Interview: Jared Graves
bmxultra.com: How did you first get involved in BMX?
Jared: I first started when I was 5, dad thought it would be fun for me and my brother to do...so we got into it. I got out of it when I was 11, then took it up again at 23 for cross training for the MTB.
bmxultra.com: Exactly how does BMX work for MTB cross training?
Jared: It's just something different but still riding a bike, you have to be more precise on the BMX, where as you need a lot more aggression on the MTB, but if you can be aggressive and have precision it is a perfect mix.
bmxultra.com: What was your best result the first time around?
Jared: I got a bunch of national plates when I was a little fella, 4th was the best I ever did, I think that was when I was 7.
bmxultra.com: Who was your biggest competition back then?
Jared: Michael Robinson for sure, he was always the kid to beat.
bmxultra.com: What made you come back to the sport?
Jared: I just wanted something that could help me with my MTB racing. I had been just outside the top 10 at every DH world cup in 2004 and wanted something that would help me milk a little more speed out of the DH track, plus we were having some good races at home in Toowoomba, so I got into it.
bmxultra.com: Your specialty is 4X right? Is it just me or does it seem like the 4X scene is slowly dying? It just seems like Downhill is experiencing a real resurgence, but it's rare to see any local 4X events now.
Jared: Yeah 4X is definately struggling a bit in Australia, tracks require a lot of upkeep and there just isn't enough people that are into it to keep the tracks in top shape, but 4X in Europe is doing really well, world cups have been really good, numbers growing and all that, but UCI don't care about it. That being said 2011 will be my last year focussing on 4X, then I'm going to be focussing totally on DH again.
bmxultra.com: Kent Elliot told me you were riding the Toowoomba track so much you were wearing groves in the corners. Is that your training regime? Lots of riding.
Jared: Ahh definately not riding the track that much, but I do ride a lot, definately more bike related stuff rather than excessive time in the gym.
bmxultra.com: We saw you hit up Nerang, how does it feel to be back on the BMX bike again?
Jared: I had a ton of fun that weekend, prepraration was far from ideal with all the rain we have been getting in QLD, but I think that made it even more fun, no stress, just good racing, and that's how I want BMX to stay for me.
bmxultra.com: Has the competition in the Australian scene got any harder in the past 4 years?
Jared: I'd say yes and no, when I started getting more serious about racing in 2007 there was a ton of fast older guys, but when they didn't make the cut for Beijing they retired. Things leaned out a lot at the very top end of Australia BMX in 2008 and 2009, but a lot of younger guys have stepped up since. Of course there is Sam, Kirkham, Billy, all going fast, now Kama and Tiger are back, and there's always Luke and Khalen as well, so things are looking pretty strong. As far as juniors go, I Think Darryn Goodwin could get to the top of the sport if he would dedicate himself properly, and I've always been impressed with Bodi Turner as well.
bmxultra.com: I don't look at a lot of websites but I check out your site now and then, does it take up much of your time?
Jared: Haha, definately not! I'm pretty slack with updating my site, especially now with things like facebook and Twitter that are easier to update and get more people seeing what you are up to. I get slack with updates on my site, especially during race season, but I'll keep it going.
bmxultra.com: What websites do you check out?
Jared: For MTB, vitalmtb.com. dirtmag.co.uk, are probably the main 2, and rotorburn.com for all the stuff going on in Australia.
bmxultra.com: What about BMX sites?
Jared: BMX Mania for international results, BMX-Videos.com for overseas race videos, and some time reading the news at bmxultra.com for aussie news.
bmxultra.com: What do you look for in a website?
Jared: Just up to date info, I don't get on forums much. More to keep track on what other riders are up to. And general news of the bike industry.
bmxultra.com: Videos seem to be a big thing in the MTB scene, especially freeride and helmet cam stuff. Are there any Jared Graves videos that people can check out?
Jared: There are videos up from pretty much every MTB race I've been to for the past 5 season on the Yeti site....http://www.yeticycles.com/#/video
that's where you would find the most stuff I guess.
bmxultra.com: What music do you listen to?
Jared: A bit of Variety, but favourite bands would be Deftones, Rise Against, Silversun Pickups, Chevelle, to name the ones that I think of first.
bmxultra.com: Is there a particular song or band you listen to for motivation?
Jared: I have a playlist of about 200 songs for that, mostly angry, im gonna kill something type musi
bmxultra.com: What's the last album you bought?
Jared: wow its been a while with being able to download everything now, But the last Album I actually bought at a store was probably 'Swoon" by Silversun Pickups
bmxultra.com: What do you think of Neil Young?
Jared: Is he still alive? Has some catchy tunes.
bmxultra.com: What got you involved in MTB racing?
