Josh Knight is making an impact on the international motorcycle-racing scene, and the 17-year-old recently brought home a silver medal as the youngest member of Team USA at the International Six Day Enduro in Saxony, Germany.
“My mom always had a philosophy growing up about never deterring your kids from following their dreams,” said Josh’s mom, Jennie Knight. “To try and build them up the best you can because the world … will beat them down on its own. I think Josh has done well with following it. This has definitely been a dream that he had, and he was able to accomplish that.”
The Harrisville native got his first motorcycle when he was 4 years old. Two years later his father, Mike Knight, took Josh to Idaho City, Idaho, to watch him ride in the annual ISDE qualifying race.
Both were hooked on enduro, and Mike said the trip eventually became a family event that ranked second only to Christmas on the family calendar.
“I had ridden on and off my whole life, but a friend of mine really turned me on to this discipline of riding,” Mike Knight said, contrasting enduro with motocross. “Motocross is in a confined spot with multiple laps in a defined amount of time. Enduro is literally all-day long across potentially a couple hundred miles each day for multiple days. On top of that you have a series of timed special tests that are like races within a race.”
Knight explained the tests (six to eight daily) challenge riders with different specialized terrain, such as heavily wooded areas or grass fields or even a motocross track combined with another trail.
As years passed, Mike, Josh and the rest of the Knight family continued racing and delved ever deeper into the unique culture of enduro.
“Most people don’t understand how physically and mentally challenging the sport is,” Josh Knight said of his 8- to 10-hour days on the bike during races. “It’s on such another level compared to anything else. It’s insane.”
In 2008 at 13, Josh took his first crack at Idaho City and made it 40 miles into the race before the course got the best of him. At 14 he finished the entire course.
In 2010, the father-son duo supported a U.S. team at the ISDE in Mexico, and Josh was encouraged by fellow Utah riders in the scene who had noticed his potential.
In 2011 a broken wrist kept Josh out of Idaho City, but in 2012 Josh returned for the third time and placed first in his class, qualifying for the ISDE held in Germany at the end of last September.
One of the most demanding motorcycle races on the planet, the ISDE tests a rider’s speed, technical capability in a variety of conditions and mechanical know-how when it comes to their equipment.
“Not only are you having to ride 200-plus miles per day but also six days straight, where so many things can go wrong,” Mike Knight said. “It truly takes not just riding skill, but a keen sense of mental maturity and being able to work through issues.”
He explained that riders are responsible for 100 percent of the work that has to be done on the bikes and are only allowed 10 minutes at the start of each day and 15 minutes at the end of the day to work on them.
In a race without age divisions, where plenty of older riders drop out each day to fatigue or equipment failure, Knight said he felt good about his silver performance in Germany.
“Silver was very good for my first time, and I was very happy with it,” he said.
Getting Josh to Germany wasn’t cheap, and the Knight family (including his biggest fans — younger brothers Kobee and Benji and sister Kaytee) raised nearly $6,000 by selling T-shirts, food and holding a fundraiser at the Ogden Cycle Association track in Harrisville.
“One of my favorite things about doing this was seeing how supportive everyone was,” Josh said. “I had so many people behind me and supporting me, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Jennie Knight said the community support was overwhelming — from seasoned ISDE veterans helping Josh with his riding, to professional mechanics giving him tips on how to fix tires quickly, to a riding club the Knights belong to, called the Sage Riders.
“They were really supportive and even helped donate for our trip,” she said. But despite the outpouring of donations and expertise, Jennie said, “my husband has still definitely been his No. 1 coach.”
After arriving in Germany a week before the race, Josh was only allowed to walk the tests he’d be riding, trying to visualize and memorize each stretch, hill and off-camber turn.
While whizzing around on a motorcycle might not sound like the best way to tour a European country, Josh Knight would disagree.
“I don’t think there would be a better way to see the country than the way I did,” he said. “I rode over 1,000 miles while I was there in the mountains and through little towns. I loved every second of it and had the time of my life.”
As Josh’s coach, mentor and father, Mike Knight said that beyond the amazing physical skill his son shows on the course, it’s his focus and mental condition that really make him proud.
“It’s almost more satisfying than anything to see him at that stage and that maturity level with the age that he is.”
Josh said in addition to being an honor student at Fremont High School and having a part-time job and a side gig racing BMX bikes, he’ll continue to train and push himself to get back to the next ISDE, to be held on the Italian island of Sardinia.
“I can always find plenty of time to ride,” he said. “I’m going to probably follow a few more series next year and hit my training harder. I definitely want to do everything I can to qualify for the next six-days in Italy.”