James Douglas “JD” Beach has a legitimate shot at becoming a genuine American racing hero. Think Dick Mann. Think Kenny Roberts. Think Doug Chandler. Think The Grand Slam. By winning an AMA/AFT dirt track and Superbike race instantly puts Beach on a path many riders have dreamed about for their entire lives. That he did it in the space of a week is remarkable, but it’s so amazing and impressive that he did it at all. Because America hasn’t produced a rider like JD Beach, with the skill set and equipment to win both a major dirt track and a Superbike race, in twenty or thirty years.
It’s never been easy to attain the success that Beach has yearned for and attained. In fact, it’s probably harder for a rider to attain now more than ever. We live in an era of omnipresent internet, video games and social media. An era where a great many, really an overwhelming number, of young men have little interest in riding motorcycles. But the vast majority of them have raced motorcycles.
Or they think that they have.
Racing motorcycles is something that many of them have already done–on a game console–and they’ve moved on.
In 2018 the video game Fortnite grossed over a billion dollars, and games like Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption sell millions of copies every year–many of them to young men whose sole hobby, passion or interest is playing video games. Motorcycle sales, in most cases, are a shell of what they were fifteen years ago. The generation who started riding in the 1980s and continue today were at one time comfortable in knowing they might be the last generation to use carburetors for mixing fuel and air. Now, today, there are people of that generation–many of them not the paid alarmists at the AMA–who truly believe 1980s-present era riders might be the last generation to actually ride motorcycles in any real numbers.
So this is the environment that JD Beach has gown up in and rebelled against. Beach has been racing for nearly two decades. He won the Red Bull Rookie championship the year after Johann Zarco, and has raced in the USA for the last half-decade. Like any rider who does not come with a trust fund Beach has had to work for his success. While in Red Bull Rookie Cup he was a frequent guest on Casey Stoner’s couch; while he raced in America he held down a full-time job in a print shop.
|It’s never been easy to attain the success that Beach has yearned for and attained. In fact, it’s probably harder for a rider to attain now more than ever. We live in an era of omnipresent internet, video games and social media. An era where a great many, really an overwhelming number, of young men have little interest in riding motorcycles. But the vast majority of them have raced motorcycles … Or they think that they have.|
And he never got pulled into the world of video games. There’s a well-known story which details Roger Hayden and a friend trying to entice the late Nicky Hayden into playing video games with them. Nicky watched them play for a while, then they gave him a controller and some basic instruction. His heart wasn’t in it but Nicky tried for a while nonetheless. “He put down the controller after a few minutes, looked at us like we were nuts, and said, ‘I’m goin’ ridin’,” his brother, Roger Lee, remembers. That’s where JD Beach comes from as well.
Does JD Beach play? Yes, he does. With his dogs. “I’m not much for video games,” he says. “I relax by playing with my dogs.”
Currently, there’s only four members of the Grand Slam club—Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts, Doug Chandler, and Bubba Shobert. JD Beach has a shot at joining them. No matter what the naysayers claim this is an amazing time to be a fan of motorcycle racing.