I guess you're right. One one. And Cardiff Savace.


[00:05:40.120] - Dale

Wow. Savace was impressive.


[00:05:42.010] - Dave

Man was on fire. It was impressive. And you got to wonder how it would have been if he'd done better at Cardiff. So talk about that flat tire. I want to hear your thoughts on that. Definitely hits the radar.


[00:05:51.990] - Dale

Yeah, I just think it's hilarious just reading different things about it. Like they're saying there could be nails and stuff in the dirt and it just kind of blows me away that at this point. Like they're either not running some type of like bib moose type setup and I've read that they don't run them in supercross. But something to address it. Because with the championship on the line like that. That just seems like a tough way to go out. And on top of that, I don't know what it was about the track, but there's just people crashing everywhere. These domino effect, first turn crashes and guys landing on the bridge sideways and falling off and it's pretty chaotic with all that.


[00:06:24.370] - Dave

Yeah, I'm not a fan of the metal, the metal ramps. I said it when we talked about Cardiff, but there was a guy who was in a about a three wide race going over that metal ramp and kind of got offline a little bit. And I was just wondering what would have happened to him had it been a dirt jump to land on. It would have been a lot softer landing. I'm thinking of the Chatapult incident, I don't remember that. The only reason Chad survived is he had a soft landing on the downside of the dirt, and this poor guy didn't have that to kind of soften his landing. So, yeah, some carnage, I think you're right. Just the fast brief format, the muscling in the corners, the sketchy track surface slippery, it looked like to me. Same as Cardiff, they've got some things to work out because they think that's going to eventually hurt them because you've got teams that have to field riders or they are fined, you know what I mean? It's just a really strict format that they have to meet. So they have riders injured over silly stuff like that, like metal ramps and takeouts in the first turn in the third moto in the 450 class.


[00:07:24.780] - Dave

We'll talk about that, I'm sure. Yeah, some pretty cool stuff.


[00:07:28.710] - Dale

I mean, that's where the flat tire, to me, like, that could have been the end of it for Rocks. And he kind of got lucky. Freezy being freezy ends up taking out his, but I don't think he took him down fully. But he hit his teammate, Justin Brayton. Justin Brayton was certainly not happy about it afterwards, and he's probably one of the humblest, mellowest guys out there in the paddock. And he was not happy about it because I think it cost him some money because he could have won that title too. Justin Braden, probably.


[00:07:55.770] - Dave

But here's the thing. Going into that third race when the takeout happened, vince Freeze was in first in points and was poised to take a world Championship. So in a way you have to wonder, well, why wouldn't he go after the other guys and try to muscle his way? He probably took it too far, as Vince Freeze has been known to do, but he was leading the points going into that third and final Moto and could have had a world Championship had things gone differently. But Friesie got a Freezey.


[00:08:22.980] - Dale

Yup. Or his teammate could have got it. You know, that's the sad part is neither one of them got it when both of them were in contention.


[00:08:29.020] - Dave

And then Friezi ends up third overall because he's tied with points with Sabachi who won two Motos. So definitely some interesting outcomes in the grand scheme of things in that MX. One class. Excuse me.


[00:08:40.900] - Dale

Yeah, SX two. Of course, Shane Macklereth wins. That wraps it up over Max ANSTI, who honestly, I was most impressed with Max Anste. To me, I feel like he's going to be one of those sleeper riders going into the AMA Supercross Series in 2023. It just seems like he's on it. I think he's going to be a title contender for Firepower Honor when he comes back to the US.


[00:09:00.220] - Dave

Yeah, I tend to agree. I think he's definitely shown that he's got it. I'm happy for Shane Mcgowrath. Here's a guy that has tried to resurrect his career several times and this may give him a little push into next season. Who knows, maybe this leads to a bigger ride for him. Honestly don't know where he's riding next year. I don't know if you do, but good for Shane. He's a nice guy and for him to take that title and actually seal it off with a win in the final Moto, I thought that was pretty cool because he hadn't won a Moto up until that final.


[00:09:29.040] - Dale

Yeah, I've read some rumblings about him possibly like when he was with the club MX team and I could see there being a possibility of him going back there and right on the 450 there, but yeah, we'll see. But it seems like he's got to be pretty excited about that. I'm sure it was a pretty big payday winning that World Supercast despite it being two rounds. And yeah, a guy like him, I feel like it's a shot in the arm for him. Maybe he's had his ups and downs over the last few years and had a lot of different rides and so, yeah, good for him.


[00:09:55.690] - Dave

Yeah, I'm happy for him. And how about this? Manufacturer championship goes to Honda, obviously, because they won the outright title in the they were in contention in every class, so it makes sense that they scored the most points. And team championship goes to Moto Concepts racing. And I'm sure the pits were pretty tense after that last 450 moto, so I hope they got that sorted out and like, you know, hasn't really come out and said anything about how things went down, but they did win the team championship regardless.


