Shawn Maffenbeier Talks about Moving to the 450 Class

By Billy Rainford

Catching Up with Shawn Maffenbeier. | Bigwave photo

Swift Current, Saskatchewan, native, Shawn Maffenbeier, is actually no stranger to the 450 class. In fact, he was national #6 back in the day.

However, since then he’s been a fixture in the 250 class and won the $10K Rockstar Triple Crown money in the class in 2018.

Shawn moves back to the familiar Rockstar OTSFF FXR Yamaha rig again for 2019 and back to the 450 class. We grabbed him and asked a whole slew of questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Direct Motocross: Hello, Shawn. Thanks for talking with us. There’s lots to talk about, so let’s start with the big news. You’ve signed on with the Rockstar OTSFF Yamaha team for 2019. Can you take us through how these negotiations went? Were other teams in the running? I know you definitely wanted to move up.

Shawn Maffenbeier: Hey Billy, thanks for taking the time to reach out. Honestly, it’s always funny how things work out. A huge reason for me moving to the Kawasaki team in 2018 was the opportunity to move to the 450 class in 2019. I really expressed this throughout the negotiations and it seemed like the team and I were on the same page.

When we started to get into the Supercross portion of the Triple Crown Series, the team and I sat down to negotiate things for 2019 and it was then that they notified me that there was only a 250 ride available. They expressed that they didn’t think I was ready for 450’s and it would be better to stay down on 250’s another year.

I was a touch surprised and disappointed, to be honest.

At this point, I started reaching out to all the teams and let them know that I was available and wanting to make the move to the 450. I actually had pretty good chats with a lot of the manufacturers and it ultimately came down to who really really wanted to work with me.

The Rockstar Yamaha OTSFF guys phoned me every day for almost 2 weeks and showed such a strong interest in working together that it was an easy decision for me.

“Dylan Wright is always entertaining to race! You never know how far Dylan will take it to win, and we got into it a few times in Arenacross! | Bigwave photo

You won the Rockstar Triple Crown 250 money in 2018. Were you happy with your performance?

I was super happy with my progress with my indoor riding and how I rode the AX and SX portion. The MX side of things had its moments, but it challenged me in a lot of ways as well. I wasn’t my best this year for the MX portion.

You’re definitely known as an ‘Outdoor Guy’ more, right? Do you prefer one over the other?

I’m an outdoor guy, for sure. I’m a little bummed we’re only going to have 8 rounds this year. The true outdoors I believe is a better testament to how good you are as a rider. I have been having a lot of fun with the indoor stuff, and I think in turn those skills are crossing over into the outdoors.

Your toughest competition was another MX101 alumni, Jess Pettis. Can you talk a little about your rivalry with one of the other fast Canadians? How were your battles on the track?

Well, I knew JP would be good. Kevin Tyler and MX101 have a great bike and that Yamaha 250 platform is a leader in the class. Combine that with the maturity from Pettis and I think that sums up where his success came from this year.

Dylan Wright is always entertaining to race! You never know how far Dylan will take it to win, and we got into it a few times in Arenacross!

Next, you’ve got Tanner Ward who barely gave up a holeshot all year. Marco Cannella was smooth as butter.

I loved racing all these guys. I think, more importantly, I knew all these guys would race hard but not super dirty (Dylan likes to ride that fine line). We were all respectful of one another and had a lot of fun.

Shawn is no rookie to the 450 class. He has been #23 and #6 in the class. | Bigwave photo

You’re not a rookie to the 450 class, though. Some people reading this may not even realize you were #6 at one point! How did you like your first go at the big bike class?

It does come to a surprise to many. I definitely didn’t take the typical path as a youngster. We jumped to the 450 right away when I was young, simply for the reason that it was cheaper to go racing and be competitive.

I really enjoyed my time in the class. It’s so much different than the 250 class in the sense that you’re racing guys with so much experience. You get out-smarted very quickly as a youngster but at the same time you can learn a lot from racing those guys.

It’s been a few years since then. What do you think you’ve learned that may help you get up near the front in the premiere class?

Patience is huge. That extra 5 minutes in that moto changes the game plan a bit and allows the fitness to come into play a bit more. Also, getting the bike set up is super important.

What would you say is the biggest difference in the two, and don’t say “engine displacement!”

I’d say it’s the experience of the riders. If you took all the top 450 guys and put them on 250’s, I’m sure the 250 racing would be a bit different. I’d say it’s a little more competitive with 100g’s on the line as well.

Shawn is heading back to Yamaha and FXR. | Bigwave photo

Although the team members aren’t the same, does it feel a bit like going home or is it like a new team for you?

It’s a little bit of both. With being on a few different teams the last few years, I’ve learnt whose grass is greener…and who has smoke and mirrors. It’s honestly more about the people that you’re working with inside the teams and manufacturers that make all the difference.

I’m coming back to some familiar faces and also some new faces. Andre (Laurin) and his crew have grown and learned a ton as a team and I’m excited to come back and represent them.

You’ll be teammates with Phil Nicoletti over there. I know you’re over at Club MX training with him now. How is that going? Do your personalities click?

(Laughs) Where do I start with this guy? I think we’re going to have a lot of fun as a team. The initial test and set of the bikes went great and I think Phil and I are going to get along just fine.

Tell us what it’s like training there. You normally go down to California, right? What’s the biggest difference for you?

Where do I start with this one? California was a second home to me. I have a lot of great friends down there and it worked great for me on some levels and others it was starting to get tiresome. I wanted some more structure as far as some “on bike” coaching with a few things and I wanted to spice things up a bit with something completely different.

The east coast offers completely different soil, the humidity is high, and it rains a lot. Staying right at the facility is the biggest difference for me; no more sitting in traffic every day.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not training or riding?

I love to tinker on stuff, whether it be my van or bike. I enjoy learning the mechanics of stuff and trying to better them.

Shawn will continue to work on his fitness and 450 skills to be ready for Arenacross in April. | Bigwave photo

What do you expect from yourself in the 450 class next season? What will you be happy with?

I won’t put an exact number on what finish I’ll be happy with because ultimately what’s important to me is that I ride well. Maybe some of those days will bring wins and maybe others will only bring top 5’s. We will have to see.

The schedule has changed a bit for 2019. What is your favourite track on the circuit?

It’s all about prep! So many of those tracks have the ability to be the best track. I love Calgary, I just hope it’s better prepped this year.

Will you do any off-season races before we get going with Arenacross out west?

I don’t believe so. I’m going to focus on my transition on to the 450 and put my focus on my training.

OK, that’s quite a few questions. Thank you for talking with us today. Good luck getting rolling on the 450 and who would you like to thank?

Huge thank you to Rockstar, Yamaha, OTSFF, Sunoco fuels, FXR, Mobius knee braces, Andre and Steve for putting everything together and you Billy for doing this interview!