It's Valentines Day so our intern Klinton Silvey calls up one of the many women behind the men in the sport
By Klinton Silvey
Most of us probably think that a factory bike is the ultimate key to making a good racer great. But maybe it’s more important to have a factory wife. On this Valentine’s Day, here at Pulpmx, we are man enough to acknowledge that the women-folk are a huge part of many elite racer’s programs.
No couple better exemplifies this fact than the Reeds. Klinton Silvey (who has yet to acquire a nickname in his life) had a nice long conversation with Ellie Reed where he learned a few interesting things about Chad’s beautiful eyes and what it is like to be a racer’s wife.
Klinton:Let’s start back at the beginning. How did you and Chad meet? Where you from the same town.
Ellie Reed: Chad moved to the town where I am from when he was starting high school. And for us, that’s seventh grade. So we were thirteen and started high school together. We had mutual friends so we hung out a little bit. He was often gone and didn’t hang out at the same parties or weekend activities because he was racing. He had broken his leg and we ended up hooking up (no, not that kind of “hooking up”) at a friend’s 16th birthday party. Normally he’d be gone at the races, but he was there since he was hurt. He had already quit school at the time.
So we sat there and talked about his broken leg…
So, you’re telling me he sucked you in with the cliché “chicks dig scars” kind of thing?
I know, right? Seriously. It actually is kind of a funnier story than that because we had a few drinks at our little parties and whatever else… And I wasn’t drunk, for sure. I mean, come on, we’re 16. But I had a little confidence in me for sure and I said, “When I’m ready to have kids, I’m going to come back and see you because I want my kids to have blue eyes like yours,” because if you ever get the chance to stare into Chad’s eyes, they’re really beautiful.
I’ll keep that in mind…
I know, right, because that’s what guys want to know. But he really does have beautiful blue eyes. And at the time I had no intention of hooking up with him, I was just all “(sigh) I just want my kids to have eyes like yours,” and later in the night we’re sharing our first kiss. And that was the extent of it. We’ve been together ever since.
Ellie's been the rock behind Chad for a long, long time. Photo by Lissimore
That might be the record for one of the greatest pickup lines I’ve ever heard. You guys were 16 then, wasn’t it a year or two later that he got a ride in Europe?
We got together in August when we were 16 and he turned pro that following January and raced a couple of years. He got his ride in Europe in 2001. In the year 2000 it was my final year of high school, so I was busy studying for final exams and he went to the Motocross des Nations and got recognized by the Kawasaki team and got a ride in Europe.
Even when I first met him, Chad always said that he was going to America someday. That’s all he ever said and that was the biggest priority. And I knew that. So it was always kind of, “you’re going to go to America, and I’m going to be a Kindergarten teacher or whatever,” sort of thing.
But we started spending more and more time together, and he asked me if I wanted to go to Europe with him. I’d been accepted to go to university. It was an extremely big deal with his family, which went on for many years. As an 18-year-old, it was a massive choice for him to take his girlfriend to Europe, especially with the opposite of a blessing from his parents.
So that was it. We packed a few suitcases and off we went with a dream and no clue, really. We were babies. I look back and I can’t believe we did that. It was wild.
I have heard that from Chad in interviews before, that you packed up at 18 and took off. But I really want to know what in the world were your parents thinking?
His parents hated the idea and did not want that to happen to the point where they were trying anything to have him go and not take me. At the time I was like, “Gosh, they hate me!” and it was a big deal, but we’re all fine now. But as a parent, I can see how they felt like, “here comes this chick coming in,” and how that would play out. But in our minds it was “dah dah dah, we’re in love and we’re going to go smash the world.” When you’re 18, you think you know everything. But Chad was very firm on it. He was taking me and that was it. He didn’t care if his parents were on board or not. As a young guy that was a huge deal.
I’m one of four kids, and we both come from very grounded, hard-working families. My mom’s a school teacher and my dad’s a coal-miner. He played a lot of sports and traveled playing rugby league. He lived in England for a year and traveled when he was young. He said I had the opportunity to do something fabulous and told me to go have fun and do it. He loved and respected Chad and what we were as a couple even though we were so young. My mom supported me even though she was devastated that one of her babies was leaving the nest.
I can’t imagine now that I’m a parent. But we had my parents’ full support and I deferred university for a year, so I had a backup plan. We had never lived together and we didn’t know if it was going to work out. Chad could have decided I was crazy and couldn’t handle it!
We got there and went to Italy for testing. We lived in basically the back of this truck for two weeks and I was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” It was so boring and lonely and we didn’t have cell phones and I didn’t know anybody. So, I immediately threw myself into learning the ropes. I needed to stay busy because if not, I would go crazy.
What did you keep from being so bored?
I went to the track with Chad. We did everything together; it was just us. I mean, we had coloring books! How cute is that? We cooked together, we went to the track. You name it, we did everything together. In one sense it was awesome for setting up the foundation for not only Chad’s racing, but for our relationship. We knew each other inside out and it was going to make us or break us. You’re going to love each other or hate each other.
