Through years of winning contests, releasing kick-ass video parts, and flat-out killing it on his bike, the name Ryan Nyquist has become synonymous with BMX. Ryan is one of the most decorated, well-respected riders in the history of the sport. Word is out that Ryan is crossing over into the realm of mountain bikes and, quite frankly, it has raised a lot of questions regarding the 36-year-old’s future. We caught up with Ryan to see what his exact plans are and how he’s going to make this whole thing work.

Ryan Nyquist moves 3,000 miles from The Unit - an amazing skatepark that he CREATED - and starts riding mountain bikes. Why?

Well, the reason I moved away from Greenville and The Unit was more to do with being closer to my family on the west coast than about riding bikes. Trust me - I miss The Unit and my friends that still live out there and love the times when I get to visit. The move into the MTB world is more about challenging myself and seeing if I can make something of it. I started messing around with mountain bikes a little over a year ago and I realized that it was a ton of fun and a great way to give myself a break from riding BMX when I felt burnt out. I can ride MTB for a few days and then get back on my BMX and feel refreshed and motivated again.

Let’s get one thing clear - are moving away from BMX?

No. I have no plans of leaving the BMX family. I’m simply discovering more and more that I have a love for bikes in general and I'm having a lot of fun exploring what's possible with different kinds of bikes.

The mountain bike gig may have been one of the worst kept secrets in the wonderful world of bicycles. When did you actually start dabbling on the big bikes?

I really wasn't trying to keep it a secret. Haha! I'm not sure exactly how long ago it was. Maybe a year-and-a-half ago? I ride primarily with MTB guys when I'm at home. Guys like Greg Watts, Tyler McCaul, Owen Marks, and a few others. There was one day specifically where I just felt like things were off with my riding. My head and reflexes just weren't into it and I felt like I was about to crash at any moment on something stupid. So, I took a break. I was talking with some of the other riders there and, after a bit, I decided to try and jump one of their mountain bikes through the jumps. I was super scared and nervous about the suspension and how the longer bike would feel over a jump, but after riding it a couple times, it felt really stable in the air. Long story short, I decided I wanted to try to 360 it. The first try, I jumped off the bike mid-360. The second try, I looped out. The third try, I slid out after almost looping out. I was baffled that it was this hard for me to 360 a bike! It took me another try before pulling it and another three tries after that to feel like I wasn't going to crash. At that point, I was pretty excited about the challenge MTB was presenting me. It was something fresh and new and the fact that it took me seven tries to pull a stock 360 threw me for a loop. On top of all that, I was able to hop on my BMX and my head and body were back to normal and I had a great session after that. Riding MTB saved my BMX session! Hahaha!

What are you riding more - BMX or MTB?

Right now, I'm spending a lot of time on my Haro MTB. There's so much to learn and figure out with that bike and the different obstacles they compete on. I'm getting a similar feeling as to when I started riding BMX. Everything is new and exciting and I'm having a lot of fun getting used to everything.

What do you LIKE riding more - BMX or MTB?

It honestly depends on the day. I've been riding MTB slopestyle a bunch lately, but I'm starting to miss that feeling of riding BMX on ramps again - blasting spines and quarters. It's a totally different feeling and something I don't get from riding MTB, so I'll be getting back on the BMX very soon.

How are you going to balance the two out?

That might be the toughest part of all of this. Switching between bikes is quite hard. Both bikes have completely different geometry and a different feel to how they ride, handle, and feel jumping through the air. It takes me about a half day to get used to going from MTB to BMX, but I can switch from BMX to MTB in a few runs. After riding MTB, the BMX bike feels very twitchy and compact. As far as traveling schedules and video stuff goes, I'm going to have to be very organized this year and really plan out everything I do. I need to give myself ample time to switch back-and-forth between bikes. It's a big challenge, but it's also very exciting to be doing something different.

Hypothetical situation - there’s a BMX contest and a mountain bike contest the same weekend. WHICH DO YOU GO TO!?

I'd have to weigh out the events. If it was a big event for BMX like X-Games or Simple Session, then I really can't miss that - nor do I want to. I still have goals in BMX that I'd like to accomplish and a lot of those are still based around events. But, if I'm going to try to make something of myself in the MTB world, then I also have to be mindful of the events going on in that world as well. Like I said, I have to be very organized and plan everything out this year.

