Most are aware of the basic types of physical training Supercross/motocross athletes do. From the most obvious of burning countless laps at the track, to spending time in the gym, there's an endless amount of work to be done. Then there's time spent rehabbing old injuries, and working to prevent new ones. Many riders also try to find ways to specifically target different heart rate zones for cardio work, and the most common way to do that is spend time on a bicycle, a LOT of time. Whether it be a road bike or mountain bike, pretty much every pro rider, amateur racer, or hardcore weekend warrior has one at their disposal. The time we spend on these bikes can be grueling and intense, but it can also be an absolute blast!
Now quite a few of the top riders out there log their miles in Lycra on the asphalt or just climbing endless dirt fireroads aboard a cross-country bike, which can be fun, but it's not quite the thrill you get from getting loose and rowdy down some drops, over rocks, and flying across a nice gap. Of course, some riders are a bit nervous when it comes to the downhill portion of being on a bike (the lack of engine braking is one factor), and it's not for a lack of skill. But many moto guys take a quick liking to it, it's more or less the fact they want to go hard and fast, which worries some as they think of injury. Sadly, some succumb to that fear and just treat the bicycle as a training tool, while others enjoy all their time spent on two wheels, like Dean Wilson.
Now I've known Dean for about eight or nine years, as we only live a few miles from each other, so to say I've seen him log a few laps over the years is an understatement. A lot of riders get tagged as hard workers and yes, I'm going to label Dean as one, too. I've seen him burn endless motos at Pala, riding his mountain and road bikes all over town, and overall he seems to always be working towards that end goal of being successful at racing. Of course, we're all aware Dean's a 250 Motocross National Champion, has won 250 Supercross main events, and had a breakout ride during one of his first 450 SX races aboard Chad Reed's TwoTwo Motorsports Kawasaki at Daytona in 2014...eventually signing a deal with Red Bull KTM for the 2015/16 seasons.
...with the amount of time Dean puts on a bike at the track, he's really hard on equipment...
We also all have seen the injury-filled road he's been down along the way and before the 2017 season he wasn't willing to sit on the couch, waiting for a ride to appear. He borrowed a few different bikes, putting in the time while hoping to try out that corresponding team's race bike...and let me tell you, with the amount of time Dean puts on a bike at the track, he's really hard on equipment (thank you for the demolished clutch on my RM-Z450, Dean). Finally it looked like he would land a home with the factory Yamaha team, but as A1 drew closer and closer, things didn't quite pan out. So with the help of some close friends and sponsors, Dean worked his way through the first part of the Supercross season aboard a privateer YZ450F, that Yamaha supplied.
Eventually, though, the hard work paid off and landed him a new home for the remainder of 2017 with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team. Now along the way, it's hard to put into words the amount of people that helped out the likable Scot keep things afloat. Personally, I think this photo from one of the Anaheim rounds says a lot, as members from multiple teams, ex-mechanics, and more stopped by to help Dean out with his setup and bike. Yes, he's that well-liked among his peers and the industry.
Among the people who have backed Dean over the years, even during his slump and comeback, were Specialized Bicycles and Shimano. If you're the perceptive type, you've probably seen quite a few Specialized "S" logos around the pits, and a few helmets adorned with Shimano logos, as well. Between the two brands, there's a great amount of support for some of the bike-crazy riders in the pits. And I say bike-crazy because they don't necessarily work with just a few top guys, they really take care of a group that love cycling in any shape or form. The reason I point that out, is because a few weeks before Dean landed his factory ride with Husqvarna, we set out to shoot this little project with him hitting the hills, drops, and hits of Laguna, with Joe Lawwill of Shimano being the brains behind the fun-filled day.
Dean had been abusing his poor hardtail cross-country bike for a few years now, so the crew gave it a nice little refresh (it's the red bike at the beginning of the video above) but then between Specialized and Shimano, they had a surprise of a new trail bike to take out and have some real fun with. For anyone who doesn't know what an Enduro mountain bike is, it's your do-everything bike, kind of like a Husqvarna FE 450. Go ride moto, desert, off-road, everything...except in this case it's also meant to haul butt up the mountain, along the flowing trails, then huck down some ledges and into rough stuff, maybe throwing some whips along the way. So before we set out, I hung out at the shop to watch one of the mechanics, Nico, piece together the new bike with the supplied wheels and frame from Specialized, as well as the Öhlins coil spring forks and shock, and all the Shimano parts we could gather. Check out the video below that shows off the bike, while Wilson and Lawwill joke around and inspect the new ride.
Once everything was loaded up, we caught up with Brian Lopes, Richie Schley, and Chris Fillmore at a local food joint in Laguna before heading up to the Top of the World to kick off our fun. For a little background: Lopes is a local Laguna resident, multi-time National and World Champion on a mountain bike, and a down right legend...Richie Schley is a free-ride hero and infamous around the world famous Whistler Bike Park, while Chris Fillmore is familiar to some from his accolades in road racing and now working at KTM, but he spends a ton of time clipped into his pedals.
Now this is where the usual day of pedaling changed, were we going to bust our butts pedal up some hills and hike up some nasty ledges? You betcha. But we were also going to haul the mail down through the rocks, over some drops, and get some air along the way. A nice reminder that not all our time on the bikes is just grueling, leg-spinning hard work. As a longtime moto guy, I think some of the most fun riding trails and downhill really comes from the fact that we have some natural bike skills and are used to the speed, but also lack some of the fundamentals and tricks needed to do it all perfectly. You feel like you have the potential and a bit of control, but you quickly can get loose and rowdy, spiking that heart rate right up! It's a cross between having a step ahead of the regular Joe, but learning a whole bunch of new things, while having a blast along the way. This was really obvious even with Dean, as one of the first sections we found had a nice vertical rock drop and a downhill, boulder-to-boulder double.
In comparison to Supercross, this thing wasn't that big and after hearing about we thought it would be a breeze for Dean. But after some "motivation" from Lopes and Schley (telling Dean about Cole Seely and a few other dudes slamming on this hit), we scratched it off our list of things to shoot at first glance. But after a day of hitting some speedy dirt hits and multiple runs on "Stair Steps", the motocross skills shone through and Dean hucked the boulder gap with relative ease for our cameras, which you can find near the end of the first video above.
The scene above is a great example of what some friendly encouragement can do for your skills...or what you think of your skills! While I've seen Dean and a few other pros up at Snow Summit in Big Bear doing downhill runs during the off-season, it's still refreshing to see a top guy doing something a bit risky off the bike and actually enjoy themselves. Some of the best guys in motocross have come from or have some background on bicycles, and there's definitely some handy skills to pick up that you wouldn't normally learn on the track. For Dean though, it was another day in what's turning out to be a very interesting year.
After being unsure of his future and taking things into his own hands, to a few weeks of phone calls...one to get his trusty mountain bike fixed up, that led to a surprise day in Laguna with a rad crew, and finally the big call to rejoin the factory ranks aboard the Husqvarna (where we later shot him riding in Florida as he prepared for Daytona). Best of all, it all comes together as we near the end of his first full 450 Supercross season where he's competed at every round. Things have really turned around for the Scotsman, whether it be on the Supercross track, training on the road, or hitting the downhills of Southern California....he's blazing the trail ahead on two wheels.
If you're a fan of Mountain Bikes, we do have a sister site dedicated to all your dirt pedaling needs. Check out VitalMTB.com for more.
Words, photos, and video by Michael "ML512" Lindsay