I learned whatever I could, and I was highly involved with the team. I wore a team shirt and was in the mechanic’s area. When the pit board went out, I’d be hanging out over the rail with the mechanic. That’s what the wives and girlfriends did over there. They were very involved; they’re very involved. I learned a lot. It was motorcycles 101. I also learned Chad a lot better, which is important because sometimes you have to be the rider’s compass. It can’t be “Oh, you’re the greatest,” all the time. With quick success, you can get a lot of hangers-on, and that’s not always good. It’s a whirlwind.
Can you tell me about a specific time where you had tell Chad to snap out of it?
Yes. I was wondering how deep you wanted to go with this interview… But there are so many times… The first example when we were in Europe second round. He crashed his brains out so many times and he was such a mess. He would come back into our little motor home and he was crying like, “I can’t do it. I’m not good enough,” and blah blah blah. I told him, “No, we’re here and we’re going to do this. I don’t care who these people are.” I didn’t know anyone from Joe. I didn’t care who was out there. I told him he was going to go out there and race and win. I didn’t give him an option to sit there and have a pity party. I think the next weekend he showed up and got a third to get the ball rolling.
But there are so many examples. How many times have we finished second in a championship? That’s hard to get through. Sometimes you’re so close you can taste it. And he’s raced against the best racers.
That have ever lived.
I don’t want to say that.
Most people would agree that if you had to race Ricky Carmichael outdoors, you can say that.
You can imagine the amount of times we sat down and had talks after races against Ricky Carmichael. The point is, it is so easy to let the emotions of the racing take over. You have to say, “stop, take a step back and try again.” And I guess I’m that person for Chad. He’s human, he has those times where he just wants to quit and we have to talk it out.
I think that sometimes fans forget that racers are just people who happen to be really good at riding a dirt bike, and I think every man and woman go through the struggles of being unhappy with their job and want to change it all.
Chad has that reputation of being a very independent person in light of starting his own team, but I don’t think that’s the case. The model used to be — in the Emig/McGrath days — that once a girl came into the picture, you were on the way out. But if you look at almost all of the top racers, they are all in some sort of steady, committed relationship. As a man, you need somebody to encourage you no matter how tough you look on your good days.
Right. Absolutely. I agree with that 100%. It was different back in those days too. They all partied and had that show-up-and-race attitude. Chad always says that Ricky ruined it for the partiers with his work ethic. So every had to shift gears and knuckle down…We work so hard together. There are a lot of sacrifices, and it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but at the end of the day we’re happy with the choices we’ve made and where we are in our life so it’s been worth it.
I’m kind of an old-school hopeless romantic, and I always thought it was cool when Chad would mention you on the podium as being a big part of his program. Now you have two kids. What is your role like now as compared to five or six years ago?
It’s totally changed from building his goggles in Europe to now I’m changing diapers. We have a team that can do everything he needs done for him on race day…I can step back into a role of making sure that the kids are taken care of and he doesn’t have to worry that we’re all OK. I’m a strong woman, so when he’s gone on the weekends he knows that we’re all good.
So that’s my sacrifice. Like this past year, it was our eighth anniversary and I was on the couch tweeting because he had to make phone calls. My way of helping him now is being supportive of him in those times.
Are there any misconceptions that you think the general fan base might have about racers’ wives or girlfriends that frustrate you?
Yeah, I have several opinions. I think more than anything as a female in this male-dominated sport, people frowned upon having your wife in there like a “What the heck could she know?” kind of thing. It was hard getting respect from team managers or when Chad wanted to talk to me it was like, “Who cares what she thinks?” Sure, there are those girls around, and a few spoil it for the bunch. But for the most part I think the guys have really solid women behind them. It is so important that people see that it’s not just this glamorous life. A lot of the wives do look nice and they are dressed-up on the weekends, but don’t just assume that she’s stupid because she looks like a trophy wife.
I’m not saying people think that about me, but there are a lot of beautiful girls coming into the sport with these guys. Everybody needs to give them a little credit because, behind the scenes, being married to an athlete is tough. Athletes can be pretty selfish, and in one sense, they kind of have to be. I think people need to respect the women more for what they actually do for their husbands and the love that they actually do have for their husbands and not think that they are just there for money.
In our sport, these racers spend most of the money they make just to be there. Look at the Chisholms. Now they’re doing it on their own, and that’s not easy. That’s not easy as a wife for your husband to go out there and slog himself. You’re under such scrutiny and such dangerous conditions and they’re paying to be there. It’s really hard to support something like that. I’ve been in that position. When we first started the team, we didn’t make any money. We spent our money to be there. And to suffer criticisms… I mean, I understand that people might not be a Chad Reed fan, but at least support these guys and their families because they are making a sacrifice to be there. It’s only making the sport better to have this talent this diverse group of guys out there. So, why not show a little love? A little respect? And that goes for mechanic’s wives too. A lot of them don’t get to travel on the weekends.
So I think that the women — especially in our sport — need the most praise because they are the ones holding it together I think.