Fellow PNW Squad members Jeff Kendall-Weed and Cody Kelley were able to meet up for a day of riding at Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park. While there, they sat down to talk about Cody's journey in the MTB Industry and how he made the transition from racing BMX to racing the Enduro World Series. Watch the video below to get an in depth look into the mind of one of the world's top enduro racers. (Transcript below)
The conversation from the above video transpired as follows:
Jeff Kendall-Weed: Someone you guys are probably familiar with is Cody Kelley. Cody thanks for joining us today!
Cody Kelley: Thanks for having me, dude!
Jeff: I had the pleasure of meeting Cody maybe 5 or 7 years ago in the enduro scene when we were both racing and his riding style is completely unique. He says he looks up to other folks, but I think he’s got his own riding style. We wanted to meet up with him and ask him what makes him tick and what his influences are. You came on the scene in 2013/2014, when did you get into the mountain bike thing?
Cody: I grew up racing BMX but I guess Mitch Ropelato was like my big brother, so he started racing mountain bikes and all I wanted to do was race mountain bikes because that’s what Mitch was doing. He started in like, 2009 probably, but I was racing BMX full time and I was actually trying to chase the Olympic dream at that point in time. I was on, I don’t know what they called us, Junior Olympics or Junior Devo. But basically it was like Junior Olympics, so at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista they opened a facility that had BMX as one of the two main focuses and they had one of the supercross tracks there. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that but it’s like a three-story tall starting hill and you’re going like 40 miles an hour on a 20 inch.
Jeff: And you rode that track?
Cody: Yeah, so that’s when I got injured and I was like, “I’m out.” I did three different camps, maybe four, and they’re all a little over a week a piece where you go stay at the facility, get trained by US Olympic coaches, like BMX Pacific coaches, and that’s when my dreams just kind of got crushed because those tracks are really dangerous. Like extremely dangerous. The sketchy thing is you’ve got seven other dudes next to you and they just want your neck. They don’t care if you’re in one piece at the bottom, you know? And the first jump back then was, I want to say it was 42 feet, mandatory gap, you’re not rolling it. Especially at almost 40 mph, you know? That’s a gnarly sport, man. Everyone’s injured in that sport like 24/7. It’s way worse than mountain biking. I got injured a bunch in BMX and I just had an epiphany and was over it, and I was just like, “I gotta do something else but I want to keep riding bikes.”
Mitch got me hooked up with Specialized, Edge at the time, Enve now, and then I raced downhill real seriously for three years. Both my junior years. I actually went to Junior Worlds in 2012 in Leogang, didn’t do so hot. In 2011, I did GRT’s, and then in 2012 I was on Specialized North American Factory Racing with Mitch, Curtis Keene, and Brad Benedict. I did two world cups and world champs that year.
Jeff: How did the transition to Enduro happen?
Cody: Oh man, so 2013, my first elite year of downhill, I separated my shoulder. I never rode trail bikes before that really. I had a slalom bike that had a dropper post on it that I rode on the trails sometimes, but I mostly just was a park rat and a shuttle bandit. I had no strength from sitting in a sling for a while after the separated shoulder and all I could throw around was my trail bike, so I just started riding trail bikes and I actually liked them a lot more than the downhill bike and I was having way more fun on them. I still raced downhill a little bit that year but then I re-separated the same shoulder at a downhill race and I was so burnt on it at that point. Burnt on getting injured I guess.
I didn’t really know what I was going to do but then that was right when enduro started taking off I think. Like 2013. At the time I was riding a Specialized and I talked to Specialized and was like, “what do you guys think of me changing my focus?” Enve was also a big supporter of mine at that point in time, which they are now still, but both of them were totally keen on it. So I was like, “Sick. I guess I’m going full enduro in 2014.” Just like, totally changed focus. I hadn’t even done a race honestly, I’d never done an enduro. I’ve always been really close with Curtis Keene and he was racing in ‘13 as it was growing in the US. I was talking to him and he’s like, “Yeah dude, it’s rad. You go ride your bike for 5 hours, hang out with dudes, and you only race the sick part of the mountain.” I’m keen. Let’s do this.
