Between the Motos: Greg Schnell

May 20, 2010 2:48pm | by:

Greg Schnell is a multi-time supercross winner in the Lites class, and a contender outdoors, too. Today, he’s training riders (after all, Schnell is German for fast, essentially), and he also has an episode of MTV’s "Made" that’s coming out today. Check it out. We talked to him for this edition of "Between the Motos."

  • Greg Schnell in 2000, racing for Motoworld Yamaha.
Racer X: Last time I talked to you, you were headed to Texas to do some training stuff. I think you were already in Texas, actually. What’s been going on since then?
Greg Schnell: Well, I went out to Texas for about 5 months and I got a lot of riders out there and was working with them, and I just moved back to California about two weeks ago. I missed Cali a little bit. I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life, so I decided to come back and start working with some riders – some new riders and some of the older ones I had before I went to Texas. That’s what I’ve been doing since then.

It’s funny because I’ve got friends that moved to Texas and one friend’s telling me how you can get a huge house on tons of acres for the same price you can get a condo for in California, and I’m like, "Yeah, but you’ve got to live in Texas! You can’t pick up the land and bring it here!"
[Laughs] You know, I really enjoyed Texas. It was good to me and I met so many cool people out there that I’m still keeping in contact with and still planning on keeping in contact with. That’s definitely true with the land and everything, though. The cost of living out there is cheaper and the dirt out in Texas is so good... And there were actually quite a few riders out there that go pretty good. I wanted to come back to Cali just because it’s my home. My girlfriend lives here, and I wanted to come back because I just missed it.

I wasn’t trying to necessarily put down Texas. The point is that stuff is always cheap where less people want to live. It’s supply and demand at work. That’s why Manhattan costs so much, because there isn’t much land and a lot of people want to live there.
Yeah, exactly.

So what are you doing now that you’re back in California? Are you unemployed? Are you working for UPS? What’s the story?
I am unemployed right now at the moment. Right now, I’m just helping out riders. I’m trying to make kids go fast, and that’s the plan as of right now. I just built a website – - and I’m trying to acquire some riders who are looking for some coaching. I have a pretty big crew out in Arizona, in the Phoenix area and in Tucson, and I try to get out there once a month and help them, too. I have about eight riders or so that I have been helping out the last few months. MTV filmed "Made" there with me, and I met some cool people that I’m still working with.

Greg Schnell leads Davi Millsaps on his way to winning the Lites class in a two-night sweep at the 2004 U.S. Open.
Steve Cox Photo

You’re obviously a really good rider. Do you find that some of the younger guys don’t know who you are? Do they even really know the stuff you accomplished, the wins you had... Or are they just going on faith?
Well, it depends on the individual. If they’re die-hard moto fans and they’ve been in moto since they were little kids, some people still know who I am, but I’ll get some people who don’t know and don’t know any of my accomplishments. But when I get an inquiry about a coaching job – if they know me or not – I let them know about my background, so they feel more comfortable that they’re not hiring some guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Schnell after winning the U.S. Open in a
Why do you do it?
Well, I really enjoy it, and since I don’t race anymore, I really get a lot of satisfaction out of someone that wants to learn – someone who wants to learn how to ride better and get faster laptimes. I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping and seeing the progression of the riders that I help and that’s real exciting for me.

One thing I’ve learned since I – I would say "retired", except I didn’t make any money racing – so, since I quit, was that I never focused on the fundamentals. I never went out and did bunch of flat turns or whatever. I just didn’t. I would go do laps and that was basically all I did, and looking back I think I could have done so much more if I would have known what I was doing in regard to practicing and training. Is that what you were going for?
Well, when you and I were racing back in the day, there weren’t a lot of people like myself or some other coaches that were out there and available. It was very slim pickings. When I was first coming up, I didn’t have those guys either. I didn’t practice on my fundamentals. I wish I had someone helping me at the time. There were a few guys in the early stages of my career, like Larry Brooks – I mean, he was kinda like my mentor. He was my first team manager and he helped me out so much, just with riding in general. We would go out to the test track and he would show me. He was the first guy to show me stuff that I needed to know to go to the next level. I had some help from Marty Smith a little bit, too. But nowadays there are so many people that coach, or try to do what I’m doing, that it’s a little easier for the kids coming up now.

For sure. So did you say earlier that you were involved in a taping of "Made" for MTV?
Yeah! I filmed in November and December. I shot an episode of MTV’s "Made" in Tucson, Arizona, and the show is coming out today at 5pm EST. I had a really good time filming that. It was a very good experience for me. I was very lucky and fortunate to get the gig, and there were only four other motocross episodes of the "Made" series, so I’m one of the very few people. I think they’ve had over 1000 shows. I met some cool people out there and it was a five-week process and the show should be pretty funny. It was definitely hard at times and frustrating. I’m excited to see it – I haven’t seen it yet and it should be pretty cool to see.

