Older, wiser and willing to be completely honest, Chad Reed on Saturday will begin his 12th season of racing in the United States and his third as a team owner.
One of the many riders making a comeback from injury, he took nearly six months off the bike after February surgery on his left ACL. Reed's doctor advised a longer than normal recovery period, so he worked on building his team, missed out on signing Dean Wilson, had another child and ate some chocolate ice cream.
After that he went to work on the all-new 2013 Honda, missed out on signing Dean Wilson again, raced in Australia and overcame some mental struggles in his preparation for the 2013 Monster Energy Supercross Championship.
Reed gave the following interview via phone on New Year's Day just before he started a day of riding.
XGames.com: What have been the benefits of being away all this time? You took a long time off. Reed: The benefits would be that I concentrated 100 percent on the race team. I worked really hard with the team and we got some really good, solid sponsors that I think are excited to be a part of TwoTwo Motorsports and what we stand for.
And then, of course, I can't leave out the non-professional side of my life. I welcomed my second kid, and first daughter, into the world this year and I was able to be there and not worry about going racing or anything like that. There is a lot of good that comes from being away from racing.
What exactly did you beef up on the team? What was one area that needed help that you were glad to have time to do?
I think our budget is bigger, which helps us be a little more secure and helps us do things a little better in areas where we want to be a little stronger. I feel like, right now for a single-rider team we're a little overstaffed but the goal is to have two successful guys who can challenge for race wins and for titles. We fell short of the goal this year, which was to have two guys. I don't want to play the blame game, but I'm definitely not going to take the fall for not living up to that. We were equipped to do it. We had the budget to do it but unfortunately some things didn't align.
You would have liked to have had Dean Wilson, right?
We would have loved to have had Dean. I think Dean makes a lot of sense. He's young, has a lot of talent, got a bright future ahead of him, a great set of parents. I like everything that Dean stands for. Negotiating with Dean in June and July was probably out of our budget. Then with Jeff Ward Racing going away and him losing his job that really opened up a great situation for us to take advantage of and we unfortunately couldn't.
Is the easiest answer that the right equipment wasn't available?
Yeah, the equipment wasn't available to us like we would have liked or hoped. I guess times are tough and sometimes what you're promised in a contract never comes to fruition.
You live and learn and we're learning each and every year. I would say things happen for a reason and maybe we weren't quite ready. Maybe it's best we have a multi-rider team after my years of racing.
The injury that you had back in February, was it mentally difficult to recover from?
I would say no but, for some reason, when I did come back, for a long time I didn't feel [like] myself. I didn't feel like I had what I would call the natural raw speed of being able to twist the throttle. I could jump on and do all the things that the average person would be comfortable with but, as you saw at the Monster Energy Cup, my pace wasn't terrible but it was off a little bit and I was kind of fighting that for a good couple of months. Then finally I did three races in Australia and the last week we were there something just clicked and that's kind of what made me think that it was a little more difficult to come back from than what I'd imagined.
Like, I wasn't feeling good on the bike and, at some point, I was like, "Wow, is this new bike not the best bike for me? Am I not riding it to its full potential and we just don't jell well?" I kind of went through a patch there where I was a little nervous. But we didn't change the bike at all and suddenly I just woke up one morning and I went a second and a half faster at my practice track. From then on I've been feeling a lot better on the bike. It's weird how mental racing is.
What's been the biggest difference with the new Honda?
Apart from saying it's a complete new bike, I would say you have to start at the chassis. The chassis balance is completely different. In no way does the chassis compare to a '12 in weight distribution and where it is and how it's displaced throughout the bike.
I think it's a positive change for Honda, the direction that they went with the new bike. From a racing point of view it's better for us. We're all really happy and liking it and I think it's a good bike. A lot of the issues I had at the beginning, my questions about it, really boiled down to just me and not being at my best. I'm glad I didn't get to have a bunch of parts to try to fix something that wasn't broken.
Being a team owner is hard but what opportunities has it given you that you otherwise wouldn't have had?
As hard as it is and at times when I bash my head against the wall and think that I'm just way too passionate for what the industry is, the good and the bad that comes with being a team owner, you unfortunately get to work with the top level and sometimes the top level is not as top level as what you would hope it to be. The people that are in charge, whether it be from a promoting side or a manufacturer side, they're just not as passionate, they're just not as understanding and they're not taking the sport in a direction that you feel is the best.
That's just being critical 100 percent because I'm so passionate about something. It's been my life from as early as 3½ years old and to now be a team owner and investing millions with my operation year in and year out it's disappointing to see some of the things and how they do it.
But from a positive point of view it's great to work with a group of guys and hire people that you really trust and really want to work with. Guys like Mike Gosselaar, Lars Lindstrom, Dave Osterman, all my guys on my team, most of them I've worked with in the past and either won titles with or been successful. I love everything about owning a team, from the beginning to the end, from designing race wear to the look of the semi, to working with sponsors.
We're hopefully on the fast track to being the benchmark team within the industry. Hopefully I played a small part in luring guys like Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath to getting involved in race teams. I truly believe it's the future.
What's your indicator in preseason that you've done enough, that you've prepared as much as you can or need to?
Being 30 years old and going into my 12th season here in the U.S., it's one of those things that each and every year presents itself with its own challenges and hurdles and roadblocks. I feel like this year is like every other year and it's being consistent. There has been part of the offseason that has gone great and smooth and there have been other parts that have been a complete s--- fight and [running in] circles, and being mad and not understanding why we're not succeeding more than we should be.
I feel that we have done what we needed to do to prepare for the situation I was presented with. Yeah, heading into '13 I feel that we're good.
Can you still win?
Yeah, I can still win. I wouldn't do it if I, as much as I love it and as passionate as I am about it, it's about the challenge of waking up in the morning and feeling like I can be better and I can bring enough to the table to win. That's what keeps me motivated and that's where I find the sport being fun is knowing and thinking that I can still win.
I'll enter the season as one of the elder guys and I feel that's a positive thing. I welcome the new year. It's funny, you came here in the U.S. Guys like Mike LaRocco, Ezra Lusk, Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, all these guys, they were all big names that I looked up to. Now I see these kids who are coming in, they're very talented, got a lot of potential but they're just new kids. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don't.