Nathan Kanney was living the dream of every young and hungry off-roader: The kid from New York state had earned a factory ride, notched some big wins and was competing against some of the best riders in the world.
In his heart, Kanney knew that the big money was in supercross, but having grown up racing in the nasty, rock-strewn woods of New England, he just couldn’t peel himself away from his life-long goal: an off-road championship.
The former Team USA International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) World Trophy team racer knew the clock was ticking, and when the money he was earning began to thin out, he had to recalculate what he wanted out of his life. Sure, a factory big rig and fistful of KTM300-XC power will tide you over for a while, but your landlord doesn’t give two shits about who wins the last GNCC.
However, after eight years on the pro circuit one of the finest
Today, still smiling and fit as hell, Nate Kanney looks back on the single-track path to a happier life.
“Of the five GNCC wins I accumulated during my career, the one that stands out the most has to be my first win at Unadilla. I only won that round of the GNCCs once, although it seems like I should have more wins there,” Kanney recalls. (He finished a close second three other times.) “The year that I did win at Unadilla, the 13-time World Enduro Champion Juha Salminen was there so that gives it a bit more credibility. All of my family and friends came to watch me race at the ‘Dilla, and they all wanted to see me win. I truly don’t know how many of them thought that I could.
“To have my first GNCC win there--with them, on my home track--was unreal. At the
“Back in the early days at Unadilla, the dirt there was really good and loamy. It was a typical upstate New York wet weekend so the ground was really soft and the
“When the three-hour race boiled down to the last two laps, it was just Juha (the enduro god) and me (the American privateer) left up in front. Juha made a big mistake in a bad place and crashed. He landed face first in a huge puddle and got up soaking wet. At that
Red Bull Last Man Standing
“In 2006 after winning Unadilla [and before moving to Italy to race with Husqvarna for a year] I raced the first Last Man Standing hard enduro in Texas where I finished second behind David Knight. Red Bull had laid out some really tough stuff for us. All of the spectator points that were close to the pits were just that: a spectacle. At all of those
“In those spots there was no space, nowhere to get creative with your line choice. It all boiled down to technique and riding ability. Out there on those two 40-mile loops, if you couldn’t make it up a
“At that time I was a good enough rider to do everything on the course by myself whereas everybody behind me had already resorted to riding as a team or doing the chain gang and helping other riders out.”
No gold watch, just some muddy crutches
“At the beginning of the 2012 season, I knew there was a 90% chance it would be my last and I eventually decided to retire from racing. I could have probably still made a living as a pro, but the money I was earning was shrinking each year,” Kanney confides. “There seemed to be less and less interest from the manufacturers in the sport. They were all pulling back support--not putting it in.
“In retrospect, it was impossible for me to take the risk needed anymore. I couldn't ride with the heart and the speed I used
“I retired from racing motorcycles at 29 years old, and now I race bicycles. I compete in cross-country, road racing, cyclocross and also in enduros. I always mix it up--I do a little bit of everything. You know that saying, ‘When racing is in your blood’?
“People sometimes ask me how does bicycle racing
Pharrell says Nate is happy
“I’m about to turn 32 years old and I’m surprisingly happy, although happiness did not come so quickly when I was done racing. At first it was hard to accept and move on. In the
“After a while I started to look at the wins that I had and all of the experiences during my career. I think I made the right choice; I’m back up here in northern New York living on a mountain with some of the best training spots you could ask for
“Life is good.”