In 2015 I struggled every single time there was the possibility to translate Bradley on live. He was one of the riders I always hoped to avoid. Very British, such an accent, and talked about many, many things on his statements. Four seasons later I’m used to his voice, I’ve got the hang of his style and none of his answers can stop me. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, I’ve succeeded.
Bradley breathes British rigor, at first: polite, serious, respectful, gentle, but also close and natural. He’s taller than I thought and walks as if he wasn’t heavy at all, or as if he had needles on his heels. I’m still not sure which of the last aspects defines that perception better. He’s got blue yes, several scars and two million freckles, the look on his face completely changes if he laughs or smiles and he talks a lot, even more than me perhaps. He radiates self-confidence while answering my questions and gesticulates a lot with his hands but always repeating a parallel movement with them as if holding a rectangular piece of something between them. Bradley is… a 27-year-old boy.
If someone has read my blog before they will probably know that what makes me tick is listening to people when they speak from heart, or from some place near it. That is the bomb. That can really move (my) mountains. For that reason and because it’s already a house rule, I tried to get away from sporting topics, away from his next contract with Aprilia, away from the kind of KTM rollercoaster of this season and away from what could have meant for him living the moment he is facing now. I wasn’t into that. Throughout the 33-minute interview at no time did we pronounce any of the manufacturers names.
One of the things that caught my attention before meeting him was that if you look for some information about him there are not many details about his life apart from racing matters, unlike many elite athletes. So, you will barely find anything even if you try. There are a few personal interviews from a long time ago and scarcely anything different than work pictures on his social media accounts. When I asked him about his privacy, he explains he is a private guy and that obviously doesn’t like to show his private life. “Just because there are social media doesn’t mean you have to use them. Motorcycling has been my passion since I was six years old. I love my job and when you feel passion for something you want to show that to the world, and that is what I do. My followers follow me because I am Bradley Smith, the motorcycling racer, not because I’m walking the dog or having cereals for breakfast. When I’m not riding, I spend time with people I want to, and no one needs to see it. This is like in a concert: some of the strongest pictures are when you see some old people enjoying what they are seeing, getting into it. Not like many young people uploading videos on Instagram for the others. I’m happy being Bradley Smith, the boring guy that rides a motorbike. At the end of the day, this is what makes me who I am”. He is a convincing, fast answerer, able to keep a steady gaze. Except on a single question that will come soon, he responds to all of the rest without doubting or hesitating.
As a starting point I took an interview he gave to MCN when he was 19. In that one he said wise and funny things, especially for how old he was. Bradley perfectly remembers it: when, how, where, and his answers. I would dare myself to say he has quite a strong memory. To assess how much he’s changed, I start giving him some inputs of his words. One of the things he said was he liked to spend some time with adults. “I’ve felt more comfortable with them, always. Less now, because obviously I’m starting to be an adult. I always liked to be around older people and I still do it because they can give me experience, stories, knowledge. (At this point, I can’t avoid identifying with him). They always treated me with respect. Principles were better as well, everything was more basic, and you were judged more on who you were, instead of what you had”. At that time, he defined himself as a rock on its way to be a diamond in the polishing process. “Yes, I still need a lot of polishing (and jokes). It depends on what you think the final product is going to be. There is so much to do in this life and if I say at 27 years old that I’m the polished diamond, it would mean that I’ve failed because hopefully there are 50 more years to come. And I’m doing the same things year after year: train, travel, ride bikes. But there is so much else to do in this world and to be already polished would be a lie. I’ve done a lot, I’m doing the very best I can and next year I’ll be riding my third manufacturer inside MotoGP which is already quite a lot compared to many people. I’ve ridden in all the categories, except Moto3. That side of my MotoGP career is done, is quite full. I’m getting to an age in which the future doesn’t allow you to do a lot more because young boys are coming through and there are new opportunities for them. But there are more things to all of that: at some point I would like to do something for people and that is a very important part of polishing the diamond. I would also like to have my own family one day, create and teach someone to be better than I was, in the end humans are all about evolution. It is still a working progress”.