[00:10:23.700] - Dale

As we talked about, Dave, it's like more racing is always great when you're a fan. And so I'm happy to see it happen and I hope it does go into 2023. There's talk of six to eight rounds starting in July of 2023, and hopefully it happens and they you know, it just continues to grow and it's just going to be better for everybody in the sport. Brands get more options to advertise. Riders get more options for a payday. And so I think it's a good thing all the way around. Hopefully it sticks around.


[00:10:51.310] - Dave

Yeah, let's hope so. Speaking of brands in the industry, you got something to say about our favorite American made V twin product?


[00:10:58.650] - Dale

Yeah, I thought it was just an interesting article that I found last week, and the title says, harley is rethinking its headquarters as CEO rejects a return to office. And I just thought that was an interesting subject. It's something that, of course, with COVID really came to the forefront working from home. I don't know if you got to experience it, Dave. For me personally, I'm three years in now working from home. I worked for a year from my previous employer, tucker Power sports from home and then starting my own business, buzz media content. So, yeah, total of three years now I've been working from home. And so that's pretty big news when you hear a company like Harley Davidson is shuttering shuttered its headquarters in March of 2020 and hasn't reopened since. The CEO, Jaquin Zeits, I think that's how you pronounce his name before it. And butchered. He says virtual meetings democratize the workplace. And I would have to agree. I feel like you kind of get rid of these sort of hierarchical workplaces where you have the C suites and their nice plush offices and the rest of the people and their cubicles.


[00:11:58.180] - Dale

And so I think it just sort of eliminates that. So I don't know. I just think it's a really interesting subject. I'm curious to know what your take is on that whole subject.


[00:12:04.950] - Dave

Well, let's see. I'm going to counterpoint it because I'm kind of an old school guy. I've always been that go to work guy. It's ingrained in my system and kind of the positions I've been in in my professional life have required my presence simply because of the interaction of manufacturing and such. But be that as a man, I've been to the hall of grounds on Juneau Avenue. I've been to Harley Davidson many times, used to work with them in my past life at a previous manufacturer. Just an amazing place. And the vibe there, the feeling, it's very palpable when you go there because of the history. This is one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world and it's to hear that they're not going to be there to do that anymore is, I guess, maybe sad for me in a way. I understand his thoughts and approach, I think, from my side. And a lot of the engineers were located in that office. I don't know how that's going to work for them going forward, but apparently they have a plan. But yeah, I guess my heart's broken a little bit simply because of my attachment to the brand and my attachment to working with them in the past.


[00:13:06.840] - Dave

But I find for myself personally, working from home is somewhat of a trap. And I've heard other people say the same thing, where it turns into they actually work more hours that are uncompensated for and they end up putting in more effort and putting other things aside. So there's two sides to it. I am a Libra, by the way, so I tend to argue both sides of arguments, but I would say that it's not for me. I'm a guy who needs to be in the office, whether I'm actually needed to be there or not. But I like that place to go to every day and it's just part of my DNA, I guess, but good on Harley. I hope they keep it rolling because they're an important brand to the industry and always have been.


[00:13:44.340] - Dale

I think that makes complete sense, especially like in your type of role, that engineering, where it's you got to be there handson. I was noticing this is a stark contrast to Tesla's approach, who's the opposite, where they basically are requiring people to work 40 hours a week in the office. And so this is a huge departure for Harley, but like you said, it's imperative that you're there for a hands on type position like yours, engineering, where you need to be there. I don't see how you can do that job really remotely.


[00:14:11.680] - Dave

I tried it briefly, it didn't work.


[00:14:13.770] - Dale

Yeah, I also think the work from home, it works good for my type of just marketing type. I think it works really well. It also comes back to personality. I feel like if you don't have the personality, like if you're one of those people that kind of gets distracted easily, for me, it actually saves me time. I work, get way more done and less time working from home because I'm pretty organized that way. But yeah, I can definitely see where you're going to miss some of the buy in for like Harley Davidson. A huge draw for them. It's just being part of the brand, like working for Nike or something, it's huge thing something you can put on your resume. And so not being able to go to this Storied headquarters now, I think that changes how they do their hiring. Conversely, like, I read where Yoke is basically saying, like, this is allowing us to hire even better talent because it doesn't limit us to living in a certain place. So they can hire from around the world, no problem. So, yeah, it's an interesting subject. We'll have to keep track of that and see how it goes with them going forward because I have a feeling like it might happen and then maybe they'll reopen something else again.


[00:15:15.940] - Dale

So it'll be interesting to see what happens.


