Face To Face: Chad Reed – Part I

Jean Turner | February 13, 2009

In a rather rare opportunity, we had a sit-down interview with Chad Reed and got a chance to go in depth with the defending AMA Supercross Champion and talk about his season thus far – and a few other hot topics such as current Supercross track design and what’s in store for him after his motocross career is over. The biggest shocker, however, was hearing that Reedy is considering making a return to the outdoor series this year. That’s right – number 22 might be lining up for the AMA Motocross Championship. “Reed” on to see what he had to say on the topic.Your season so far is probably not what you were looking for coming in, but still, it seems to be working out. You’re in the lead. Yeah, you can’t complain. We’re five races in and I have the points lead and I feel good. I feel strong; I feel healthy and I’m really happy on the bike and the team. The first three races were really, really good races for me. Houston and San Fran were a little difficult for me but history always says that I’ve always kind of struggled at Houston for some reason and San Fran is always mud or dry and we had a dry one and it was a tough race for me as well. It is what it is and you take the good with the bad and at the end of the day I’ve got a six point lead and that’s a good place to be.I haven’t gotten a win yet and I feel like the first two races I deserved to win. I felt like I rode really well but was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and didn’t get it done. James was able to capitalize and ride smart races and get the wins. These seconds are good, but they’re not going to get it done. I’m looking forward to taking that next step and trying to stand in the middle of the box.Are you going to be designing a track this year?No, not this year. It’s kind of like the retired guys are doing it, like RJ and RC, MC, Travis. So we got some really fun, interesting tracks coming up. I think my biggest weakness right now is really adapting to the tracks I don’t like, trying to find that enthusiasm that I have on a track that I enjoy, trying to find that out of a track that I really dislike and I’m having issues on. We’ll continue to work on that and we made some changes to the bike this week and I think I feel really, really good and comfortable and we’ll see how it is this weekend.What kind of tracks are your favorite? I love East Coast tracks; I really do. I’ve always enjoyed them and ridden them really well. That being said, last year in California I won every race. You know, you can’t complain. I’ve struggled on some. Most of it’s really been me just not figuring it out and not riding it as aggressive as I needed to. So yeah, take it race by race and if the series was to end now, I’d be the champ! I can’t complain.If they were to hand you a blank sheet of paper and tell you to design a track, what sort of things would you include? I love tracks that have more 180-degree turns and stay away from the 90-degree turns. I love long start straightaways. Really, just tracks that have cool, fun rhythms. A rhythm that you can do for 20 laps. I don’t mind when I do everything the last place guy can do but if it’s safe and fun, and also a little bit technical, you can take that tenth [of a second] here, that tenth [of a second] there, that’s what makes you better. So yeah, just long straightaways and 180-degree turns.I think the only way you can pass is put it up inside of people in the berms. I think we have too many tracks with 90-degree turns and the 450, we’re just inside-inside-inside and you can’t pass.There are more complaints these days about track design. What do you think needs to happen to improve Supercross racing?A lot of people put the blame on the four-stroke and say, ‘It’s the bike,’ and things like this, but my Suzuki 450 is exactly like my 250 two-stroke was in ’04. The way it turns, the way it handled, it does everything the same. Now that’s not an excuse. I think all the bikes turn very well. I think you can race them as hard, if not harder, than we ever could on the two-strokes.Times have changed and I just think that the designers are trying to get minute lap times out of a Supercross track and they put too much effort into that and we’re just zig-zagging around the stadium. I think it’s creating horrible racing tracks. I think [they should design] a track that you’re 45-50 seconds, add two, three, four or five laps to the main event. Then you can have a good, safe track that everybody can pass, and everybody can race on. Just add a few laps to it rather than trying to create times for the track. I just don’t think that’s the right key and the right answer to it.In your 125 days, do you remember people complaining this much about the tracks?Well… ’02 was my first year in the U.S. so ’02, ’03 and ’04, it really seemed like the tracks were really quite challenging, very interesting. But from ’05 onward, they’ve really been quite different and that’s where I’ve heard a lot of complaints coming from a lot of people. I think the transition started in ’05. I mean, they’re just trying to change it up and they’re trying to get creative and some of it works and some of it doesn’t. I think we’re getting to a point where they’re learning as much as we are and unfortunately on the bad weekends, that’s where we