Last week, the JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki squad met Chad Reed at the test track for another long day of testing. A long day. Under normal circumstances—normal meaning, any rider not named Chad Reed—this probably wouldn’t have been necessary. Reed has been testing with the team since August, going through the entire fall of testing, and then through eight rounds of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. That’s plenty of time to figure out a motorcycle (and by the way this is JGR’s second year on the new RM-Z450, for what that’s worth). Yet, after all that, Chad still had to test until darkness ended the session on Tuesday.
“We changed the bike a lot this week, and I think it’s always nice that they have trust in me, and then to give them a result like this,” said Reed in the post-race press conference.
Anyone who has wrenched for Chad knows what it’s like to be bolting forks on and off the motorcycle throughout the race day. On all topics with Reed, though, you can only doubt his reasoning at your own peril. At some point, that crazy bastard will prove you wrong. He’s been counted out too many times before. From “Can he really be competitive with Ricky Carmichael or James Stewart?” to “Is he too old to be competitive?” and everything in between, including “Can he own his own team and be competitive?” At some point, he’s proven his stubbornness and belief to be justified. Or, at least, the stubbornness and belief powers the results that provided the justification. It’s the cycle of Chad Reed. He keeps believing and eventually that belief makes it come true.
So Saturday’s podium is just another in a long line of those. It makes it hard to categorize these results, because Chad Reed doing the abnormal is actually normal for him. He is defined by defying. This is what he always wants to do and always expects to do.
“The one thing that is probably really frustrating is that you’re wired one way and that never really changes. The last few years and even now, I’m already thinking of what we can do better, the areas where I feel that I struggle, and how can I implement that into bike settings and how I can be the best I can be. I’ve always been that way, I’m a thinker, and I love testing,” he says, before adding with a laugh and a pause for effect, “unfortunately.”
Yup, he’s going to need those forks off the bike for a setting change—again. Sorry not sorry.
That said, even Reed isn’t completely immune to his results the last few years. He is still working to get podiums, but knows they don’t come as often. A trip to the box is a special experience, so it becomes a balancing act of appreciating it, but not feeling like he’s accomplished something so big that he can rest on his laurels.
“It’s a relief, a massive relief, to be back on the podium,” he says. “But JB [Justin Brayton] has got the record that I really want [all-time oldest supercross race winner].”
There you go. More fuel. Age just makes the challenge bigger, the motivation higher. But, he also added, “I’m super proud to be here, these guys are the best supercross riders in the world and I’m proud to be here,” with a nod to Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb, who finished 1-2. A 22-year-old Chad Reed would not have thrown such love toward two other riders who beat him.
The fans cheered wildly when Chad made the podium. He gets that part and appreciates it, but he can’t make that his only motivation. His internal love of the game is what keeps this thing going. He fears the day that fire burns out. Heck, the very first reason someone usually chooses to retire—not wanting to do the work—is the main thing that Reed doesn’t want to stop doing.
“Everyone always asks me what keeps you coming back. For me it’s the everyday grind and the traveling,” said Reed, citing the thing most riders hate as his favorite part of the job. “I wish we were like MotoGP and I got to pack a passport every week and travel the world. I’ve been traveling the world since I was 11 years old and I love it. The thought of not doing it freaks me out. This is possibly my last year, but that scares me saying that, it really does. We’ll see. I’d like to come back one more year and get the chance to say goodbye and thank you, kind of like it was tonight.”