We take an insider’s look with FOCUS Bike’s part time designer and full time shredder, Fabian Scholz. We discover the pain and sacrifice that it takes to compete at the top as well as the enjoyment in riding that is needed to win. Continue reading or head over to Issue #017 and check out the original article.

Fabian Scholtz and Markus Schulte-­Lünzum of FOCUS Bikes.
Fabian Scholz and Markus Schulte-­Lünzum of FOCUS Bikes.
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Work, training, passion and fun.

I can still remember the sincerity in Fabian’s voice as he said to me: “No, Robin, you’re not going to train for enduro, you’re going out riding.” With the fervor of a priest, he wanted to banish the word ‘training’ from my vocabulary, seeing it as a sure­fire way to spoil the fun.

That was three years ago, when Fabian and I were battling for the top step of the podium in the Specialized­-SRAM Enduro Series. But a few years on, times have changed for both of us. Fabian has spent the recent cold winters consistently riding the rollers, suffering at training camps, and working hard at the gym – while I’ve spent roughly the same amount of time in the office. For me, there are no traces of training anymore, just ‘riding’ and having fun. But what’s the deal with Fabian now, I wondered. It was high time to pay Stuttgart’s enduro maestro a visit.

Fabian at work at FOCUS Bike's development office in Stuttgart.
Fabian at work at FOCUS Bike’s development office in Stuttgart.

Work on the agenda.

Monday morning. After a lung­busting, risky enduro race in Riva, we had made our plans to meet at 10 AM at FOCUS Bikes’ development office in Stuttgart­ Süd. We’d be joined by Markus Schulte­-Lünzum, the reigning German XC champion, who happened to be in the city for a race in Heubach.

While Markus is a full­time pro, Fabian, a mechanical engineer by trade, works part­ time. After a very successful first year riding for the FOCUS Trail Team – seeing him secure the overall victory in the SSES 2014 and become German Champion in 2015 – he decided to halve his time spent working as a developer at FOCUS, asking himself: if not now, when?

Checking over the bikes before hitting the trails.
Checking over the bikes before hitting the trails.

So now I was sat in front of two of Germany’s most successful current mountain bikers. With one day ahead of me to probe them about their passion, the suffering it causes, and their enjoyment for riding, I wondered how long it would take until my incessant questioning would drive them outside to ride!

Where’s the fun in training?

Of course, training can be tough; you have bad days and sessions when you feel weak and exhausted afterwards, especially towards the end of the season. You put everything – emotionally and physically – into your racing because you want to be successful, but still have fun.

Hitting one of Stuttgart's pump tracks.
Hitting one of Stuttgart’s pump tracks.

Both Fabian and Markus have dedicated their whole lifestyles to the pursuit of performing well, looking at everything from training down to nutrition. Fabian follows a gluten­free diet, and neither of them eat dairy products. These guys have a concrete plan focused on making them better and faster – which is naturally crucial, as riders push each other to improve.

Of course, it’s normal for riders to experience phases when they underperform. As frustrating as this can be, it’s a time when Markus declares that possessing a passion for the sport is crucial. With twenty to twenty­five weekends a year spent racing, and five to six intense training sessions a week (sometimes feeling like a punch in the face), if the passion for riding isn’t there then you’re going to suffer. Only by really wanting it, will you get to where you want to be. Today, pure talent just isn’t enough.

Both follow a strict diet plan meaning that racing becomes a lifestyle.
Both follow a strict diet plan meaning that racing becomes a lifestyle.

Racing hurts, and you wouldn’t survive in the sport if you weren’t having fun. For Markus, ambition is at the core and he enjoys torturing himself in races, calling on all his reserves to show what he can do.

But those banter­filled days spent riding with mates are equally as important for Markus, who doesn’t always want to feel like he’s riding with a knife pressed against his throat. Even as a pro, he thinks it’s important not to ride to stats, to watts and heart rates, and thus he always focuses on enjoying what he does. At this point Fabian throws in that he feels the same on weekdays during easier weeks when he opts to listen to himself, choosing to simply ride in the sun – although he did use the word ‘training.’

There is more to riding than just focusing on racing.
There is more to riding than just focusing on racing.

Your decision and your reward

Life is filled with decisions. And if you love your life, your decisions should be your own. Fabian opens up on this: “The only good thing about the race in Riva was the podium. Everything else – the stages, organization and the weather – was just agony. I get that I can’t go to races purely to have fun now that I’m at this level. It’s a competitive sport, and it’s partly how I earn my living. Even when a good result crossing the finish line rewards your hard work, you still need to remember why you’re doing it. You need to think about the wider perspective, not forgetting your internal amateur and remembering why you love the sport.” Most enduro riders love their freedom and want to have fun on their bikes. To keep the sport fun, the vital ingredients for races are cool trails, less time ­intense schedules, flexibility on the transfers, and sensible amounts of climbing and descending.

It is just as important is to keep it nice and fun, especially during heavy periods of training and racing. During the season, this means coffee stops during Markus’s road bike training, and occasionally swapping intervals for just letting off steam, riding full gas on the trails.

Not training, riding!
Not training, riding!
Following your passion is worth it, even if it does require a lot of effort and sacrifice!
Following your passion is worth it, even if it does require a lot of effort and sacrifice!

And yes, we had a damn good day in Stuttgart, including a tasty lunch at the Bärenschlössle, enjoying the outdoors, drinking coffee, and treating ourselves to some cake. Not a bad start to the working week really, I have to say. So following your passion does make you happy then, and it doesn’t always necessarily have to involve suffering.

For more information on FOCUS Bikes head to focusbikes.com


Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Robin Schmitt and Sebastian Herrmann

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About the author

Robin Schmitt

Robin is one of the two founders of 41 Publishing, a visionary and go-getter. While he now enjoys every second on the bike – whenever his busy schedule allows – he used to race against the clock at enduro events and a few Downhill World Cups. Besides that, Robin practises kung fu and Zen meditation, plays the cello or with his dog (which actually belongs to his girlfriend), travels abroad and still reviews numerous bikes himself. Progressive ideas, new projects and major challenges – Robin loves exploring undiscovered potential and getting to the bottom of new trends.