learn, in a racing situation.Speaking of unique track designs, Anaheim II was definitely different and a lot of people had strong opinions about it. What did you think?I liked certain parts of it. It was a difficult track to pass on and I crashed in the first turn and came back to second. So obviously there were places to pass. I like that it had long straightaways and some different obstacles than what we’ve been used to over the years and the first turn could have been a lot better. Just a few little things about that track could have been simplified and I think the racing could have been opened up a little bit.The trouble we run into is when these guys try to challenge us, but then by challenging us they put a lot of over-thought into it and get a little too ahead of themselves. And what works on paper doesn’t necessarily work in the racing track. You know… we’re all far from perfect and we all live and learn. I think that overall, I really enjoyed the Anaheim II track but yeah, there are a few things that I think could have made the racing a little better.What’s it been like running the number one plate this year?It’s been fun. Honestly, I don’t go look at my bike and see it any different. You know a lot of people say there is a lot of weight with the one. But I don’t feel that at all this year. I don’t feel the weight. [Before], I felt that I was the champ and I had 22 on my bike but I was #1. I won the championship before and I did feel a lot of pressure. But this year it feels different. Second time around I think I’ve kinda lived and learned.Honestly, I think it looks awesome. I think the red background looks great. I like the one and I want to keep it around so we have a lot of work to do.Ty Davis once said that having the number one plate is like having the monkey on your back and weird things seem to go wrong that wouldn’t happen if you weren’t wearing the target. Have you noticed anything like that?Yes and no. I’ve definitely found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time in the first turns. But I think that’s honestly just bad decisions on my part. So yes and no. I can see where that’s coming from. I’ve definitely had some freak things happen, but it’s racing. Things kinda happen. I’ve seen a lot of back-markers have some pretty freaky things go wrong, too.So is it correct that you are considering racing the AMA Motocross Championship?Yeah; “considering it” would be small, I guess. We’re [six] races into Supercross and eventually I need to give people answers on whether I’m going to go racing or not and it’s tough. I sit at home at night and talk to my wife Ellie. A part of me, I feel like this is all going to come to an end one day and when I wake up 20 years from now, will I be happy that I stepped away and that I really never gave it maybe everything that I have?This year I feel I have a great bike and a great team and I feel like I have a really good shot at going and feeling good on the bike and riding well. That interests me. The past two years away from it, I’ve missed it a little. We’ll see. I have great opportunities doing some rally cars with Toyota in Australia and V8 Supercars. And the way the economy is in the U.S., who knows?I have a one-year contract with Suzuki and I would really like to stay and continue that relationship, but budgets are tough right now. You gotta have a plan B and maybe this is my last year. Who knows?There are a lot of things you’ve hinted about doing after motocross, such as rally, or V8 Supercars. Are your plans for life after motocross still up in the air?It’s all there. It’s all there for me to really grab hold of and take in whatever direction I want to. I have some amazing people [in Australia] that are really, really supportive and really want to have me on their program. That’s an opportunity that not many people get and I respect that. I love motorcycles and nothing compares to that at this point. I still wake up in the morning and I still believe I can win; I still believe I can win championships.”I still wake up with the drive to work harder and train harder and to be the best. So it’s really hard to think about stepping away when I have that feeling. That’s really it. The day that I wake up and I don’t have that feeling, I’m out. I’m done.”I’ve never ever done this for a job. I’ve never ever done it for a paycheck. I’ve done it because I love doing it. It’s what I do; it’s what I enjoy. I’ve been doing it since I was three and the day I wake up and don’t think about it is the day you’ll see me pack my bags and head home.Have you ever considered something like Superbike or Moto GP? I would love to. I love Moto GP. It’s probably my most favorite thing to watch. I love Valentino Rossi. I think he’s the coolest dude in the world. I’ve had a few great opportunities to hang out with him. His whole team is Australian so I know them very well. They’re just a really good group of people. I enjoy the sport a lot. Casey Stoner – obviously being Australian – we grew up less than a mile away from each other. So we know each other quite well. It’s funny… it’s quite a small world out there.

Jean Turner | Contributor

A former staffer at Cycle News, Turner continues to contribute to the website and magazine as a columnist and someone we can count on to whip up a few thousand words on an off-road race when needed.