Catching up with Shelby Turner
November 11, 2016
By Dawn McClintock
If you’re looking for Canada’s toughest moto chick, no need to look any further than Alberta’s, multi-disciplined rider, Shelby Turner. Growing up in a moto family it was only a natural progression for Shelby to excel at her sport and she is continuing to push herself to the next level in motocross, cross country, enduro and endurocross. With loads of #1 trophies, gold medals to her credit, she will tell you she brings her A-game to everything she does and when she’s not 100% happy with her result, you can bet that she returns the next time tuned up and blowing away her previous result. To attest to the “toughest moto chick” label, just take a look at the video link at the bottom of the page where Shelby competes at the Endurocross in Boise, Idaho a couple of weeks ago. It’s pretty gnarly! Let’s check in with her and find out how her busy year has been going.
Hi Shelby. You’ve had a busy season this year and glad we were able to catch you at home. Tell us how old you were when you started racing and what type of race was it? Cross country or motocross?
I started when I was four and I’m pretty sure it was the arenacross in Lethbridge actually.
If you had to pick a favourite place to ride, where would it be?
Probably St. George, Utah. The desert/sand bluffs there. We usually get up there a couple of times a year. We usually do a holiday there in February and we spend a week or two out in the desert. We’ve been doing it since I was 7 or 8. We would go during reading week of school with a bunch of other fellow Albertan riders. We’ve just always go there.
You really let the motocross world know this summer that you’ve got what it takes to be the top dog when you won the Canadian Women’s West National Championship. Do you think keeping your MX skills sharp helps your off-road game?
Yes, for sure it does. It’s kinda weird, it seems like I left motocross but I never really did. We have the track at home and it’s the kind of riding we’ve always done as a family. I think that helps you not only with off-road riding but when you go over to to Six Days a lot of it is very fast, high speed riding so it’s good to have comfort going fast and doing jumps and stuff.
You had the RedBull Rocks and Logs back right onto a National this year didn’t you?
That was a little bit tough. Going right from motocross straight into endurocross was a little bit strange but we got it done. It was a perfect day for it. The day before it poured rain and Lexi and I were in Regina and we came back and raced the Rocks and Logs the next day and it was actually perfect. I couldn’t complain.
What would you tell a young up-and-comer girl who is wanting to be a top contender in the off-road scene in Canada?
I think the best advice I could give them would be to never give up. It gets hard when you’re riding and you can’t make it up something and you’re having trouble doing something. If you can get through it and move on and pursue the race you are only going to be a better rider and stronger competitor in the end. My biggest thing is to never give up. I don’t quit anything I start unless I absolutely have to. I think that’s the best thing I can give any up and coming rider.
Where do you see things headed for women’s racing in Canada?
I see a lot of girls in the western Canadian motocross scene. I’m quite surprised at how many people come out and actually race the events. It’s really nice to see. The states are struggling a lot getting female riders in their motocross series and even in endurocross they are struggling to find girls to come out and try it out. I think Canada has a great thing going with their series. They are making it so girls want to come out and ride the race. I think that’s something that Canada really needs and it’s kind of showing the rest of the world that there are girls that want to ride in Canada and they show up to race the motocross rounds which is really awesome to see.
Is there someone you really looked up to as a kid?
As a kid growing up there was a local idol that I looked up to called Crystal Pearson at the time. I used to look up to her. She used to race against my mom and I always used to think that she was the greatest. As I got older she quit riding and now sometimes she comes out to our track with her kids and rides around. It’s kind of neat to see. She was definitely my idol when I was a kid.
This has been your 3rd year competing on our Women’s ISDE team. Congratulations on your gold medal by the way. What is the vibe like when you first step on foreign soil and take that course walk?
Thank you. It’s a really different atmosphere over there. The spectators, the people are really excited. You see different countries and different teams there. They are all walking around in their Australian green pit shirts or their American sweaters. It’s really cool to see. It’s something that we don’t get a lot of here. Especially because when you’re in Canada, everyone is from Canada so you don’t really get that sense of being from a certain country. That’s really neat to see when all the top girls from different countries racing for their country and competing as individuals as well.