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You said, and I quote - “The thing I like about mountain biking is that it’s so challenging.” Is BMX not challenging enough for you anymore? It's been about 12 years and we still haven't seen you pull a 1080...

Hahahaha! You got me on that one! There are still many challenges for me in BMX… like tailwhips and turndowns. Hahaha! The challenges in MTB are different. I mentioned before that riding MTB now feels like it did when I started riding BMX. That excitement from doing even the smallest thing is amazing! It makes me feel like a kid again.

If you do a bunch of 720s -or any other trick, for that matter - on your mountain bike and then hop on your BMX bike, is it difficult to adjust back?

Yeah. Very difficult. Spins especially. After 720ing a mountain bike, it feels like you barely have to twist to spin one on BMX. Flips too. You just realize how different they both ride. But barspins are soooo much easier on BMX for me. Hahaha!

How did your sponsors feel about the switch? Are they all standing with you in the new venture?

I was pretty nervous about that and wasn't sure how it would be received. After all, this type of thing has been seen as sort of taboo in BMX, so I felt like there was a chance that one or more of them might not be stoked on it. But, they were all ok with it. In fact, they were all excited about it, which was a huge relief. Having companies that believe in you and your dreams and goals is truly an amazing thing. I can't thank Haro, Rockstar, Bell, Shred, and Slytech enough for the support.

You ride contests for a living. It’s no secret that there are way less BMX contests now than there were a few years ago. Was money a factor in stepping on the mountain bike?

No. It's not like I'm gaining any huge paychecks by riding in MTB comps this year. My sponsors are still primarily in BMX. Plus, I haven't proven myself in the MTB world yet. If you don't know much about MTB slopestyle or freeride, I suggest you watch some videos of Brandon Semenuk or Brett Rheeder. Then you can fully understand the level that these guys ride at. Watch the Crankworx Joyride event and you'll see guys casually 360ing and flipping off flat drops of about fifteen or twenty feet off the ground and riding doubles that are thirty-five plus feet. It's not a walk in the park. I have a lot of work to do.

Realistically, can you win these MTB contests you’re going to be competing in? You’re representing all of BMX out there and we expect perfection…

Realistically, in 2016 I don't think so. I aspire to do well and bring some of my style of riding into the world of MTB, but the other riders are so gnarly and their comfort zones are much different than mine when it comes to riding these courses and these bikes. They've had years and years of experience riding MTB and it's an extension of themselves when they are out there. I want to feel that when I ride MTB, but it's going to take time. This year is going to be such a learning experience for me. I honestly don't know what to expect.

I’m guessing a lot of the top MTB pros are already big fans of yours. How have they welcomed you into the scene?

It's been really great! A lot of them do know who I am and know a lot about my career and riding. Many have shook my hand and told me how stoked they were that I was riding MTB. All the while, I'm looking at them and - knowing what they've done in the MTB world - I’m kind of fan-boying out about them saying hello to me! Hahaha! There's definitely a mutual respect there, but overall, I feel like I'm very welcome in their scene, which is really great.

What’s it like riding a bike without pegs?

It's not that weird, which is kind of surprising to me. I've always had pegs on my bike. I think that my head is constantly adjusting and thinking about all the other things that are different about MTB, so it doesn't leave much room to worry about something like pegs. I have thought about putting them on my MTB though. We'll see...

You know a lot of closed-minded BMX kids are going to hate you for this. What do you have to say to them?

Yeah, and that's kind of a bummer. Not really for me, but I kind of feel bad for them. There's so much fun to be had in this world in so many different sports and activities. Tons of riders love moto or surfing or skating and those are, for the most part, acceptable things to be into in the BMX community. But there are so many other things out there that could put a smile on your face if you could just get past the fact of whether or not someone thought it was cool to do. I think for a lot of people in BMX, MTB falls into the "not cool" category. But, what I wonder is, why would I deny myself something that makes me laugh, smile, or feel good? Because someone on the internet isn't open-minded enough to see that? Nah, man. Sorry. Life is too short to worry about stuff like that. I'll just continue doing things that make me happy, whatever kind of bike it's on.

Look - BMX loves you. Your family loves you. I love you. Don’t let us down. Ok?

Man. Way to put the pressure on. Hahaha! I love you all too and I'm going to give it my very best. I'm not leaving BMX, so I'll be seeing you all very soon!

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