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TSM Rider Talk: Shane MacDonald

by Charles Owens on 08/13/2013

Shane Mac’s been around the New Zealand motocross and enduro scene for quite some time. A former national competitor, dirt bike mag editor and recent entrant in the international Red Bull City Scramble event, Shane’s seen a lot. TSM had a chat to Shane about what makes him tick and why, after all these years on a plethora of bikes, he still chooses the two-stroke engine.

Shane YZ

TSM:    What’s your name and where do you call home?

SM:      Shane Mac, and where I call home is among the finest, free-est riding country in the world.

TSM:    So how did you get into riding dirt bikes?

SM:      Two mates had bikes. One on a farm (Suzuki RV90) and one in the suburbs (TY80). I was 11 and hooked on sight. I learned to ride then resolved to beg my parents and hold my breath until they got me a dirt bike. In a good Scots family that means nothing, but eventually the accumulated wealth of a paper run and a near eternal debt to my mother got me a YZ80E.

The 80 was ridden without pause. It taught me a great deal about the value of tolerant neighbours, supportive parents and how to maintain a bike – owing to my father’s almost zero mechanical ability. This actually bordered on malevolent – from filling it up with unmixed gas to routing brake cables behind the number plates. He was banned shortly after. When I was about 13 years old the big end on my bike went. I had to teach myself how to split cases.

TSM:    You ride a two-stroke. Why is that?

SM:      They’re cheaper and more fun. I’m not so rabidly two-stroke as to hate four-strokes; long-distance touring is nicer, more economical and convenient on a thumper. I was a bike magazine editor and tester and have had plenty of opportunity to know this is true – I’ve ridden and raced everything.

However, now I’m out of that game the bike I’ve chosen to buy is a KTM 250EXC (with XC forks). So let’s go back to my opening statement – why would anyone want a bike that’s more expensive and less fun?

TSM:    What do you like most about two-stroke bikes?

SM:      First and foremost, for fun. I don’t ride for money. There’s joy and smile in the ring-ding. It wants to leap & bound and can be floated over obstacles, lifted out of bogs and it tugs on the leash. It’s engaging and it demands a little respect and technique.

Secondly, the start-up costs are low. Give or take the odd flattened pipe, it’ll stay that way for years. The conversation I had with the guy who bought my YZ250 (who’d just had his second CRF250 rebuild for $2k) went like this: “How much to rebuild it [YZ250]?” I told him “about five to six hundred dollars if you do it yourself”. “What, for the piston kit?” he asked. “No, for the whole thing” I told him. He then slapped the money in my hand that would’ve paid for 1.5 CRF rebuilds and threw the bike on his trailer (pictures below).

TSM:    You’ve ridden at a highly competitive level before. Can you tell us about a more memorable event?

SM:      Several spring to mind – the New Zealand National MX Champs in 1988; I got ninth in one race ahead of an international with his initials on his number plate. I also got top fives and 10s in the Hawkes Bay 6 Hours and Tarawera 100s events respectively.

TSM:    Where are some of your favorite places to go riding?

SM:      All of New Zealand. I see videos of rides and race events around the world and it often looks horrible and often takes hours to get there. We’ve got sand, desert, bush, open country and everything else within an hour or two from home.

I’ll try and race the national enduro series. Sometimes I’ll head to MX to get some bar-to-bar action and other days to for a convenient fang in the sandy forest. Or a grovel through the Coromandel or the high country around the Desert Road for some exploring. Of course some or all of this may not happen owing to having two young kids.

TSM:    What are your favorite dirt bike-related events of the year and why?

SM:      For watching on telly, the AMA Supercross and outdoors series. For watching live, the New Zealand National MX. For attending – the Hawkes Bay six-hour, the Bel-Ray cross-country races and various Woodhill Forest two-man events.

Shane RM

Shane blogs at

Shane in action on his RM250 – 0:38


Are you a two-stroke rider and have a story to tell? Be part of the TSM Rider Talk series – tweet at @PaulSavageNZ and tell him about it.

Developed and written by Paul Savage