Mail: Should I step up to pro?

Hey Lee,

I really need your advice about whether or not to upgrade to pro: I don´t know if it´s better to race semi-pro at the three nationals I´ll be at this summer, or if I should just try to upgrade to pro. I am planning on racing the Maxxis cups, getting a UCI point, and then racing at the very least the Spain world cup, hopefully Ft. William and Willingen as well. The USA cycling licensing official told me that when a semi-pro buys an international license it says Elite on it for the class. This would mean game on for the Maxxis/WC stuff, so it seems to be that a semi-pro can race a WC.

Half of me says you´re only young once, might as well try to get as far as possible in a sport you´ve loved your whole life. Plus, I have had some bad luck finding sponsors (CalPoly wheelmen and Gamut so far…) and am thinking that maybe with a pro license it will be easier to get some better deals. What would you do? Get more experience in semi then move up? Grab the bull by the horns and start racing gnarly agro? Hmmm… (DH results in semi= 5th at Sea Otter, 3rd at Deer Valley, 12th at Snowmass) You know a lot more about the sport than I do, and especially about racing. So, is there an easy answer?

Thanks a lot man,


Hey Jeff.

The answer depends on what you want out of your racing. You seem to race because you love it — you’re super talented and fast as hell, but it doesn’t seem like you’re out there to kick asses out of some insatiable thirst for validation. Which is good.


– You’ll be young for a while still.
– Sponsorship deals aren’t all that great for pros, especially mid-packers. Going pro will essentially lower your profile.
– You’re entitled to winning in semi before you step up.
– If you can still achieve your WC goals as a semi, that’s very cool.
– For a character like you, the real sponsorship opportunities aren’t just in victories; they’re in being an ambassador and stoke-maker.
– It seems like you’re in this sport for the long haul. There’s no hurry to step up.

If you want my opinion: Don’t let yourself feel any pressure to step up. In the long run it’ll probably be better to race this year as a semi. Have fun, ride your best and gain more experience. If it feels right, you can step up next year.

— Lee

PS: I’ll never forget you pinning it in expert at the last Big Bear dual slalom. Attacking with no brakes (they didn’t work) through those flat turns — just amazing.

Ask Lee a question

9 replies
  1. jason smith says:

    I agree with lee that going pro will lower your profile. Sponsorship deals are hard to come by and even harder to maintain. Exposure{#of events}results,communication and followup of events are keys to gettin and keepin sponsor deals.Also most sponsor deals start out with a small discount and progress to better deals as the years of relationship tick by.Maintaining the relationship again is key!
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  2. Matt says:

    Hey Kendleweed…don’t forget your domination at collegiate nationals last year either….what was it, 4th in DH and elite 8 in DS? By the way, how is the Euro life?

  3. Biscuit says:

    “- For a character like you, the real sponsorship opportunities aren’t just in victories; they’re in being an ambassador and stoke-maker.”

    Stoke-maker is right. You’ve got to focus on your natural talents bikenweed.

  4. Some Pro Guy says:

    I don’t want to say yes or no to your question of upgrading or not, but I’ll let you know what happened to me.
    I raced Jr. X and was able to move up to Semi-Pro, so I decided to do it and was completely overwhelmed. I assume this will not happen to you as you have already practiced with pro’s but it just feels different and there is a bit more pressure. Racing Semi was cool, but getting my ass kicked was super rough. 38th, 56th, 70 something place… and never qualifying for slalom sucked. I almost quit racing because for me, having decent results was a confidence booster, and the terrible (compared to what I was looking for) results kicked the confidence to the floor. This is what I did not want to have happen in the pro class. I learded from that and upgraded to pro when I was ready, when I was getting podiums at all but one national, in both 4X and DH. It’s still tough, really tough to race pro, but the satisfaction is great when you do well.

  5. Jeff says:

    Thanks guys! Man, what a great resource we have here on As long as everything goes well with getting an international license, semi it´ll be. You can always upgrade during the season, and besides, it´s just bike riding. It doesn´t really matter as long as you´re satisfied with yourself, that´s the truly important part of it.
    Yes, I´m in Spain till June. The riding is lots of wide open stuff, with tons of rocks. There is the best BMX track I´ve ever layed eyes on within 1 km of the University. It´s always good to get a new perspective on life, and Europe is quite different, to say the least. Anyone wanna come out and visit, let me know! Thanks!

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Right on Jeff. Your attitude is perfect. You’ll have a great career of racing and fun. Emphasis on fun.

    ¡Vamos a montar las bicicletas!

  7. stacy kohut says:

    well,i am gonna buck the ‘stay in semi’ trend here……………

    dude, go pro.

    its the real deal, no more wondering, no more knowing there is a class higher, no more ” i wanna go pro”……………….sign your name on the dotted line and do it.

    the question is .do ya wanna be top five in the medium size pond, or do ya wanna get a result, any result, in the big pond with the sharks…………?

    as a 4 wheeler, i would sooner get dead last in pro, than race in the ‘4 wheeler class’ and win.

    just my 10 cents..

    stacy kohut

  8. stacy kohut says:

    oh one more thing, you will never be discouraged by mid pack to end pack finishes in the pro class if ya do what most pros do……………….race the course, not each other.

    in the end, its you , the bike, and the terrian…………your results are determined by your ability to be the most prepared you can be for your race run, regardless of which class your in.

    you need the ability to block all else out for your race run, and focus on your ability to ride the terrian.

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