It just didn’t seem fair, Joe Higgins thought.
His son William had started riding motocross bikes in the summer of 2020 and had clearly taken a liking to the sport. The following spring, the elder Higgins had made an executive decision.
“I spent a whole year watching him have so much fun, and I decided, hey, I should give it a try too,” he said.
It’s a common theme for racers who gather at the Jodhpur motocross track in Anchorage on weekends – families racing together, against each other and supporting each other.
The Anchorage Racing Lions ended their season on a Sunday earlier this month. Racers, spectators, friends and families set up trailers and raced in intermittent rain. The smell of grilled burgers drowned out the exhaust fumes and kids rode the grounds on pedal bikes when not motorized.
“It’s a very family-oriented community,” Higgins said. “Everyone will always share parts, you know, or wisdom and lend a hand if someone else’s child falls somewhere. You will see around the track everyone rushing to help everyone. So yes, there is a good atmosphere here.
9-year-old William got off the 50cc bike he started, passing it on to his sister.
Now in his third year, he has also made progress on the track.
“At first, I wasn’t even jumping that much,” he says. “Now I really get over the jumps. You can ride with your friends, and when you jump, you feel like you’re flying.
The Adkins brothers started racing nearly 15 years ago. Brothers Brandon and Cambden started running when their parents wanted them to find an activity they could do together.
“It brings us all together,” said Brandon Adkins, 25. “We all come here and work together to prepare everything.”
The family atmosphere is evident, and Racing Lions club president Mike Whitlatch said that made up the bulk of the racers.
“A lot of families run here because their dads ran 30 years ago,” he said. “As far as newcomers to the sport go, that doesn’t happen a lot.”
He said part of the difficulty in attracting new runners could be due to hesitation with a stigma that the sport is dangerous.
“Everybody’s perception of motocross is that it’s crazy, and they don’t want to do it,” he said. “They don’t want to get hurt. You don’t have to hurt yourself. Come here and have fun, and honestly, especially for little kids, it’s safer for them to come here and do that than to go for a ditch or a trail.
The Adkins brothers are among the fastest riders. Brandon finished first in Anchorage’s 250cc Expert class and Cambden finished third this season. But they say pushing too far is not part of their agenda.
“Just here mostly for fun,” Brandon Adkins said. “We’ve raced enough years, we’re just here to have fun and not get hurt.”
“There’s not too much competition between us anymore,” added 19-year-old Cambden Adkins. “We are old.”
Riders generally compete based on bike size and skill level. Often these two factors are correlated as riders improve and move on to bigger bikes.
“It starts from 50cc all the way out,” Whitlatch said. “That last course was a master’s course – that is, 40+. I’m 48, riding in a novice class that’s 30+. Then we have guys who are up to 60 this race.
There were a lot of kids racing on the last day and some started as soon as they could ride the pedal bikes.
“It’s easier,” Cambden Adkins said. “You just need to pick up some speed and you have some momentum and you’re fine.”
Theo Marshall was one of the young runners. The 8-year-old said he had been racing for five years and rode a 65cc bike. Among young racers, there seem to be two camps for the favorite part of races – the jumps or the turns.
“The jumps are better,” Marshall said.
Kannon Haasl just turned 6 but he already aspires to race Supercross and took a trip to Arizona last winter to check out the pros.
In his second year of racing, he found himself in a conundrum, oscillating between riding a 50 and a 65cc bike.
“I liked the 50 because I’m more used to it,” he said.
In recent years, the club has made major improvements to the track, which is located in the south corner of Kincaid Park.
Whitlatch said he used a $60,000 grant to dig up the entire track, separate rocks and reform the track. Additionally, the club spent $20,000 on a new starting gate.
Whitlatch has only been racing for five years and was persuaded by someone he met on the track to give it a try.
He said: “We all have jobs and none of us want to get hurt. But the track is at its best on race day, because that’s when it’s groomed and watered. For the price of admission you get a really nice trail to ride.
“I was like, ‘That’s a really good idea.’ So I came to the next race.