I’m sure by now you’ve taken notice to the name Jesse Groemm, which has finished in the top-ten of every AMA/Rekluse National Enduro round thus far in 2012. After quickly working his way through the ranks in the ECEA series and other local northeastern events, Jesse quickly found his forte was at the National Enduro’s. With so much young talent at the races these days and few rides open due in part to a lagging economy, Jesse is just one of many Pros in search of more support. With four rounds remaining so far in the 2012 National Enduro schedule, one of which is nearby in Pennsylvania, it would not come as a surprise to see the New Jersey rider finish on the podium before the season comes to a close. I caught up with Jesse to get his thoughts on 2012.
Hey Jesse, how are things going?
Pretty good, I actually just finished spending some time working on the bikes in the garage.
Cool! Well let’s get right on into things! Although you have made quite a presence this year on the AMA Rekluse National Enduro scene, for those who don’t know you, give us a little background to your racing career.
Well when I was three my Mom and Stepdad, Ed, at the time got me an electric quad. Then when I was around four, they moved me up to a gas 50cc quad, which I rode in circles in the back yard all day. My Dad rode and he was a good A rider in his day; he overalled a local enduro or two way back in the 80’s, so I wanted to move up to riding dirt bikes like him. When I was about five my Mom and Stepdad, Ed, got me started on a 3 speed, semi auto, 50cc, white Honda. When I was 7 years old, I woke up on Christmas morning to a new motorcycle in my room at my Dad’s house! It was a Honda XR 80, my first bike with a manual clutch, I remember it exactly and I’ll never forget getting that bike! My Dad had barkbusters on it for me and it was ready to go! After that, just about every Sunday my Dad took me out riding until I got a little older and starting riding with my friends. My first race my Mom brought me to when I was twelve because I was begging her. I really wanted to race and my Dad didn’t think I needed to race until I was sixteen. My first race was an ECEA Harescramble called Wild West City in North Jersey. I remember finishing 10th on my XR 80 and having a ton of fun. Since that day, I’ve been addicted to racing! I raced until I was 16 in youth and earned a 14-15 85cc class championship, and an A 0-200 cc class championship, my first year in the adult race. I finished 3rd overall in the ECEA series in 2010 and 2011, and also won the overall NEOC Harescramble series championship in 2011.
Wow, so you really came up through the ranks fast! You’re from South Jersey, the home of eight-time National Enduro champ, Mike Lafferty. Do you think the tight Pine Barrens are prime training grounds for off-road riders?
Well, actually I live an hour north of Mike Lafferty, but it’s still considered South Jersey. Riding in the Pine Barrens behind my Dad’s as a kid definitely helped mold me into the rider I am today. I hated being left behind so I learned to keep up. (Laughs) Also, I had a really good group of friends growing up. Whether it was riding dirt bikes, jumping BMX bikes, skateboarding, running around in the gravel pits, videogames or any other activities, we were all very competitive and I strived to be the best. I think that competitiveness we all had against each other made us all better riders.
Speaking of Mike, do you and him ever talk or ride together?
The only time I ever really talk to Mike is at the races just this year. I’ve never ridden with him, but if he asked me to ride I would definitely go! It’s kind of funny, when I was a youth rider the only off-road pro I knew of was Mike and I remember wanting to be a great enduro racer like him.
Mike is a great rider and it’s got to feel awesome that you are now racing with someone you looked up to. And not only are you racing against Mike, your speed is only a matter of seconds off his! You recently returned home from the western most National Enduro round on the series in Upton, Wyoming. Along the way you also stopped at an ISDE qualifier in Ohio. How did the ISDE qualifier go? What was the format and how did you have to place in order to qualify?
The Ohio ISDE qualifier was a lot of fun I ended up with the overall both days, it was the first time I’ve raced two days in a row so that was interesting prepping the bike for the second day and myself. I learned that if you’re riding multiple days and something like monkey butt is bothering you at the end of the first day, it’s going to be a whole lot worse the second! (Laughs) The format was basically the same as National Enduro’s, the only difference being that the transfer sections where a lot longer and the special tests where a lot shorter. I’m not exactly sure what the rules to qualify were. I didn’t hand in a letter of intent to go to the ISDE; I basically rode the event to have fun and get some seat time before Wyoming. One of my future goals is to compete in the ISDE, but this year I’m committed to racing the National Enduro series.
Even though you don’t plan on competing in this year’s ISDE, it’s at least got to feel good knowing you have what it takes to make it there. After getting some seat time in Ohio, you set your sights on Wyoming for round six of the AMA/Rekluse National Enduro series where you rode yet another impressive race. At one point during the event, you ran up in second, just six seconds off the pace of Mike Lafferty. Overall, what did you think of the mountainous Wyoming terrain and your eight place finish?
Wyoming was really beautiful, rolling hills and plenty of great views; it’s a whole different world then the east coast. I always heard a lot about the tree branches there and how they don’t flex so I found out for myself and the rumors were true! I’m not satisfied with my performance out there, I was happy that I still finished in the top ten but my goal is to finish in the top five and to make my way on the podium.
Your best performance on the National Enduro circuit took place at round five in Louisiana where you finished an impressive fourth. Was there anything in particular you did differently that day or did things just click for you?
That day I really didn’t prepare or change anything I normally do for any event. I think I just rode smooth and kept the mistakes to a minimum. The trail there was really fun and it kind of reminded me of South Jersey, so I think that helped me.
Changing gears, you’ve also done a couple of GNCC’s this season where you finished in the top fifteen overall. Although your primary focus right now is on the enduro’s, do you have any interest in competing full time as a GNCC racer in the future? Do you feel that one series is more demanding on riders than the other?
Yes, I do have interest in competing in GNCC’s full time in 2013 as well as competing in the National Enduro series. Enduro’s and GNCC’s are two different animals. In the enduro’s you have to sprint right from the get go. You only see the trail once and you have to make the right decision the first time because you’re racing the clock and I really like that. GNCC is full out bar to bar racing for 3 hours on some of the roughest courses out there and that third hour separates the men from the boys. Physically I think GNCC’s are more demanding while mentally I think enduro’s are tougher.
Although it is still relatively early in the season, have you received any sort of offers for 2013?
So far this year I haven’t had any offers, but I’m spending as much time as I can in the pro pits conversing with the different teams so hopefully next year I’ll be somewhere.
Like most racers, you work during the week to go racing on the weekends. Although you have many supporters, even as a young racer in the ECEA’s you paid for a large part of your racing yourself. Now that you’ve finished school, what keeps you busy during the week and pays all of the racing bills?
Those racing bills never seem to stop! [Laughs] I’m a boilermaker apprentice in the local 28 so I have some classes that are involved with that and in-between work with the boilermakers I work for my Stepdad’s small construction business, or I help out around my mom’s horse farm. It works out well between all three and I always stay busy.
Depending on what next season brings in the form of rides, do you plan on racing the AMA/Rekluse National Enduro season in 2013?
Yes I really enjoy the enduro’s and I plan on competing in the 2013 series!
If there was one thing you would like to see changed about the sport of off-road racing, what would it be and why?
One think I would like to see changed in off-road racing is the amount of money and sponsors in the sport. One day I would like to see off-road become as big as or bigger than motocross. I think off-road riders deserve more and racing off-road is just as demanding as motocross.
Who would you like to thank?
I would like to thank Mom, Dad, Hank Knabe/HK Truck Center, M&S Engineering, Factory Connection, Bromley’s KTM, Brooks Hamilton, Moose Racing, Clockwork, Trapini’s, Motul, FMF, Motonation, Nineonenine Designs, Spy Goggles, and Enduro Engineering.