I don’t know if it’s because of the cultural difference or maybe just because of his way of being, but Bradley’s stare seems to be unwavering. That makes me think of one of the quotes he said some years ago. He asserted that when things are getting worse, he is more able to overcome himself, and that he was like his mum, she doesn’t bite much but when she does, she bites good. “This keeps being the same, it hasn’t changed. As you get older you start to realize about the important things in life, small actions, positive or negative. People’s character means more as you get older, when you don’t have to do anything to make the others happy or to pretend. My mum only wants to have people than can bring her something positive. She’s cut but this is not rude, and I think it’s right. I’m pretty much the same and to be like that has helped me a lot in this world. You can have around you many fake friends. Not just in MotoGP, but in sports in general. There are fake people that want to be next to you just for their own benefit. That’s why I always get a small circle. My dad come racing with me, my cousin too. This last two years, Matt, my trainer. He’s been brought to the circuits, but he already did it one and a half year before he came here, let’s say he passed the test. I have a manager that has been with me for the past ten years. I’m not really much more in terms of the racing side. That’s why it is a small circle”.
While listening to him I start to wonder about all the sacrifices, efforts and situations he, and therefore his family, have had to overcome. He mentions them a few times without giving many details (for his privacy, I assume) and they seem a fundamental and solid base. One of the things that hasn’t changed either is his modus operandi. “I’m better when things are difficult, look at me now. I’m out of the job. And I’m still here, now I feel I’m riding my best than I ever have, even though the results don’t show that. In terms of my riding capabilities I’m the best rider I’ve ever been. That really comes down to the fact of just wanting to prove a point. When everyone doubts you or think that you can’t do it, it creates a fire in my belly. When things are easy, I’m terrible, I kind of get into a cruising mood. My family knows it and I know it too. The more difficult is the situation, the better I do. That has never changed and now I’ve processed that better, by learning. And I transform what got me angry before into positive things”.
His replies surprise me, and at the same time not at all. Many publications consider him a gentleman and I question him if he believes that. He says he always tries to be respectful, that you have to treat people the same way you would like to be treated. And thereafter, delivers a statement that if I had more confidence with him or if I had just met him a couple of days before the interview, I would stand up and applaud him: “you can judge a person by how they treat the cleaner. It is how you see people, and you shouldn’t see people as higher, lower, richer, poorer. It should be the person in general. Everyone tries their best. I try to be respectful and people appreciate that”. After hearing this I would have been more than pleased if the interview would have ended.
And to make Smith stop for a second to think what to say, you can ask him where he sees himself in five years. He carefully thinks for a while and exactly 32 seconds later “I’ll try to do something with a positive impact in the world. I’ll give that a go. I don’t know what it is, I don’t what I can do. But in five years’ time it should start an important chapter. And at some point, you have to sit down and think about having a family or whatever you decide to do. Now I don’t know, this is not what I want. In five years I can’t see myself far from motorcycles, of course I see myself close to this world, but not professionally. Maybe teaching some kids, helping young boys with my experience to guide them. I’ll try to work on the other things. Who knows what life can bring me”.
I don’t know what life is going to bring me, but I like seeing that fighting for a goal and giving it all until the very last moment to try and achieve it can bring big benefits in the future. You never know. His approach has made me rethink many of the things that lately had staggered my daily life. At least he seemed credible.
When he was a kid, Bradley dreamt about being a motocross rider and there is still a tiny desire for that. He loves the color blue, Sydney as a city, ice-cream as something to eat, 7 Pounds as a movie and his worst nightmare, something that has been flying along his nights since 2000 at least once a month is to dream that he’s late for the start of the race, that he can’t fit in the leathers properly, or that he can’t fit his arm in. And that he hears the start of the race and he is not there yet. Bradley can feel goose bumps with an elite athlete at the maximum level, or a doctor doing a heart transplant. That kind of things is magical for him. His brother is one of the people that inspires him the most, due to his hard work and determination, and he feels admiration for that kind of humans that do everything that goes beyond the own benefit.
Many thanks, Mr. Smith. Luck favors the brave.