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Privateer meets #VANLIFE
A season-long enduro world series racing out of your van
James Shirley is 29, hails from Fort William in the Scottish Highlands and is a socalled privateer, sponsored by BBB Cycling. Having grown up on his parents’ farm, he now lives out of his converted van for most of the year. He drives it to almost all stops of the Enduro World Series and acts as his own team manager, mechanic,chauffeur and cook. Quite a busy chap, isn’t he?
“Surprisingly enough, this life as a ‘pro athlete’ is pretty time-consuming. A lot of time goes into preparing my bikes, testing parts, repairing my van, writing e-mails,communicating with my sponsors, organising and participating in media activities, travelling, recovering, racing, training on the road bike, lifting heavy things in the gym and – most importantly of all – actually riding my mountain bikes!
The discipline that I compete in is called Enduro. I have done some cross country and downhill races in the past; Enduro is a nice mix of the two. Basically, Enduro is just an awesome day on a trail bike and I love it! It requires a broad mix of skills, so you’ll have to be a very good, all-round rider to become good at it.
Being a privateer means that I have to arrange my own sponsors. It gives me a lot of freedom to do what I want and that’s great because I like to be in control of the situation and make my own decisions. That’s why I’ve built relationships with individual companies. I enjoy working with the brands that sponsor me and I’m proud to be able to represent their products. So I find my situation as a privateer quite pleasant.
Every aspect that helps to reduce stress and gives you more time to rest, recover and concentrate on your next task is crucial for maximising your performance as an athlete. As a privateer, I’m more or less on my own. Without outside help, I have to be very wellprepared and organised in order to create the best possible environment for myself to perform.
But I don’t mind that at all, I’m very happy with what I do: racing against the best riders on the planet and at the same time travelling around the world. As long as I continue to develop, I’m satisfied. If I could raise enough money, I would finance my own support crew and try to create my own team with other riders.
The Helmet of James ShirleyA true mountain bike helmet
Living out of my van, “#vanlife”, is the only way that I can afford this. Almost everything that I own I have with me in my van, so I’m not bound to one specific place. I can travel from race to race without having to run back home. That saves a lot in travel costs and expensive accommodation fees. It’s a fairly simple life and it makes you realise how little you actually need. If I have to fly to another continent, I park the van, hop on the plane and I hope my van will still be there when I return!
I built the interior myself, it looks a bit pieced-together but it has a lot of character. At the time I made it with the resources that I had and I have to laugh every time I step inside. If I had to do it again, I would do a few small things differently and it would take me a lot less time, I’m sure of that!
On the inside, it’s basically just a campervan. Actually, the only thing that is bike-specific is the size of the garage. It offers space for six complete bikes, along with all of my tools and spare parts. I even have a city e-bike with a front basket, which is perfect for when you want to go to the race registration or pop to the shops. Sometimes I even use it to pick up the shuttle car that we’ve left on top of the mountain!
My goal for this year is to finish consistently in the top 40 of the EWS and thus prove myself at world level. And at home, I want to make the podium in the British and Scottish Series. I also want to continue working with the sponsors that I have, try to improve their products with my ideas and promote them in the media. And privately? I may want to create a more permanent place for myself when I’m at home in Scotland, but I haven’t decided yet what that’s going to be. Maybe a log cabin somewhere in the woods?”