It just didn’t seem right, Joe Higgins thought.
His son William had started racing motocross bikes in the summer of 2020 and had clearly taken a liking to the sport. By the next spring, the elder Higgins had made an executive decision.
“I spent a whole year watching him have that much fun, and I decided hey, I should give this a shot too,” he said.
It’s a common theme for racers who gather on weekends at Anchorage’s Jodhpur Motocross Track — families racing together, against each other and supporting one another.
The Anchorage Racing Lions wrapped up their season on a Sunday earlier this month. Racers, onlookers, friends and families set up trailers and raced through intermittent rain. The smell of grilled burgers drowned out the exhaust fumes and kids rode around the grounds on pedal bikes when they weren’t on motorized ones.
“It’s a very family-oriented community,” Higgins said. “Everyone will always share parts, you know, or wisdom and lend a helping hand if someone else’s kid falls down somewhere. You’ll see around the track everyone just rushing to help everybody out. So yeah, it’s a good atmosphere out here.”
William, age 9, has grown out of the 50cc bike he started on, passing it on to his sister.
Now in his third year, he’s advanced on the track as well.
“At the start, I didn’t even jump that much,” he said. “Now I really clear the jumps. You get to ride with your friends, and when you jump, it kind of feels like you fly.”
The Adkins brothers started racing nearly 15 years ago. Brothers Brandon and Camden started racing when their parents wanted them to find an activity they could do together.
“It kind of brings us all together,” 25-year-old Brandon Adkins said. “We all come out here and work together to get everything ready for it.”
The family atmosphere is evident, and Racing Lions club president Mike Whitlatch said that makes up a bulk of the racers.
“A lot of the families are out here racing because their dads raced 30 years ago,” he said “As far as like new people to the sport, it doesn’t happen very much.”
He said part of the difficulty in attracting new riders might 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 get hurt. Come out here and have fun, and honestly, especially for the little kids, it’s safer for them to come out here and do this than it is to go ride some ditch or trail.”
The Adkins brothers are some of the faster riders. Brandon finished first in Anchorage’s 250cc experts category and Camden was third this season. But they say pushing it too far isn’t part of their agenda.
“Just mainly here for the fun of it,” Brandon Adkins said. “We’ve raced enough years, we’re just out here to have fun and not get hurt.”
“There’s not too much competition between us anymore,” 19-year-old Camden Adkins added. “We’re old.”
Racers generally compete against each other based on bike size and skill level. Often, those two factors correlate as riders improve and move up to bigger bikes.
“It starts from like 50cc all the way up,” Whitlatch said. “That last class was a Master’s class — that’s 40 and over. I’m 48, I ride in a novice class that’s 30 and over. Then we have guys that are all the way up to 60 that race.”
There were plenty of kids out racing on the final day and some get started just as soon as they can ride a pedal bike.
“This is easier,” said Camden Adkins. “You just need to pick up speed and you’ve got some momentum and you’re fine.”
Theo Marshall was one of the young racers. The 8-year-old said he’s been racing for five years and is riding a 65cc bike. Among the young racers, there appears to be two camps for favorite part of the races — jumps or the turns.
“The jumps are better,” Marshall said.
Kannon Haasl has just turned 6 but he already has aspirations 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, vacillating between running 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 southern corner of Kincaid Park.
Whitlatch said they used a $60,000 grant to dig up the entire track, separate rocks and reform the track. Also, the club spent $20,000 for a new starting gate.
Whitlatch has only been racing five years and was persuaded by someone he met at 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 entry, you get a really nice track to ride.
“I was like, ‘That’s a really good idea.’ So I came up the next race.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Camden Adkins’ first name.