Schnell taking the win on night two in 2004.
Steve Cox Photo

So, how did you pull that gig off? Is it just because you have those cool arm tattoos like the flames on your arms? Like, if I got sleeves, would I be able to get on there, too?
[Laughs] Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but Tyler Evans is the one that hooked me up with it. He previously did a show, and MTV contacted him to see if he knew anyone that was qualified to do the "Made" episode, and I actually auditioned for it and I did a couple videos and sent them in. They actually did say that they liked the tattoos and they liked the look and they liked how I talked on camera, and that’s one of the reasons they picked me. They were also looking for someone that was qualified to coach the kid, and that’s how I got picked.

Yeah, you’ve won more races that Tyler Evans...
Yeah, I did. Tyler is a good guy and he was a very intense racer and he’s one of the guys that I still keep in contact with on a regular basis... So, thanks Tyler!

  • Schnell passing Heath Voss at the McGrath Invitational a few years ago.
Who were the other people who did "Made"? There was Tyler, Ryan Hughes and who else?
There was Kyle Williamson, out of Houston, and Ryan Hughes, Malcolm McCassy, and Tyler Evans.

We can all watch you today! Do you get mad at any point? Do you throw anything or curse at the kid?
There definitely is cursing... [Laughs] There are a few things on the show where it gets a little bit intense and it’s one of those things where a kid, his name is Cameron, wanted to be made into a motocross kid, but he didn’t know what he had to do to get to that level where he said he wanted to be, so there’s definitely some points in there where we’re training and all mic’d up and we’re on a mountain bike ride and he’s definitely cursing in the microphone.

It’s like you have this vision in your head of, "I want to be a motocrosser," so all you think about is the chicks and the big lights, and if you’re a kid, you don’t really understand maybe what it actually means to be a motocross racer; it means training, and it means crashing. It means hurting yourself and getting back up and brushing yourself off and getting back on the bike again. It’s not for everyone.
No, definitely not. Motocross is very gnarly – very dangerous – and Cameron, he was one of the kids that thought... The first day that I met him, I heard through the grapevine that he thought all you had to do was hop on the bike and twist the throttle and he was going to go fast. You didn’t have to be in shape or anything. He was one of the kids that thought that.

Yeah, he sounds like every sportswriter at ESPN Magazine or Sports Illustrated...
[Laughs] Exactly. So, I definitely changed his way of thinking about being fit and that it’s not easy to ride a motorcycle. I told him that in the beginning, and for a while he still thought that it was going to be easy. When people watch the episode, they’re going see that.

Schnell grabs one of the holeshots that year at the U.S. Open.
Steve Cox Photo

So, would you say that you were successful? Or do you not want to give that away until people watch the episode?
No, I definitely thought the whole thing was successful. Like I said, it was intense at times, and I got Cameron riding fairly well and it wasn’t only about the riding either. It was kind of like a life-changing event for Cameron. He’s only 15, so there are a lot of different aspects of the show that teach him good life lessons, and you just have to wait to watch the show to see it.

Not to change the subject, but despite all the bones I broke and all I went through as a racer, I think that racing really does parallel life. You can take lessons from just about anything in motocross and apply it to everyday life – apply it to your job, apply it to your relationships... That’s what’s so great about motocross to me. It’s not just getting on a bike and riding around, it’s all the things you learn while you’re doing it.
Absolutely right. I 100-percent agree with that. Motocross is definitely one of the sports where you need to dedicate a lot of effort into it and it goes along with life as well. If you don’t put a lot of effort into life in general, you’re not really going to go anywhere. There are definitely some life lessons Cameron learned during the show – schoolwise, lifewise; everything in general.

  • Schnell at the Atlanta Supercross.
Do you have anything else going on, Mr. Busy?
I also have a summer camp!

What’s that?
Obviously, everyone has been to summer camp when they were kids, so I was thinking about trying to do something a little bit different with some of my riders that I coach and help out. I came up with something similar to when you’re kids and you go on two-week summer camp to the mountains or wherever, but what I’m doing is flying to Texas and picking up a motorhome and picking up 5 kids to take from Dallas to California. To all of the riders that live outside the state of California, this is the mecca of motocross. They all want to come to California to go ride, so what I did was made some phone calls and offered a two-week summer camp for five riders. We’re going to drive across the country to California and go to a lot of the local tracks – Perris, Pala, Starwest, Comp Edge, Milestone – and on our off days, we’re going to go to the beach and just make it fun for the kids so they enjoy themselves outside of MX. It should be a good life experience for these kids.

And they’ll get to go to a beach that doesn’t have oil washing up on it! Awesome!
[Laughs] That’s true! And I should mention that one of the sponsors that I have – Pant Saggin’ Dezign – those guys are going to sponsor one of the riders on the trip with a free helmet paint-job, and they’re kicking down some cash to help sponsor one of the riders. So I want to thank those guys for stepping in and helping one of the riders that wanted to come on the trip. And actually the Pant Saggin’ guys, Ryan and Curt, they actually sponsored me in my "Made" episode, so I wore their clothing throughout the whole thing. They’re good people. I’m lucky to be associated with them.

Do you know if MTV blurred it all out?
No, they didn’t. That was the agreement beforehand. I made sure I could wear the clothes I wanted in the episode, and they were okay with that. The Pant Saggin’ guys are out of New York, and they’re trying to do some big things. They’re really working their asses off to try and make it happen so I just want to give those guys a shout-out.

Okay, thanks, Schnell.
Thank you, Cox!