Joel Ard recently returned "home" to MotoSport where he spent several years working in the call center and then on the content side posting videos and lending his expertise to articles related to riding and tech tips. His job this time?
The Ultimate Motocross Bike.
Ard is the featured mechanic upgrading a 2017 Honda CRF450R with all the best parts and accessories MotoSport offers that we're going to give away. He spent nearly a month on the bike while filming in the MotoSport garage. Check it out here.
But we didn't grab Ard simply because he used to work here. This guy is a seasoned mechanic and his resume proves it. At 16, he began work at a local Honda dealer then moved on to other local dirt bike shops before landing at MotoSport Hillsboro then finally MotoSport.com. Ard wrenched for Weston Peick a few years ago before heading to the TLD/GoPro/Red Bull KTM team wrenching for Shane McElrath.
He's a lifelong industry veteran and since we hadn't seen him in a while we caught up with Ard to find out about life on the road and what he's up to now that he's fine-tuned the Ultimate Motocross Bike for one lucky winner. This is what he said:
Years Riding: 27
Age started riding and on what bike: 3 years old on ATC70, 5 years old Suzuki JR50 (first bike)
Racing experience: Raced locally in the Pacific Northwest, Did NMA World Mini Grand Prix once and some west coast Arenacross races. Raced the 125 Dream Race at Thunder Valley in 2017.
Pro mechanic experience: 2014 450 class Supercross season with Weston Peick; 2015-2016 250 class Motocross and Supercross seasons for Shane McElrath on the TLD/GoPro/Red Bull KTM team.
Favorite Track: To ride - Thunder Valley. To visit as a mechanic - Red Buuuuuud!
1. How did you get started riding a dirt bike?
My parents took me to see a monster truck show and at halftime they had a dirt bike race and my dad said I was way more pumped on the dirt bikes than the monster trucks! My dad had ridden his whole life, was a local road racer and just did some woods riding on the dirt side. He had already given me rides on the streetbikes but I was so young obviously I don't remember. When I was 3 he got me an ATC70 to start on my 5th birthday then I got my first bike, a Suzuki JR50, and have been hooked ever since.
2. So you've been in the industry seemingly your whole life. Is it just what you know or have you figured out what you love to do and learned to make a living off it?
It is pretty much all I know, but that is because I do love it and it does allow me to make a living doing what I love. I enjoy all aspects of it, riding, working on bikes, meeting people and the whole vibe that the industry has. It's a pretty small community and honestly where I have met all of my friends, including my girlfriend Jenn.
3. You're a pro level rider but it never materialized into a career. Is it something that didn't work out or was pursuing that life not something on your radar?
Becoming a pro rider on a national level requires a lot of things to click into place. For me everything just didn't. It requires a lot of money and a ton of dedication from many aspects. When you're young, parents need to devote a large amount of time and money and as you get older the amount only grows.
My parents were great and devoted a ton of time to me and my brother but I truthfully had a more diverse childhood where I played basketball, we took the boat to the river, went hiking and camping, I raced BMX and didn't focus on Moto solely. I wasn't the fastest guy out there but on a local level I could hold my own and was pretty good. After getting hurt a couple times and getting a little older I just kind of missed the boat, which was completely fine as it has sent me on a pretty awesome journey in itself.
Ard's riding got him featured in Cycle News
4. You worked for MotoSport for a few years then got a dream job. Tell us how this came about?
While I was working at MotoSport.com there was talk of sponsoring Weston Peick going into the 2014 season. While we were talking to him, he was coming up to ride the Washougal National and the Thursday Night Motocross pro race in 2013. Unfortunately his dad Lou broke his leg really badly not long before that and asked us at MotoSport if there would be anyone who could help them out while they were in town.
One thing led to another and I ended up helping them out for that week. They were happy with the bike work and we got along good even though I was still a little intimidated by Weston at the time (laughs). Later in the year we put together a deal where I became his mechanic and drove his truck along with my girlfriend for the 2014 Supercross season. That's how I got my first pro mechanic gig.
5. The forgotten man. People forget it's hard to go pro but also hard to be a mechanic at the pro level. What does it take to get there?
Being a mechanic at the highest level requires dedication just like riding. You have to be willing to put in long hours, maybe longer than what the riders do or you did as a rider. To be honest I got pretty lucky getting into the sport, I didn't have to work my way up with a lot of privateer efforts or go to school. If you are trying to get in though, working with some local guys that race the Nationals and meeting people in the pits is the easiest way to get in with the big teams.
Every year jobs will come up and if you are a good guy with a good looking bike and communicate well with everyone, there's a much better chance your name will get brought up when the crews are talking about hiring new mechanics to their team.
6. So, you've been at ground level. What stresses you out as a mechanic?
Number one is making sure the bike is 100 percent. As a mechanic you are the last person in line to verify that everything is correct before your rider gets on the bike. You have someone else's life in your hands essentially and that can be stressful. You go over the bike 10 times in your mind while sitting on the gate just because you can't have anything go wrong. Not only can you hurt your rider, but you don't want to let down your team or all the sponsors over something you didn't make sure was correct on the bike.
7. You want your rider to win. But is there a "win" for the mechanic?
Absolutely every mechanic wants their rider to win, but we're in the same boat, there can only be one winner and that's truthfully an exclusive class to get into. As for mechanic wins, if the bike stays together and you gave 100 percent and everything was great on your side, then it's still a win personally because you did the best you can do!
8. What was the most complex issue you resolved?
Fortunately, I never had to deal with a lot of big problems. Tracing electrical bugs was usually about the biggest thing we had to do on the team bikes.
9. You served as a mechanic for several seasons. When the new bike models come out is it your job to more or less strip it down and figure out what's new and different or they pretty much the same with few exceptions?
With Weston, he had been riding Suzuki's previous to me getting there, so his program was in place and they had a pretty dialed in setup. A few small changes and cleaning some things up with wiring and whatnot were about all I did on his bikes.
As for TLD, they had already received the latest generation bike before I got there and with factory support they already had a really good direction so we as the mechanics had input on development of the bike to be race ready.
10. Will you tell us what bugs you as a mechanic?
Sometimes the team headset, when things are not going well, that thing is blowing up and sometimes you just need to turn it down. Sometimes you wish you had a bigger pit board too - still love ya TK!
11. Do you provide advice and/or encouragement or do you get the bike ready and step aside?
If the mechanic and rider don't get along to the point where you can't provide criticism and encouragement, then it's bound to fail. You spend so much time with your rider that you do become close, know when something is bugging them or they are off. You are the last guy at the gate with them helping to get them in the mood they need to be in to succeed.
12. What's life like on the road?
Life on the road for me was probably the worst part. You are gone at least three to four days a week during the season, staying in hotels and eating at restaurants. It's actually a great life for a single, younger guy but it was the toughest part for me.
13. You've now stepped away from life as a pro mechanic. Why is that?
On August 10th 2016 our son Jayden was born. For the time being I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could and being on the road would take me away for quite a few days a week. I didn't want to miss out on a lot of those firsts that he will have over the next couple years. There's no reason I can't go back and I tried to make sure I worked my butt off and left on good terms so I could get back in in the mix in the future.
14. What are you doing now?
Currently, I am starting my own business working on race bikes at the local level called Advanced Racing Development. It is in its infant stages currently but will hopefully grow over the next year and I can become one of the players on the performance side of the industry. I also helped out at Motosport.com with the 2017 Ultimate Motocross Bike build. At this time I am also working For Blowsion helping build and work on some of the nicest high-end jet skis out there!
Written By: AndrewT