Justin Dowell: What Changed?

Two years ago, Justin Dowell was good, but he wasn't great. He was just another kid riding at an above-average level who had never seen a final in a major contest.

Fast forward to July of 2019, Justin is the UCI World Champion, the winner of the last FISE stop, and the number one ranked rider in the United States. Seriously. 

Progression is a huge part of BMX and Justin Dowell is a splitting image of what that means. But, it really makes you wonder... what changed?


Where were you living two years ago?

Two years ago, I was living close to Raleigh, North Carolina so I could train at the Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex every day. 

Where are you living today?

I am all around the world. I am out of the country the majority of the time. However, when I am home, it's in Virginia Beach where my family lives. 

What bike were you riding two years ago?

Two years ago, I was riding for Radio Bikes. I really liked their bikes at the time and that's the set up I preferred. 


What bike are you riding today?

I am riding a Lairdframe with parts from a variety of companies. 

Over time, I became intrigued with having a bike that no one else has. 

With a Lairdframe, I can choose my own geometry and it's also very light. My bike now is over 4lbs lighter than my Radio was two years ago. 

What was your diet two years ago?

Two years ago, my diet was absolutely horrible. Haha! I lived in North Carolina by myself, so I just ate out everyday. It really effected my riding now that I look back at it. 


What is your diet today?

The way I eat hasn't changed much, but since I spend so much time in Europe, when I eat out, it isn't complete garbage. I can basically eat the same meals and lose weight while doing so. I do, however, try to make better choices than I used to. It's just hard when I'm literally traveling every week. Sometimes convenience is just better. 

What was your biggest win two years ago?

Two years ago I was getting demolished in pro competitions, so I have to go back even further. In 2015, I won the Recon Tour stop at The Incline Club. At the time, that was the biggest win for me. 

What is your biggest win today?

Today, my biggest win definitely is the 2018 UCI World Championship in Chengdu, China. 

This event motivated me so much because it allows me to wear the rainbow jersey whenever I want. Being able to wear the jersey is truly an honor and makes me remember anything is possible. 

How often were you riding two years ago?

Two years ago, I was riding every day. I moved to North Carolina for the simple reason of training. I wanted to take full advantage of living there. I remember how badly my body was hurting, but I wanted to get better at riding.


How often are you riding today?

Today, I ride about five times a week - but I'm also much smarter about riding. 

There's no point wearing myself out every day. When I do ride, I try to ride hard and get done what I want to get done. 

My sessions now are shorter than they were two years ago and I will find myself spending a whole session on one trick. 

Were you going to the gym two years ago?

Two years ago, I was not going to the gym. I felt it was useless.

Do you go to the gym today?

Today, I still don't go, but I do know it has some benefits. I know traveling isn't the best excuse, but I'm seriously in a different place every week and it's very hard to get a steady environment. 

However, some people are convinced the gym is essential when that's far from the truth. We are BMXers at the end of the day. 

Ok, so what the hell changed?

Oh, man - a lot changed! Most importantly, I found the motivation to want to be a winner. When I switched from amateur competitions to professional ones around 2016, I was getting tanked. I put my head down and restarted how I viewed my training, my bike, my weight, my parks, and where I focused my attention. You can't ride good unless you feel good. I studied the professionals around me and I emulated them. 

What was your biggest goal two years ago?

Two years ago, my biggest goal was to win a FISE event. To me, they have always been the premier park event and - even today - their importance remains at the top. 


What’s your biggest goal today?

My goal today is to stay consistent. I've proven I can win a FISE now and it's time to stay on that high. It's a points race to the Olympics, so I need to stay on the bike and - most importantly - make finals every time. 

Two years ago, did you believe you’d rise to the top of the park ranks so quickly?

Absolutely not. I did not think it would happen so quickly. 

I knew one day it was possible, but thankfully, it happened at the right time. It all has to do with my attitude change. 

Did you change your thought process at all when it came to competing?

No, not really, I've always been a fierce competitor. I've been competing since I was six, so it's a big part of me. I, however, changed my professionalism of competing. I try not to give out too much information on what I'm going to do or what my strategies are. Competitions are when I ride my best, though. It's when the adrenaline is really pumping and when I'm most comfortable. 

What steps are you taking to continue on this path toward greatness?

I will make sure to stay happy and motivated at the same time. This race towards the Olympics can be stressful, but if I continue to feel good, then nothing can stand in the way of my goals. I will make sure to train hard while not pushing the limits of what I'm comfortable with. I will not bring out a trick that is not ready, but I will also have stuff I am staying consistent on. 


How do you deal with the bumps in the road along the way?

There are always going to bumps along the way. Achieving something very hard is never perfect. I stay focused on the main goal, which to me, is the Olympics. It's how I treat the bumps that matter. I can complain that they are in the way or I can find out the best way to get over them. Trust me - you're not getting anywhere choosing the first option. 

Have you always been as competitive as you are now?

I have always been competitive since the beginning. I started competing at six and I have done hundreds of competitions. It's what drives me. 

Some people think you’re too competitive. What do you say to them?

People can say what they think. I've learned not to care. I have made up my mind on what I want to achieve and, if being competitive is the way, then so be it. 

I challenge them to send me someone at the top of their sport who doesn't love competing. Competition drives excellence in any industry. Also, I'm not alone in this. I know many BMXers that are like me. They might just be better at hiding it! Haha!

Are you happy?

Yes. I am very happy. How could I not be? I get to represent the United States at the Pan American Games this summer and I have a chance to represent them at the Olympics. My riding has grown tremendously and I feel great mentally. I get to travel and see the world. Seems like a dream scenario to me. I am forever fortunate for the cards that have been dealt to me. I owe it all to my family. 


What advice do you have for young riders inspired by your quick rise to the top?

My advice is to find out what you want your goal to be. Once you have that goal, you naturally find the right road to it. You need to find anything that will potentially get in the way of that goal and change it. For example, if you feel like you would be able to tailwhip better with a lower frame, figure out a way to get a new frame. If you feel like you are bored of your park, make a road trip to another one for a few days. The only thing that can get in the way of achieving what you want is you. 

Also, don't be afraid of asking for advice. It's hard accepting it when you're young, but I have learned many great lessons from riders before me. 

Do you need to keep making changes or do you think your current regime is the correct one?

I want stay consistent, so nothing will be changing in my lifestyle for the next year. I may unveil some new tricks, but only if I'm comfortable. Other than that, it's only forward !

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