[00:15:18.430] - Dave

There's always that possibility where companies kind of have the hangover clear and then they realize they do need bodies in the building. I know the place I left to come, where I am now, ended up doing that. They ended up flip flopping and built all new offices and brought everybody back. And things are back to where I think they needed it to be. So I like Elon Musk quote, I'm going to read it. Return to the office or pretend to work somewhere else. That's the other side of that argument, which says some people slack off when they're not being watched and some people are more disciplined, like yourself, who can dedicate themselves to a task and get it done. So you're your own boss. So it's kind of maybe a different situation than working for a company. So a lot of ways you could argue this. But yeah, sad to hear that they're going to close the building because it is historic. And you were dead on about saying about the DNA and the people there, I've met so many of them and it is a genes culture all the way up to corporate top, and they definitely live and breathe the brand top to bottom.


[00:16:17.040] - Dave

And I hope that doesn't change because that's important to their brand is to have that in their DNA. So at the same time, they need to evolve and reach new customers. So they've got that challenge ahead of them, which is kind of unrelated to the subject, but definitely Harley's got their work cut out for them.


[00:16:31.320] - Dale

Definitely. Well, looking forward to our guests. Skyler Howes, super excited about that. Very timely. Just won a rally race over the weekend, so let's move on to our interview with him. We'd like to welcome to Pit past Moto World Rally Raid Championship racer for Factory Husqvarna. Skyler Howes. Skyler. Welcome to show. How are you today?


[00:17:06.360] - Skyler

I'm doing pretty good. Just recovering from the long week down in Sonora. So quite happy to be home finally.


[00:17:13.170] - Dale

Yeah. So, first off, congrats on that. So it just happened this past weekend, the Sonora Rally in Mexico Red, where you said you topped the timesheets every day for a dominant win. I think that was your second win, dodging cactuses. Add to that a solo win at the Vegas Arena and man, you got to be pumped about how your years been going so far.


[00:17:32.970] - Skyler

Yeah, it started off pretty rough, to be honest. The year always starts off with the Dacar and that's the biggest race of the year and that's what everything is geared towards and like based off of. So to have a crash there and to not finish the Dakar was a rough start to the year. And, yeah, I had that concussion there, which actually took quite a bit of time to recover. I thought I was feeling pretty good and then went and raised Abu Dhabi, the World Rally there in the Middle East and had a really subpar result there. It was not a strong performance, I just felt super uncomfortable and really exhausted and a lot of stuff kind of followed up to that concussion I had in Dakar. So it was pretty tough there and got back to work, got a new trainer and started working with him. His name is Nick Chase, he's one of the top triathletes here in the USA. I started working with him and getting on a bit better of a program and just really started buckling down in the offseason. And for us the offseason went pretty long because we were supposed to have the Andalusia Rally in the middle of the year.


[00:18:37.350] - Skyler

That got postponed. So all the way until just recently in Morocco. We've essentially had an off season with the World Rounds. So I've had quite a bit of time to focus in on my program a bit and I did the Silver State 300 earlier. That was just on the regular 450 Husqvarna and then Vegas Dorino on the rally bike rally Du Morocc. Now Sonora. Since summertime. It's been pretty full gas as far as the racing goes and the training and the preparation and all that kind of stuff. It's been pretty insane. So I'm super happy to now come into a little bit more of an off season the last two months. We still got training and stuff, but it's been full gas for those last four events and super happy to rack up a win at all four of them. So it's pretty cool.


[00:19:28.960] - Dale

Yeah, let's talk about one. We hadn't really talked about it yet, but obviously all that hard work is certainly paying off. And like you said, it's been a weird couple of years with the schedules and events being canceled here and there, but you got your first FM World Rally Raid win at the Rally Du Morocc. Tell us about that. That just has to be such a good feeling after all the work you put in two years ago, going to the 2021 car, selling pretty much everything you could just to pay for yourself to get there, taking this big gamble, you land the Husky factory ride and now you're a race winner at a Rally Raid World Championships. So you got to be feeling good about it.


[00:20:06.810] - Skyler

Yeah, I was feeling really good leading up to the race. We have been putting in an insane amount of work on this new rally bike that we've developed over the last couple of years. And, I mean, it hasn't always gone swimmingly. Last year when we unveiled the bike at Morocco, we realized that we still needed to make some pretty hefty changes before Dakar, and even since Dacar, we've made a lot more improvement in development on this thing. And we've got it to a point now that it's actually quite good. And what's nice about it is I feel like we can continue to improve and make it even better. So after all of this work and being more in tune with my bike and understanding what changes go where and how to relay that information to the team to make the bike better, it's been a pretty insane process coming from a private tier where basically you have to do more with less and just ride whatever you get your hands on. And that's as good as it's going to get to now being full handson on the development, the complete development of a motorcycle. And so it's really got me in tune with a lot of that stuff.


