For Michael Leib, the 2016 season was full of pain and frustration, as the Southern California native suffered an injury to his foot and leg at the 2015 Oakland Supercross. Leib then made a full recovery, but unfortunately re-injured the same foot just before the kickoff of the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross Series. This injury has been a blessing in disguise for Leib though, as he's been able to put all of his focus into his rapidly growing his gear brand Canvas MX. Along with Canvas, Leib has created another opportunity for himself and the industry by helping to bring Radikal Racing – an established gear brand in South America – to the US market. We checked in with Leib at last weekend's San Diego Supercross to see what he's been up to during his time away from racing, and this is what he had to say…
You've been a busy man even though you've had to take some time away from racing because of an injury. Talk about what you've been up to with Canvas MX and you're new venture.
Yeah, I had a bad crash in Oakland Supercross around the time that I was running the all white gear. About that time, I got a call from a company in Argentina called Radikal Racing, and they pitched me the idea of starting a separate gear company based off of the all white stuff I was wearing. It's been about 18 months since we started Canvas and we've made the transition into fully customizable riding kits. We are the only company doing custom, one-off racing gear! In the meantime, I've been working on getting Radikal to the US market, as well.
When you conjured up the idea for Canvas, you were thinking totally outside of the normal realm of riding gear. Even though your brand is completely different, have you seen any other gear brands attempting to do some of the same things that you've done with Canvas?
Yeah, I've seen a few companies trying to do something similar. I'm extremely blessed and fortunate to be a part of Radikal because they've been in the gear game for almost seven years now, so it's not like they're new to this stuff. They're extremely popular in South America and they have a good quality product to offer to the public. For me, this was a real turn-key deal. They've been gracious enough to follow me and the path that I've decided to take since my injury. This whole thing has been a blessing in disguise and it's kept me very busy and motivated. As much as it sucks to be away from racing, I couldn't think of a better thing to do with my downtime.
After linking up with Radikal, who like you said has been around for several years, were you able to pick up on anything that they were doing that you able to apply to Canvas?
Yeah, I really was. In South America, they're a little bit behind on what they're able to import into the country, and since we're at the forefront of the motocross market here in Southern California we were able to work on a few things that could use some improvement. We're constantly making changes and improvements, and we've done a lot of things in the short 16 months that we've been working together. We've been open to sales for 16 months, and right now is about the time when everything we will start to get going for us. It's a really nice company to work with because I can pitch them an idea of a product that I think is beneficial and necessary in the market and they'll be totally open-minded about it. We can literally create something and have it here stateside in 2-3 weeks ready to sell. It creates an interesting place for us in this particular market that allows us to fill a need on a very short time period.
As far as Canvas is concerned, you have a few top notch riders on your list of sponsored athletes. talk about that…
Yeah, we've been working with a lot of people like Travis Pastrana and the rest of the Nitro Circus crew. We've got a ton of FMX athletes on our roster now, which is funny because this company was derived from racing. I tried to brand myself by going after sponsorship internally in the industry, but it still ended up growing in FMX. It's been cool to learn more about that side of the industry, and our first project was even with Robbie Maddison and Pipe Dream. Now we have Pastrana in our gear, and when you sit back and think about the money that he's made from gear companies in the past it's crazy to see him in our gear now because he's branding himself. This whole thing has been great for me because I'm filling a void within myself by doing something important within the industry. My goal is still to change the way things are within this industry because we need outside money. We can turn our gear into something that looks like it's been produced by your sponsor. We need to take a page out of NASCAR's book because it should be about those that are paying the bills. Not some huge brand that takes no time to represent you. Let's face it, a lot of the companies within the industry aren't paying out as much as they should to their athletes, and there's a lot more money and a lot of opportunity to be had outside of motocross. It's up to us to keep this sport alive and to keep the evolution going in the right direction. I'm happy to be a part of this movement!
Let's talk about racing. You're not ready to step away from racing yet, are you?
No! I'm not done. This has been extremely hard for me because I had my entire foot fused. If you back up though, I broke my talus, navicular, tib and fib at Oakland SX in 2015. I then started riding in October with Blue Buffalo and Larry Brooks, but I re-broke my foot on January 3rd. I headed to the doctor and they chalked it up as scar-tissue. I thought to myself, "No pain, no gain," so I rode through the pain thinking I was doing the right thing by breaking up the scar-tissue. After A1, I was unable to ride during the week; all I could do was practice my starts. I never had one normal day of training or practice on the bike between A1 and Dallas. After Dallas though, I went back to the doctor to find the problem and that's when they finally found some fractures in my foot. I even had a feeling all along that it was broken and I knew it wasn't going to be an easy fix. Hearing that it was going to be an 8-12 month recovery was a tough pill to swallow; especially since I had already spent about a year off the bike. I think when I initially got hurt in 2015 I was just about to break through in an area that I had been struggling with for a long time. I've been patiently sitting on the sidelines waiting for my time to come because I'm not rushing into anything until my body is telling me that I'm 100% ready to go.
Do you have any idea when you'll be able to swing a leg over a bike again?
I've been told that there's a possibility that I'll be able to ride in February, but it doesn't matter to me. I'm going to listen to what the doctor is saying, but at the same time if I'm not ready by the time he releases me then I'm going to wait. If I can't race till 2018 then that's how it has to be; I'm fine with that. I'm currently lining things up for the 2018 racing season, and I'm planning on coming back even stronger than before the injury. I'm no stranger to this kind of adversity, and this is by far the longest amount time that I've ever spent away from racing, but I will be back!