Each week during the Supercross race season we are thrilled with the opportunity to be able to meet and interact with various people within the industry. For such a big industry filled with racing superstars and multi-million dollar race teams, at the core is a tight knit group of passionate and hard working people. Many feel as though those working in the motorsports industry are some of the hard working people around, and none more so hardworking than the position of race team mechanic. These technical master minds are responsible for the upkeep and overall performance of the motorcycles on a daily basis. Supercross mechanics work tirelessly, sometimes 18-20 hour days, to ensure that their racer's machines are running at optimum potential and can withstand the rigors of the race.
While factory race team mechanics have many luxuries ranging from top of the line test equipment and tools to paid flights and hotels, a privateer mechanic often times does not have the same level of resources. Privateer mechanics usually have multiple responsibilities including transport vehicle driver, technical expert, and even cook at times. The life of a privateer mechanic can be very intense, but also extremely rewarding and fulfilling. No one knows this better than Jeremiah Ellis, the mechanic for popular privateer rider Aj Catanzaro. We were able to speak with the Cape Cod, Massachusetts native to get some insight into his life, how he got to where he is, and some advice for upcoming techs in the industry.
Jeremiah, how did you first get involved with dirtbikes and the sport?
Its kind of a long story, but the short version is that I was that kid who grew up and was never allowed to have a dirt bike. It took me until 19 to figure out the ultimate plan. I talked to a friends mom about letting me keep a bike at her house. Soon after that point I fell in love with dirtbikes. I started riding everyday and within two months I lost almost 60 pounds after being a fat kid my whole life. Needless to say I was obsessed. I was going to Community Collage at the time and all I could think about doing was working on or riding my bike. I was at school in a computer class and came across an ad for MMI (Motorcycle Mechanic Institute). I knew it was the path for me so I signed up and soon after I was off to Orlando. I knew right away it was the right choice. When it came to school I always did what ever the minimum was just to get by. Once at MMI I found myself sitting in the front of the class, by choice, and actually raising my hand. I was fully focused and passionate about the program and motorcycles. It was a turning point for me. I graduated, came back to New England and started working my way up through the local motorcycle dealerships.
What inspired you to be a pro tech?
Working in the business and racing myself was all I need to be inspired. It was always a dream, but I never thought it was going to happen. It all came together perfectly for me and I am still grateful for everything to this day.
How did you get involved with Supercross at such a high level and end up wrenching for Aj Catanzaro?
I met Aj when I was working at Pilgrim Powersports back in New England. I was the guy that figured out how to get Aj two bikes for the 2013 Supercross season. It ended up working out really good for us and Aj. It resulted in Aj getting another ride for the following year. In 2015 after I left Pilgrim I flew to San Diego to spectate the Supercross race and take in the sights. I shot Aj a text and we ended up getting together. After I helped him and his team owner with a couple things the team owner asked if I was coming to any more races and asked if I wanted to come help out. I told him I would love to but I also couldn't afford to attend any more races. The team owner and I then talked about paying for me to get there if I would come. It was an obvious YES on my part as if there was any other way to answer that question! Well I went, and the first race experience takes about 45 min for me to tell and that's with leaving out A LOT of details! It ended up being one of the best experiences. So needless to say I that's how I got sucked in!!
Describe a typical day at the races.
This year has been a little different for me. This year I fly in to the cities on Friday and then geto the race bike that has been washed from the week before. I have to get after it immediately. I have to replace any parts that need to get changed out, service the bike, and do all the graphics before I start getting yelled that we are late for dinner. We go out for a big team dinner then to bed early. On race day, I have to bring the wheels to Dunlop to change out our tires (I'm spoiled), get the bike to pass the sound check implemented by the AMA (which is always a pain in the ass) bring the bike through AMA tech inspection, and then pick up our transponder. After that we go out for track walk and then I set all of our suspension and tire pressures. Soon after its GO time and then I just wait for the craziness to start!!!
How do you prepare for a race?
This is a funny question. Working my business (northeastdirtbike.com) at home during the week and then taking care of all my real world responsibilities all while squeezing in working out, I really don't prepare. I would love to have more time to prepare for the race, but I can only do everything I can. Also the bike gets transported during the week so I don't even get to prepare the bike as much as I would like.
Describe some of the difficult and the most rewarding things about your job?
The hardest or most difficult thing would be the traveling, mainly because I'm away from my family and the rest of my normal life. Thankfully everyone believes in me and supports me 100%, I really couldn't do it without all my friends and family. The most rewarding part is living my dream!!! Every time I show up I take it all in!! I never take it for granted and I live everyday of this as if it were my last. I never thought this is what I would be doing, but I LOVE it and plan on doing it for as long as I can.
What are somethings you have learned along the way?
The biggest thing that sticks out that I've learned is "everything works out". I've always been a worrier and a planner and in this sport you can't be. You can't plan anything because everything changes, but everything works out. I'm much better at not worrying, but Aj definitely tests me every race-typcial of every racer.
What would you say to people who want to do what you do?
I would simply say do it! Its has a lot of ups and downs, but if it is something you truly want to do then do it. I will warn them that it takes a lot of difficult decisions to get where you want to go in life so start by identifying what those decisions are and start making them. It's not going to be easy that's for sure!!! If it was everyone would be doing it.
What are somethings they should be aware of?
It takes time. You really need to be very confident and have very good attention to detail to work on bikes at this level. The work isn't hard it's the responsibility and the pressure that you have to deal with while working on them that makes it difficult. Be humble and be learning everyday.
How would you inspire them to follow their dreams?
That's easy, I eat, sleep, and drink dirtbikes all day-everyday. It's a pure passion and obsession. It's that simple. Every success person can tell you the same thing. It's just a hunger that comes from within. Your dreams often times find you and it just takes dedication and commitment. If that's what they want do then go get after it!!!!!
What are some of the things that you are working on to expand yourself and your efforts?
I'm currently working mainly on me and my business. This sounds funny, but I have found that working out regularly and eating good helps not only with riding, but also with everything else in your life. With that said everyday starts out with me then my business Northeast Dirtbike. My business right now consists of my website and my shop where I provide race services for everyone from new riders to pro level racers. I do a lot of chassis work, engine rebuilds, and suspension services. Everyday I just keep chipping away at making me and my business the best that we can be!!
Jeremiah is a testament to what how hard work, passion, and dedication can accomplish. Each week Jeremiah can be found giving his 100% effort into his job and ensuring that everything operates as close to perfect as possible. There is never a task too big, or dream to vast to accomplish and Jeremiah is a firm believer in that. If there's one take away from Jeremiah's journey it's just that. You can truly accomplish anything with the right mentality and approach. Be sure to follow Jeremiah on Instagram (@nedirtbike) and stay tuned to the TCE site for more monthly highlights and interviews.