[00:21:11.370] - Skyler

And we put in a lot of hard work. And heading into Morocco, we did like ten days of we did like, quite a few days of photo shoots, but in between that, we were doing testing, we did some more road books for training and all that. So leading up to that race, I was like, feeling super positive and really in tune with the bike. And I felt at home really, like, on the bike and in the terrain. I was just feeling really comfortable. And we even continued to make more adjustments during the race. And the first little small stage, we have the prologue, which now they combine it. So it's one A and one B. So essentially, your prologue time gets multiplied, so it goes against your overall time. And the reason why they do that is so they don't have people going slow on purpose or trying to play a strategy into it, like, basically have to pin it and try to win the prologue in order to keep your time low. So anyways, going into that, I mean, I'm not a sprint racer. My motocross background is pretty weak. Like, I grew up just going out to the desert, and so I would say my strengths are super long distance, long days on the bike and fast over a period of time.


[00:22:20.670] - Skyler

But the short sprints around like a prologue track is not my strong suit. And leading into it, I was like, all right, well, I'm not in the championship points, I want to win the event, but at the end of the day, I need to just do my best. And even though I'm kind of viewed as a veteran in the rally world now, I'm still relatively new at it. The guys that I'm training with or riding with, they're talking about, oh, yeah, back in this race that it did in 2012 or this rally, like when I started in 2009, I was like, holy cow, I've only been doing this for a couple of years now. I just thought, all right, I need to hone in on my skills a little bit better. I need to get better at these prologues and just feel it out. So every day I'm just going to go as fast as I can, and whatever happens is what it is. So I went in the prologue, didn't really go perfectly at Blue. Some corners, I kind of rode a little bit sloppy, but I just went full gas. I ended up getting fourth, which put me in the perfect position for the first stage.


[00:23:22.240] - Skyler

And these five day rallies, you really want to do well on stage one, three and five. That gives you the best overall odds for the end result. So going into the first stage, that put me in a perfect position. I got fourth again. And then I think stage two, I got another fourth. And then stage three, I think I got a second. Stage four, I got a 6th, which, I mean, I lost quite a bit of time on stage four because me and Luciano ended up opening that stage. And Luciano, my teammate, Luciano Benavidez, he did an incredible job opening. And what that means is, like, on the bikes, we're the first vehicles on the stage, so there's no tracks to follow, there's no course markings. We just have navigation on our handlebars, which is just a compass in an odometer and a piece of paper. So to go full gas and navigate is super difficult, and especially when you're at the front of the pack leading out, there's no tracks to verify that you're going the correct direction. So you really have to make sure you're on your game. And Luciana did an insane job.


[00:24:21.240] - Skyler

It took me almost all day to catch him, in fact, and I was second place bike, so he did a really good job for me there. And then leading in the last day, Ricky, the other American, Ricky Braybeck, was a minute and a half ahead of me, so he won that the previous stage. So he had to open the last stage. And I know he's good. He's got a handful more years of experience than I do, and all of it being factory years. And so he's got a lot of really good, solid foundation there for navigation and speed and everything. And I've raced against him before, and he's opened the stage and I couldn't catch him. And so I was quite nervous. And the pressure was really high going into that final stage, and it was shortened. Like, we had a lot of transfer sections, so the actual racing time was relatively short, and you pretty. Much had to make all of your time up in the first 90 stage was super, super technical. Like the navigation, there was lots of tracks to choose from. You really had to stay focused on your compass heading and opening the stage.


[00:25:25.050] - Skyler

You just couldn't do it fast. And I was starting 6th place, so I had five other tracks to kind of verify where I was going so I didn't have to stay. So I guess in depth in the roadbook, I could just kind of verify that I was going the right way and I was stressing. It was a lot of pressure. I'm like, okay, I'm in the hunt. I'm pretty confident if I hold it together I could still get a podium. But to get a World Rally win, this would be insane. I had no pressure from the team or anything like that. They were just like, look, do your best, this is where you have to get it done and good luck type of thing. And so I was sweating it and I went full gas, like everything I possibly had, I had a couple of really close calls, just like, I looked down to verify on the road book that I was going the right way and I nailed a couple of rocks and it sent me full sideways. And when you go full sideways on the rally bike, it's like, Jesus, take the wheel type of thing.


[00:26:15.790] - Skyler

You got to hold on and just hope for the best. So I lucked out and held onto it. When I got to that kilometer, 93, we entered into a neutralization. In the neutralization there's like split times and things like that and yeah, in the split times it looked like I already caught Ricky. Like, when I entered into the speed zone, he was already stopped on the side of the road, like going to the bathroom or something like that. And so I was like, there's no way. I started like 15 minutes behind him. There's no way. I already caught him in the first 100 km, but it looks like he had a pretty serious navigation error where he couldn't find a track. We're supposed to go along the edge of this river and then find a trail at the end of it. He couldn't find it, Sam Sunderland couldn't find it, so they did some circles there for like twelve minutes. And so I made up all that time on Ricky, put myself in the lead, and I was already a minute and a half ahead of anyone else on the stage too. So I was leading the stage, so it was just like this massive relief off my shoulders.


