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Tuesday Conversation: Chad Reed

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Chad Reed is the biggest name not to have a ride for 2011. The former World Championship runner-up, Lites East SX champ, two-time 450cc SX champ, and 2009 AMA National MX champ finds himself sitting on the sidelines hoping for something to come his way within the next two weeks. Otherwise, he may be sitting out the SX season at minimum. But he’s motivated, he’s happy, and he was jet-lagged when we got him on the phone last night for this interview.

  • One of the major life achievements for Chad Reed this year was the birth of his son, Tate (here pictured with Reed's wife Ellie after Reed's Hangtown win).
Racer X: I’ve been following your Twitter, watching you fly back and forth and back and forth to Australia from here...
Chad Reed: Flown around the world a couple times!

What’s that like to have so much going on, with the series in Australia, the wife and kid down there, and then flying back and forth to California?
It sucks! [Laughs] It’s all right, I mean it’s one of those things you just get used to, you know?

For a long time, you pretty much stayed here and didn’t go home, didn’t you?
Yeah, at one point, I spent a lot of time here.

Well, what I wanted to interview you about is just the state of Chad Reed. What’s going on? Fill us in. You’re the biggest name not to have a ride so far for 2011. What’s happening with you here in this off-season?
Not much, I guess! [Laughs] I’ve just been trying to hang out and trying to take it day-by-day and let it happen, I guess. I put myself in this position and I just want to try to remember that what’s meant to be will be, and that’s the attitude I had when I decided to go this direction. I’ve had a few options, but nothing that’s really rang a bell like I wanted it to. Today, I did some riding at the Yamaha track. It was interesting to be back there after a few years away. It’s crazy how life works. You’re away for a while, and then all of a sudden you’re riding there, and after an hour or two, it feels like you’d never been anywhere else! [Laughs] It’s pretty crazy!

I assume you were riding the new Yamaha, and that bike couldn’t be more different than the one you rode before...
Oh, yeah, it sure has changed quite a lot since I last rode their bike. But I think it was good. It was different. A lot has changed on it, and it’s been two and a half years since I last rode one, so that amount of difference in and of itself is a big change. It was interesting to ride that bike and deal with the character that it has and all that – I was trying to learn that, and go through those motions a little bit.

You came all the way back out here for a reason. What’s that for?
Basically, I just wanted to do some testing with a couple of teams, see what fits for me, and that’s the goal – the goal is to, first and foremost, find a great bike that fits me and my style, and then work with a team that also fits my personality. I’m just trying not to make decisions based on fear. I have a great support crew behind me, and I’ve made it clear the feeling that I want to go racing, and like I said earlier, I brought this on myself and put myself in this position, and I’m totally okay with it. I’m prepared for the worst, which is to not go racing next year, and that’s not the goal. I feel like I’ve still got race wins and championships in me, but I’m fully aware of the whole global financial crisis that I keep hearing about. But I’ll be working away, trying to find what I’m after, and I’m staying committed to that and nothing else.


Chad Reed says he enjoyed working with Pro Circuit to set up his Honda for Newcastle.
Photo: Alex Gobert/Motoonline.co.au

What is it that you mean by saying that you brought it on yourself?
I mean, I brought this on myself because I had a two-year deal and opted out. I think what people need to understand is that 2010 has been a very, very challenging year on so many different levels. I’ve had highs, I’ve had lows, I’ve had career-worsts, and then I’ve had life achievements at an all-time high. It’s just so many different emotions, and it’s been one of those years. On a professional level, it’s been really horrible, but when you take everything into account about how it happened, where it started, and why I was in that position, I think it’s all fair. I’m not going to sit here and say the Kawi was bad or the team was bad; I think it was a great bike and a great team, but it just wasn’t for me. It didn’t fit me and my personality. It didn’t fit me and my riding style. When you look at the facts, facts don’t lie. I was supposed to have a signed contract in October, and I didn’t have one until late November. I was a little disappointed that it happened so late, so I missed out on a major part of the program working toward being happy. Racing in Australia last year was such a waste of time for me. That kind of sucks to say that, but you can’t spend two days on a motorcycle, and then have a team that doesn’t know me or understand me try and help with the biggest thing, which was that we were switching from Bridgestone to Dunlop tires. That’s a big change, and with a team that doesn’t know you very well, it’s tough to catch up when you miss out on three months of testing in order to fulfill a contract [in Australia] that I wished I didn’t have to stick to last year. I think if I’d have had three months of testing under my belt, this year could’ve been a whole lot different. I think when you put the facts out on the table, it’s only fair to say that it was just one of those years that we came in totally unprepared, and when you’re not prepared, shit happens, and it was definitely one of those years! I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then add the Epstein-Barr and all that kind of stuff, and it was a year that I learned a lot. I’d like to say that it’s a year that I’d like to forget, but I think, more than anything, I learned a lot about this year and a lot about what to do in the future. When you see red flags, you’ve got to listen to them and not just ignore them. It was just one of those years!

