Cody Kelley, the tall, long-haired Californian, has only ever raced in the Enduro World Series aboard American brands. First it was Yeti, then Alchemy and now, as of this season, it’s the big, red ‘S’ - Specialized. A brand which he has already ridden for in the past.
It’s one of those rider transfer window moves which falls comfortably into the ‘makes sense’ bracket as opposed to the ‘total bolt from the blue’ file. Kelley rounded out 2019 with a brace of big results which saw him score gold as part of Team USA at the Trophy of Nations as well as being crowned Asia Pacific Enduro Series champ. So how did the team move come about and how is one of the EWS’s leading style cats getting on with his new bike? We caught up with Cody to find out more:
EWS: Tell us about the move to Specialized - how did it come about?
CK: A big part of the reason why I made the switch was due to Curtis Keene and his new PR style role at Specialized. With his step back from racing and moving into working for the big ‘S’ he's going to be my point of contact for all things that I’ll need to get through the race season. For myself, this is huge because of my past with Curtis. He's been a mentor and close friend of mine since I first rode for Specialized back in 2010 at the beginning of my mountain bike career and we've stayed close through my years away from the team. He's also been a huge help to me in life and racing in every way possible really; from race-craft/training all the way down to just being a good human on and off the bike. So basically he's been a role model for myself for around a decade now, I felt like it was a great fit to be able to work together at Specialized again. Away from that, a lot of the same people I worked with during my first 4-5 years with the brand back in the day are still there and have moved their way up in the company and if you haven't been able to tell yet, relationships are big to me (laughs)!
Having multiple different solid one's at the same company is a hard thing to beat and makes the move a good fit. All of this as well as the bikes in the current lineup and the bikes that they have in the pipeline that will be available for training/racing purposes in the future makes it that much better of a fit!
Cody and his new Specialized S-Works Enduro. Pic: Fox Racing
When did you get the new bike - what's your set-up like?
I went out to Cali and tested the new Enduro for a solid few days before we signed the contract and I pretty much knew right away that if anything, I was holding the bike back. With the revamped design that Specialized threw at this thing it is an absolute weapon! As far as my setup goes I have been working closely with my mechanic Joe Binatena for a few weeks now trying to dial everything in. We'll be racing the Enduro mostly this season and with a 170mm of rear travel it eats the rough like there’s no tomorrow, so we've been focusing on trying to get a little more pop out of it in the tight technical stuff without taking away from the bike's small bump compliance.
Honestly, Joe and I are just searching for that ‘perfect’ feeling on all kinds of terrain, but there's always give and take because of the broad spectrum of trails in Enduro. So I'm stoked to be looking for little tiny improvements. In the past since my switch to Enduro format of racing I have found myself standing back and scratching my head on what to do with bikes I had to try and make them perform the way I want. In this case with the Enduro it's rad to be in a position where we are making tiny little changes because the bike is close to being where I want it to be.
How has your off-season been so far?
CK: So far, the off-season has been awesome! Been testing a lot with the new bike and I was able to go to Morgan Hill (Specialized HQ) and reconnect with everyone as well as meet new people that are on the marketing team. I was also able to spend some time at Fox Racing HQ to sit down and design my kits for the year - I’m super stoked to be working them now! I think we'll be able to do some rad things this year together. I also started working with a fitness coach (Ryan Fedorow) this off-season and that's been going great! I'm stoked to have more structure in my training program and work with him throughout the race season! So yeah things are ticking along according to plan so far and I'm excited to get back in between the tape soon!
Shawn Neer, Richie Rude and Cody Kelley on the top of the inaugural Trophy of Nations podium in 2019.
You rounded off last season with a big win at the ToN with Team USA - how was that event for you? Did you enjoy the new format?
That event was all-time! First off because our team was just three buddies that were all team mates at one point in time and still all good friends that love riding bikes together. Being able to share the stripes with those guys was pretty special - a milestone in my books for sure! I think it made our victory a little more sweet that we weren't getting the same buzz as being a potential top team leading up to race day that some of the other team's were. Nor were the Swede's (hat's off to them for a solid performance), both of us were flying under the radar a bit and for Richie, Shawn, and myself I think it added unspoken fuel to our fire and our effort come race day. As far as the format we all really enjoyed it! Seemed like most of the team's did to be honest, almost everyone was smiling and having a good time the entire day. I look forward to doing it again this year if I make the team, hopefully we can have the same team line up!
Kelley is clearly feeling at home on his new bike already. Pic: Fox Racing
Looking ahead to 2020 - which rounds are you looking forward to the most and why?
I'm always stoked to race on home soil so I'm pretty psyched on racing in Burke! I've spent next to no time in the Eastern U.S. and the riding is a lot different in comparison to what we have out West, but regardless, I’m always happy to race on the big stage here in the U.S. Whistler is always a rad race too! There’s pretty much a guarantee of all-time trails so I'm always stoked to go compete there. I’m also looking forward to going back to South America! I had a blast at those two rounds in 2018 and I've been excited to go back and race ever since I saw it on the schedule! Hopefully the rain holds off for us in Colombia. Seems like an unrealistic hope (laughs) but I'll be crossing my finger's nonetheless!
You can see if Cody’s meteorological prayers are answered at R1 of the 2020 Enduro World Series in Manizales, Colombia 28 & 29 March. He'll also be in action THIS WEEKEND at the first round of the North American Enduro Series at the DVO Mob n Mojave Enduro presented by GT Bicycles and ODI Grips (USA). You can follow the man himself on his Instagram account, right here.