[00:27:12.570] - Skyler

Like, holy crap. All right, I still got like another 60 racing that I have to do, so I have to hold it together. But essentially I almost started crying because I was like, holy crap, this is like my first World Rally win. This is going to be insane. So we started racing that last 60 kilometres. I made one little navigation mistake where I kind of lost the cap heading and went maybe like 2 meters to the side of a waypoint, had to turn around and go back and get it. And that lost me the minute and a half lead. And so I lost the final stage by 6 seconds, but I still won the overall rally by seven minutes. And it's like kind of those moments if you win something or you accomplish something that you've tried to your whole life, it's not really like real yet. You kind of do it. You still got the adrenaline pumping and you don't know the official time yet, so you don't know for a fact that you've won it. So you're just like sitting there waiting and then something comes up and gives you a high five.


[00:28:07.630] - Skyler

You're like, Congratulations. Like, you did it and you're just like, holy crap, it's the coolest thing in the world. It's so hard to even put in the words, like putting in that much hard work, not even just for the last couple of years, but I mean, for my whole time chasing this dream and chasing a dream of trying to be a factory racer and race at the professional level, I already surpassed a lot of the goals that I even set for myself. So to accomplish something else that's just a huge bucket listing is just the coolest thing in the world. Man, I'm sitting here staring at the trophy right now too and I don't know, it's a cool feeling.


[00:28:43.780] - Dale

Got to be amazing and to do it like the riders you're naming are both guys that have won their decar champions Ricky Braybeck and Sam Sunderland. And so for you to be on that level, I would assume you're going to carry that momentum forward into the car 2023 this coming January. So I would assume my next question is that's probably your focus from here on out and hopefully just kind of keep building to that crescendo where you peak at this year's deck in January.


[00:29:13.530] - Skyler

Yeah, there's no rest. I mean, obviously you get to recover and stuff, but I got a program that I have to follow. I mean, I woke up the first thing this morning and I already have my training program laid out for me that I need to do today. And it's a little bit lighter for sure. I mean, we just drove 10 hours from Mexico yesterday and got home. Now I have to clean out the van and organize everything, put it all back where it's supposed to and get cleaned up. And I still got to hit the gym and still got to do my program. So we have a couple more like three weeks worth of training that we have to do, like roadbook and physical training that the team set up for us. So even my free time isn't really free time. It's still full gas preparation. And, yeah, obviously the main goal is that car and to do well there. But the thing that's so difficult about it is everyone competes at a different sport. I don't know, like, their biggest game is essentially one day of racing and we have to have 15 good days of racing.


[00:30:11.850] - Skyler

It's hard to put it into perspective because it's like, look, we're traveling 500 miles per day through the desert that nobody's traveled before. And you have to do that at the top of your level at full focus every day for 15 days. Where you're getting up at 03:00 in the morning and you ride for 10 hours. 12 hours a day. Come in. Get the shower. Stuff your face full of food. Go to the rider's meeting and then try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour so you can get up again and do it the next day for two weeks straight. And it's difficult because it's like, okay, if you have a bad game or if you have a bad race or something like that, it's like, all right, well, there's next weekend, whatever. Like, if you have a bad dot car, you have to wait all year. And essentially all of our deals are based off of this one event. And so, like, the mental focus has to be insane. And leading up to this in the past, like, it was always my full focus just to get there and to raise money and to figure out how to just even get there.


[00:31:09.000] - Skyler

So my fitness always took a backseat and I always felt that, like, that added pressure of like, I know I'm not where I am supposed to be and I still, you know, was able to hold it together just because my background in the racing in my life and everything, the long days and all that kind of stuff works. I just like that kind of stuff better. But I always felt when you have to really push it in the dunes that I'd start getting really tired and fall off the pace a little bit, lose the focus, make a navigation mistake or all that. So now being in a position where I can put 100% of my focus into my training. Making sure I'm as healthy as possible. I'm doing everything physically possible. Mentally possible to be prepared for this race. Going into the race. I'm much more confident in myself and I've been able to have some success in racing. But it's always been I got to go to work. Got to make the money to even get to the race. Got to be my own mechanic and all that. And essentially, in some ways, I still am my own mechanic here.