Jared: Growing up the main family sport we did along with BMX was water skiing, and that kind of took over more for a few years after I stopped BMX, my brother had a big crash water skiing, and tore up his groin pretty bad, and couldn't walk very well, and it was suggested to him that cycling would be good for rehab. So dad had a cheap MTB that he was riding a bit to keep fit (haha) and my Brother just took it over and started riding it in all the trails near home, and after a couple weeks of hearing all about how fun it was I decided to give it a try too, and got hooked. After riding for about a year, racing was just a natural progression.
bmxultra.com: MTB racing at an international level must be very demanding on you physically and mentally how do you keep on top of it?
Jared: For me it's all about routines, it's easy to keep everything organized and keep on top of your training when you have a routine. Yeti is totally on top of everything when it comes or organizing travel, they know when I like to get to races, what I need to do for training, and still having enough relaxation time, things get easier when you have been with the same team and working with the same people for 7 years. At the end of the day though, as long as I can get my training done, and can put my feet up when it's done and have a good meal, that's all I need, and they do all they can to make sure I get that. Not everything is perfect always, but you learn over the years to not sweat the small stuff, and don't worry about the things you can't control. A certain amount of not caring is needed sometimes.
bmxultra.com: Do you consider yourself a professional cyclist or a professional mountain biker?
Jared: Well I guess I'd consider myself a professional cyclist, but all my contracts are for MTB, so officially a professional MTB rider, but they are all super supportive of anything I do.
bmxultra.com: Is it hard to make a living out of MTB racing?
Jared: It depends, some guys who know how to please a sponsor are doing really well for themselves, other guys, not so much.
bmxultra.com: Obviously riders like yourself and Sam Hill have been doing well the past few years. I'm sure it was a lot of hard work to get to that level and get noticed in the first place. What do you do if you spot a great rider that doesn't have the same level of support?
Jared: yeah I definately did my apprenticeship of doing it tough for my first couple years racing overseas, lots of 2 minute noodles and sleeping on floors, that kind of deal, but it toughens you up and makes you appreciate what you have when you get noticed and get some good money coming in. It makes you want it even more! I've helped out a few riders over the years with different levels of help, some needed help more than others. Sam Willoughby was probably the main guy I wanted to help out though. I saw a 15 year old kid with more potential than I had ever seen, but he just didnt seem to have the same confidence in himself, which is something that I would like to think I helped him out with the most. I think though getting him lined up with a lot of good sponsors in his junior years helped his confidence grow.
bmxultra.com: Is your home base in Australia?
Yeah for sure, I still spend most of my year at home in Toowoomba, but I also have a place I stay in Colorado when im in the US, and some good friends that I have my own room setup in Austria for when im in Europe. All 3 places are setup with a Gym and gate in the Garage and either Jumps, DH tracks or a pump track in the yard, so they are all great places to be! The most important thing to me is that they all feel like home when I am there.
bmxultra.com: I have seen photos of some big jumps that I think were at your home, describe your set up for us.
Jared: I built them in December 2007, I just wanted some big jumps that were similar to SX track jumps, it was all about preparation for SX and the Olympics, after being away for 5 months straight during the 2009 MTB race season they got all overgrown and crumbled away a fair bit, so they have been out of action ever since then unfortunately. I also built a ramp that was the same as the first part of the SX ramp, so it's 8m long at 18 degrees, I couldn't build the whole ramp, but atleast I could practice the gate and first 4 cranks with that, I still use it at least twice a week.
bmxultra.com: Does all the travel get to you?
Jared: In a word...yes, haha. which is why I don't race many events in Australia. After spending 6 months of the year living out of a suitcase going race to race you just want to be at home as much as possible!
bmxultra.com: How do you find any time to spend on a BMX bike?
Jared: It's real tough, Since I got back from the ABA nationals I did in January last year I can coun't the number of times I've been on my BMX on my 2 hands, I want to ride it a ton more, just no time with all the MTB races going on. But I'm on it whenever I can.
bmxultra.com: Do you ever have any trouble switching from one bike to the other?
Jared: Yeah it's pretty tough for the first half hour, you feel like a complete rookie, but then you get the feel for it and it's ok, a few days is enough to feel pretty good on it, but I need at least a month to feel 100% comfortable.
bmxultra.com: I read an inside pros bikes article in a BMX Plus a while back and noticed that you didn't mention brands for parts you paid for what's that all about?
Jared: Why would I give a plug to a company who makes a part that I had to pay full price for? There's no such thing as a free lunch. It's something I feel very strongly about if the sport is going to get pushed forward so riders can make the money they are worth. In the sponsorship game, BMX is so far behind MTB it isn't funny. Which is a pity bacause BMX is a super rad sport, and could be huge! On the plus side though it is cool that BMX is so small as a sport, coz you know the people doing it right now are the people that truly love it. Too many riders in BMX ride for a free frame and cheap parts, and a set or 2 of gear, that's all well and good to save yourself a bit of money, but if you are looking to race for a living you can't set yourself up with the reputation that you ride for a few freebies.
bmxultra.com: What would it cost a company (ballpark) to have you mention their products and be proud to call them a sponsor?
