Coming straight off clinching the 2009 Monster Energy Super X Championship at QSACT stadium in Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday, December 5, Chad Reed – after a quick hiatus in Florida – was back in California (albeit for a mere 48 hours) to put the finishing touches on the works Kawasaki KX450F he’ll line up with at the opening round of the 2010 Monster Energy Supercross Series at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, on January 9. Relaxed, confident and excited about the new season, the 2009 Supercross Vice-Champion had two hours of testing left before, once again, heading to the airport and flying back home to Florida. Taking a break while a platoon of mechanics and technicians worked their magic on his bike, we caught up with the racer many believe will challenge reigning champion James Stewart for the most coveted motocross championship in the world.
Racer X: Chad, the last time I saw you, you were walking out of the pits at the U.S. Open with your gear bag and headed to the Las Vegas airport to fly straight to Australia. It’s been quite the whirlwind for you the last few months, hasn’t it? Chad Reed: Yeah, this is the first time I’ve been back to California since the week before the U.S. Open. So other than my connection from Sydney to LAX and LAX into Tampa a week ago, this has been it for me in California. It’s been crazy and hectic. I don’t know... What do you do? I wouldn’t have life any other way. It’s been fun. I got to go home to Australia and see my parents and my in-laws and friends and family. Super X this year was really successful, so it was a good trip.
How long have you been back in the United States?
Just a week. I flew in last Wednesday and went to Florida for seven days, and now here we are back in California for my photo shoot and a little bit of testing. I’m trying a lot of the latest and greatest 2010 stuff that I hadn’t been able to do while I was in Australia. Things are good.
So, you did the photo shoot yesterday and will ride here today for the next few hours, and that’s it for California until Anaheim?
Yeah, this is it for me for California. This has probably been, by far, my most favorite off-season yet. This will be my third day in California, so any time that you can spend less time in California is always a good thing. It’s not because of the craziness of California, but the tracks here are never as exciting as the ones at home in Florida. So, basically, we’re here today before I go back to Florida kind of chasing a few little final things and to get comfortable.
Do you like the bike?
I love the bike. It’s been a pretty easy transition, to be honest with you. You know all the bikes these days are very similar in their own little way. Each one does something a little more special than the other. I definitely feel that the base we have with this bike and the window of opportunity with how the bike works is very broad. I think, overall, it’s a real positive change for me. I’m just excited to go racing with other people on equal equipment. While I’ve been in Australia, I think the riders have been riding really well, but on a level playing field I’ve had a lot better equipment than what they’ve had and I felt that I was riding a little better than everyone else down there. I think Anaheim I will kind of tell the story of where we’re at.
You’ve been racing around the year and around the world relentlessly, haven’t you?
Last year, I had the summer off...
But then you did Supercross, the Nationals, Australasian Supercross, and now Supercross again. You’re not burned out?
No, I feel good. The reality is that I have a window where I want to walk away from all this and that window is fast approaching. I want to do it all; I want to give it everything I’ve got and walk away a happy man and feel fulfilled. The sport is getting to a point to where it’s just really fun. I feel like I’m at an age where you take it all in and enjoy it. You’ve kind of been through your up-and-down years and made your mistakes and now it’s just trying to have fun and enjoy it while you can.
Did winning the National Championship over the summer and then having this Monster Kawasaki deal come together help provide further motivation?
Honestly, even though I lost the supercross title, I felt good about it. There were certain things during the year that I felt were really good, but behind closed doors we knew why we lost the championship and how we lost the championship. They’re all things you try to bounce back from and try not to make those same mistakes twice. To win the outdoors with a similar situation was important. We were in it for the long haul and at a point it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen because I wasn’t at 100 percent, but we stuck to it and things came around for us and it was good for us as a team and for all the people around me. I think a lot of the fans really respected me racing the outdoors and maybe look at me a little differently now. It’s always a good thing to have their blessing a little bit.
Do you think racing in Australia the last few months will make you sharper for the 2010 season? There’s nothing like racing to get yourself in shape, correct?
Yeah, I’ve done a few interviews and my same answer is always, ”I signed with a new team. I would have gone directly from the Motocross of Nations like I did and would have been out here in California just doing lap after lap and preparing for 2010.” With going to Australia, I got my time away. I didn’t have the commitment that I would have normally had. I got to enjoy some family time. That is important. Although I’ve been racing around the clock, it’s been with a lot less pressure. The emotional effort has been less. You know that, “I’ve got to win! I’ve got to win! I’ve got to win!”, that drains you. That’s what is tough. It always sucks to lose, but at the end of the day, Super X was succeeding and achieving goals. Me losing was actually better for the series than ever. At the end of the day, it was a real positive few months down there.
Anaheim is less than three weeks away. Are you excited? Are you feeling the buzz?
The buzz is always there. I’m sure that when we get there it’ll be buzzing like normal. It seems like I’m at a good point where I’m excited and quietly confident and looking forward to it. I guess we’ll see where we’re at in three weeks.
James Stewart... Do you have everything you need to beat him?
Yeah, I believe so. It takes winning races to win a title. I proved that last year. I was in it for the long haul and was in it every weekend, but I didn’t get the wins that I needed and James did. We’ll see what we can do. It’s the same. It’s the same year from year. He’s an extremely talented kid and a great rider. None of that is going to change. You can only control what you have control of. I need to step it up and put myself in a better position to win more races this year.
Do you foresee your new teammate Ryan Villopoto and yourself working together as a team to go after Stewart?
I think it’ll be fun. I think we can team up and maybe put a little squeeze on him and have some fun. No, just joking... I think at the end of the day Ryan and I both want to win races and win the title. I think that we’ll elevate each other. I think we’re extremely motivated to take it to James. Whether I’ve got a green Monster Energy Kawasaki with 22s on it or another one, I think that same goal and that same attitude is always present. Having the two of us at the same test track and on equal equipment and equal ability to go fast allows our bike to get developed a lot faster than normal. Things kind of happen a little quicker. I think we’re going to be fine. I think we’re going to be great and I think we can take it to him.
You came within four points of winning the 2009 Supercross Championship. Does coming that tantalizingly close inspire you even more?
Yeah, it always sucks to lose it by only a handful of points. To come so close and to know the reasons why you lost and all that… It all adds up. It was definitely disappointing to walk away not being the champ. But you live and learn and you try to not to make the same mistakes twice. Like I said, I’ve had a great off-season, I’ve done a lot of racing, I feel comfortable on the bike and now it’s just time to put it all into a new season.
How much longer are you going to go in the sport?
This is a two-year deal and we’ll kind of reevaluate when we get to the end of that. For some reason, when I was a kid I always said, “When I’m 30, I’m done!” I’m 27 and 30 is not far away. But I feel better and stronger at 27 then I’ve ever felt. I wouldn’t change that for the life of me. I think from 20 to 25 were some of my worst years. I didn’t really feel that great. I’m looking forward to the New Year. I’ll be 28 next year and I’ll take it year by year.
Do you have all your Christmas presents bought?
No, I have not even purchased one thing.
Are you going to?
Yeah, I need to. Christmas is an important part of the year. Ellie and I both really, really love it. I’m like a big kid on Christmas day. I’m totally not a morning person, but for some reason every Christmas since I can ever remember, I’m up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning wanting to get up and tear some presents open.
What do you want for Christmas?
I have everything I want. I’ve been extremely lucky to have many things. At this point it’s just whatever Ellie gets me. Ellie knows me best so I’m sure she’ll find some pretty cool and unique things that’ll make it fun.
Okay, Chad. Have a good flight home and have a nice holiday...
Thanks, Eric. You too.