Catching up with Shawn Maffenbeier

October 12, 2017

by Dawn McClintock

Photos by James Lissimore

Being selected to be part of the team for Motocross of Nations is probably one of the most prestigious things a rider can earn; the chance to represent your country in front of the world. For Saskatchewan native, Shawn Maffenbeier this marks his second year as a member of Team Canada riding in the MX2 class. We caught up with Shawn after just coming off a busy week of arenacross track building and arenacross training. It never stops for Shawn and the passion he has for the sport. Let’s hear what he had to say about the team experience at this year’s Motocross of Nations that was held in England.

Hi Shawn. Welcome back. You’ve already been up to some fun stuff this weekend. What’s this we hear about building arenacross tracks?
Yes, Stu McQueen got ahold of me (he’s the guy that runs the Whispering Pines track here in Kamloops) He called me and said he was going to build an arenacross track and put on some arenacross schools so I helped him build it and Jess Pettis and I put on an arenacross school on Saturday. It was pretty cool and there’s another one this coming weekend.

So when did you actually arrive in England for MXON?
I flew out on the Sunday before and arrived Monday morning in England. I always get confused because you’re always losing a day and gaining a day when you fly. I would have Sunday from Canada and got there Monday morning.

You had some pretty sweet digs you stayed at while you were there in England. Was it fairly close to where you guys had to go to do testing?
It was a little bit of a drive. So it was an hour and a bit to go to the test track but I feel like wherever you are in England it’s just going to take you a long ways to get there. There’s so many round-abouts and the driving is kind of wild. It was a little bit of a drive to go ride but the accommodations at the castle were pretty awesome this year. It’s nice to have everyone together and have that team atmosphere.

Did you guys have enough time to get adjusted to the time change or was it just kind of hit the ground running kind of thing?
I don’t know if you ever truly switch over. You almost need to be there for months to get really used to it. By Thursday/Friday before the event I was finally sleeping an entire night. From 10pm or at least midnight til 6 or 7 in the morning. Previous to that during the week, you’d go to bed at like 10 or 11 and you’d wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and be wide awake for an hour or two and then try and get a couple more hours of sleep before waking up. I would say by the time the weekend came I had switched over as much as I could.

What was your first impression when you saw it in person?
I watched a video with Deano in it and it kind of mentioned that the jumps are really big and stuff and you never really know what to think as far as video and stuff goes. Definitely when we showed up it was like, “man, this track is big and it’s gnarly and it’s definitely a pro level.” You can tell a lot of thought went into it and it was going to be an amazing track. And sure enough, the first couple of laps I did on it, I have never hit outdoor jumps this big before and just ridden a track this amazing before. When it was dry, I think the lap times were like 2:30 min. Anybody who has seen pictures or videos of it know that it’s weaving from one side of the valley to the other. It’s basically a dream track.

How did this compare to last years event in Italy?
I would say that this track suited more the US style rider. It was a little bit quicker and had a little bit more speed into it. Versus the Italian track we raced last year, it was pretty tight in a few sections. It actually reminded me a lot of Quebec. The tracks are a little bit different that way. As far as the event goes, it was just was just as crazy as the one in Italy as far as the fans and the atmosphere. It’s kind of hard to compare the two of them really just because of the weather on Sunday. I would say it’s very similar. I personally liked the track a little bit better this year.

We have had a huge response to your custom FXR Canada gear. What sort of reaction were you getting from people about it?
I mean it was the same thing, everyone kind of recognized how much detail went into it. Even during week at the practice track, people were like, “Wow, look at that jersey.” The detail and the time and effort that went into my gear was incredible. It didn’t go unnoticed, I mean all weekend long people would slowly point it out and I think it stood out as some of the best gear there.

You had to have gained a greater respect for some of these GP riders who race these gnarly tracks all the time in Europe.
Coming into it you know that the Euros are going to be really good in the mud just because of the conditions in Europe but I don’t think we truly understood, and I mean even the US guys, I don’t think anyone truly understood how good those guys are in the mud. Watching the last moto when Tyler and Colt were racing, obviously I got to watch everyone else, it’s amazing to see their technique and how well they adapt to the track and how well they can ride it in those conditions.

There’s a totally different riding style that they have there.
Yeah, exactly and it’s not even the just the top guys, it’s like all the way through the field the Europeans are so strong in those conditions versus, I’ve watched some muddy AMA stuff and Canadian stuff and it’s a lot different than what we are used to.

