Seamus Powell is TRP’s two-time, and defending, US National Enduro Champion. He’s a five-time US National Champion, with four of his titles earned in elite category racing—two times Enduro and two times Super-D. His fifth title, which was actually his first, is a US National single-speed title.
Seamus started his career as a cross-country racer and made it to the World Cup circuit, but after beating that dream against the wall for many years, he realized that his 6’4”, 198-pound build was always better meant going down.
Ultimately, he faced cross-roads during the winter of 2013. Powell saw that cross-country was entering a dark patch and Super D was showing a glimmer of excitement and a look into the sport’s future.
That winter he only had enough sponsorship and money for one geared drivetrain, so he took a chance and invested in his new future—the sport’s new future—and he put gears on his new Super-D bike. Alongside that new ‘long-travel’ full suspension bike, a 120mm travel Giant Trance, he cobbled together a cross-country race bike from old parts. That bike ended up becoming a single-speed.
After spending the season racing open and pro cross-country races on the single-speed, Seamus went on to win his first US National Championship title in the single-speed category. The very next day, however, he took his first elite title in Super-D.
Since, Seamus Powell has been a force on the US National and Northeastern Enduro circuit.
Powell won three more US National Championships over the years, most recently in 2018, and he’s looking to defend that current US National Enduro title this month in Winter Park, Colorado.
This season, after spending the last six with factory support (Giant’s regional and factory teams and the KHS factory team), Powell is racing as a privateer. While going it alone is not the path Powell planned for 2019, it does allow him to build a custom program of his own, including the opportunity to pick all of the parts on his Canyon Strive enduro bike. Among those hand-picked parts, are TRP’s G-Spec DH brakes.
Since his new 170mm travel Canyon Strive 29er is the biggest bike he’s ever ridden and the fact that he cooked a brake at the EWS in Northstar last year, Seamus doesn’t want to take chances slowing his new beast down.
“This is the first time I’m riding a long-travel 29er,” said Powell. “I’m a big guy and this is a big bike; the biggest I’ve ever ridden for enduro racing.” Seamus paired his new G-Spec DH brakes, which are based on the stalwart and World Cup proven TRP Quadiem design, with 203mm rotors and metal pads front and rear.
“The bandwidth in this brake is phenomenal, they modulate really well; they feel amazing,” he said. “My braking is more controlled and dialed in with these brakes.”
We talked with Seamus Powell more about his riding, braking, creating good habits, and the defense of his US National Enduro title this month in Winter Park. Here’s Seamus in his own words.
You want to use your brakes as meaningfully as you can, and the least amount that you possibly can.
I try to maintain good form and practice good braking; I try to shift properly where I need to shift and pedal where I need to pedal. I do a lot of coasting. I pedal a lot less in my race runs now. Over the years, I’ve learned that you’re not gaining a lot when you’re sprinting a lot. You’re just making yourself tired, especially on the long tracks.
By pumping and maintaining flow you give yourself the time and ability to actually look ahead and that’s when I can think about braking properly. I think about braking when I’m not pedaling. If I’m sprinting, I’m thinking about sprinting to the next corner and the next corner after that. I’m not thinking about opening up corners, braking effectively and maintaining good posture.
People look at a piece of trail and they just ride it, but there’s a lot of different ways to ride it. The goal should always be to get outside of the main line to find a faster one.
If you can start thinking outside of the main line, you can use more of the trail and dive in on a corner’s apex to maintain more momentum and speed through the corner and out of it. Opening a corner is simply using more of the trail to allow better trajectories through corners at higher rates of speed. It’s easier to think about on a bermed trail, where it’s about entering high and exiting low.
The first step to good braking starts way before actually grabbing the lever.
If I know a corner is coming up because I’m riding with good posture—my head is up and I’m looking down the trail—I can see the corner coming up and I can be ready to start braking for it.
Your goal is to be at cornering speed before or exactly when you hit the corner; so you can’t hit it at your race pace or straight line speed and expect to be fast through it. I like to hit the corner at the speed I’m going to take it, instead of getting to the corner and having to shut it all the way down—at that point we all overcompensate.
You want to approach the corner at the speed you’re going to hit it, open it [the corner] up, re-evaluating your speed before you get to the apex. Once I get to the apex, I don’t want to be on the brakes at all. I want to be accelerating out of the corner.
So… it breaks down like this. [a mantra for us all]
Enter high. Evaluate your speed. Look for the apex, then through the corner. Before you hit the apex, evaluate your speed again and then exit low with no brakes.
Seamus’ list of common bad habits:
Pedaling into a corner.
Not keeping your head up.
Not paying attention to braking traction or where you can open a corner.
Not knowing where the traction limit is for your tires.
Following the main line.
Dragging your brakes.
All of these things go hand in hand with better braking, and you need to know where to pump and where to pedal, he said.
We’re three weeks out from the event, what are you doing to put the final touches on your training?
The most important thing has been to make sure I’m comfortable with all of my equipment. That comes from riding and tinkering. I’ve made sure that everything I have is going to stay together.
From a training standpoint, and because the race is at altitude, I’ve been working more on my endurance base. Still high-intensity training, but longer sustained efforts so I can adapt to the altitude a bit better. I’ve also lost a bit of weight between last year and this year; I’ve spent a little less time in the weight room. I feel like that might help me a bit at altitude, just being lighter.
As far as riding goes, I’m lucky that we’ve had some good venues to race at so far this year and I’ve tried to optimize my time there and done a lot of laps after the races. I’m also fortunate that I have a couple really great places to ride, literally, out my back door and on my work commute. The place out my back door is really, really loose when it’s dry, so I’ve been able to play around with that level of insecurity when things are moving underneath you.
The other area is fast and flowy with some jumps, both man-made and natural. It reminds me of the pitch at Winter Park, so I’ve been sessioning those flowy, pumpy trails hoping that it’ll help me in the bike park segments at Winter Park.
I’ve done the best I can to be as prepared as I possibly can be. I haven’t been sitting on my haunches waiting for National Championships to roll around. I feel prepared; but I’m also willing and prepared to hand it off too. I’ve done it [won Nationals] two times in a row, and to even do it one-time is cool. I won and I was able to defend it and that was a feat in itself.
I’m enjoying the process. I’m controlling all the controllables and I’m trained up. I’m going to head out there in a couple weeks and have some fun.
We’ll be rooting for you Seamus, good luck and have that fun.