Ryan Dungey, the man known as “RD5”, has done it all when it comes to motocross, but it’s his work on a different kind of bike that seems to be the most rewarding for the 23-year-old.
Last year, the Minnesota native teamed up with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Target to host the first annual MN Major River-to-River Ride, a 100-kilometer cycling tour along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, with 100-percent of the donations and registration fees going to St. Jude. The event was such a success that it’s back again this year and will take place on July 28 at 8 a.m. – one day after Dungey competes in perhaps his favorite AMA Motocross event, the Spring Creek National.
I too will be participating in the event, as I figured it would be fun to ride my Schwinn Fastback 3 for a great cause like this – and I finally get to test the bike on diverse terrain.
I recently spoke to Dungey about what the event means to him, how much he hopes to raise this year and what it’s like to return home to compete in the Spring Creek National on July 27 in Millville, Minn.
Crave: How did the event first come about?
Dungey: Last year it started because I always wanted to be involved with charity and giving back, you know, I feel like I’ve been put in a good position. Earlier in my career, when I was about 15-years-old, I had a grandmother who passed away from cancer, so it was very tough – and really devastating. It was my first experience with anything like that. I feel like my grandma has been a big part of my career and has inspired me to live life to the fullest. Being a professional racer, I feel like I’ve been put in a good position to give back and I’ve always wanted to, you know, do something along the lines of having my own foundation or stuff like that.
I’m teaming up with Target, who has been a sponsor of mine for about five years now. They’re really big in supporting St. Jude’s and funding a lot of the money and everything like that – and support. When I went and told Target about how I’d like to do something like this, they hopped right on it. We proposed the offer of a bike ride that would benefit St. Jude 100-percent and it was definitely cool how it worked out. It was just a perfect fit. Last year we hosted the first ride, it raised a lot of money and hopefully we can keep helping and giving back. It’s a great opportunity.
Crave: Do you have an estimate as to last year’s turn out, or how much money was raised?
Dungey: I think last year we had about 300 to 350 bikers and then we raised about $25,000.
Crave: That’s awesome, dude. Do you expect to eclipse those numbers this year?
Dungey: You know what, I sure hope so. Last year it was great, we only advertised for six weeks because it was around the corner, you know. This year, at about four months out we started really pushing and everyone is really excited about it. I think we are going to have a lot of great people and a good turnout. I hope we raise some good money. Everything is looking really good right now.
I’m going to match the first $50,000 of the funding, so everyone who is supporting and donating, I’ll match the first $50,000 of that. I hope it goes good and I hope we raise the $50,000 and we get there. I think it’d be great. I was able to visit St. Jude’s last year to see everything and how it works and it’s amazing. It’s really holds a place in my heart, you know, it’s cool to give back. I hope it goes really well.
Crave: How did the ride affect you personally, I mean it’s probably an emotional rollercoaster with some of the memories that you took from it. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Dungey: It reminded me that there’s more to life.
But it kind of made me sad to see these kids adjusting, you know, younger than five-years-old and upwards of teenagers. Visiting St. Jude and seeing them during their treatments, you know. Some of them have no hair and some of them couldn’t come down and visit because they’re so sick but it’s pretty amazing to see that. It’s a powerful experience and it kind of is a wakeup call in reality. I feel like in life I’ve always looked up to people who took advantage of the position they’re in to give back and I always wanted to be a guy like that. It’s really cool to be able to raise money, to save lives and to be a part of that. Last year, while we were at St. Jude’s, this little girl was having the time of her life and we were playing with beach balls and stuff and she got a sick feeling and puked and then went right back to playing. They just want to have fun and meet people and live normal lives, you know.
Crave: You’ve competed in so many professional events in your career, were you at all nervous getting on that bike last year and riding with such a large group?
Dungey: You know, it is – but it’s not. I think when there’s a bigger crowd, talking in front of them can be intimidating but like you said I have been in front of larger crowds and racing in front of people, so it kind of feels more normal. But at the same time we’re all there for the same purpose and development and I feel like everyone there was behind the cause and the support. That was just the neat part. To see over 300 people on bicycles, it doesn’t seem like a lot but it’s a long line, you know. To kick off the first Minnesota Major, it wasn’t intimidating at all and it was more moving forward and helping – trying to do something about it. It’s more about feeling good.
Crave: I’m actually going to be participating in the event, so I have to ask: any recommendation or tips for people that may be racing for the first time?
Dungey: We’re not racing, it’s just a bike ride, you know [Laughs]. Honestly, it’s like you can show up, bike and it’s going to be a mellow, easy day. Some people like to go hard; some people like to go easy. There’s a 20-mile course and a 62-miler. You know, in 20 miles you can enjoy it – everyone’s there, you’re talking on the bike and it’s not like super tough. It’s more just for the cause.
Crave: If fans are interested in taking part in the River-to-River Ride, or donating to the cause, how can they go about getting more information?
Dungey: You can go to mnmajor.com and that has everything. You register there and it shows all the information, the partners and what it’s supporting, so it has all the information on the website.
Crave: As far as the Spring Creek National, you won there last year but how familiar are you with the course?
Dungey: I grew up as a little kid racing that course, so we’d probably go there three times a year. I don’t get back there as much these days, it’s more there just to go race once a year now, so I’m looking forward just because of the weather and stuff. I love the course! It’s the best course on the circuit because it’s got everything that a rider wants and it challenges a rider for good races too, so it’s fun.
Crave: What’s it like competing in your hometown; do you have a lot of fans there supporting you?
Dungey: You know, there’s a lot of great people back in Minnesota. I met so many people as a young kid. I started racing when I was five, so from five until 16, I did the whole local races and everything. I met a lot of great people along the way and I think one of the cool things about going back to Minnesota is seeing the people you grew up with, the good times you had and the memories – revisiting that. It’s a bummer because there’s not that much time – we’re not there forever but the time I do get, I really enjoy it. I mean, it’s like all my family there, you know.
Crave: I want to thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to me today and good luck with the race and the cause – what you’re doing is pretty awesome!
Dungey: Thanks, I’m excited you’re coming, that’ll be fun. We’ll have to catch up there.
Dungey currently sits at second in the standings, trailing first place leader Ryan Villopoto by 16 points. This Saturday, June 22, he will try to narrow that gap when he competes in the Red Bull Budds Creek National event from Mechanicsville, Md. You can catch the action at 3 p.m. EST on NBC.
Photo Credit: Garth Milan, Red Bull Content Pool.