Three-time AMA Superbike and 2009 World Superbike champion Ben Spies announced in November that he was returning to racing, though not on pavement. Instead, the 33-year-old Texan said he planned to contest the nine-round AMA National Enduro Series.

While some might consider moving from pavement to off-road a somewhat strange decision, Spies explained that he grew up riding dirt bikes in east Texas and didn’t think the transition from asphalt to dirt would be terribly difficult.

Ben Spies was introduced to dirt bikes by his mother’s former boyfriend. “He owned an oil company,” Spies recalled, “so I wound up riding a lot of oil-top roads. I grew up flat-tracking, riding TT-style stuff at my house. I started roadracing when I was eight.”Shan Moore

Just as he was preparing to travel to the opening round, however, Spies crashed at his riding area and suffered a number of injuries, including several broken bones and a collapsed lung. Now nearly recovered, Spies is hoping to join this series later this summer.

Spies began roadracing at a track located a few miles from his home called Oak Hill Raceway. “It was 100 bucks to rent the track, so we were going out there once a week,” he said. “I was able to get a lot of time and start honing everything.”Shan Moore

As for his expectations, Spies said, “When I was in my prime, everything was good and we won a lot. I was quick, for sure—top five in the world for a few years. I’ve been riding dirt long enough to know there are some super-talented boys, but I love the enduro stuff.

“I’m still learning how to read trail—that’s my weakness. I’m working on that, but I can see now if they’re tighter turns, faster.”

“I went to Zinc Ranch last year—my first-ever national enduro. I was 28th overall. I had fun, but then you see what those Baylor boys and Thad Duvall do; it’s like, okay, those guys can ride. If I ever get a top 15, that would be a win for me.”

Off-road racing is “totally different” from roadracing, Spies says. “My technique is to brake as late as I can, stop, and fire out of the turn. So my weakness, and what I’m still learning, is not rushing—trying to be fluid and smooth and not over-braking.”Shan Moore
Spies believes 60 percent of riding is the same no matter the terrain, but there’s a huge learning curve off-road. “I had to learn to ride standing on the rear brake,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have a good group of buddies who have helped me speed up my learning curve.”Shan Moore
Asked about his post-injury intentions for the National Enduro series, Spies said, "I'm planning to race the AA class, but not until after the summer break—the last third of the season, two or three events. When I raced the Zinc Ranch enduro, I finished fourth in A-Open."Shan Moore
More than five years have passed since his career-ending injury, but Spies says his shoulder still bothers him. “It has gotten better in some ways and is still the same in others,” he said. “I can hold on to the bike and ride hard, but after three days, it hurts like hell.”Shan Moore