Trek-Fasthouse's Shane Leslie loved racing even as he struggled after injury. Now he's back on podiums.
Shane Leslie’s podium finish at Big Mountain Enduro Durango Purgatory completed a lengthy journey back up to speed. In April, 2020, he was injured in a dirt bike crash coming off a career result: a North American Enduro Series win in Windrock. Then the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world and suddenly Leslie was in recovery with no racing opportunities in sight.
As racing came back, so did his legs, but it wasn’t until nearly a year and a half later that he was able to put together a great all-around performance. His third-place finish in Durango was a relief.
“It was nice to finally get back on the podium and be a reminder to myself that I can be at that pace,” Leslie says. “And now that I’ve gotten it, I’m excited for the future races coming up.”
It was nice to finally get back on the podium and be a reminder to myself that I can be at that pace.
Leslie rides for Trek-Fasthouse, a domestic enduro program that takes good vibes as seriously as it takes racing fast. The team consists of Leslie, Travis Claypool and Aiden Chapin, who recently raced with Trek Factory Racing Enduro and took second among under-21 men at an Enduro World Series event in Loudenvielle.
Together, the trio plays an important part in testing products and representing an ever-growing sport as young ambassadors.
Leslie never needed medals to love his role within the program and enduro. The only thing he laments is that he can’t ride more: his current home of Prescott, Ariz., where he works a full-time job on top of training and racing, could use a few more enduro-style trails, he says.
But with a full racing season nearing an end, Leslie is clearly hitting his stride and having a blast. The American enduro scene is one of the most passionate and fun-loving places in sports, and Leslie and Trek-Fasthouse are making sure it stays that way.
“You’re just going to some of the coolest places and riding the coolest tracks,” Leslie says. “With enduro, you’re actually out with all your friends and the people you race against for five hours at a time for the weekend.
“That’s what I love about it. Getting to see new tracks, and everything with everyone.”
This year I've struggled getting back up to that race pace, and I was finally able to put it together in Durango.
Leslie spoke to the Trek Race Shop after his race in Durango. You can catch him in the 2021 Big Mountain Enduro Series finals this weekend in Brian Head, Utah. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
You’ve been working to get back on a podium for a while. What was the feeling like afterwards?
Shane Leslie: So in 2020 — in March, kind of right before COVID hit — I won the North American Enduro Series race in Windrock, Tennessee, which is a pretty big race. That was the best enduro result I’ve had, and I was all excited to win that. And then COVID hit, and then I got really hurt in a dirt bike accident last April. So it took me a while to get back on my bike, and I wasn’t fully back up to speed, and was still kind of recovering from that accident, even at the end of the racing season. It took a year, realistically, to get fully back to where I knew I could be. And then this year I’ve struggled getting back up to that race pace, and I was finally able to put it together in Durango.
That’s one of our closest bike parks to me in Arizona. I don’t really have any enduro-type riding where I live, so it’s nice to get out there and at least feel somewhat close to home. It’s only like five hours from me. And I’ve raced in Durango before; that was actually the first enduro I ever did in 2013, when I was still racing downhill. But it was nice to finally get back on the podium and be a reminder to myself that I can be at that pace. Like, I’ve known I can go that fast, I’ve kind of struggled getting back up to that race pace ever since I got hurt about a year and a half ago. And now that I’ve gotten it, I’m excited for the future races coming up.
What felt so good about that race? Why were you able to put it all together?
Leslie: I had a pretty good weekend race-run wise. I think a lot of it is just how you surround yourself at the races. In that race, I was out there with friends, and my girlfriend was out there. We had a nice spot right at the venue, and I’ve always liked that place. And just had good vibes all weekend riding with everyone and I felt really good riding. And going into that first race day, I knew I was capable of doing well there just because everything felt like it was clicking. And I think part of it, too, is just having so much race experience this year, even though I haven’t been where I want to be. Just knowing where I need to push, what I need to work on, I was finally able to put it all together to get into third.
I knew I was capable of doing well there just because everything felt like it was clicking. And I think part of it, too, is just having so much race experience this year, even though I haven't been where I want to be.
You mentioned struggling to come back from that crash you had. Why was that such a struggle for you? Was it physical setbacks, or was it just getting yourself back into a good place mentally to be able to go full gas?
Leslie: Yeah, I like to think it wasn’t mentally, but looking back on it all, I’m sure it kind of was more than I would imagine. I tried to really not let it mess with me much, and just keep riding my bike fast and do what I can, but I’m sure mentally, even though I wasn’t thinking about it, I’m sure it did have its toll.
But physically, I was so weak for so long after that crash. I was able to come back and ride my bike and train, but I lost so much muscle during that year, and it took me a long time to get that all back. It definitely makes a difference now, feeling strong. And I have a trainer down in Phoenix who I work with a lot. I built back up that strength to hang for a full two days of racing. Because Durango is a pretty big weekend, it was a two day race. And Thursday was just bike park laps all day. Friday was practice for a backcountry stage, which is a huge pedal out. And then Saturday and Sunday we raced. So by the time we were racing our final stage on Sunday, you’re completely smoked, and if you don’t have that little last bit of strength left, you’re just not going to be able to hold on.
Did you do anything to sort of celebrate getting back on the podium?
Leslie: No, I just jumped in my truck and drove straight home and was at work at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. So nothing too exciting [laughs].
