INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: RICKY CARMICHAEL
“The GOAT” has been busy since retiring from professional racing. His career speaks for itself, but what is equally impressive is how Ricky has remained entrenched in the sport in myriad ways. He’s co-owner of RCH Racing, and this summer became one of the few title-winning riders to become a title-winning race team owner. Carmichael is also a brand ambassador for Suzuki. For the past six years RC has been teaching and training moto pupils through his Ricky Carmichael University program. Imagine shooting hoops with Michael Jordan or having Wayne Gretzky teach you how to perfect a wrist shot. Ricky Carmichael provides the opportunity to ride at The Farm–his spread in southern Georgia–and learn how to be a better rider. Ricky is hands on. He suits up, demonstrates a technique, and then coaches individuals through a series of drills. Having gone through a RCU session at Lake Elsinore years ago and tagging along at last year’s Suzuki Camp Carmichael, I can attest to the fact that Ricky’s program is top notch.
Carmichael is putting more emphasis on his training camps these days, so I caught him on the phone to talk about it. Naturally, conversation turned towards RCH Racing winning the 2016 AMA 450 National title, what’s next for his team, and several other topics that should interest any Ricky Carmichael fan (who isn’t a fan of the GOAT?).
By John Basher
Ricky, please talk about the evolution of Suzuki Camp Carmichael, which will be held at The Farm in November.
Camp Carmichael is for Suzuki’s top contingency winners. It’s a promotion that Suzuki has put together, where the top-earning Suzuki contingency riders earn a trip to The Farm. We do a Ricky Carmichael University. What’s cool is that the goal of many Suzuki contingency program riders is to be at the top of their class so they can get a trip down here. That has been a really rewarding program, and it’s great hearing the feedback from it. There is a lot of history at my place. The Farm is where I did all of my training to win a lot of my championships, along with quite a few other riders. Guys like Ryan Dungey, Jeremy Martin, Ivan Tedesco and Ben Townley have all come through there. It’s cool that we’re able to give Suzuki amateur riders the experience of coming here, and at the same time I can teach them a little bit.
Can you outline your training camps and what they entail?
We want to keep expanding the number of our camps throughout the year. We hold prep camps. The next one coming up is for the Mini Olympics in October. It’s for the full week. Basically, we have a limited number of riders coming. We only allow so many riders, because otherwise it becomes too hard to manage. We open it up to the people that want to come and get a tune-up before Mini O’s. We do a lot of the things that we do at the RCU’s. It’s riding and coaching. We do one day off the bike, where we go cardio and strength training routines with Clint Friesen. There’s also discussion of dieting and nutrition. We’ll also have some free riding, as well, where the guys put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. There will be really advanced riders to Novices. It has been fun for me. We want to keep growing it.
Is your ultimate goal to bring students to The Farm? In the past you would travel all over the world and hold RCU events.
Yeah, it’s a little bit easier to get people to my place. I can control things better here at The Farm. If the weather isn’t good, I can make it to where we can still get the job done and make a good day out of it. We have all of our workout stuff there, too. Trek is a huge supporter of myself and the program, so we have bikes on tap. We can have our campers and riders come and do training. We have everything contained here, and it’s easier to maneuver around, as well.
You’re located in southern Georgia, and Tallahassee is less than an hour away. What’s nice about your spread of land is that people can stay on the property and camp.
Absolutely. It has worked out well. We’re getting to where we have RV hook-ups. We are also working on our gym. Trek has provided us some mountain bikes and road bikes. Clint does all the off-bike training, and I do it with him, because it’s fun for me to be involved. I let Clint do his thing, but I like to watch people learn. That’s fun for me.
You have worked with a lot of riders through the years. What is the common mistake that most riders make?
The biggest mistake is how riders make the same mistake over and over when we’re working on a technique [laughter]. Many will learn how to do something, but when we revisit a section I find that they still need to be reinforced on what to do. Some guys having a hard time doing the same thing over and over again. They basically make the same mistakes twice. It takes a little bit more reinforcement to break them of bad habits.
The beauty of attending one of your camps is that not only do riders get to work with you, but also with your mom, Jeannie.
My mom is not huge on technique. That’s what I’m there for. At the same time, she’s great at the other things that made me to where I am today. She’s great with timing and working with the riders. She works well with kids, but really all people in general. She has a way with them. My mom is a lot nicer to them than she was with me [laughter]. She’s easy on those guys, but I was her own, so I was treated differently. She could hold me accountable a lot more. People really like working with her. I try and get in there and explain the proper technique to people if that’s what’s slowing them down. Sometimes it’s not the technique.
What I especially like about your camps is how you have a question and answer session during the lunch break, and then again at the end of the day. What are the most common questions you get asked?
I would think the biggest questions I get asked are about who was my toughest competitor. People also like to ask what bike was my favorite, and what my favorite track is. That bundle of questions always come up.
Those are interesting questions to ask. Why don’t you answer them here? That way maybe people who will attend your camp won’t need to ask you those questions when they get there.