[00:32:10.720] - Skyler

But at the World Rounds, I got my mechanic Louie, who's just an incredible dude, he's a machine behind the wrenches. I know that things going to hold up, and I got the training program behind me. So leading into it. Yes, the confidence is good, but last year I had a really good strategy going and just hit a big, giant compression, a big g out in the dunes and it took me out. Stuff like that, you can't prepare for that. That's the hardest thing about the Dakar, is there are so many things that can and probably will go wrong and how do you just minimize that? How do you keep moving forward? Last year, I had more pressure on myself just because my first Dakar is a factory racer. Like, I have to have a good showing, I want to be able to do this, extend my contract. So I was pretty focused on going full gas every day. And now looking back and looking like how Morocco went and the consistency and things like that, I think it pays off a little bit better for me. I really feed off of positivity. A lot of people ride better if they're angry or if they're negative or if they're hyped up.


[00:33:15.210] - Skyler

And I feel like I've kind of found my niche and just being positive, having fun, a little bit less stress and less pressure and things like that. So, yeah, going into Morocco and Sonora and everything else, like, I've been able to focus a lot more on the navigation and writing fast if I'm just having a good time and good vibes and positivity. So I'm trying to just keep that same mentality within my training leading up to it and in the Dacar, just focus fully on having a good time, enjoying each stage, because at the end of the day, we're there to accomplish something and win the race. But, you know, in life, there's very few people that get to experience this kind of stuff, so I want to have a good, positive memory. Looking back on it, like, yeah, I enjoyed my time, I've had some success, but no matter what happens, at the end of the day, I'm going to look back with a smile and look at this kind of stuff. It's just like, this is such an insane opportunity that I've been able to have and I've worked hard for it, I'm proud of it, but no matter what, I'm just going to enjoy the most out of it as possible.


[00:34:18.120] - Dale

We'll get back to the conversation in one moment, but first, here's a word from our sponsor.


[00:34:24.790] - Dave

The feeling I get when I watch interviews and I've seen millions of pictures of you where you're never not smiling, you're always upbeat, but at the same time, you're kind of a thinking man's racer, where you're calm, cool and collected. And I think that's come out of the rally side, I would think, where you have to be, you're kind of forced to be calculating and thinking things through. Where would you say that comes from? Is that just breeding through this series of events that lead up to racing at that level? Or is it just your mindset has always been that way.


[00:34:53.160] - Skyler

I've had quite a bit of a tough go at a racer, and everyone in their entire life, everyone has issues of their own selves, everyone has traumatic experiences or a tough life. I hate saying that because I have a great life and I've had it really good, but there have been times where, say, I got involved with people or made some choices that were just not good and sent me down, like, a path that just made me work harder. I had some pretty dark times that really made me realize who I was kind of as a person and made me realize that it's not about what you can get out of the sport. It's not about what people can give you. It's about what you can do for the sport and what you can inspire or give to other people. And I've been fortunate enough to have these struggles because when I was 21 and Kirk Sully signed on to Race Rally, it wasn't an official word, but it was kind of like, hey, you're the top performing KTM behind Kurt. If you go out there and you do well, there's a possibility that you could potentially get a factory ride and essentially fill his spot within the American Racing series.


[00:36:11.170] - Skyler

So I went out there, I was like, I got to prove it to everyone that I deserve this, and I broke my back. And then that put me down a path of, like, struggle, working hard, making bad decisions that in reality, helped me make good decisions now. And so, yeah, there's a lot of things looking back like, oh, man, if I would have just done this different, maybe I would have saved myself years and years of hardship. But at the same time, I wouldn't have this mentality now, and I wouldn't have this experience if I didn't have those hardships. And I can kind of share that a little bit with other people so they don't have to learn the same way I did. But looking at when I do share that information with people, and then they go on and they expect things out of people and whatnot, I'm like, yeah, you know what? At some point, you're going to have to just learn some hard lessons. No matter how much someone can teach you how hot the pan is, sometimes you just have to touch the pan and figure it out. And I think a lot of that plays into my mentality now.


[00:37:11.940] - Skyler

Because in Rally. If you make a mistake and then it fuels you and you get this rage and you want to I know I have to make the time back up. Or Now I need to go faster. And then you lose the focus or you're not paying attention and you have some crash or you make some navigation mistake or you just make bad decisions. It just is a snowball that keeps getting bigger and bigger. And then all of a sudden your tiny little mistake that you just made becomes a huge mistake and it could ruin your entire rally just one time of losing the focus and getting mad about it and not keeping a level head. So one thing that's kind of adapted over the last little bit is once you've made a mistake, that mistake has been made, there's no going back. The time is lost forever. Like you're not going to make that time back up. And if you think you were, you should have just been going that fast the whole time or you should have just never made the mistake. You have to just be focused on what's ahead of you.


