Mtbr Cribs: At home with Trek enduro star Ross Schnell

Enduro Race Coverage

Pump Tracking

How do you train for the Enduro World Series? Build a pump track in your backyard.

Ross Schnell is living the dream. He earns a decent living racing bikes. He owns a Porsche (1966, restored). There’s a urinal in his garage, a kegerator on his back porch, and pump track in his backyard. His sprawling house on the south side of Grand Junction is 10 minutes from the Lunch Loops, one the finest networks of techy mountain bike trails in Colorado or anywhere else.

Right now, though, Schnell is mowing the lawn, because well, that’s what married fathers do. He also does maintenance work at the handful of rental properties he owns, works on his own bikes, helps take care of his young daughter, and for the most part lives a decidedly normal life. Or at least as normal as can be for a 34-year-old nicknamed ‘Rad’ who can shred just about any trail this side of the moon, and do it faster than all but a handful of the other world-class shredders who spend their working hours chasing glory on the Enduro World Series.

Schnell was 32nd in Nevados de Chillan, Chile, the first stop of this year’s seven-race EWS circuit. Not bad considering it was his first major competition following extended time on the bench due to a nasty crash last July in Winter Park. Schnell overcooked a wooden man-made bridge at the Colorado stop of the EWS and as he puts it, “went 25 feet to flat.” Smack! The trail’s called No Quarter and gave none. Schnell dislocated and fractured his shoulder and tore a “bunch of stuff,” he recalls. “It was a long recovery.”

Plenty of time to mull over his new lot in life. Nineteen months ago, Schnell and wife Cathryn welcomed their first child into the world. Perspective has changed. “Now when I’m at an event I have to remember that there is something more important that I need to come home to,” he says during an at-home interview with Mtbr.com in early May. “But managing risk is all part of it. I usually have one big crash a year and that was it. When you’re going for it, things happen.”

Ross Schnell

The Schnell man cave includes a fleet of bikes, tools, and a urinal.

Schnell should know. He’s been riding on the ragged edge since he was a 6-year-old bumping elbows on the local BMX circuit. Back then it was cool to have a nickname. “Rad Ross” was born. Schnell won seven Colorado state BMX titles, then tore up the collegiate ranks, bringing XC and dual slalom national titles home for Mesa State, where he studied radiology. He flirted with life as a cross-country pro, wearing national team Lycra at a handful of races. But endurance sport wasn’t a good fit. He bagged racing and put his degree to use for about a year.

“But all my buddies that I’d grown up racing juniors with were still going strong,” he recalls. “So I edged back into racing on weekends while still working full time.”

Initially cross-country was again the focus, but in 2008 Schnell grabbed the unofficial all-mountain world title, winning California’s famed Downieville Classic. Buh-bye carbon hardtail, hello fun. Schnell has spent most of the ensuing years on the “hybrid” circuit, racing a Super D here, an enduro there, with lots of filming and photo ops in between. This year the primary focus is again the Enduro World Series, with secondary emphasis on the growing slate of North American races, especially the Big Mountain Enduro events.

Race Bike

The enduro racing weapon of choice, a 27.5 Trek Slash 9 with Fox suspension and Shimano drivetrain.

“The EWS is the biggest thing going right now,” says Schnell, of a circuit that includes stops in Scotland, France, Italy, Colorado and Canada. “But I have to pick my battles when deciding where to spend time and expense budget. I love doing the North American events, too, because at lot of them are close to home, so I can drive there in the camper van with the family and camp out.”

Yes, camp out. While Schnell has solid sponsor support from the likes of Trek, Bontrager, Fox, POC and Shimano, there’s still a certain privateer feel to his racing pursuits. Some of that is by necessity, some by choice. This is not a racer who needs a team of suspension engineers or doting soigneurs just to get through a weekend.

“I like to do stuff on my own,” says Schnell, who besides maintaining his small fleet of bikes, also loves tinkering with cars and motorcycles. “I wont say I’m the most handy guy in the world. It usually takes me a long time to get stuff done.”

Pump Track

Screw the tomato garden, this is what a backyard should look like.

Modest talk for a guy who has a car lift in one of his three garages and who recently finished a total rebuild of a 1966 Honda Black Bomber motorcycle. “It took about a year,” he says. “At first I was just going to clean the gas tank and fire it up. But I ended up pulling the frame completely apart and basically redoing everything.”

Man Cave
 
Every garage should have one of these.

Schnell’s other recent project of note is the aforementioned pump track. Initially he vacillated between bringing in the dirt or simply building a workshop. But dirt won out. “The pump track benefits me more when I’m a racing bikes,” he explains. “It’s a really valuable training tool.”

