We’re back with another IO interview and this time we headed North to hear from New England’s Ben Kelley. Kelley just scored Gold at his first outing at the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Argentina.Read more about this upcoming racer in our interview with him below.
Innovation Offroad (IO): You’re just getting back from Six Days in Argentina and finished a remarkable 5th in C2 and scored a gold medal. How did your week go?
Ben Kelley (BK): My week went surprisingly well considering it was my rookie year at six days. The first two days went very well. I’ve never raced anything but local series other than the Unadilla GNCC so I had no idea how I would stack up. I was doing a lot better than I had expected. I crashed a lot and made a lot of stupid mistakes, but nothing catastrophic. I was happy going into the third day for some new terrain. Days three and four were crazy all around. We were told they were going to be the hardest and longest days, which they were. The majority of the special tests were all sand, something I am not used to. I struggled to adapt to the terrain but was lucky enough to make through. The dust was so bad on day three that half way through every special test my bike was dying from sucking so much dust. I had to stop and pull my filter skin off so that I could make it to the end. Days three and four were a survival race, over 100 bikes were lost, I was just happy to have survived and looked forward to day five. Day five went by very fast, the terrain was rocky so I really enjoyed it. Day six was another whole new experience; I had never raced in a Moto race so I was a little nervous. I got a bad start but was passing a lot of guys and finished fifth. I finished my first ever six days and had some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a dirt bike. I couldn’t be more grateful for having such an amazing opportunity representing the U.S.
Dust was the enemy at Six Days! Photo by Michael Knight
IO: Wow, removing the filter skin half-way through the test! Were you changing the filters every test too? Did you expect the dust to be that bad?
BK: I knew the dust was going to be bad but I didn’t know it would be that bad. I was putting a new filter and filter skin on at every time check, but that wasn’t enough I guess. Also, it couldn’t have helped that I crashed at least once or more in every test on day three, creating a huge puff of dust (laughs). The sand turned into a silty powder, it was nothing like I’m used to seeing in the northeast. It definitely took some getting used to.
IO:That’s definitely a lot to learn, and even tougher it being in a race setting with so many new experiences. Stepping back a little, what all did you do to prepare for ISDE? I know I saw some photos of you training with Jimmy Decotis.
BK: I didn’t do anything crazy to prepare. I trained a little harder in the gym but mostly practiced my tire changes. I normally just run tubes so going into the isde I had to learn how to change bibs. Using the Rabaconda made it very easy, I changed a lot of rear bibs and tires and had it down. I hadn’t changed a front bib until I was down in Argentina but luckily it was just like a rear. There was a Trail Jester ride day earlier in the year and Jimmy Decotis was there so he was helping out with the Moto starts to get me prepared for day six.After completing the six days I feel I was prepared. I definitely could have been more prepared but going to six days and competing was a very last minute decision so I feel it went very well considering. The Ohio qualifier was my first Enduro so the main thing I was worried about not being prepared for was the enduro format, but it was easy enough to learn.
IO: Now, you race the NETRA hare scramble series, the JDay Sprint Enduro, and then some JDays right?
BK:Yeah I mainly race the NETRA hare scramble series, but whenever there’s an open weekend I like to race the JDay Series, they are a lot of fun with the constant bar banging action. I raced the first ever JDay Sprint Enduro and really enjoyed it, so if he has more I will definitely be racing them.
Ben Kelley took third overall at the first JDay Sprint Enduro. Photo by Zack Huberty
IO:Do you feel one series helped more with ISDE or felt more similar to it?
BK:I think they all helped in there own way. The NETRA hare scrambles are long and grueling so I think those had me in good shape for the long days of riding. The JDay’s are short, so you have to go 100 percent all of the time, which helped me with increasing my speed. Then the Sprint Enduro helped with getting me in the mind set to push 100 percent in special tests and always stay focused.
IO: It’s great to hear that each series could provide experience for your Six Days’ journey. What’s the rest of the year look like for you? And what are your 2015 plans?
BK: I’m planning on racing the ECEA Hare Scramble in Delaware this weekend and maybe the ECEA Pine Hill Enduro that’s coming up. Other than that I’ll probably just put the studs on and do a little snow riding, possible the JDay winter triple crown if John Day has it. My plans for 2015 are to compete for the NETRA Hare Scramble Championship and continue with the local series. No major plans other than possibly trying to qualify for the 2015 ISDE in Slovakia.
IO: Also, if you can, talk a little bit about Trail Jesters and what it is?
BK: Ross Mauri is the founder and creator of the Trail Jesters Racing team. He is a great guy who loves to ride and help out fellow racers in dirt biking and snowmobiles. He has been a huge part in my 2014 season and my ISDE experience. Thanks to him I was able to make it to the Ohio Qualifier and down to Argentina for six days. Without him none of it would have been possible. I can’t thank him enough.
Kelley hopes to travel to Slovakia in 2015, home of the next Six Days. Photo by Michael Knight.
IO:I guess to finish up, who would you like to thank? Also, you, Hangos, your brother and more are coming to the ECEA race this weekend. Who do you think wins the ECEA vs. NETRA/JDay battle?
BK: I would like to start of by thanking Ross Mauri with Trail Jesters Racing for making this dream a reality. He has helped out tremendously and I cannot thank him enough. Without him none of this would have been possible and I am truly blessed to be a part of his team. I would also like to thank my mom, dad, and sister Jess for supporting me in every way. They are the reason I’m here and what keep me pushing to achieve bigger and better things. Bob Stadler, Dave Kelley, John Kelley, and Tyler have also been a huge help in the past and throughout the ISDE experience. Helping out in anyway possible. I would also like to thank Gilles Trepanier with GTR suspension for always having my bike handle amazing, Moose Racing for all of the support over the years, Mitch at Strictly Dirt, Bullet Proof Designs, Tim at Edlemanns, Motool Mx, 100% Goggles, Leatt, Supreme Industries, NETRA, the Berkshire Trail Riders along with all the other clubs who helped out, my friends, family, and everyone else who donated to make this trip possible. Thank you!
Johns actually my cousin, but yeah I don’t know. I don’t really know anyone from the other series other than Kyle McDonal, Tegan Temple, and Ryder Lafferty. They’re all extremely fast. The riding I am used to in the NETRA/JDay races are totally different from the ECEA races, so I guess it all depends on the terrain. I think anyone could win, it all depends on who is having the best day. I look up to all of those guys and just try to ride like them.
Thanks for reading!