Rider Spotlight: Jeremy Higgins
NEWS June 21, 2012
Photo by Dave Hoenig
AMAP: Where are you from?
JH: I’m from Bergen, New York. I grew up there my whole life, and my entire family pretty much lives in Upstate New York. I grew up in the same house, and have grown up with the same friends since I was a kid.
AMAP: There has to be some good riding areas in New York. What types of motorcycle riding do you do when you’re not racing flat track?
JH: Well, on the weekends that I’m not racing flat track, there are plenty of motocross tracks near me that I like to go ride. Later in the season, they have really big endurance races/harescrambles around here. I like to ride those when I can. When the snow falls, you wait a couple weeks and go ice riding on all the frozen lakes and ponds. In New York, it’s tough though, because you have to hit it during the right weekends. I know up in Michigan, they get more snow, so they can ride on the ice more frequently. But, I ride on the ice as much as I can!
AMAP: How did you get into riding motorcycles?
JH: My dad actually surprised me with a PW50 when I three years old. From the beginning, I was attracted to it. I had the training wheels off my PW50 before they came off my bicycle. After a year or two of riding around the yard with my dad, he took me to my first race. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Back then, I did both motocross and flat track racing, alternating weekends. Once I got more into it, we decided to stick with flat track over motocross.
AMAP: Talk about your development as a flat track rider..
JH: Once we got into flat track more, we started visiting some tracks that were close by. There’s a track in Ontario, Canada that’s real nice, and another track called Paradise Speedway in Geneva, NY that’s a really nice clay quarter-mile track. Both are within an hour and a half from my house. We’d travel there on the weekends. I had a neighbor two years older than me, and we’d ride together everyday behind our houses, race on the weekends, and back to riding around on the weekdays. I kept doing that, and the older I got, the further we travelled to events. We started doing the amateur nationals which progressed to AMA Pro Flat Track. Dave Waters is a member of a local flat track, and when KTM first got involved in flat track, he had a different, older rider that was ready to retire. When he started fading out and I came into the expert ranks, I pretty much slipped right into his spot on the team. I’ve been with Dave Waters and the Waters Autobody Racing team for three years now, and been having a blast.
AMAP: Tell us about racing the KTM in AMA Pro Flat Track. Since there aren’t any other teams with the KTM, how is it as far as bike development goes?
JH: We’ve been developing the motorcycle along with the entire team each year we continue in the series. As far as bike setup development goes, it’s pretty tough knowing where to go and what does what yet, because there isn’t any research and development in them yet. We’re really the only people running the KTMs, so that makes it tough as far as knowing what to do in what situation. The past three years have been a lot of trial and error as far as bike setups and frame geometry. I wouldn’t say we’re struggling, but would say we’re finding out some of the things that do what, and a lot of the things that don’t work.
AMAP: What would say are some benefits and/or drawbacks of racing the KTM in AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Expert Class?
JH: The KTM motors are definitely the strength of the bike. They put out a really good amount of power. Anyone that’s raced next to me at Springfield knows they’re quick. We don’t have any problem there. The main thing is getting them into the corners, and running through the entire corner. We’ve had a lot of problems with the bike bucking and so forth. A lot of what we’ve learned from the bike comes with time and working with it and not against it to figure out what it likes.
AMAP: How has it been having KTM come into the series to support your team?
JH: It’s a huge benefit. Having a company that big come and help our team gives us a lot of confidence. It’s a good feeling knowing that a manufacturer like that is behind you. It definitely feels good and keeps you going during the long race weeks. Times like that can take a lot out of a rider, so having a company like KTM keeps me going. You have to keep improving for not only your team and yourself, but a major sponsor like them.
AMAP: Shifting gears, tell us about your singles program. Do you ride a KTM in the expert singles class?
JH: Unfortunately, I don’t. The whole Waters Autobody is pretty much a twins deal, so my dad and I handle the singles side of the competition with a 2010 Yamaha YZF-450R.
AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?
JH: That’s a tough question. Obviously, the competition is good because the AMA Pro riders are the best flat track racers in the country. That and I’ve always been a very competitive person throughout my childhood and school. Whatever I put my mind to, I want to be good at. I’m not sure what drove me to flat track in the first place.. It’s a really simple sport, but to be better than anybody else is very impressive. People joke about us going in circles and taking only left hand turns, but to be significantly better than others at that is pretty impressive and tough to do.
AMAP: Is there a particular track layout that you like more so than others?
JH: In the past three years, I’ve been more prone to liking the half-mile & mile tracks, just because the KTM is a big power bike. They’re a lot of fun on the big tracks when you let ‘em stretch their legs. Doing all the short tracks and even local races has been a real blast this year as well. There’s not much stress going to the tracks, just cruising into a local track in Ohio and meeting up with the locals. It’s really cool.
AMAP: Are there any lessons that you and the team took away from Springfield that you can use towards Lima?
JH: Definitely. We learned a lot of things that have helped the handling of the bike over the winter. Springfield was more so a test for all those changes, and I was really blown away. Crashing in the TT the night before probably didn’t help me at all, but now that I’m back to 100% healthy, it should be a good show at Lima.
AMAP: Can you tell us about what happened that Saturday night (Springfield TT)?
JH: I came into that weekend with an open mind. We had made a couple adjustments to my 450, so we were experimenting with them. Mike Boughner has been helping us out bigtime with our singles program. I think I qualified 9th fastest, made some adjustments, and went completely backwards after we made some adjustments. I explained to Mike what the bike was doing. He gave me some suggestions, and the bike was much faster the next timed practice. I think I was 16th fastest and 20th overall. I was excited going into the heat. I had a tough heat, but very confident. I made a huge mistake off the start and wheelied. I was frustrated, because it made me go backwards in the pack and pretty much go to last place by the first turn. I made a rookie mistake by forcing too many passes in too little time. Coming out of a turn, I clipped the back tire of another rider’s bike and got high sided onto my right side. I put my arm out to brace myself and ended up fracturing my right wrist. After so many hospital visits, I stuck it out and rode the Springfield Mile with a fractured wrist. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done, but I did it. I wasn’t about to come all the way out to Springfield, crash the first night and not race the second. This being the first twins national, I didn’t want to let the team down. I feel that the KTM could’ve placed higher through the field than I could’ve taken it, but I still gave it a shot, the team had fun.. that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
AMAP: Who’s your racing hero?
JH: Joe Kopp was my hero growing up. Definitely. Just the way he acted in the pits and was such a super cool guy. He’s always been one of my favorites, and he’s real consistent. I’ve never seen him do anything real dirty to another rider, so he’s my favorite by far.
AMAP: What are your thoughts on the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Expert Class competition?
JH: The competition in the past few years has been unreal. Everyone seems to be stepping up their program at the same time. There aren’t any guys out there that are slouches. The Pro Singles class is super intense because they’re on similar machines. Even with the twins, everyone’s been getting their bikes dialed in so well, it’s hard to qualify for the heats let alone the mains.