Jared: It depends, I've had deals with companies before for no money but really good bonus money, which can be very motivating. I've also signed deals with companies before that have been no money at first, but you know they are a solid company and it will lead to some $$ in the future as you build a relationship. At the end of the day though, to represent a company with a logo on the jersey and additional logos on top of using and representing their product, it would take atleast $5k per year, and that would go up depending on how big they want their logo. A lot of my sponsors aren't up to me though, as probably 70% of my sponsorship money I get is all worked out as a team deal through Yeti, and they won't even allow me to bring a personal sponsor onboard unless it is a solid company with good $$ attached, as the more sponsors you are representing the more it takes away from the ones you already have. The team has sponsors that are bringing in good $$ that still don't make the jersey. There is always going to me more money in MTB though as bikes and parts are worth a lot more usually, as well as it has a wider appeal to an outside audience. Unfortunately BMX is still seen as a kids sport to the general public and media, and that's not helping sponsorship on any level. Hopefully all that will change and it will get the recognition it deserves.
bmxultra.com: Do you think there's something that the riders can do to help themselves with better sponsorship? EG Websites, videos, being more approachable.
Jared: Yeah there's always more a rider can do, it's a very important part of the sponsorship game, which results are obviously very important, they aren't always that important to a lot of potential sponsors, Cedric Gracia in MTB is a perfect example. The guy hasn't had a good result in probably 4 years, but still makes good money because he is a character, and is friendly to everyone, and just loves ridiing his bike. Some guys have similar types of outgoing personalities but can't land a sponsor at all, because they tend to be rude and not make any form of effort to take a few minutes to talk with someone that wants to talk to them at a race. having a reputation of being a friendly/sensible/and approachable person will get you just as far as getting the results. Also being good with product feedback, let your sponsor know how much you enjoy their stuff, or even let them know if your not quite happy with it and ways you think it could be made better. Don't just thrash your gear and ask for new stuff when it breaks. I've been seeing less and less on the website front from riders, now it's more about Facebook athlete pages and Twitter, which is why my website has kind of died. Photos/videos are a great idea also, even if it's not even bike related, just what you've been up to so people don't think you've fallen off the face of the earth!
If you can combine all these things then you're set!
bmxultra.com: The Yeti Super X frames looked sweet, It's obvious how supportive your sponsors are of you jumping between bikes. How much input did you have in the project?
Jared: Everything with the geometry, and just where the bike needed to be stiff and where it's probably ok to save a bit of weight, the engineers did the rest and that's what they came up with.
bmxultra.com: Did you ever expect they would go into production with the frame?
Jared: They had talked about it, but I wasn't holding my breath haha, it was really cool that they made some.
bmxultra.com: Do you think they will do it again any time soon?
Jared: Depends, I've been talking with the main engineer at Yeti about changing up a couple small details, and changing the tubes a tiny bit, so we'll have to see.
bmxultra.com: Describe what you felt when you were told you were selected for the Australian Olympic team
Jared: I don't think we got told as such....by the time the selection date came around we all pretty much knew, but there was a smile on my face when Scott Shaples rang me with the official team. It was probably a pretty easy pick for the selectors, Luke, Kama and myself had all made SX main and Kama and myself had podiumed in 2008. Khalen was the only other guy that could have been selected, but in the end he hadn't satisfied the criteria, I don't know exactly how it all went down, I just worried about me.
bmxultra.com: What did being an Olympian mean to you?
Jared: It was awesome, it's the top honor in sport to be an Olympian, still makes me smile.
bmxultra.com: How does it feel to have made the Olympic final?
Jared: To be totally honest and not sound like an ass, I knew coming in that I had done the work and was going pretty good, and that making the main shouldn't be a problem, and that from there anything could happen. At the time I thought of it as just another race, but looking back now, It's pretty special to be known as one of the guys that made the first ever Olympic main.
bmxultra.com: What did you think of the whole experience?
Jared: You get treated like a king! It was awesome, everything it had been made out to be and more! When it came time to pack up and leave I couldn't find my wallet because I hadn't needed it for anything for the whole time we were there! Everything is taken care of for you, as long as you have your athlete accreditation you are set!
bmxultra.com: Having Kama steal the show with the media must have taken a load off your shoulders?
Jared: Yeah it was good, I'm more of a get in my bubble and get my training done type of guy, I don't mind some media attention, but not as much as Kama haha, he was loving every minute.
bmxultra.com: The inclusion of BMX racing into the Olympics had mixed reactions from the general population, did you have any athletes try to tell you that BMX isn't worthy of the Olympics?