[00:38:11.550] - Skyler

If you're so focused on what's happened and all the bad things that happened to you in your past or the mistakes that you've made during that day or in the rally or whatever that stuff, you can't go back and change. And I think that's where a lot of my positivity comes and my mindset within rally comes from is just because it's weird to say, but I am fortunate enough to have some tough times. And I think that really just plays into all you can do for yourself is focus on the positive future. And I'm not going to think about what I did wrong and let it get me angry because I did that in my first acquired. And every time I was getting a bad result or something didn't go my way, I just would beat myself up over it. And I was at the Dakar in Peru getting cheered on by hundreds of thousands of people and it was just the coolest experience ever. And I had a bad time because I was so focused on what I was doing wrong instead of focusing on having a good time. And then the next year I broke my neck three months before the race.


[00:39:11.830] - Skyler

And I went into the race was like, look, I have no training. I'm three months off the bike with a broken neck, I'm out of shape, I'm not ready for this, but I get to be here. I'm going to have a good time no matter what happens, I'm just going to enjoy it. And I ended up getting 9th place on a stock bike, which is gnarly, that's hard to do. I broke the bike in half, like it was not set up appropriately and I was able to accomplish something sick. And then the next year I got a better opportunity. I had to work super hard for it. And I went in with the same mentality, you know what, no matter what happens, I'm just going to enjoy my time. And then I got fit and that fast tracked me on to where I am now. And I feel like just man, you can have some tough times, you can have some tough lessons along the way, but all that should be used for is just fuel to do better the next time. And I think that's where it all comes from.


[00:40:06.450] - Dave

We're happy to see that that's how it developed into where you are today. And with Husqvarna, you've got that opportunity. And I know you touched on this a little bit earlier about developing the bike. Now, you did mention at the Silver State 300, you wrote the standard 450. What is off the showroom as a customer going in to buy the rally bike? What is the major differences between that rally bike and the full enduro 450?


[00:40:30.720] - Skyler

Let's say it's a completely different bike. Actually, the customer bike that's available right now is still a Trellis frame. It's still a 450 engine, but it's essentially like your exe engine. So you have a six speed transmission, good power. But the specific thing to the rally bike is it has the Trellis frame, which is more of like an adventure frame, I guess. And then you got over eight gallons of fuel on that thing, plus the navigation equipment. There's a lot of different people out there that are trying to make an enduro bike possible to be a rally bike. And it's super hard to do because once you start adding rear tanks and all that weight to it, it throws off the ergonomics and geometry of the bike and all that kind of stuff. And that's essentially a lot of the stuff that we've been developing on the new, new bike that I'm on now. Like I said, lessons that I've learned along this whole process is it's not as simple as just throwing on big tanks and throwing a couple of spring rates heavier in your suspension and calling it a day. Like the linkage pivot, the flex of the frame, the engine hangers, the offset of the triple clamps, the flex of the triple clamps, all of those things play a huge part in how the bike feels.


[00:41:47.610] - Skyler

Like there's so much stuff that goes into it. So someone getting into the sport of rally, you essentially can do everything you want, which is throwing a four and a half gallon tank on the bike, putting a navigation, a roadbook holder on your handlebars, and going out and riding. And that's going to give you the same experience. Like the rally bike, it's purposefully built for the Dakar. I've talked to a handful of other people with it, and they're like, oh, yeah, I went and raced this rally, and it was super technical and rocky and lots of turns, and there's these problems with it and all that. I'm like, yeah, you have to realize when we're developing this bike, we're developing the bike to go and win the Dakar. We're developing this bike to go as fast as possible across the desert, through the dunes. Yes, we want it to handle good and we want it to turn well and all that kind of stuff. But realistically, this bike is purposefully built for the Dakar Rally and for the World Championship. It's a big difference. I can ride the rally bike for as long as I do now, and I'll hop on a normal full size, like Desert 450 with the husk for a the FX 450.


[00:42:51.460] - Skyler

And it feels like a mini bike. It feels so tiny, and it takes me a while. It takes me a little bit to adapt back to how different and how small feeling the bike is. And what's funny is Kirk Selley, when he first did, he was doing rallies, he came back and he raced the National Hearing Hound right after I think it was the Dakar. And this is one of my highlights of my moments in my life because it was my first professional race. I was on my KTM 300 and he got the whole shot. I was in second place and I passed him. And later on, he ended up stopping and helping a downed rider. And he didn't get a good finish because of that, because he threw away his race to help a fellow competitor. But after that, he was saying he's like, look, he's one of the best racers in the world, but going from a rally bike to a 450 feels like you're going from a 450 to an 85. It's such a big difference in weight and feel and how the bike feels. It's just like so nervous and twitchy and nimble underneath you.


[00:43:50.230] - Skyler

So it's quite a huge difference.


[00:43:52.110] - Dave

You got to feel like Superman, though, when you jump on that 450 at 230 pound motorcycle from the rally bike. It's got to be a huge difference.


