How Travis Claypool is keeping the essence of enduro alive with Trek Fasthouse
Travis Claypool loves racing enduro, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy.
He has come of age in the Trek Fasthouse program — now in his fourth year with the team, but still just 22 years old — and seen the sport change significantly in that span. Trek Fasthouse remains the ultimate band of weekend warriors. When Claypool isn’t at events, he’s home in Murrieta, Calif., working full-time hours at a local bike shop and juggling a personal life while preparing to go up against the best enduro riders in the world. The same is largely true for his teammates, Shane Leslie and Aiden Chapin.
Meanwhile, the level of competition in the sport keeps rising, the travel never gets less intense, and the events themselves, with each passing year of growth, deviate slightly further from the chill ethos of backcountry exploration that distinguishes the sport from its attack-the-track XC and downhill cousins.
“I definitely deal with that imposter syndrome sometimes, because I end up at home and get so caught up in the day to day,” Claypool says. “It’s this surreal feeling traveling all over the place. I’m living two lives almost, and it gets hard to connect back into the fact that I am a racer, I have sponsors, I have a cool squad.”
As a member of Trek Fasthouse, Claypool’s job is to spread good vibes at domestic enduro events, test developing mountain bike products and compete among the fastest riders in the scene. Regarding that latter point, Claypool has done some soul-searching lately. He can still throw down — he took 18th and 16th at the Big Mountain Enduro events in Durango/Purgatory and Ironton, respectively, while pushing for top 10 stage results — but he also wants to influence his community in more ways than simply riding fast.
“I think when I was younger, I wanted to be the best and do the big EWS tour and be a big name in that,” Claypool says. “But as I get older, I’m more drawn towards the experience of it and the community impact. I do see myself staying in this business and this mountain bike community for a really long time. Probably for the rest of my life.”
I always preach that enduro is the essence of mountain biking.
In Trek Fasthouse, he has a support structure that suits him. Trek provides equipment, and lets the riders approach each race how they want. For the back-to-back Enduro World Series stops in the United States — Burke, Vermont, and Sugarloaf, Maine — he rented a U-Haul van with a friend to schlep their gear and give themselves shelter if they couldn’t find a couch to sleep on for a night.
The dynamic within the team is relaxed and supportive. Claypool is close in age to 21-year-old Chapin, and they push each other on the slopes. Leslie is the grizzled veteran at 25, and has been a mentor to the younger riders as someone with loads of racing experience in his legs.
“It’s definitely a unique dynamic as far as teams go. We all have our busy home lives, and then during the weekends we call each other teammates,” Claypool says. “We see ourselves as going through the same things and we all share something together.
“Shane is definitely someone I view as an older brother. He has talked me through a lot, and he reminds me of how amazing these experiences are.”
Enduro may be an evolving sport, but Claypool’s connection to it remains firm. He loves being on a team and what Trek Fasthouse represents when fans see the stand-out matching bikes and kits. And he loves the foundation of the sport, the ineffably free feeling of flowing down a mountain in the midst of nature, a feeling too great to ever be extinguished.
“I always preach that enduro is the essence of mountain biking,” Claypool says. “XC is just this sufferfest; you’re in this wired mental state the whole time because your body is so abused. And downhill is such a meticulous discipline and you have to be so perfect; all you’re thinking about is one trail. And then in enduro, you get to spend all day on the bike. Even during practice, you’re riding all those trails.
“It’s always been an outlet for me to disconnect with the urban mindset and just be out on the bike exploring nature.”
Claypool is still working hard to define his relationship to a changing world, as 22-year-olds in all walks of life are wont to do. But mountain biking at its core — not as an industry, or a job, or as a series of races and result sheets, but as a means to achieve joy — will always remain the same to him.
“I love the racing, I think it’s super fun, and it’s been a big motivator and driver for my skills and my character to grow,” Claypool says. “I have had no regrets as far as this experience and this path. And I think it’s something I’ll be able to look back on and be really proud of. I love it.”