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Frid’Eh Update #3 | A Celebration of Shawn Maffenbeier | RP Race Performance

This Frid’Eh Update, let’s take a trip down memory lane with Shawn Maffenbeier with questions from competitors and industry people, and memories from friends.

By Billy Rainford

Shawn Maffenbeier winning the 2017 Canadian 250 MX Championship. | Bigwave photo

Welcome to Week #3 of the DMX Frid’EH Update brought to you by RP Race Performance. It’s finally winter here in Southwestern Ontario. The grass is no longer visable anywhere and there are even small snow banks starting to build up. Sure, we’ve only had a plow go down our crescent once, but it’s a start!

I’m sure when you saw “Week #3” it didn’t take you very long to realize who that meant we’d be talking to. It’s kind of a big deal when one of our top racers decides to “hang up the leathers,” but that’s what we’re dealing with here for the 3rd week of 2024.

Shawn Maffenbeier was one of the first riders and families that I really got to know well. In fact, we spent many days and nights either hanging out at their house in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, or on the road somewhere. Back when I was still driving the 1989 Buick Electra Estate wagon named, “Carmen,” we put in a few miles together. Between James Lissimore, Shawn, and me you can just imagine some of the dry, sarcastic conversations that were had over the years! Great times.

We’re going to do something different this week. To celebrate Shawn’s retirement, I contacted a whole bunch of people from his racing history to either ask him a question or share a memory. I wish I’d thought of it a little sooner, but we did manage to hear back from quite a few people to contribute to this column.

If I had to think of a memory that stands out with Shawn, I’d have to go the time I was in the wagon and Shawn and his dad, Randy Maffenbeier, were in their big rig. We were parked overnight just outside the Moncton Airport in New Brunswick. James and I were sleeping in the cab of the truck with the wagon parked just outside.

There was a hard knock on the side of the rig. I said hello and the voice proceeded to tell us we couldn’t be parked there. I knew it was Shawn putting on a voice a being jerk while he was probably out for a leak or something so I replied, “Ya, whatever, man. What about those losers in the wagon?!

I can’t remember what else I said, but I know I beaked-off a bunch more trying to be funny.

The voice then got much sterner and said, “Sir, could you step out of the truck. This is the Moncton Police.”

We laughed about that one for a while. And yes, we had to move while the cop waited.

Shawn testing out the crashing capabilities of the new bikes at Sand Del Lee. | Bigwave photo

Shawn raced his final season in 2023. Walton Raceway was the final “official” Pro race for him. It was really cool that they let him do the sight lap alone before anyone else, and then for him to get on the podium when Jess Pettis‘s bike let go on the last lap made the whole thing that much more memorable. Sorry, Jess, but thank you, Jess.

We’ll start out with a few questions from me and then move on to questions from others, and end it with some favourite memories from some others.

Thanks for always keeping things fun, Shawn. You can look back on your career with your head held high. Good luck with whatever comes next for you.

Here’s what Shawn had to say to my questions. | Bigwave 2012 photo (with Shawn Robinson)

Direct Motocross: Hi, Shawn. We did a little something different this week to sort of celebrate your racing career. Let me just ask you a few questions to get things rolling. What was it actually like racing the entire series knowing it was your last? More motivated to do well or play it safe?

Shawn Maffenbeier: Thanks for a bit of switch up, Bill. It was super-motivating and I also soaked every race in. I wanted to leave the sport on a high note. I wanted people to remember me at my best. 

Were you happy with how things went?

I’m super-happy with how I rode the first half of the year. Obviously, my Gopher Dunes crash was a bit of a setback. But all in all, I was very happy with how everything went. 

You’ve raced a lot of the greats in your career here in Canada. Looking back, how does Dylan Wright rank? Who gets your nod as the best you raced here?

Great question. I guess I’d have to define what I view as the best. I wish we could take Dylan and put him in with a consistent American guys that we had come up for a while for all those years. I will give the head nod to Dylan though, the guy on a world stage has done some great things. 

You have to take us through that last lap at Walton Raceway. Your old friend and teammate Jess Pettis’s bike lets go and you land on the podium. What was going on in your helmet?

To be honest, that last lap I was fully taking in the moment and when I came around that corner, I had to do a double take. I couldn’t believe it. I had done the math and knew I was out on the podium and all of sudden, I was 3rd. 

Shawn did his best to hold off Dylan Wright at Gopher Dunes this year and ended up paying the price for it. | Bigwave photo

When you saw KT (Kevin Tyler) waiting for you after the checkered flag, how did that feel?

