A lot has changed since Josh Herrin took his first Superbike championship title back in 2013. He graduated to the world stage of Grand Prix racing, had a bad year and lost all his major sponsors, built a social media following that’s made him the most marketable face in American road racing, and over the last two years he’s firmly established himself as one of the great comeback stories in the history of the sport.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Herrin became a father.
“It’s nuts how literally everything I do for myself just immediately went out the window,” he says. “Now I just want to be winning races for my son, and I want to still be winning races when he’s old enough to remember it so he can use that to fuel his own dreams. It’s been such a motivator for me to get my shit together and train hard.”
This year marks Herrin’s return to the ultra-competitive MotoAmerica Superbike race series, a contest where motorcycles crank out well over 200 horsepower and regularly approach speeds of 200 mph in the straights. Both Herrin’s wife, Rachel, and son, Griffin, are regulars in the Ducati paddock, and if this year’s performance is anything to go by, they seem to be just the motivation he needed.
Herrin has been fighting at the front of the pack all year, and by all accounts is making the strongest showing of his career in nearly a decade. At 33 years old, he’s now among the oldest riders in the running for the title, but Herrin has never been the type to let his age slow him down.
Fast Runs in the Family
Herrin started racing at an age when most of us are learning to read, write, and count to 100. While you and I were hustling the tooth fairy for dollars, Herrin was out hustling a minibike around the racetrack with his dad, and by the time he was 10, things were already getting serious.
“Back then, you weren’t allowed to race until a certain age, so we were always lying about my age to get on the track,” Herrin admits. “When I was a kid, I was always racing against guys who are as old as I am now.”
Before long, Herrin was attracting sponsors. European companies sent him minibikes to race. Invites came in to race overseas. All the while, he was balancing the life of a normal kid, which for Herrin included a love for baseball and basketball that still lingers today.
“During the week, I was with my grandma doing stick and ball sports, and on the weekends I was with my parents doing racing. There were times I’d break my wrist on the bike during a race, but I still wanted to play basketball so I’d cut my cast off before the game.”
You could say not much has changed in that regard. As I sit across from Herrin in the Warhorse Ducati team trailer, he’s currently nursing a torn rotator cuff and a fractured ankle. He picked up both injuries from a nasty 120-mph crash earlier in the season, but taking a weekend off to heal is out of the question if he wants a shot at the championship this year.
The ankle has left Herrin with a pronounced limp as he walks through the pits, and the torn shoulder means he can’t properly bend his arm for braking. Neither injury seems to have slowed him down much, though, as he’s racked up five back-to-back finishes in the top three since, netting him major points in the series and leaving him in third place in the overall standings.
Looking Ahead at the 2023 Season
With nine races remaining in the season, Herrin still has plenty of time to pull ahead. The only question now is how hard he’s willing to push for it, but that answer isn’t as cut and dry as it might have been back in 2013.
“I don’t want to always [be] getting hurt,” Herrin says. “I want to be able to throw a baseball with my kid in five years. I don’t like to say it but we truly are risking our lives when we’re out here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing it for people I love and it’s not like I’m forced to do it, plus I’m getting paid, so that’s great, but every time you get on the bike, it could be the last time.”
Clearly, family life is a double-edged sword in this profession, but Herrin wields it well. In fact his son, who turns two in September, is a regular fixture throughout Herrin’s various social media channels. That doesn’t mean those channels are kid-friendly, mind you, as Herrin’s love of four-letter words, interstate wheelies, and drifting around public roads have been well-documented. And now that he’s picked up OnlyFans as a sponsor, you can even find him on OnlyFansTV.
Of course I can’t recommend all three highly enough (Herrin swears the OnlyFans account is work-friendly, so you’ll have to get your feet pics elsewhere), and it was actually seeing Herrin slide a superbike down a canyon road on Instagram that put him on my radar back in 2017. It’s been a hell of a show ever since, and while it may be controversial at times (especially if you have strong feelings about posted speed limits), Herrin’s “tell it like it is” persona has made him a fan favorite in the motorcycling community.
“It’s all about eyeballs, you know? I know that if I have more eyeballs on me, I’ll be worth more and it’ll bring more people into our sport. Sometimes I get eyeballs in ways people don’t like, but for every person who gets bent out of shape about something I say or do, there are 100 people who love it and they’re going to be a fan of the sport forever now.”
To know Herrin is to know that he’s exactly the person you see online. He’s genuine, easy going, outspoken, and incredibly passionate. I can’t say I’m surprised that he’s managed to build such a loyal fanbase throughout his career, but where there are fans, haters are never far behind.
Disproving the Naysayers
In fact, over the past few years Herrin has suffered more than his fair share of naysayers. He’s had people try to get him fired from teams, been told he’d never be fast enough to win on a superbike again, and he’s even had people level personal attacks at his family and friends.
He shut them all up this June, however, when he nailed down the first win of his comeback season during race weekend at Road America. With that win came even more momentum, and Herrin hasn’t missed a podium finish since.
