We chat with Indian's juggernaut.
Calling Jared Mees a juggernaut is a bit of an understatement. Active since 2002 on the professional flat track racing scene, he was named AMA’s Rookie of the Year in 2004 and has since gone on to win AMA Grand National Championships over the course of the past decade. In 2017, Jared Mees was recruited by Indian to join the Wrecking Crew “2.0”, the revival of the brand’s legendary (and unstoppable) dirt track team form the 1950s. His previous mastery of the Harley-Davidson XR-750 transferred well to the Indian FTR750 and Mees cemented his reputation as a champion by winning the 2017 and 2018 championships. In 2018 alone, he won no less than 10 races out of the season’s 18 events, stepping on the podium a total of 15 times. For 2019, Mees is joined by two new recruits as the Wrecking Crew gets ready for its third season that will kickstart in March. Ahead of the new season, we got to chat bikes and racing with Mees.
Flat track racing is gaining a lot of momentum especially with the 2018 season that got the AMA the best numbers yet — but for the longest time, flat track has been a little more underground. What made you want to go for this type of competition?
My dad got me started on the flat track. I started as a kid, rose to the amateur ranks and became a professional.
Was your dad a racer of more of a series enthusiast?
He was a motorcycle mechanic. He just enjoyed motorcycles of course and it’s probably just one of those things where he wanted to get his son involved in racing and made it a father and son.
Did you start with flat track right off the bat or did you try your hand at other disciplines first?
No, I’ve done strictly flat track really. I just kind of went out on the weekend, get geared and had fun and then I went onto the next one and to the next one and before you know it, I was like “Alright! This is cool, this is what we’re going to do.”
What do you think it takes to get into flat track racing?
Obviously, a bike, riding gear. You know, just go to your local district races. You just got there, and sign up in the age and motorcycle class you are and you just get on with it.
Obviously, you can’t be scared of motorcycles, you have to know how to ride, know the basics and then you go there, sign up, and race. Of course, if you don’t have the talent or drive, then, you know it’s not your cup of tea.
You have an impressive track record and have been leading the new Wrecking Crew offence since its return. Where do you go from there? How do you keep improving and taking things to the next level?
I don’t think it’s really about “how to improve”. Obviously you try to make things better with the racing, and with the bikes, and things like that. You always try to make things better because the competition is going to try to make themselves better. It’s one of those things where it’s just hard work and testing and you try to stay on your game.
As far as improving my results, I know that’s going to be difficult. So if I just maintain what I’ve been doing I’d be pretty happy with that.
Speaking of hard work, some competitions take more mental fortitude, others have a more physical aspect to them, where do you think flat track racing stands?
It’s probably more mental. Of course, the physical fitness is a big part of it as well, on some tracks more than others. Some tracks, you can ride around all day and never really get tired and then some race tracks, when you are done you’re like “Man, I couldn’t have gone another five minutes.” Some tracks are more physically demanding and others are more mentally challenging. It’s the beauty of flat track.
All racing is mental, but motocross, for instance, is really physically demanding so you have to rely on fitness more.
Bouncing off what you just said, what makes a track more physically or more mentally challenging?
The physical tracks are rougher, with more of a cushion. Some tracks might have a jump, or a right hander that’s more physical. They get rougher, they get choppier.
The ones that are more mentally challenging and less physical are like the big mile tracks with a lot of rest periods down the straights, but there’s so much stuff happening so fast, you have to think fast, but also react slow.
What type of preparation do you do?
I do some cardio work, and some strength work, things like that. I cross-train on a motocross bike, trying to get different forms of exercise.
Director Jason requested I ask you this: how does it feel to be an unstoppable juggernaut of flat track domination? Do you feel guilty at all for eating everyone else's lunch out there on the track.
(Laughs) Nah! I don’t feel guilty at all.
Is there extra pressure to perform considering the original Crew's track record or is this a fresh start?
No, I don’t really have that in my mind and never really feel that kind of pressure. Those guys were badasses in their day, they were awesome. There’s just so much difference in today’s world, you can’t really compare.
So no, I don’t have any pressure or feel like I have to “live up”. To be honest, if I did have that pressure, it would be off my back by now since the last couple of seasons have been really really good.
How’s the bike for 2019?
I don’t have a whole lot of testing in quite yet for 2019, but I don’t suspect much has been changed. Everything is really similar to 2018.
How does the FTR compare to the other bike you’ve competed on?
I’ve only really competed on one other twin and that was the XR-750 (Harley-Davidson) but in comparison, it’s just a very modern day flat track bike while the XR-750 is almost considered a vintage bike in a way. One of the great thing about the Indian is that it’s fairly reliable. You definitely have to keep up with the maintenance and keep watch, but for the most part, for the past few seasons, they’ve been pretty bullet proof, so that’s a big improvement.
We’re able to turn out more rpm with the design of the engine so that’s a huge benefit. The pwoer delivery is very smooth and good for flat track. As far as maximum power goes, the Indian doesn’t have the most power on the race track, but for flat track racing, it really shows it has a lot to give. It’s just a really good all around package for flat track—that’s what it was designed to do.
What do you think of the new trend that brings the flat track to the streets with the introduction of flat track inspired models like the FTR 1200?
I think it’s awesome. Indian has done it right in so many ways with the bike, the marketing, the whole push. They came out with a really good flat track bike and took it to the streets where people want it. It’s cool to see a company do everything right in such a timely fashion. I think it’s going to be pretty. The bike is really cool. I’ve never been much of a street rider, now that the FTR 1200 is coming, I could be. I think the price point is pretty good, it definitely rips and is definitely a sporty type of bike.
Have you had a chance to ride on the FTR 1200 yet? Do you think people will have as much fun riding in the streets as you have riding on the track?
Yeah! I’ve been on quite a few street bikes, but I would probably have to say that this one gives me the closest feel to what my racing bike feels like. In that respect, if that’s what people are looking for, then they’re on right path. It’s a sporty, fun bike to get on. It stops really well, which is cool, and it accelerates well too. It has that nimble feel, so kind of a mix of a street bike with a bit of a dual sport feel. I feel I could go off road with it for a minute if I had to.