  • Reed has made no secret that he and the RM-Z450 he raced in 2009 got along very well. He was 2nd in the SX championship and 1st outdoors on it.
If this isn’t the end of your career, and if you do get to go race again, you’re going to be all the better for having a year like this because of all of the lessons you learned. Sometimes, it’s hard to learn when everything’s going your way, you know?
Yeah, like I said, I wouldn’t change this year for anything. It’s definitely been one of those years that I’ll look back on 20 years from now and still make life decisions and everyday decisions based off of what I learned in 2010. So, I think it’s one of those years that you just put into the back of your mind but don’t dwell on it. I truly and honestly believe that, if I can ride and have the feeling that I had in Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, I know I can come out here and do well and be competitive, and maybe surprise some people. It’ll be a fun season if I can get what I want, but I’m not holding my breath for it. I’m just trying to let it happen. If it happens... It needs to happen in the next two weeks, though, otherwise I think I’m over it. I don’t want to put myself in a position like what I was in last year, and maybe it’s a situation where I sit out supercross and try to put something together for the nationals. But we’ll just wait and see and I’ll keep an open mind to it, like I always do. I just want to stay positive and not make decisions based on fear. I think that’s what a lot of people do, and that’s when you get yourself in trouble.

It’s funny to hear Chad Reed say, "Maybe I’ll have to sit out supercross and focus on the nationals."!
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s something that I thought I’d never say! But racing dirt bikes is still something that burns really strong inside me. I’ve had quite a lot of time away from the racetrack, and winning in Newcastle was such a different feeling. It was a feeling that I’ve never, ever had before. There’s always pressure involved. It’s part of being who you are [who Chad Reed is], because people expect what they expect from you, and there are only two guys in the U.S. right now that I feel that can claim that. There are two other guys who are working on it, but there are only two solid guys who, every time we get out on the racetrack, we have a lot of pressure, and I think that’s for good reason. But normally when I show up for a first race, I’ve got a bunch of staff there, and a bunch of spare parts, and bikes, and just this big organization, and here I am at Newcastle showing up with a few bits and pieces in my suitcase and trying to find some people, and getting a friend to fly up and put a bike together, and then basically going racing. It was really quite a cool, fun achievement. A lot of work went into it, especially for just a one-off race, but my bike was unique, and I got a lot of press out of it in Australia. That one week leading up to it, I got more press than the whole series itself over the last two weekends. So I think we achieved some major goals in Australia for that one race, and that partnership with Vodafone was really, really cool, and it’s something that I’m really proud to have done – to have brought a unique sponsor into the sport. They saw a lot of value in the press we were able to get, and the excitement globally that it achieved was far bigger than I think we all expected.


Reed's Vodafone Honda was unique at his hometown race in Newcastle.
Photo: Alex Gobert/Motoonline.com.au

And you were obviously really fast. It sounded like you were heads above everyone. When you’re talking about showing up with a few bits and pieces, it sounds like that’s what it might have been like showing up to supercross races when you were 16...
Exactly, and I think a big part of it is that I’m in such a unique position – something that I’ve never been in – where I’m not acting on fear or trying to be forceful to make something happen. It has really allowed me to be very open-minded, ride a lot of different bikes, and just take it all in. I think that’s real important, and it’s been really refreshing to be truthful. My style fits a certain kind of bike, and it’s no secret that the Suzuki fit my style; it’s small, nimble, it turns... They’re all things that I want out of a motorcycle. Riding the Honda the last month and a half has really been enjoyable, and a lot of fun. And working with Mitch [Payton] and Bones [Bacon] at Pro Circuit has really been a blast, just to race and to work on such different levels than I ever have at a professional level. And it does bring me back to a lot of my Australian days of just doing a little bit of testing, and then going racing. Sometimes, having a truck or a manufacturer full of endless possibilities is as good as having no possibilities, really. You have to be smart, or you can get lost. Some of these teams are too smart for their own good, and they all get caught up in it and don’t really know a direction to take. So it’s been fun to see that side of the sport – to see it from a totally different angle – and see how positive Mitch and Bones are, and how fun they are to work with... It’s just been awesome!