KT has been such a big impact in both my personal life and my racing life. He’s been standing there for some tough motos, he stood there for my championship motos, and he was there for the last one! He’s been in my corner for all of it. 

And now we all want to know what you’ve got going on. That camera, that camera, that camera… Just kidding (Hot Ones reference) What are you doing for work?

I’ve been doing construction and renovations the last few months and I am finally signed up for flight school for the spring to get my commercial helicopter license. All in all, things have been pretty mellow and nothing too exciting going on. 

I would say getting your helicopter license is pretty exciting! What bike do you have with you still?

I have a 2023 YZ 450. Hopefully, when springs hits, I’ll have a bit more motivation to ride. As we speak, I’m enjoying some other aspects of life besides dirt bikes. 

Where are you going to call home in the future?

That’s a great question. Somewhere in BC is my goal. We will see where helicopters take me for the next couple years. 

Shawn was always game to play along with my hair-brained ideas.

Are you converted to the electric assist MTB craze?

I’m way ahead of you, Bill. I’ve been on e-bikes for the last couple years. I’m working on a Yamaha e-assist for the future! 

Well, I’ve got some great memories of hanging out and traveling across the country with you and your family. Thanks for everything along your journey. Good luck in the future and, for the last time, who would you like to thank?

Likewise, Bill. First off, I’d like to thank my entire family. They made huge sacrifices for me to make it to where I got to. There are so many people that have had a huge impact on my career, guys like Kevin Tyler, Allan Brown, Joe Skidd, Andre Laurin, Steve Simms, Donk, Doug Dubach, Bobby Kiniry, Gerhart Huber. These are just a few that have had a big impact on my racing days. I appreciate everyone who is a part of the industry and the people that have made an impact on my life! Thank you for getting me into my next chapter of life.

And here’s what he had to say when others asked him their questions. | Bigwave 2011 photo

OK, so that takes care of some business and gets us caught up on what Shawn has going on these days. It’s really cool to hear he’s going for his helicopter license. I’ve seen a lot of top racers come and go and it always makes me feel good when I hear they have a plan for their future.

Now, for something a little different, I got in touch with some people who were either part of Shawn’s career along the way or knew him well through it. Check it out:

Kevin Tyler

Which bike over all the years has been your favourite year and model that you have raced? 

KT, number 1 goes to my 2017 MX101 YZ 250f. I loved that machine. I could do anything I wanted with that bike and I think it showed how good it was! 

Tyler Medaglia

You still have good speed. Would you consider going to try an AMA National for fun? Also, how many have you tried?

T-dags, I’ve only ever raced one AMA national in 2016. I was sick as a dog and it was a mud race at Ironman. Went terrible. We will see about potential future races. Maybe we team up and put some off road tanks on and go race Pala? 

Kyle Thompson

Was there a specific race or season where it all clicked that you were gonna make a career out of racing or did it just naturally progress?

Great question, Kyle For me, the 2013 season with the OTSFF crew was a turning point. I just about called it quits after the 2012 season and André (Laurin) gave me a chance on the 250 2-stroke in 2013. That year I got my first win at the last race at Walton. From then on, I knew I could win! 

How come I could never get a normal headshot of you, Shawn?! | Kate Kowalchuk photo

Justin Thompson

What was the most memorable lap or moto of your career? 

Justin, I have 2 laps that stand out for me that I’ll never forget. In 2017, the last moto of the year at RJ’s. I had my championship on the line and the last lap of the second moto it had finally sunk in that I was about to win the championship. As I came around near the finish, it felt like the whole paddock was lining the track giving me a round of applause. That was a special moment for me.

The other lap that stands out was my last hot lap at Walton that I did by myself. Again, I came around and it felt like all my peers and the paddock that I raced against all summer lined the track to give me a round of applause. 

Both those moments stand out for me because it felt unexpected. Sometimes as a racer or rider you don’t think people notice the things you’ve accomplished. In those moments I felt a great amount of appreciation from the industry of my efforts as a racer and they reminded me of the impact I’ve had in the Canadian MM community. 

Chris Pomeroy

One of the most impressive things about you is your longevity in our sport. What was the key (or keys) to maintaining this high level of excellence for so many years in the most demanding sport on the planet?

Patience is key! I felt like my family always had strong morals and integrity around racing. It wasn’t everything in life and balance was important. Staying healthy and learning how to take calculated risks became the most important skill I learned. The ego can put a guy in the dirt a lot, so check your ego and ride your own race! 

