Q&A: Getting to Know Josh Herrin

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After going pro in 2006 at the age of 16, Josh Herrin impressed many by racking up wins in the AMA Supersport and AMA Daytona Sportbike series – with 2013 seeing Josh win the AMA Pro Superbike  Championship, America’s crown jewel of road racing.

Most recently, he has joined the Caterham Moto2 team, making him the first American athlete to make the jump from AMA to Moto2. I recently got to sit down with Josh Herrin to talk about his life and his racing career. The transcript from our conversation follows.

Tell us about your upbringing. You grew up in California?

I was born in Glendale, and then, went to school in La Crescenta. We lived there until I was 14. My dad raced, and built houses, gazebos, and pool houses in California. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister, so my dad decided it was better to be raised out in Georgia. We were into motorcycles, so we bought some property out there. So instead of having to drive out ouf of the LA area to go riding, we could ride right on our property.

So you moved to the other side of the United States?

Yes. My grandpa lived there. We bought property, and now own a supermoto track. It’s a half-mile paved track, and we now run races and get to train on it. It’s in Dublin, near Macon.

What did you grow up riding?

I grew up road racing a YSR. It’s a bike that Yamaha made in the 80s; it was 50-80cc. I grew up riding those, and then when I was 12, I started riding more modern version of those. I moved up to a 125 in 2004, when I was 14, and then started racing 600’s.

Athletes, like you, who are progressing up to a very high echelon of competition, they usually hate when people say that “oh you are very talented.” It downplays a lot of the very real hard work that you put into your training to make yourself who you are. However, do you feel that from a very early age that riding motorcycle was something you were good at?

Honestly, when I was really young, the first time I got on a bike with a clutch I remember I burnt through around 6 motors just trying to learn how to shift. I was good at riding, but it was a struggle for me at first. There was a point when I turned 10 or 11 that all of a sudden I started winning and became good.

I’ve always appreciated when people say I’m talented, but we do work hard. I never really trained until last year because I was just used to using my talent to be good. When I got on a bigger bike and started training, I noticed that it improved my riding a lot.

What kind of training are we talking about?

I ride supermotos, motocross, and basically any time I can get on a bike I get on it. I also have started cycling. I’m sponsored by Specialized, so I get a mountain bike and a road bike every year.

Talk to me about cycling. How does it help you with training to race motorcycles?

For me, the reason I cycle for training is to teach my body to get my heart rate real high, and then coach myself to not panic when it gets that high. Then to be able to bring it back down in a normal way instead of just being out of breath and panicking. It helps me teach my body to calm down to help my perform better during races.

Do you think cycling is a good for us everyday riders?

So if you are not cycling to race or improve some other physical performance attribute, I think cycling and motorcycling serve as great avenues for stress-relief. When I’m feeling stressed about an upcoming race, I’ll often just jump on my bicycle and go for a 20 mile ride to clear my head.

What do you ride on the street?

I ride a WR250X. I always feel like I don’t need to be riding an R1 on the street. I would and it’s a lot of fun, but I like to stick to something I’m not going to get in trouble on. I think the R1 can be great for riding on the street, but not really in cities.

The WR250X is fun all the time even at low speeds and its perfect for cutting through a city environment. Chuck Graves put an aftermarket exhaust and Power Commander on mine, and it picked it up so much. It went from a relatively calm bike to a really peppy on the bottom-end.

What about your race bikes? Tell us about what you’ve been riding.

This year I raced an R1. It was my second year on an R1. I’ve been Yamaha since 2004-2005. I raced a 600 with them from 2005 to 2011, and then I got on the 1000cc bikes for the last two years. Now, I’m going to Moto2 next year, which is a step down in motorcycle size, but a huge step up in competition.

You are the only American to go from AMA to Moto2. How does that feel?

It’s like going to the Olympics. For me, road racing motorcycles in general isn’t a huge thing in the US, so for me to be given the opportunity to possibly make something of myself, and generate more views of the sport in this country, is huge for me. I want to be part of getting Americans, especially young kids, interested in motorcycle road racing.

One of the cool things is when I’m on Facebook or Twitter and I see people write, “I’ve never watched this sport before, but now I want to watch you race.”

Moto 2 is also way more exciting to race. The technological playing field is more level, so there are literally seconds separating the front of the pack to the rear.

Last question, besides riding motorcycles what other activities are you interested? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Going to school?

I enjoy hanging out with my family, my fiancé, and my friends. I love playing basketball and playing video games like anybody else.

No schooling for now. I’m out of high school, but I would like to do some college in the future to secure that side of my future. I’d like to be an architect, maybe.

I’d like to say, however, that I want to be racing for the next 10-15 years, but it depends on injuries. Hopefully I can keep my injuries to a minimum and have fun racing, because having fun is what keeps me motivated and in the game.

Photo: Caterham Racing