Now the mud obviously became a real issue for you. The goggles were off.
It was tough, I mean the mud was one thing but just that constant little mist on the goggles was just screwed them. I came in for goggles both motos and honestly in the end, some of the guys did and some of the guys didn’t, if they lasted you a couple of laps, they lasted you a couple laps and in my mind I’m thinking just be cautious and get a set of goggles. But then a set of goggles last you a lap or two and then you have to re-pass the guys that you were in front of. So then you have to think, was it really worth it? It was really tough in that aspect but honestly, I think that everybody was in the same boat for that. I mean a couple of top guys who got out front early might not have had the same problems. It was wild, everybody had their goggles off and I mean even after a couple of interviews with Osbourne he was like, “I blinked and I had a rock hit my eye lid”. I thought that was wild and it was the same for me. There were moments when I would just get peppered in the face with rocks and dirt and you’re like, “Man is this worth it?” But in the back of your mind your like, “I’ve got to give everything for my country right now.” We came a long ways and you do your best to kind of ride that fine line of “I don’t need a rock in the eye but let’s try to pass this guy in some different lines”.

…Or you end up with somebody like Covington on top of you! What the heck happened there?
I kind of got a crappy start in that moto so I was in the back and I was just kind of pushing through a couple guys in the first lap and I come over this mound and he’s actually facing backwards on the track and I was like, “Man I have nowhere to go!” and I just ran right into the side of him. I mean I don’t think he was mad at me. I wasn’t really mad at him but he was stuck on top of me so I had to actually lift his bike off my bike before we could get going again.

What was the team dynamic in the Canadian paddock like?
It was good. I mean I don’t have to race against Colton or Tyler all summer so for me to get along with those guys is really easy. If anything, I talk to them all summer long to make sure I’m gaining stuff from my racing end. It was good. Even Colt and Tyler got along really well. We’re all very like-minded and we all wanted to help each other. It wasn’t, “Oh you’re on a Honda or a Yamaha”, you’re there to represent Canada. It was cool in that aspect. I had my motor guy there and he was willing to give advice to everybody else and even Digger was there and he was helping me just as much as he was helping Colton. So yeah, it was a really cool atmosphere as far as that goes.

Well that’s really how it should be. So you really have to be there to experience the whole thing in person with the fans. Did you have much opportunity to interact with the fans?
As much as you do, I don’t think Canada gets a lot of fans to come by versus Herlings or Carioli they walk through the pits and they are like superstars and have kids running after them. I’m walking out beside them and there’s no one after us but a lot more people have more respect for us after what we’ve done in the last couple of years. I think slowly we are kind of growing that fan base in Europe.

For sure, I mean 13th is nothing to be ashamed of at all. It took a lot of mettle to get there. How did you feel about where you guys finished up at the end of the day?
I think honestly as a team we thought we would better our 10th from last year. Just a few things happened, goggles coming off and rocks flying in eyes. I actually saw Colt pull over one time in the last moto because he got so much mud in his eyes and I’m like, “Oh man, this sucks!” We were happy with it just given the muddy conditions and what we were faced with. After Saturday I was feeling really good about our qualifying and I thought we had a really solid chance of beating 10th place. We were happy with it but obviously we wanted better.

You’re kind of holding the torch for the Saskachewan connection here since Blair Morgan’s time as team captain for so many years. You think you’d like to take on Red Budd next year if given the opportunity?
Yeah for sure. It’s funny, I did an interview a couple of days ago and they asked about my team mates and stuff and I’m like, “Yeah, I think they’ve done it about 6 times and this is my second time.” I told them that my goal is to do as many as my team mates have done. If I could go for every single year for the next five years then I am going to do it. It’s just such a huge honour to do it. Coming into it, just the way the scheduling works, I think it’s five weeks this year from our last national to it. So it is tough to keep that program going and it’s a lot of extra work for everybody. Gear companies, graphic companies, mechanics, everything, especially after a big year. Kind of having it at our back door next year is almost a little more inviting. Definitely for the US and for us too. Everything is just a little more familiar. You don’t have to ship bikes, you don’t have to worry about finding a rig. It’s just little things that all add up.

And you are going to have a lot more Canadian flags flying at that event.
I would agree.

What was the highlight of the whole event for you?
Honestly, coming into it I knew how I did last year as our MX2 guy and it was a pretty big eye opener for me. I knew after the year I had this year I wanted to better that result. Just in my own books. Obviously a big highlight for me was to finish 11th in my qualifier for MX2 and I felt like could have even done better than that. I was actually really, really excited after that. I knew we each had to put in a solid qualifier to get into that A final. I knew finishing right around that 11th was going to get us in. That was kind of a highlight for me. That was pretty big. I was happy with that. Just the fact that we got to go overseas again to represent our country. I feel like that race just teaches us so many things. You’re so uncomfortable. Nothing about that race is normal, the starting grid, the qualifying, the two days of racing type of deal. Going into it you have to have such an open mind of how things are going to go because there are so many different variables that you’re not used to and you don’t know if you can control them.

Did you have any plans for the off season?
Basically I got straight into the arenacross stuff now. Trying to play a little bit of catch up. I was focused solely on MXON for the last couple of months. Now I’m kind of switching over the the arenacross stuff so that’s what I’ll be doing.

Thanks for chatting with us and thanks for representing Canada. That meant a lot to us!
No problem. I appreciate the support everyone gave us.