Jeff Slavens is Bad to the Bone

Jeff Slavens is Bad to the Bone – the man raised over $45,000 for OHV advocacy in a single calendar year, proving that he is one the strongest supporters for OHV recreation in Colorado. Much of it was his own hard earned money through a matching donation program that he titled “Save Our Sport”. Love him or hate him, when Mr. Jeff Slavens speaks people listen, and in this instance he put his own money where his mouth is at. Unlike many of us, Jeff has not shied away from public opinion and regularly writes letters to his customers on how we can be better advocates to the sports we love. No punches are held and the truth is spoken. This tough love has been reposted on the COHVCO Facebook page and the response has been overwhelming. A Jeff Slavens letter reaches an audience 400% more then a typical COHVCO posting at just under 10,000. We sit down with Jeff to learn more about the man, his business and what motivates him.

Interview by Ben Janin

First and full most Jeff, I want to make sure to thank your for being such a strong supporter for the sports we love. Can you walk us through how you made the decision to do the matching “Save Our Sport” donation campaign?

Well thank you Ben, and I want to make sure to thank all the good people at the Colorado TPA, COHVCO and all the clubs through out the state that are working hard to keep our trails open. The “Save Our Sport” donation campaign all started when the three huggers attacked Captain Jacks over a lame fish reason. The fish that live in this creek by our trail network have been thriving with the coexistence of dirt bikers for over 50 years. This is in no small part because of the work we have done as a dirt bike community - putting in bridges, managing sedimentation and just overall maintenance. You know this is in my back yard, and unjustly they had the nerve to take away my riding.  

It takes money to fight this litigation, so I raised my hand and figured it might as well be me. So I reached out to my customers with a letter and told them that I would match what ever they brought in. Well together we rose over $45,000 for the Colorado TPA and COHVCO. It all went to litigation and not just to Captain Jacks but to places all over the state – in southern, western and northern Colorado for a number issues. And with it came great success, it looks like Captain Jacks will reopen as well as a number victories throughout the state – where our riding opportunities will remain open.

Jeff it seems that you have a great pulse on what is happening in the state of Colorado. How do you do all this as a business owner?

Well, I don’t want to do it, but it just has to be done and it’s about doing the right thing. These days it’s just not as simple as putting gas in the bike and going riding. We have to respond to litigation, put in the big dollars, and again I don’t want do it but takes a Don Riggle, the Colorado TPA and COHVCO to get it done.

My main motivation is that I love to ride and I don’t want someone to take that right away from me. I am not a big player and there are other businesses that could donate hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s just pathetic because there are very few businesses that are giving back the way that they can. It takes courage, but our sport should be more then job.

What has the feedback been like since making such a sizable donation and why would you say that your business is thriving?

Honestly, I get both positive and negative feedback. There are a lot of people and businesses that just don’t want to donate; unfortunately they don’t realize it takes money to keep our sport going. We need more ambassadors. I don’t make all my decisions on growing the business. I don’t donate to grow the business; I do it because it’s the right thing to do.

We are experiencing massive growth while everyone is flattening. It seems as the though the industry got into what I like to call the “Walmart Syndrome”. It used to irritate the hell out of me when I would go to a store. And as a result I have based my business model around how I would want to be served, and that’s with knowledge, honesty and integrity. It’s about doing the right thing.

Before Slavens Racing became what it is today, I knew you as thee suspension and engine guy in Colorado. How did your business evolve?

Well suspension and engines were hard on me physically. It started taking its toll on my neck and back, as well as other parts of my body. I had headaches, aches and pains. And on one of my many visits to the Doctors office, he told me that I “needed a different job”. That’s when the light bulb went off that I got to change my life.

So retirement is not attractive to me, I did it once before and I didn’t like it. Plus I don’t play golf. It’s not about the money or a million dollar house - It’s about riding 2-3 times a week, traveling and enjoying life.

I have got 45 years of experience in the industry, experience that the young bucks don’t have. So instead of working on bikes, I started informational videos with YouTube for my customers. Instead of doing work on my customers bikes, I now get to show them how to replace that $5 gasket so their bike doesn’t blow up or how to do a $20,000 bike build. They buy products from me and I show them how to put on.  On occasion they will even buy the $20,000 bike I just built.

What future plans do you have for your business? What products and services are you most excited about?

I am pretty excited about a number of products that are of high quality for a fair price. But if I had to pick, my favorite product is the Tubeless system by New Tech. It’s drastically improved the riding experience, just a huge evolution the industry.

Do you have any plans to tie in the business with future OHV advocacy efforts?  

I feel that my customers are ready for a new approach to raising money, and so I have some tentative plans. I would like to start doing some 1-2 day ride events as opposed to hitting up for money. I want to get people excited about a riding event, where we have fun. This fall I plan on doing an adventure dual sport ride. I am looking for ways that we can incorporate a fun challenging loop followed up with good food. I am big “Foody”, I need to eat well.

You have been in the industry for over 45 years in a number roles including line mechanic, race mechanic, dealership/owner operator and now Slaven’s Racing; can you share with us your fondest memories?

It’s the comradery. It’s the trail rides like we have been doing lately that we call the “Slavens Beat Downs”. It’s kind of crazy, but it seems like the older we get the harder the trails we like.   So as of lately we have been getting together on group rides and we are really challenging ourselves.

It’s the days like getting Randy Hawkins to haul out a broken down bike for 80 to 100 miles, on some of the toughest single track at the Colorado 600. Here is a guy that is easy to relate to and honest as the day is long. You know we have been teaming up since 1994 and one of our fondest memories might just be at 10,000+ feet up in the Colorado mountains in the pitch dark dragging out a broken down dirt bike.   It’s moments like this that I will always remember.  

Any closing remarks?

I want to say thank you to all those that are working to save our sports.