“We waste so much time in life trying to make everyone happy or worrying about that one person who’s trying to bring us down. You don’t need their opinion, just go out and do it. Fuck what those people say. If I’d have listened to them I wouldn’t have tried. That’s the best advice I can give anyone: Make your circle smaller. Give me my wife, my kid, and a few close friends and I’m good.”
So what does the future hold for Herrin? Well, don’t expect him to quit racing anytime soon. Herrin says his current race team, Warhouse HSBK Racing, is among the best he’s ever worked with, and he plans to stay the course with them for as long as they’ll have him. He’s particularly impressed with his new race bike, a 250+ horsepower Ducati Panigale V4R, which he says is easily his favorite motorcycle of all time, as well as the fastest and most physically demanding machine he’s ever ridden.
“It’s difficult to explain,” he says. “For someone who’s never been on one before, it’s basically like riding a bull at 200mph. It’s gnarly.”
When the time finally comes to hang up his leathers, Herrin isn’t quite sure what will come next. He’s spent some time coaching on the racetrack, loves woodworking and, of course, there’s always OnlyFans if things really go sideways. One thing’s certain: If becoming a parent has taught him anything, it’s that he won’t be wasting a minute of the time he’s got left.
“You need to have fun. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned and it took me 15 years to figure out. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t waste your time doing it, and that goes for everything you do. For me that’s racing, banging bars with the other guy. It’s training all day, then coming home to my wife and playing with my son. Having my son there with me when I win races. I see Lebron James holding his kid up after winning a championship, and it’s things like that I look up to. To bring a trophy home and be able to explain it to him in a few years. That’s what’s important for me.”
Fast Facts With Josh Herrin
Men’s Journal: A lot of people don’t know how much physicality goes into this sport. Run us through your training regimen. How do you get into shape to wrangle these big bikes?
Josh Herrin: Racing is weird. You need to be in great shape, but the best practice is just riding the race bike. Unfortunately we don’t get to do it a lot because it’s so expensive. If you crash one of these bikes, you’re looking at something like $10,000 just to fix it and it’s a huge mess. In the past I trained in the gym, had a trainer, was on a road bike, all of that. This year I’m just riding my mountain bike and it’s the best I’ve ever felt. To clarify, we’re not doing a bunch of gnarly downhill stuff. We go out and do 5,000-plus feet of climbing—an hour or two of straight grinding uphill. Guys that come to join us for a ride never come back to ride with us again. This isn’t a fun time.
I’ve gotta know, how did the OnlyFans sponsorship come about?
Honestly, I just sent them a DM on Instagram. I’ve always had these kind of off-the-wall sponsors, but if you really think about it guys who are into motorcycle and car racing…it’s kind of in line with OnlyFans.
You know, you can’t promote something you aren’t interested in. How easy is it to promote OnlyFans? I love naked women. What straight guy doesn’t? OnlyFans is like a strip club online, or at least that’s how people initially think of it.
Now they’ve got a new platform online called OFTV, which is all job-safe material. They’ve got cars, UFC, whatever. It’s sick. It gives you a place to go look at stuff you like at work without worrying about some naked girl popping up.
What’s your favorite motorcycle of all time?
It’s the V4R! It’s such a great bike. You can ride it on “screaming” mode, or you can drop it down into street mode for less power.
Either that, or the 1972 Yamaha 250B, which is this old two-stroke dirtbike. I got a chance to ride one at Kenny Robert’s house and I just couldn’t help myself, I rode it all day. I ended up looping it out and crashing it but he was very cool about it.
Who’s your favorite racer of all time?
Nicky Hayden, hands down. But also any Americans who made it to MotoGP. If it’s not an American, then I’d say Maverick Viñales. I also love John Hopkins because they compared me to him in an article in Cycle News when I was 12 years old and that was so cool to me.
What’s your least favorite part about motorcycle culture?
For some reason people see a motorcycle rider and they immediately think they’re a bad person or something. At the end of the day we’re just big kids on a toy having fun. Nobody is trying to hurt anyone out on the street. If anything, we’re the ones in danger. People are so quick to judge. I also don’t like it when fellow riders give people reasons to think that. Kicking mirrors in traffic, stuff like that.
Who were your most influential figures outside of motorsports?
My dad, for sure. I grew up in a racing family and he was a racer himself, but he never pushed it on me or was the kind of dad who would yell at me if I didn’t do good. You know you see these “soccer dads” at races just screaming at their kids and I think, Your kid is never going to enjoy their sport if you act like that.
Plus, you’ve got to live with the knowledge that your kid is going out on the track after you screamed at them. They can get hurt or worse, and you’re going to feel like a piece of shit. The consequences are high. This isn’t basketball where you might fall down and hurt your ankle or something. These kids are going 100 mph out there. When people you care about say things to you, it effects you. You need to pump them up and just let them know you’re there for them.
Other than my dad, it’s gonna be Kobe Bryant. Him and guys like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire. I grew up in that era and I’ll always love baseball and basketball.