Just for kicks at age seven, Josh Bridge rode a Honda 50 dirt bike on backyards and logging roads with his parents and sister.
At 16, Bridge is the kingpin of the Pacific Northwest Motorcycle Association’s Intermediate division. He rang up 184 points in 16 races, winning events like the Roots of Doom, Squealin’ Pig, Full Throttle and Dirty Dog.
The 6-foot-3, 160-pounder, who plays basketball for the VSS Panthers, won a few key junior under and over races last year and moved up a class this season.
“The Intermediate division is normally for 15- to 37-year-olds so I’m one of the youngest,” said Bridge, a former Rep hockey player. “There was one other kid from Kamloops that’s my age.”
Facing older and more experienced bikers didn’t intimidate Bridge.
“The first half of the year I was just getting back into it. At the beginning, I was getting seconds and thirds. In the second half, I had five firsts. I practise a ton so it paid off. This year, I probably put in 300 hours of practice.”
Bridge, who gives major props to his parents – Jody and Sheila – for support, rides regularly with buddies Drayden Dougan, Kyle Sherwood, Ian and Owen McKill and Burg Giliomee.
Josh rides a FC250 Husqvarna in a sport where riders can spend up to four hours in a single competition.
It was the Quesnel Outback Bushwack Hare Scramble, where he finished first, that brought a new confidence to Bridge.
“I found another gear in that race. Once you’re in the bush for two and a half to four hours, it sorts of gets to you but you have to know how to pace yourself, not go too hard the first half so you don’t get gassed out.”
Bridge’s two main rivals are 30-something Jason Janzen of Kamloops and David Butler of North Vancouver, who is in his mid 20s.
“I’m always battling them for the podium,” smiled Josh. “I like challenging myself against faster people. I think it bothers them when I beat them, but we always congrat one another win or lose.
“The start is pretty nerve-wracking but I feel pretty confident. The environment is pretty good; everyone is friendly; it’s a nice community. There are high-fives all over the place.”
Bridge pocketed a sweet trophy and a leather jacket for topping the points parade this year. He missed the final race of the season in Kamloops because it was snowing and he had the season title clinched.
Racers can move at a top speed of 80 kilometres an hour and take ragged turns at slower than 15-k an hour. Bridge looks to make some huge strides next year.
“My goals for next year are some enduro-cross races where there are obstacles like rocks, tires and logs. I would like to do the six days international (ISD) in Spain. Ian (McKill, who coaches Josh) did one in New Zealand and said it was awesome. I also want to do the Tennessee Knockout.”
Bridge competed in some Geico Tour events last year, taking first in the Beginner class and seventh in Intermediate at the Red Bull Rods and Logs outdoor race in Calgary. Josh and his father are extremely grateful to the Vernon Offroad Motorcycle Club for grooming trails.
He is also over the moon for sponsorship and coaching from McKill and Riders Edge. In between racing, Bridge did make some spending money last summer picking pine cones at the PRT Nursery near O’Keefe Ranch.
“Josh is a quiet kid but he’s fearless on a bike,” said Ian McKill. “It’s almost like he has a split personality. He’s quiet until he gets that helmet on and puts his leg over the bike. He’s a bold rider; he takes chances that more conservative riders would not take.
“He has gained an amazing amount of skill in a considerable short amount of time. He’s only been a competitive rider for two years.”
McKill said he received a text saying Bridge stopped in mid-race to assist a rider in trouble.
“We’re very proud of him; he’s a real gentleman for the sport.”
The 2017 season opens in March and Bridge hopes to do some winter riding at a track in Popkum, near Hope. He will also hit the gym upping his endurance.