[00:44:00.190] - Skyler

Yeah, I'm trying to ride a lot more motocross these days and kind of progress my skill there, but it takes me like four or five laps to figure out how to corner again and do that kind of stuff because I just feel like a monster on the bike.


[00:44:12.750] - Dave

Well, listen, I want to ask you one last question. As we wrap up here, I get a real that there's a sense of community among the rally racers. All you guys know each other well, you know your tendencies, and I think it even extends beyond the motorcycle world. But is that true about that group of racers? Is it a very close group of racers?


[00:44:31.210] - Skyler

Yeah, definitely. And it's one of the reasons why I love the Sport Rally so much. Even all of us. Well, I guess we're called GP riders now, but what was known as the elite class is now the Rally GP class. All of us there, we're super competitive and we're all out there with the same goal, and that's to win. But at the end of the day, if there's any issue out there, we're all we got. Yeah, they do have safety helicopters and they are pretty quick to respond, but we are the first people to each other. And so there is that mutual respect between all of us, no matter what. There are a handful of guys out there that maybe are a little bit harder to get along with than the rest of them, but we all are pretty tight with everyone. A lot of the other guys, I mean, they've been in the sport for so long, they know each other so well. They're a little bit closer than I am with them. I feel like I'm good friends with my team, but a lot of these other guys have had so many experiences together.


[00:45:25.810] - Skyler

They're just really close. And it doesn't matter which team you're on, no matter what happens out there, if someone has a crash, we're stopping for each other, period. There's no option. There's no way that we're going to go around. If someone needs help, we are going to help them. Like, yeah, if you're physically fine and you have a mechanical area, the helicopter is going to be there in a few minutes and they'll pick you up. But if there's any other type of issue or something out there, it doesn't even have to be an issue. Like even just cruising around in the pits, we're cool with each other, we're going to talk with each other, and that kind of stuff. It's just there's a camaraderie there even against, like, stiff competitors that I don't think you'll ever find in any other sport. Like I said, the reason why I love rally so much is because there is a positivity between everyone. And what's hilarious between off-road racers in general is we're covering 500 miles a day, and you'd be like, dude, did you hit that one rock behind that one tree in this one wash? And be like, yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about.


[00:46:26.460] - Skyler

Stuff like that. That's just hilarious. And that we can all come to the finish of the stage and talk about all the crazy stuff that we just saw, like the camels he almost hit. Whatever it is out there, we can come in. Doesn't matter. Like I said, what team you're on, we can all talk about it and enjoy our time out there. And it's super fun. It's really, really cool.


[00:46:45.480] - Dave

Racers being racers, for sure. Well, definitely. Skyler, we appreciate your time today, man. Coming. And congratulations on Sonora. I know you're hot off the road and taking time to spend with us was awesome. We want to take these last few seconds here. If there's anybody you want to give shoutouts to, sponsors and such, and also where we can find you social media.


[00:47:03.720] - Skyler

And such, that's a long list. There's been so many people that have helped me out along the way, like when I was fundraising and selling everything to get to that car, so many people helped me out in small businesses and all that. So there's so many people that I could think and to just wrap it all in, like, anyone who has been behind me and consistently gives me positive or commenting on things and cheering me on and stuff. Thank you guys so much for believing in me, and I'm happy to go out there and do my best. There's no way I could pay it back to anyone, so it's just thank you guys for that help and I hope I can do everyone proud. And obviously to my team, Husqvarna Racing for giving me the opportunity to race is really cool. And my friends and family and everyone out there, all the team sponsors and my personal sponsors that help me out, it's just insane and the love is cool, but I'm doing my best at social media these days to try and showcase all that kind of stuff and the cool experiences that I get to live.


[00:47:59.970] - Skyler

So @SkylerHowes110 is where you can find me on pretty much every single social media platform and try to do my best for everyone.


[00:48:09.340] - Dave

There you go, folks. Give them a follow and check them out. And Skyler. Thanks again. We appreciate your time on Pit Pass Moto today.


[00:48:15.660] - Dale

Thank you guys for having me.


[00:48:29.660] - Dave

If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to follow Pit Pass Moto on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. If you have a moment, please rate and review our show. We'd really appreciate it. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and visit pitpassmoto.com, where you can check out our blog, listen to past episodes, and purchase your own Pit Pass Moto Swag.


[00:48:51.810] - Dale

This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson and the production team at Wessler Media. I'm Dale Spangler.


[00:49:01.390] - Dave

And I'm Dave Sulecki. See you next week on Pit Pass Moto.

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Dave Sulecki

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Dave Sulecki is a 37 year industry veteran, and a lifetime motorcycle rider, racer, builder, restorer, and enthusiast.

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