Jared: No Athletes, maybe they thought it but they would never be game to say it to our faces. Would you walk up to Kama and say that his sport isn't worthy? We certainly heard it a lot from the media though, I always just told people that the sport is nothing like you are expecting it to be and to wait and see what it was like and then make up their minds, I read a whole article on what a joke BMX being included in the olympics was on the Sydney Morning Herald website, everyone was paying out BMX before the games, but after the event, there was hundereds of people who had done a complete 180 and said it was the best event! Hundreds of online responses and from memory only 2 or 3 people were still negative about it.
bmxultra.com: What was the most positive comment about BMX that you got from another athlete?
Jared: Every person that saw the racing that I spoke to thought it was amazing, not really one main positive, everyone was pretty pumped on it. There was certainly more crashing at the Olympics than any other SX, which was bad as a racer, but probably better for people watching at home.
bmxultra.com: Who was the most famous person you met at the Olympics?
Jared: Laurie Lawrence was my favourite, that guy has so much energy, laugh a minute, when he met Kama, the first thing he said to him was "you're that moron that changed his name" never seen Kama go bright red before...priceless! Could have made a fortune playing paparazzi and taking photos of drunken high profile Australian Athletes doing stupid things while intoxicated after their events.
bmxultra.com: If you were given the job of selecting the Australian team for the 2012 Olympics right now, who would be your choice?
Jared: Well Obvioulsy Sam, don't need to say any more there. For a 2nd rider, I don't want him to take this the wrong way coz were good mates, but I think he has the potential to be one of the top guys to beat with consistant solid training, and needs to get back to the 85kg mark. I think he has more potential than even he realises, but possibly farts around too much sometimes, Khalen. Then I see the 3rd spot coming down to either Kama, Kirkham or Luke. Kama has some catching up to do after his time off, but has proven he can get it done, Brian is solid all around, and always fast, but I think he needs to believe in himself a bit more, and Luke is fast all around but needs a bit more first straight and he's set. Just throwing out honest opinions here. If they don't like my opinions then maybe I have motivated them to get it sorted out.
bmxultra.com: Do you have 2012 Olympics in your sights right now?
Jared: I have worked out whats going on now, 2011 I will still focus on 4X, then switching back to DH after that.
All of this means that I won't be going after London olympics either. Basically to be where I want to be in BMX and get an Olympic medal, I would have to focus on BMX 100%, as the last few years have gone on I have been regretting stepping back from DH and never quite filling my potential with that, I've achieved everything there is to achieve in 4X, and the only reason I got into BMX in the first place was for cross training and fun, so I've gotten a lot more out of that than I ever planned. So it felt like a perfect time to go after my goals in DH. At the same time YETI had the exact same idea for me, so it's all just kind of fallen into place. To be honest, I don't really have the motivation to go through the whole Olympic qualifying process again, it's a massive sacrifice for a one time race. Beijing was a great experience, but the closer London has become the less excited I have felt about it, as I have other things I would rather pursue.
bmxultra.com: Do you feel like you have some unfinished business after crashing out of the 2008 Olympic final?
Jared: Yeah for sure, I would love a medal in my trophy cabinet, but I have other MTB goals as well which have been playing on my mind also. I wish I could have it all, but unfortunately I can't.
bmxultra.com: What do you do when you aren't racing?
Jared: Just like to hang out at home, with my Girlfriend Jess, watch TV and Movies, I'm a bit of a Guitar Hero geek haha, play with my Dogs, a good poker night doesn't hurt! anything that involves taking it easy. Brought a new Nissan 370z in September, and playing with that and doing it up some more has become a bit of an obsession.
bmxultra.com: Does your brother ever try to challenge you to a race?
Jared: Every gate, Every Monday and Wednesday night, he loves to come in Hot underneath in turn 1.
bmxultra.com: Do you give him your hand me downs?
Jared: Haha...classic......yes, although I wouldn't say I give them too him as much as he just takes them haha.
bmxultra.com: Now that you have decided to stop chasing the Olympic dream will you still race BMX now and then?
Jared: You know I would love to, but I cant give a 100% answer right now, because once you've been at the top, you want to stay there, and I've never entered a race I haven't prepared properly for and thought I could win. You will for sure see me around at tracks and races though. I'm training juniors Darryn Goodwin and Alex Ulyate right now, so if that all keeps going then I'm sure I'll be at races to give them a hurry up as well!
bmxultra.com: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview and good luck with the future. Is there anyone you would like to thank to finish off?
Jared: Sponsors....Family, Friends, you all know who you are!
Last updated: Thursday, 2 April, 2009 7:33 AM