  • Chad Reed's one professional high point was his win at the Hangtown outdoor opener.
So, it sounds like you’re having fun at least, so now it’s just a matter of getting a job!
Yeah, and I guess that’s the only frustration that I have, which is the fact that racing Newcastle was just so much fun, and I felt like the fire was burning stronger than ever, and it really made me realize that this is it. I mean, 2010, so many times I thought, "Man, I’m just not at my best. My body’s not letting me do what my mind wants it to do." So many things were off. It didn’t honestly come down to the bike and the team, I was just so far behind the eight ball... A lot of people think I bitched out of a contract and used the Epstein-Barr Virus as an excuse, and it’s just not true. That’s not the facts. That’s not true. The truth was that I was just off this year and I just really struggled, and I’m thankful that I had such a great team around me that supported my decision, I guess. And at the end of the day, I’m lucky that I’ve been fortunate enough through my career to be in a position that, in a worst-case scenario, I don’t need to go racing next year. I’ll be totally fine. I learned a lot over the years, and there are other opportunities for me. Financially, I’m okay, so obviously I’m very thankful that my career and my past years have put me in that position where I haven’t had to freak out and I have had the luxury of really putting myself in the position of going racing, and when I pulled off the track at Millville, I said to Ellie that priority number one was to get healthy and get back to 100 percent. Having people trying to dock your pay or to push you this way or that way wasn’t going to get it done, so I made a lot of very difficult decisions – decisions that aren’t advisable to make in this economy. I had a very, very good contract, and my agent, I think, [laughs] thought I was crazy when I told him, but I think you’ve got to make decisions that are best for you, and my priority was to be healthy. And I am. I flew into the States on Sunday, went and saw my doctor, and got some great, amazing results from that, and my tests were all very encouraging. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and making it happen. I’m confident that I’ll pull something off and I’ll be good to go by Anaheim.


Reed on his SX-championship-winning Yamaha in 2008.
Photo: Steve Cox

That’s our hope, too, because on paper, we’re looking at one of the most stacked fields in the history of the sport, and losing you from that field diminishes it quite a bit...
I learned a lot about myself at Newcastle. I don’t know if it was because I was in my hometown, but... I mean, to be honest, I’ve never slept in my own bed in my hometown and then went and raced at that level. Super X in Australia is bigger and better than it’s ever been, and we were in a full-sized football [soccer] stadium, so it was just a different level. But what went through my head, I was just thinking about how much riding I’d done, and how unprepared I was... But then I raced the next day, and I’m not wanting to sound cocky or anything, but I had complete control over the race. I never felt like I was ever going to be challenged. It all came very, very easily, and sometimes that scares me a little bit [laughs]... Sometimes, when it comes easy at your first race, there’s only one way to go... But I think I’ve been around long enough to understand why and how it all went down like that, and I learned something about myself that weekend, and I’m excited to take that into Anaheim. Like you said, this series is so stacked, and when you look at it like that, it’s like that, but I’ve been in many, many of these championships that have been as stacked – back in the days of the Vuillemins, Lusks, Ferrys... It’s the same old thing where there are a lot of people who can win, but there are a few people who will. We’ll see. I think it will be a new season, but I think it will be the same four guys winning. I’m enjoying being in this position, as stressful as it is not to know what’s going to happen. And that’s really the stressful part, just not knowing. Sometimes, I just wish they would cut through the BS and say "Let’s do it" or "Let’s not" and kind of make a decision on which direction to go from here. But there’s a goal, and there’s a feeling that I’m chasing, and I know where that is. I’m not going to put it out there or say it, but I think we can pull it off. I’ve got full confidence in WMG and my agent Steve Astephan and his people. I think we can make this thing work. Even on a level of not having any contracts, and getting free gear from a company like Fox has been really cool. They’ve been supportive in working on creative things. It’s been interesting and fun to see different angles of the sport that I’ve never seen before.

Thanks for calling, Chad.
No worries!

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