Catching Up with…Shawn Maffenbeier

By Billy Rainford

In case you missed it in last week’s Frid’Eh Update…

#12 Shawn Maffenbeier | Bigwave photo 

The way the point system works, #12 means that person finished 2nd overall in the MX2 class. Shawn Maffenbeier started out the Rockstar MX Nationals with a 2-2 day for the overall. It was the start of a long season that would see Shawn finish runner-up to eventual winner, Cole Thompson, who looked unbeatable at times.

Shawn has been racing the Pro Nationals for a long time and even earned the #6 in the MX1 class a few years ago. The Swift Current, Saskatchewan, native is known as one of the hardest working riders on the circuit and is currently down in California training with his new teammates.

For 2017, Shawn will be a member of the always-competitive MX101 FXR Yamaha squad, alongside returning riders, Jess Pettis and Hayden Halstead in the MX2 class. The team lost its highest placing rider in Dylan Wright, but has filled his boots with the speed and experience of the #12 of Maffenbeier.

Shawn will replace Dylan Wright on the MX101 FXR Yamaha team in 2017 | Bigwave photo

Here’s a look at Shawn’s 2016 season:

He was never far from the front (except for his one glitch in Calgary), but the fact that Thompson won 7 of 10 overalls, meant Shawn was 106 points off the win. Thompson returns to defend his title in the MX2 class and so Shawn and his team will have to work extra hard this off-season to come in prepared and ready to fight.

We grabbed Shawn for a chat to get his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:

Direct Motocross: Hello, Shawn. We always like to start with a quick trip down memory lane. Can you tell us all how you first got involved in motocross?

Shawn Maffenbeier: Hey, Billy. It all started when I was 3 years old on a Yamaha PW 50. The rest fell into place over the years of going racing with my dad to all the Saskatchewan provincial races and slowly worked my way onto the Pro national circuit.

Shawn will be #12 when the gate drops in 2017 | Maffenbeier photo

You raced the Pro MX1 class at a young age. Would you consider yourself as a better 250 or 450 rider? Is the 450 class your goal again in the future?

My dad and I went about things a little differently than most kids nowadays. Instead of taking the 250f route and chasing the championship, we opted to go with the 450 when I was 16. It was mainly due to the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money and the 450 was a more economical route for us. Why not try something different as well.

I feel like so many people, including our promoters, continue to follow the same route but expect a different outcome every year. I currently have a YZ 250f and 450 and I’m actually really enjoying both of them. I think I’ve learned over the years how to ride both real well and wherever I put my focus and attention I can become very competitive. That being said, the 450 class is in my plans for the future.

So, let’s talk about last season. You finished 2nd overall in the MX2 points and came into the season with a 2-2 overall win at round 1 in Kamloops. What was your highlight of last summer’s racing?

My biggest highlight last year was representing team Canada for the Des Nations. My summer had some ups and downs but for the most part we had a great summer of racing. Heading overseas to race was a whole other ballgame. Continuing to prepare for Des Nations through the fall and then racing some of the best of the best in the world was an incredible experience and one that I believe helped me grow as a rider and a person.

Shawn ranks representing Canada in Italy as his highlight from the 2016 season | Bigwave photo

Although you were 2nd, you were over 100 points in back of Cole Thompson. What’s it going to take to narrow that gap or even take this championship? Is the support from the MX101 FXR Yamaha team an integral piece of that puzzle?

Not to take anything away from Cole, but there were some things that contributed to the 100-point gap. The situation from Regina’s round was a big hit for points for me. Pretty much 50 points went out the window there, along with a few minor hiccups out east.

I think with my partnering up with MX101 FXR Yamaha we’re going to be able to put together a few missing pieces that I had last year. I know my speed is there to win, I just need to work on some racing stuff and being smarter about a few things and I think we’re well on our way to doing that this year.

What’s your favourite track on the circuit? Why?

Regina, for sure. It’s home turf for me. I grew up racing there my entire life and I have a great fan base when I race there.

There will be even more young, up-and-comers in the MX2 class in 2017. Do you look forward to an even more stacked field in 2017?

It’s always cool seeing new kids making the move to Pro. I personally think the media has given a little too much credit to some of the kids that live on the east coast. I’m a touch biased coming from west provinces and don’t believe the kids out here get the respect and support they deserve. I’m more looking forward to seeing what kid is putting in his work right now and is going to come out and surprise everyone at a few races, like a Casey Keast last year.

He would like to see the young up-and-comers from the western provinces get more media attention | Bigwave photo

What did you get up to when the outdoor series ended at RJ’s in Barrie, Ontario?

I never stopped racing and training. I raced Walton, an AMA national, and kept preparing for Des Nations at Italy. I got back from Italy and went straight into Arenacross and that took me into December. It was a full year of racing and riding. Once we got into December, I took some time to hang out with the girlfriend and spent some time in the mountains to get away from the moto scene.

How has your training been going so far this winter? Where have you been and who have you been riding and working out with?

Training has been good. Keylan Meston and I are down in California right now. He’s made some huge improvements over the last year and he and I have been able to push each other and learn from each other. Making the switch back to Yamaha was easy for me as I have spent my entire career on Yamaha’s. It took some time to get comfortable and familiar with all the great supporters and sponsors of the MX101 team, but it’s feeling like home again every time I jump on the bike.

Have you done the entire La Cresta bike route out there in Menifee? Did you have to get off your bike like me?

I’ve got a few new loops that I’ve been doing this year. Keylan and I were doing that one last year and on one of our rides we ended up both getting double flats at the same time. Needless to say, it left a bad taste in our mouths.

Dumb question, but I’m going to ask it anyway…what is the goal for 2017?

The goal is to win the MX2 championship. But I also think, more importantly, it’s to grow as a rider and a person. If you aren’t making some sort of gains every year then you need to question whether or not you’re putting enough into it or if your enjoying it still. We put so much time and effort into all of this racing that at the end of it all I want to be able to say that I learned a lot about myself in different situations in my life. I just want to keep growing. Keep building!

Will we see you at any of the Arenacrosses or maybe any AMA Supercross races in the near future?

Arenacrosses for sure, possible Supercross. Who knows?!

Favourite track on the circuit? “Regina, for sure. It’s home turf for me. I grew up racing there my entire life and I have a great fan base when I race there.” | Bigwave photo

Will you race anything before Kamloops?

I’ll be doing lots of racing beforehand. It’s a huge part of my preparation for me. I’ll be doing a few races down here and a few back at home.

OK, good luck with the rest of our preparation. Who would you like to thank?

Just a huge shout out to Kevin Tyler and Johnny Grant from Mx101. Without their support and belief in me I wouldn’t be able to do this. The guys at Yamaha for accepting me back with open arms! Andy at FXR, Allan Brown for helping with all my stuff in California and our motors this year, Joe Skidd from SSS for taking care of me in the suspension department, the guys at Forma boots and 6D Helmets, Ryan Lockhart for keeping my knees safe with the Mobius braces and 100% goggles. There are lots more that help out the team but these guys really stand out and go above and beyond for me. Thank you, guys.

Shawn is always fun to talk with. His dry sense of humour will usually keep people on their toes and guessing. Being of British decent, I can appreciate that. Good luck with the rest of your prep, Shawn. We’ll see you at round 1 at Whispering Pines in Kamloops, June 5th.