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We typically let Slaw handle Morning Espresso, which is a recap of everything from around the industry. But, when you have the chance to talk with one of the all-time greats, well, we can’t pass up that opportunity.
Since we don’t allow Slaw to actually talk with riders, I stepped up and chatted with Ryan Dungey about his coffee company—RD5—his thoughts on racing (note: this was conducted prior to Houston 3), his near return to racing and more. Visit rdcoffees.com to learn more and place an order.
Vurbmoto: What made you get into coffee? I never thought when Ryan Dungey retired he’d own a coffee company.
Ryan Dungey: I’ve just always been passionate about it. I think one of the things through my racing career, aside from the racing, kind of looking at other things that I enjoyed, was I had an interest in coffee. I met a lot of friends along the way who also did and had coffee shops and roasters and stuff like that. Also, the fact that I got to kind of travel the country, and the world, going to different countries, trying different things. Just was always something that we were interested in, me and my wife. That kind of became our little thing, kind of exploring what was in the cities and the towns and just trying new stuff. It just was always a passion of mine.
Even to add to that, even after racing I knew one of the biggest interests I had was starting a business. That was something that I kind of wanted to apply myself to. I also knew it was going to be a big learning curve and a lot of learning, and that’s going to be a continuation. So with racing and life a lot has taught me if you’re going to do something, stick to what you’re passionate about. So I was like, you know what? I’m going to start a coffee company. So I actually thought it was going to open up a coffee shop right away, but after looking at everything I actually went a different route and just decided I’m going to do small batch coffee roasting, specialty coffee. That’s what we’re going to start with. So I actually got everything built out. I actually have a nice build out in my garage. We’ve got the roasters, got the whole nine yards, sourced the beans, was doing it all. That’s where we started in June and ever since have grown. Got a roasting partner now. Obviously as we grow just try to maintain the quality of everything, but it’s been a really fun learning process and it’s been received really well. Everybody has been hugely supportive, which has been awesome. We started with one roast and now we’ve got four or five. It’s been a lot of fun and a huge learning curve.
Talk about post-retirement. Some guys don’t know what they’re going to do, and you’ve tried a couple different things and you’re still involved with a bunch of different things – coffee, part owner of GEICO, you’re involved with Intense Cycles. It’s been a lot of different things for you. Was it just wanting to do a bunch of things? What was your thought process post-retirement?
Yeah, for sure. I will say post-retirement, as far as 2017 when it kind of got to the point I knew it was time. I needed a break, and the only way to do that was to retire. It wasn’t like I was going to get a few months off and that was it. It was time. I knew when it came time. So at that point, I will say that I didn’t really have a game plan. I knew some of the things that I wanted to dabble in, get involved in. I wanted to be an investor into other companies. I wanted to start a business. I did want to be involved in a small way still within the industry and so forth. So I kind of had an idea of a direction I wanted to go. They weren’t concrete just yet. It just took some time to develop and to materialize.
Day to day in regard to the coffee business, what’s your role? Are you bagging, counting the beans, sending out all the orders?
So I’m still very much involved in every aspect of the company. The one side that I don’t do anymore, which I did all of it in the beginning, is the roasting, the fulfillment and the shipping. We’ve got a partner now to handle all of those logistics, which is nice. I’m very much still involved with every detail of that as well, from the origins we pick, to the roasting process, to the packaging, all that stuff. So I’m very much in tune with it all, but now I’m kind of more focused on being able to build the brand, work on other aspects of the business, the PR, the media, the social side and all that good stuff. There’s a lot of pieces. I knew I was in over my head and I was going to be for a while and this was going to take up a lot of my time, but now that the business is up and running and I’ve got some really good people involved and really good support, it’s kind of off and running. It’s been fun. Just kind of sharing my passion with others. Our mantra for the company is “Fuel your pursuit.” Where that came from was I feel like in racing coffee fueled my pursuit. Not to mention now the pursuit of being a dad and being a business owner and all that other stuff. So that’s kind of what we want to do for others, to fuel the pursuits of other people, pursuits and passions.
You kind of lead me into the next question. A dad now, a coffee company, and like you said investing in other companies… You still do St. Jude. Where do you find the time to do all this stuff? You’re just running on coffee?
[Laughs] It doesn’t all happen in one day. It’s all spread out. I will say, I have interest in a lot of things. I’m a dreamer. I like to do things, like to try different things and maybe take a little bit more risks than normal, but at the same time, first and foremost the priority is my wife and Harper. We get to spend a lot of time together. Obviously COVID has really made that possible, too. So plenty of time. I want to make sure I’m first and foremost a good husband and a good dad, which has been awesome. Anybody who knows, it’s a joy. It’s super fun.
We’re two rounds in supercross. I’m sure you still follow racing. We got to ask you: It’s been a crazy couple rounds, what are your thoughts so far?
Yeah. I guess first thing that comes to mind is it’s a stacked field. I was really blown away these first two rounds. When I’m watching practice, I don’t even know whether it was the top twelve or top fifteen, everybody within a second. I know that can change here and there if you go to different tracks, but at the same time, I don’t think we’ve ever really seen that before. It’s like splitting hairs. But it’s fun. I think as far as a fan standpoint it makes it that much more exciting.