It’s also a de-facto baby sitter. When wife Cathryn is off at her job as a physician’s assistant, Schnell draws childcare duty. “I can come back here, plop her down in the middle of the track and do legitimate training,” he says. “In between my intervals, my daughter jumps on her bike and cruises around the track. She loves it. It’s the perfect set-up.”

How long this perfect set-up will last is tough to say. Schnell knows his racing career will wind down at some point. “But even if it went away tomorrow I’d be thankful for what I’ve had,” he says. “But I definitely think I have a few more years. As long as I’m still competitive and doing well at the events I’ll keep going. The goal is to maintain the lifestyle of sleeping in and drinking coffee for half the day, and always doing things that I love being involved in. I can’t say what will come next but it will probably be fun.”

See more of the Schnell compound in the video and extended photo gallery below, including a tour of his garage and a detailed look at his Trek Slash 9 27.5 enduro race bike.

YouTube Preview ImageVideo: Schnell gets Rad on his backyard pumptrack. Look ma, no pedaling.

Mtbr Cribs: At home with Trek enduro star Ross Schnell Gallery
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Coffee Kick

Schnell is a self-professed coffee connoisseur. He bought this espresso machine from a local shop.
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Man In His Cave

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Man Cave

Every garage should have one of these.
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Shop Talk

Schnell has all the necessary tools to keep his bikes running smoothly.
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Spare Wheels

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Spare Tires

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Powerful Information

Five years ago, Schnell would have scoffed at training with power. Today it's part of his regimen. "It motivates me and helps me quantify my rides. I have to train smarter and that helps."
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Wall of POC

The Swedish helmet maker is one of Schnell's core sponsors.
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Baby on Board

A little inspiration for those long training rides
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Bike Quiver

Schnell has every category covered: dirt jump (Trek Ticket), trail (Trek Remedy), 29er (Trek Fuel), and "road" (Superfly hardtail). "I haven't owned an actual road bike in 10 years."
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Work Boots

Well worn.
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Zip Ties

Essential equipment in the Schnell garage.
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Tire Sealant

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Spare Tubes

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Spare Parts

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It's The Water

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Monument Receipt

Nearby Colorado National Monument is a great spot to spin the legs. Admission is $10 and good for a week.
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Fully Rebuilt

Schnell spent a year rebuilding this 1966 Honda Black Bomber motorcycle.
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Next Project

This 1966 Porsche is his current rebuild project.
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Hot Wheels

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Race Rig

The 2014 27.5 Trek Slash 9, 160mm front and rear.
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Rolling Thunder

Bontrager wheels and tires are the weapon of choice.
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XTR Rotors

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XTR Brakes

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Cockpit

Schnell runs Bontrager stem and 820mm carbon Rhythm bars cut down to 780mm. "There are some tight squeezes around here."
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Stages Power

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Pushed Shock

"The Fox shock is great out of the box," says Schnell. "But I like to tune things to my preferences a little. I had PUSH install some volume reducers so when I am doing big training days and big climbs I have a little more platform up high so the bike sits higher in the travel."
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Saint Chainring

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Bontrager Saddle

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Shimano Rear Derailleur

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Shimano XTR Pedals

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Dust Up

Schnell's cassette bears the telltale signs of riding on Colorado's Western Slope, red dust.
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Chain Guard

Schnell typically runs 34 to 38-tooth chainrings depending on the course or trail.
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Fox Dropper Post

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Stickered Up

Proof of entry in the first round of the Enduro World Series in Chile.
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Over The Edge

Schnell is co-owner of OTE Sports, the best-known bike shop in Fruita. If you need trail beta, this is the place to go.
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Backyard Bliss

Schnell's homebase training ground.
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Pump Tracking

Finding the flow.
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Pump Tracking

No pedaling needed.
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Pump Tracking

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Pump Tracking

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Pump Tracking

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Pump Tracking

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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  • FunFacts says:

    Two fun facts about Ross:
    1) The word “schnell” means “fast” in German.
    2) Legend has it that his mother felt no pain giving birth to him… which is why he feels no pain while riding.

  • X-Rayrider says:

    1. I’ve used that urinal, it saves a long trip up the stairs.
    2. He feels pain, I have the X-Rays to prove it. He just doesn’t pay much attention to it.
    3. Regular guy making the most of his gifts. Bike world could benefit from more guys like Ross.

  • marc.tempesta@gmail.com says:

    Wrong place to clamp the bike stand.. should be on the post itself and not the tube it goes in and out of…

    • illgobigger@hotmail.com says:

      It’s an EVT clamp and you can easily gauge how tight it is. You can even carefully clamp carbon frames if needed…or recumbents! Ross isn’t a newbie to clamping dropper posts.

    • Bailey says:

      That is the way you should clamp it. Clamping the actual post can scratch it, which would introduce air to the system.

  • J.D. says:

    I found it interesting that he studied RAD-iology.

  • bob mcbob says:

    What is the espresso machine?

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