I guess the fundraising process must be a pretty big chunk of commitment to get you over there to the ISDE? What is involved?
It’s really tough to get the fundraising. We sell a lot of t-shirts and we did calendars this year and I did the GoFundMe page which helps out a little bit but I guess the biggest thing is that every little bit helps. Ten bucks might not seem a lot to one person but if you get enough people that donate ten dollars it really goes a long ways in the scheme of things. It’s expensive to go over there but if you want keep going back there you have to find ways to make it a cheap as possible each year so you’re not going in the hole every time you go over there. It’s just really cool that we can get shirts that have ISDE or Team Canada and stuff and whatever leftovers we have we usually wear them over there and it makes us look more like a team. It’s really neat all the fundraising that goes into it. It’s nice that it pays off and helps me get over there and the other girls that want to go and compete.
You were awarded the gold medal for your personal performance. How is the medal process decided for individuals and when do you actually get your medal?
So the medal process is decided by percentages of the leader’s times. Because the race is so long and so hard, you get a gold medal if you are within 10% of the top person in your class’ time. My times were based off of the fastest women’s rider there and basically I had to be within 10% of her time to get a gold medal. It seems kind of weird because they gave out 8 gold medals but it’s hard to do considering in one class full of 25 people that they only had 8. If you finish you get a bronze, and I think a silver medal is 20% of the leader’s time. Laia Sanz was there, Maria Frank and the fast girl from Australia, Taylor Jones, all those girls were there, and to be within 10% of their time for a Canadian is really good. Basically how they do the medals is they show up whenever they show up in the mail. [laughs] I think my Italy one came in 3 or 4 months later and my Argentina one was even farther back. Say if you podium as a team, like in 2014 when Team Canada got a silver medal as a team, we got our medals right on the podium, but our individual ones didn’t come in until later. If you’re top 1, 2 or 3, individually, I think you get your medal awarded to you right there on the podium. They do a little podium presentation at the end of day 6.
Your calendar has been pretty jammed with endurocross, racing south of the border. You are currently leading the Women’s class with one round remaining. Congrats and how are you liking the events so far?
I’m really liking them. It seems like each round, you don’t think they could get any tougher and they do. That’s something that’s been a little bit challenging. Their tracks just keep getting harder and harder. The last round in Boise, I thought I had a rough day and then I watched all the pros struggle the same if not worse than I did in some of the obstacles, so that made me feel a lot better. It was really tough. I think that’s one of the things that’s really grown for the women’s class, about 3 or 4 years ago when we started racing the endurocross, they’d put helper blocks through the matrix section or they’d have an easier line up the rocks or they’d clear the wood pit out for the women when they came through, just so they could get through the course. I remember back then we would fall all the time and couldn’t make it through and now it seems like we have the full course, like they don’t put anything in for us, we’re just like all the other guys and we are actually probably making it through a lot cleaner than we were in the past. The ones who have followed over the years, you can see the development and the course change. It’s really hard for someone who hasn’t done it to come in because they don’t have the cheater blocks for them any more. They don’t have an easy lane through the rocks so you got better a lot faster to come in or you’re just going to struggle a lot more. It’s kind of really cool to see for us women that have followed the series, it’s like “Wow, we can actually do these courses now and they’re not putting these things in and we can get through.” It’s kind of really neat.
You are lined up against some pretty tough women out there. Who is your main competition?