There’s a lot of guys who can win. Eli Tomac finishes outside the top ten and then wins the second race, and then Barcia, pretty cool what they did, the GasGas crew. They got their first win. They established themselves as a manufacturer, which is really exciting, and the TLD guys. Wins the first race, and then I think he got tenth last night. So it’s just like, holy smokes, this is going to be interesting if this is how it’s going to go the rest of the year. For the riders, I’m thinking more from a rider’s perspective it’s like, man, championship long run, you’ve got your work cut out for you. It’s just that much more critical to not have those bad nights. So it’s going to be hard to dig yourself out. I say that, but then the guy who won gets tenth and the guy who got outside the top ten wins. So it might be all over the map, but for the most part consistency is going to be pretty important.
And you know a thing about consistency. I think you had 83 podiums or something crazy. That was always kind of the mantra of your career. It’s like, a second is there, I’ll take second.
That’s kind of the way it worked out. If it’s like, I didn’t have it in me that night to get first, I knew I was going to ride over my head if I was third and take chances and crash, but I think five, six years ago, let’s say 2017, I won three races and Eli won eight or nine or something like that and I was still able to win the championship, which is kind of crazy to think. I think the consistency is just even that much more critical, because when I’m looking at these guys, my first initial impression, like Justin Brayton is a good example. He gets good starts. He manages the race really well. He’s just right there. He’s got a good speed, good pace. If the guy could do that every single weekend, he’d be pretty solid. Of course, you’re going to want to win races and podiums and stuff like that consistently, but I guess I just used Justin because he’s a good starter and if he can be there up front every single weekend, it’s just going to make your job so dang easy versus I think what we saw a lot of is a guy gets a bad start and it’s hard to move through the pack. So consistency in your starts, consistency each and every weekend, no mistakes. I don’t think you’ve got to really focus on winning them all. I know that’s never been the goal, probably. You want to win as many as you can, but it’s going to be tough.
What do you think about the Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday schedule? Obviously you never did anything like that, but how would you approach that as a racer?
Thinking about it, you’re racing pretty well back to back to back. The compromise on the other end, during the week you fly in, you fly back on Sunday and you ride Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, race again. So these guys aren’t able to really go practice, nobody really is during the week, unless somebody has a track nearby. But even that, I don’t think they’re going to practice that much. I think as a rider it goes both ways. As a rider, you don’t want to sit and think about it too much. You get to back to the line a few nights later and race again. You might have a week in-between here and there but at the same time I think as a rider sometimes you want to get it knocked out. As a fan, you get to watch more racing. Last night for Saturday I was like, it’s 10:30, 11:00.
Speaking of racing, there was a lot of rumors this off-season about maybe you coming back. How close was it? Or was it close?
I was definitely contemplating and looking at a few things. Of course the fire is coming back, and it came back a long time ago. Just obviously making sure things are right. No doors opened up. We touched on it a little bit earlier. I’m doing a lot of things in my life now, of course, but I still do have a lot of time as well so just kind of looking at other avenues. I never want to give up on all the progress that I’ve made. I’ve learned a lot about myself after racing. I’ve moved forward with a lot of other interests and desires as well. So I never want to give up on those, but if the deal is right and it makes sense to come back, the risks versus reward, then I was definitely interested. But nothing really opened up. Obviously COVID wasn’t a help.
COVID probably helped put a stop to that stuff, unfortunately.
It did. I always want to make sure I’m proactive and seeking things out, looking into things. It’s something I did for a long time. Of course you’re going to miss it. I think everyone has always looked into it and tried to seek it out if there’s an opportunity. But at the same time I’m not going to come back and ride if the deal’s not right either. It’s got to be worth it as well. But it’s all right. It’s good. We’re moving forward still. There’s a lot of good things going on, too. So we’re excited.
How much are you riding now? You’re still in Minnesota, so it’s winter up there. So probably not much, but how much did you ride post-retirement and then did things kind of ramp back up?
Post-retirement I took a pretty good, long break there. Didn’t really ride too much. But for the last couple summers, the warmer months here, I spent some good time on the bike. I will say, like anybody knows, you come off the couch after the winter, or if you’ve coming off the winter and you haven’t ridden a dirt bike because there’s nothing like riding a dirt bikes, it takes a good two or three weeks to kind of get everything back in the groove. But it was kind of cool. This year when I was kind of contemplating, I got a bike, got set up. I was training, kind of making sure my body was responding the right way, which it was which was exciting. It was cool to see. I think if anything it was just cool to see the body respond again to the training and the workload and the volume. But at the same time, it’s not really a surprise. I’m 31 years old. It’s not like I’m 45.
We saw Brayton last night. He’s 36.
Yeah, which is pretty cool, by the way. Me and Brayton are good buds. It’s cool to see him get on the podium. That’s awesome.
Thanks so much for the time. Congrats on the coffee company and everything. You know the moto community loves to support anything outside ventures, so where can they find the RD5 coffee?
It’s available at RDcoffees.com. You’ll find everything on there. We have all the roasts and coffee merch and all that good stuff too.