As you were getting back up to speed, what sort of support did you receive from Trek-Fasthouse and your teammates?
Leslie: I mean, it’s been awesome racing for Trek, just because I’ve had — my first year with them was in 2019. And I’ve just been on the Trek-Fasthouse program. I’ve been with my teammate, Travis Claypool. And then Aiden Chapin, who’s our younger rider, he’s actually over in Europe right now. He got on the team last year. And it was pretty cool.
I kind of got lucky with getting hurt last year during COVID, just because I wasn’t missing a ton. But also it was sweet that Trek, and everyone I talked to there with [Trek Suspension Labs director] Jose Gonzalez and [racing brand manager] Ryan Bodge, they are just fully my support team, and whatever I needed to get back up to speed wasn’t even ever really a question for me. They’ve just stuck by my side. I think I’ve known Jose since I’ve raced downhill, since I was probably 15 or 16, and I think he knows I’m capable of getting podiums. It’s cool to see that they stick with you through the highs and the lows.
It was sweet that Trek, and everyone I talked to there ... they are just fully my support team, and whatever I needed to get back up to speed wasn't even ever really a question for me.
We talked to Aiden a few weeks ago and did a story on him too. He also mentioned having a really strong relationship with Jose. How else has he supported you, and what has he meant to the Trek-Fasthouse program?
Leslie: Jose, he basically runs everything pertaining to R&D for Trek, from what I know. He just has the bike so dialed, and knows exactly what is needed. So I went out to California and tested with him — him and Travis, actually. And he’ll take time out of his weekend, or any day, to help. I mean, he’s like the most helpful guy ever.
It was super cool to go out there. We tested with him, got our bikes set up early season, and he’s more than willing to do tests sessions with you. And obviously I’m in Arizona, so it’s a little harder. But he’s always more than willing if I want to come out to do testing and get the bike figured out. I text him after most races, or if I have any suspensions questions on how to get things set up, and he always has an answer that’s helpful. Jose has been huge at just keeping everything running smooth.
Obviously, the last year and change was spent recovering, but overall, what has your experience been like in Trek-Fasthouse? What does it mean to you to be in that team and environment?
Leslie: It’s sweet. It’s just a laid back vibe, which is really nice. I mean, even the races, when they don’t go well, and especially the Fasthouse guys, they’re just stoked you’re out there racing. Same with Trek. And then when you’re doing well, obviously everyone’s super stoked.
I’m trying to think of the best way to say it. I’ll just say laid back, really. Obviously, I still want to do the best I can and I want to win races, and I know I can get back to that point where I’m winning races, but also I feel like the team’s just about having fun and ripping your bikes and being at the races with all your friends and enjoying what you’re doing. So that’s been pretty cool.
I still want to do the best I can and I want to win races, and I know I can get back to that point where I'm winning races, but also I feel like the team's just about having fun and ripping your bikes.
What’s next? What’s your next race, and what are your goals even beyond that?
Leslie: My next race is Brian Head, it’s the last Big Mountain Enduro of the year. That’s in three weeks in Utah. So I have three weeks at home right now, training and getting ready for that. I think I’m in fourth overall in the points right now, so my goal is to get a podium there and hopefully finish the season third overall for the series. I think Richie Rude already has the series wrapped up, because they only take your top three races, and he won three of the races.
That’s why that series has been pretty cool. You’re racing the fastest dudes in the country, with Richie Rude, Cody Kelley and Mitch Ropelato and those guys. So that’s cool having a benchmark. You see Richie, he might be beating you at the national level, but he’s also winning at the world level. It’s cool having that benchmark of knowing where you need to be speedwise.
Then I think the U.S. Open, and then the season is pretty much wrapped up after that. I think I’m going to try to do a North American Enduro Series race in Mexico City in the first weekend of November, but after Brian Head those are my main races for the year. Then I kind of just chill a bit, and then get back to training here in November and December for 2022.
Is there any goal in mind for training? Any aspect of racing that you want to improve on, either physically, mentally or skills-wise?
Leslie: I have a pretty solid training program with my trainer. I do as much as I can while working a full time job. But I’m trying to get more time on similar tracks to what I race, because I just don’t have that where I live. So maybe getting out to SoCal a little bit more this winter, do some testing with Jose, and keep getting more and more dialed in on the actual race bike so when I’m going into those first races next year, I feel pretty up to speed and ready to be contending for podiums early on.
With enduro, you're actually out with all your friends and the people you race against for five hours at a time for the weekend.
American enduro certainly has a passionate following, but it’s maybe niche to some people. What do you like about the scene and the sport?
Leslie: Enduro for me, it’s nice because you get to spend so much time on your bike. I raced downhill World Cups through all of college, and in college I just didn’t really realize how much free time you have compared to working full time. And with enduro, if I’m going to be taking those days off work to go to a race for four days, it’s nice knowing that I’m going to be on my bike for five hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
You get to go ride some of the coolest tracks in the world. The EWS was in La Thuile this year in Italy. And even all the BME stops, I mean you’re just going to some of the coolest places and riding the coolest tracks. And you’re not just doing one competitive track, like in downhill, 10 times for a weekend and that’s all you ever ride. With enduro, you’re actually out with all your friends and the people you race against for five hours at a time for the weekend.
That’s what I love about it. Getting to see new tracks, and everything with everyone.