Jeff: One thing I really wanted to ask, you’ve got such a unique style, especially on jumps. You see a lot of people with BMX influence and they’re hitting jumps, but you don’t see very many that are actually riding things that have a more downhill flavor to them, so you’re blending those two in a unique way. What have been your inspirations to kind of get you in that direction?
Cody: Growing up with Mitch, we always just pushed each other and we were real style focused as kids. There’s a BMX’er from Salt Lake that had a real unfortunate crash, Mike Akin. We grew up just idolizing that dude. Like even when we were racing BMX we were just watching Mike Akin videos and just seeing how nasty he’d get. I honestly think we just tried to look like Mikey for close to 5 years. I still watch old Mikey edits. I think just watching that and then also being super inspired by what Mitch can do on a bike. He’s super naturally gifted and now he’s putting in the hard work. He’s killin it. I think me and Mitch probably rode together for 5 days a week for almost 10 years of my life, maybe a little more.
Jeff: You’ve been a pro racer now for quite a while. What’s the hardest part about being a pro bike rider?
Cody: Losing is always hard. Getting injured is like the worst I think, but I guess that’s kind of the same for everybody. I had a really tough season last year, like one of the hardest seasons in my career, it wasn’t good. I had a couple good US races, but I got a really bad concussion, I got really gnarly food poisoning, and I did this weird muscle rupture in my back and I just had a struggle season and it was all injury related. I kept trying to race. It was super tough mentally for sure. That stuff seems to eat at me personally the most, the mental side, just like getting kicked in the teeth again and again and again. It just seems endless at some point. I try not to focus on negative stuff I guess and just roll with the punches and get back out there.
I’ve been talking about Mitch a lot and we were both on Specialized. He obviously helped me tons. Curtis has been awesome dude, he’s been such a big help to me. He taught a lot at a young age. He’s helped me tons on the bike, off the bike, he’s taught me a ton about life in general. When I became teammates with Richie, I actually ignited a very good relationship with Jared Graves as well just because they had been teammates on Yeti for years. Even though Jared was on a Specialized when I was on a Yeti. Me and Curtis were really tight before Jared switched to Specialized and obviously Jared and Richie were really tight, so the four of us just became like the four Stooges or something. We did two weeks in Keystone training together. We all just stayed in the same house and trained our butts off and pushed each other. Those two years were really good, it was the four of us going all over the place.
Jeff: Which years were those?
Cody: ‘16 and ‘17. Yeti gave me a huge opportunity. It was rad. To be able to ride with Richie all the time was huge. He’s just a freak on a bike. Richie and I are actually similar other than the fact that he will hit gnarly sections with no brakes and I’m a little more conservative, that’s not necessarily my style. But Richie wins races so maybe I need to work on that. He just goes out and plays around, he loves it man, he’s always smiling. It’s always influential to be around people like that, you know? That are super into it and in my eyes in it for the right reason, because they have a passion about bikes.
Jeff: Well thanks for sitting down and chatting! Thanks for slowing down so I could follow you through a few sections. Over the years I haven’t been racing or anything, I’m way off pace, and you’ve only gotten faster. It’s quite apparent, but it’s good you can see that, it’s really cool. If you guys want to follow Cody, check him out at KelleyMTB on Instagram. He has some rad manual Mondays, I think he originated the Manual Monday, maybe?
Cody: I think Wyn had Wheelie Wednesday but I think I did, I’m not sure though.
Jeff: That’s Wednesday! O.G. Manual Monday right here. Check him out on Instagram, watch his manual clips. If you guys like this video, click “Subscribe”. If you want to ask me questions about why I think Cody Kelley is so rad, drop those in the comments below. See you guys on the trails!
Follow Jeff Kendall-Weed here:
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Follow Cody Kelley here:
Instagram: Cody Kelley on Instagram or @kelleymtb
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