[Laughter] Well, I’ve raced some of the best racers in the world. Obviously Jeremy [McGrath] was the greatest Supercross rider in history. He was the winningest Supercross rider, and I don’t think anybody will ever beat that record. The way he approached races was very methodical. He didn’t have very many weak links. He was a really tough competitor; consistent and lacked weaknesses. Chad Reed was a lot like Jeremy, in that he was really solid. Chad never took too many chances, but he was incredibly consistent. You basically couldn’t afford to have any screw-ups. James [Stewart], on the other hand, was really explosive. He was faster than me 90 percent of the time, especially in Supercross. It was easier for me to match him outdoors. I feel like I was always waiting for him to have a race where he would give up ten or 20 points. All three riders were tough, but all in their own way.
What about your favorite tracks?
My favorite tracks would have to be Red Bud and Millville. Those two were really good.
What about your favorite bikes ever that you raced?
I’m going to sound politically correct here. My 1998 Pro Circuit Kawasaki KX125 was really good. My 2001 Kawasaki KX250 Supercross bike was good, and so was my 2002 Honda CR250. One of my best bikes was my 2004 Honda CRF450, and then I really liked my 2005 Suzuki RM250. Manufacturers I feel are like NFL teams. They ride this wave and they’re good for a few years, but then they fall off. Then they have a redesign and build back up. I was fortunate enough to ride that wave, and I purposely did it. When I had options to go places I did my homework. I would try to see where they were at in the production cycle of the generation of their motorcycle. I hit it really good, for the most part, to ride the bikes when they were at their peak. You get to a certain level and it becomes more methodical. You have to be smart, and not just fast.
You’ve been with Suzuki for a long time now. Where does winning the 2016 AMA 450 National Championship rank as co-owner of RCH Racing?
I am really excited about the whole RCH race team. I’m happy for the guys at the shop who work behind the scenes and don’t get a lot of credit. They put in countless hours, and just the whole scenario of how we started and where we’ve been. I’m thankful for Carey [Hart] for the opportunity to be co-owner. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of our great sponsors. I’m thankful for them. It’s an honor to win as a racer, and then now as a co-owner. There aren’t very many people that have been able to do that. I’ve always wanted to be one of the guys to do it. We had a great rider. Ken [Roczen] did a fantastic job in the outdoor series. It’s definitely something I’m very proud of. Although I am ecstatic of the championship, I still want the crown jewel as co-owner, and that’s the Supercross title. It will take some time to get there, but I believe if we keep doing the right things like we’ve always done, like we did with Ken, eventually one day we’ll get the crown jewel.
You’re happy to still be a co-owner and be involved in the business side, despite all of the ups and downs?
It’s fun. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do, and with our new position. It’s a testament to our hard work and to the team that we’ve constructed. I feel that with the support from Suzuki we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. We want to be a championship-contending team each year, which is nice. That’s what we want to do. It’s frustrating at times behind on that side of the handlebars, rather than behind the handlebars [laughter]. It’s easier being the guy riding the motorcycles, because at a certain point you relinquish all responsibility once the rider cranks the motorcycle up and starts racing. That’s the tough part of the job. There were some instances where I would have done things different, but that’s part of it. It’s a learning process for me.
Please talk about the Soaring Eagle Edge of Summer motocross race.
It’s a great event. A lot of hard work went into that event. Thanks to Soaring Eagle for letting us be able to do that. It’s a fun event, and it has turned into an event of its own. There was a lot of heat there in the Pro class. With $10,000 paid to the winner, it goes a long way for a lot of people. It’s cool to see the event growing.
You and Ivan Tedesco battled it out for the Vet Pro win, with Tedesco edging you out. I bet there was some good ribbing going on back and forth between you two.
[Laughter] Oh, yeah! It was fun riding together with a great friend of mine and probably the best teammate I’ve ever had. The reason I called Ivan a cheater is because he was on Roczen’s race bike and I was on a stocker. I’ll take the blame for the main event and getting second. It wasn’t one of my best performances. I made a little mistake off the start and allowed him to get away. I was really bummed, because if I couldn’t win then I was planning on putting him into the cheap seats. I never got close enough to do that. It was fun, though. In my mind it’s really not a fair comparison between me and Ivan, because he still does a lot of riding. He pretty much does all of our testing for the RCH Racing team. He rides quite a bit. It has to be about ten years down the road of him not riding competitively, and then we’ll be evenly matched.
One feather you can put in your cap is that you beat Ken Roczen at arm wrestling after he won the 450 National title at Budds Creek.
That’s right! I beat our rider at arm wresting. I’m glad I still have a little bit of strength. Or maybe I had a weight advantage, honestly [laughter].
Click here to read our visit to Ricky Carmichael’s GOAT Farm.
Visit www.rickycarmichaeluniversity.com to sign up for one of the upcoming Carmichael Camps. You won’t be disappointed.