My main competition is Morgan Tanke this year. She’s beat me one round, the second round in Sioux Falls she got me. Every time you line up, anything can happen. You can pop a chain off in the rock section, you can have a really bad race. That’s kind of the interesting thing about endurocross is that it’s really hard to win that many races. Every time I’m like, “I don’t know how I pulled that one off.” I’m struggling just as much as everyone else out there. It seems like whether or not you catch a lucky break or if you get a little bit farther in one section and you don’t have to push as much or get lucky behind a lapper the way they fall. There’s a lot of that people don’t even think about because I lap up to second or third place and there’s only four laps, so you could be catching traffic in your second lap. Just because the courses are so small and tough and if I make it through and the next lap they’re still in the obstacles then that’s all of a sudden extremely difficult for me to get through because they’re in my favourite line. You always have to take the harder line, or the one you don’t want. So that’s the other thing that’s really challenging about endurocross, it’s the track and the people. I see it in the pro class too because Colton Haaker will fifth place. So you know he’s going through as much traffic as we are. It makes it really tough.
We see you wedging in as much racing as you can. What drives you to keep pushing yourself at this level?
I think it’s just the want to be the best. I really like doing the Six Days because you go over there and there are girls that beat me by ten or twelve minutes and it’s like, “How are they going that fast? I’ve gotta go that fast!” Then I want to be as good as they are, so I come back and push myself to be that much better. So I think that’s a big part of it. Even coming to Alberta local races, I always like to compare myself to the men. I don’t want to just be a fast ladies’ rider, I also want to be top whatever in the men’s. You find ways to make yourself better and keep pushing. I think I’ve just done it so long, I just like to race and I like to ride my motorbike.
Who is your main posse at the races?
My dad travels around with me the most. He’s my number one mechanic. Unfortunately when I went to the states this year he was in the middle of harvest and he couldn’t come. I went with a family from Calgary. The Wilton’s and they were awesome. They helped me out a lot. They helped me out for three or four weeks. I would fly back and forth and they had my bikes. They were a big part of my racing and success this year so I can’t thank them enough because they didn’t have to do that for me but they were there for me. My dad he helps me fix my bikes and do whatever I need. My brother pushes me. We ride together all of the time at home and it gets weird when he doesn’t ride and I have to go out and practice. Then we actually ride together and I’m like, “Oh that was so fun. We haven’t rode together in so long.” Mainly my family is my support group and we do a lot of riding and travelling together. It’s always been that way for us.
So being on the farm, who loads more hay bales without getting arm pump, you or Avery?
[Laughs] Avery gets arm pump faster than me on a motorbike but he could definitely outdo me on the physical strength and work on the farm that’s for sure. He tells me that if I poured more gallons of oil into the tractor that I’d be as strong as he is and I wouldn’t have to go to the gym and workout.
What other training do you do to prepare yourself for racing?
I try and go to the gym as much as I can. There’s a lot of bike training that we do and during the season you don’t get as much time to hit the gym because when I get done a race you’re sore and two days later you’re heading back out on the road again. In the winter I do like to go to the gym and I do yoga. I think it’s important to be flexible because in endurocross you bend your body in a lot of weird ways sometimes so it’s good to be a little bit flexible.
What is next on your calendar once Endurocross is wrapped up?
Once endurocross is wrapped up we are kind of done for the month of December and it will be nice because it will be my first week home since the 23rd of August so I’m kind of looking forward to not doing a whole bunch and just enjoying Christmas with the family. In January we are going down to the states for a couple of weeks and we will train down there as a family and do whatever we normally do and come back and work through the end of January. The end of February I may head back down to the states for a couple of weeks. We can start riding end of March so it’s really close into the season then anyway. Not a whole bunch of off season but I don’t stud up or winter ride very often.
All the best to you at the final round of the Endurocross series. We are super stoked on your lead!
Thanks. We will have to leave Tuesday because it’s like a double header weekend. I think I have a twenty or twenty-one point lead now.
Thanks for your time Shelby. I’m sure you have a whack of sponsors, who would you like to thank?
I would like to thank A&E Racing, FXR, Vee Rubber, Scott Goggles, Alpinestars, FRS Suspensions, Arai Helmets, ACF 50, Emperor, Atlas Bracing, Matrix Concepts, Motorex, KTM Canada, SRT, BRP, Laminacorr Racing, M7 designs, 4Arm Strong and Motovan
Video footage of Shelby at the Boise, Idaho round of Endurocross.