He grew up on a ranch near Weiser, Idaho, and rode dirt bikes for fun. In the winter he would switch to snowmobiles because it was the only option.
But the heavier and wider sleds never felt quite as natural as the nimble motorcycles he loved.
“Every time I was on a snowmobile, I felt like I was on an ATV,” he said.
Fast forward to 2010. Shanahan was between careers and looking for something he could pour his passion into. He decided it was the right time to work on snow bikes. He joined and eventually purchased Frozen MOTO, a start-up company building kits that replace the rear wheel of a dirt bike with a track and front wheel with a ski.
“Now you have a dirt bike and a snow bike,” he said. “You have all of your seasons covered.”
Three years later, the Lewiston-based Frozen MOTO company is starting to gain traction. Sales are still modest, about 100 units this year, but international interest, led by recently inked deals with a Russian distributor, is starting to snowball. He is expecting to build at least 1,000 units for next year.
Japan has also shown interest in snow bikes and Shanahan said the company is making plans to keep up with overseas demand and also make a push to eventually have a presence in the U.S. market. To that end, he signed a deal with Australian dirt bike rider Jackson Strong, a two-time X Games gold medalist, to ride for Frozen MOTO.
“We are pushing at this point to get this to the X Games,” Shanahan said.
He is also working with McCall, Idaho-based 208 Productions and Rage Productions out of Bend, Ore., to make a movie featuring snow bikes.
After returning from a film session in Siberia his Russian partners made a visit to McCall in January to complete filming. The movie is expected to be released next fall, but will be preceded by “webisodes.”
The conversion kits cost $5,500 and can be ordered at www.frozenmoto.com. He said they will fit any brand of dirt bike and can be installed with relative ease.
“It changes out in about 30 minutes and the biggest thing is to bleed the brakes. A normal guy, it will probably take him an hour the first time.”
The adjustment for riders is even easier. Last winter, some Russian businessmen interested in selling the bikes visited Idaho to check out the machines. They had experience on road bikes, but not dirt bikes or snowmobiles. Shanahan said they jumped on the bikes and sped down a groomed snowmobile trail like veteran riders.
“It was amazing to see them step on the bikes and go – guys who aren’t snowmobilers or dirt bike guys, and they picked it right up.”
But they are more than trail bikes. They can be ridden cross country like a snowmobile and reach speeds of 75 mph. The rear shock and suspension system has a massive 21 inches of travel that allows for aggressive riding. To date, the record jump is 102 feet, he said.
Shanahan is banking that dirt bike junkies like him, who don’t want to put their machines away once the snow flies, will flock to the snow bikes and the freedom of winter riding.
“It’s an experiential thing when you get on one. Everything goes away.
It’s you and the bike and the outdoors.”