Jess Pettis

Looking back at your career, what is one thing you wish you soaked in and appreciated more during that moment? 

Thanks for the question, Jess.. I wish I would have taken in the des Nations experience a bit more. I enjoyed those two years I did them so much and it wasn’t until years later that I realized how much those races meant to me and how special those moments were in my career. 

Shawn was a respected competitor throughout he career. Well, maybe not that first year on the #23 450. That was bit of a rodeo! Wait for Ryan Gauld’s memory. 🤣 | Kate Kowalchuk photo

Kourtney Lloyd

Is there a team that you always wanted to ride for but never got the chance to? 

Great question! I was still around when Blackfoot was in its final years. I wish I would have had the chance to experience that program and also the KTM Canada program. Both teams I think have had unique connections and great success. It would have been awesome to be a part of that. 

Dawn McClintock

What advice would you give a rookie team member headed to MXoN?

It’s way bigger than you can imagine. With saying that, it’s important to communicate and be open with your teammates. Let the guys that have done it a few times guide you through the experience. Teamwork makes the dream work! 

Daryl Murphy

Would you be interested in a scissor lift race vs (Mark) Stallybrass on home turf – Regina Moto Valley Raceway. Rain or Shine. And who would win?

Hahah The good old days! I’ll take on Stallybrass any day in a scissor lift. That guy put up with a lot of our shit. Thanks, Stally! 

[I messaged Stally but didn’t get a reply, even though I can plainly see that he read the message!]

Andy White

Are there any regrets that keep you up at night.

Andy, I regret not enjoying and taking in moments a little more. It’s a hell of a way to live life and sometimes when you’re in it, you don’t appreciate the little things. Good food with teammates and traveling the world to ride motorcycles is something many don’t get to experience. Now saying that, I’m learning to soak in the future a lot more! 

And here are a few top memories. | 2011 James Lissimore photo

And here are a few memories:

Derek Schuster

My very first memory of Maff comes from the 2008 Gopher Dunes National. Prior to this event, I hadn’t even heard of Shawn Maffenbeier, but he left quite the first impression by pulling two monster holeshots that day. It was pretty incredible to see from this unknown rider to lead the opening laps of each moto.

Now, I don’t think the rest of that day was very memorable for Shawn, as he floundered around in the sand and took a few samples throughout the day, but what I admire about Shawn is his determination. He stuck with it and honed his craft which leads to my other memory of him where Shawn really put things together a decade later winning the MX2 championship in 2017.

I just remember watching Shawn all summer long that year and constantly being so impressed by how his grit and determination over the years resulted in a dominating season where he was virtually untouchable.

Ryan Gauld

I cant think of one particular memory that pops on his resume. He was always just a good guy and seemed to actually care about the sport. A true small town hero in Canadian MX. Hard work pays off. Because when he started he sucked, badly. Scary almost.

2015 Calgary. | Bigwave photo

Paul Kingsley

Shawn had a “never give up” attitude. MXON Italy, I went over to spectate and he just never gave up. Other memories that stick out are the effort put in the the huge mud race in either Manitoba or Saskatchewan [It was Morden, MB]. He was so stuck that his riding boot got sucked off his foot. His ride at MX101 while as semi-privateer riding for Yamalube.

[I have the photos of his boot coming off, but it’s in the hard drive I knocked off my desk…]

Greg Poisson

It was probably my first or second weekend helping with the post-race interviews at DMX and what not. I walked into the OTSFF trailer at Walton looking for Phil (Nicoletti)and Maff. Phil shut me down pretty quick but Maff gave me my first official post-race interview/words. He took pity on me, I’m sure, seeing how awkward I was, but he was kind and more than willing to help me out. He was, as always, funny and didn’t point out any issues other than possibly his own mistakes out on the track. He never was one to point the finger at anyone else.

James Lissimore

There are too many memories to pick just one, but I’m thankful he was a part of my wedding.

André Laurin

My best memory with Maff is watching him ride the 250 2-stroke. He made that bike look amazing!

Only fitting that we end this with Kevin Tyler and Shawn after his final checkered flag at Walton Raceway in 2023. | Bigwave photo

What more can we say. It’s been a pleasure, Shawn. Enjoy everything life has in store for you in the future. The sport will miss you. I know I will.

Go ahead and say it, Shawn. “See you at the races…” | Bigwave photo
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