When people think of Canada, sports that come to mind usually include hockey and lacrosse.
Football? Maybe. Basketball? Not so much. Soccer? Sometimes.
But motorcycle racing?
A fiercely competitive sport that is rarely on the radar in Western Canada, the world of racing motorcycles is much more entrenched in the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe and other parts of North America.
When South Surrey’s Jack Roach, 19, became the first Canadian to win a British Superbike Championship (BSB) support race last August in the U.K., it made headlines in the racing world on the other side of the pond.
Here? Not even a whisper.
But it’s not something Jack, who spends most of his free Sundays teaching younger riders how to race safely, does for accolades from media outlets.
His passion for motorcycles and riding started when he was about 11 years old travelling in Austria, and he could hear motorcycles “ripping up and down” a huge valley.
His father, John, is a also former professional racer in the United Kingdom.
“For my 13th birthday there was a bike sitting in the garage,” Jack remembered with a smile.
It was his first-ever road bike, a 125 Kayo.
Competing on mini bikes for the first two years, he graduated from racing miniature motorcycles to full-size bikes at 15, with the Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association (CVMA).
Competing in MotoAmerica’s Junior Cup class, Jack was often conducting his school studies while on the road travelling throughout the United States for the sport he loves so much, collecting countless trophies, medals and plaques along the way.
After the 2021 Moto America season on a Yamaha YZF-R3, where Jack came close to the podium on several occasions, the teen was invited to race in England by former British Superbike champion Leon Haslam – the Haslam family is described as “racing royalty in the U.K.” by those familiar with the sport.
Joining the Haslam’s Affinity Sports Academy team led to his huge win in August 2022, when he became the first Canadian to win a BSB support race, on a Kawasaki Ninja 400.
“We couldn’t have done it without (manager) Jason Moody,” Jack said.
Affinity has direct links to Kawasaki, and Jack plans to return to the U.K. and the Affinity Sports Academy this year, in order to move up to the Junior Superstock series on a ZX6R (600 series).
“Testing (the bikes) is in February in Spain,” he said.
Junior superstock bikes can have a lot more modifications than the bikes he’s previously ridden, Jack said, and he’s looking forward to trying out the new bike and hopefully, racing in the 2023 season on it.
But he’s concerned about being able to afford it.
While he is on the team, competing in motorcycle racing at Jack’s level can be a challenge for someone living in South Surrey.
Not only because the sport itself – the equipment, fuel, maintenance, gear and travel required – can be extremely expensive, but the sport is under-appreciated and simply, not as popular on TV in Western Canada as it is in the U.K.
“Fundraising has been really hard to do in Canada – no one here really knows the sport,” Jack said.
“In England, you’ll see superbike ads during football. You’ll get 50,000 to 70,000 people at these events in the U.K and Eurosport will be there to cover it. Here, it’s just not that popular.”
The superbike is Jack’s eventual goal, as Affinity has plans to compete in the Superbike series.
While Jack has a helmet sponsor (LS2) and a leathers sponsor (Antham Racing), he and his father are hoping Canadian sponsors might be interested in helping him reach his goals.
“We’re hoping for some homegrown support and sponsorship,” John said.
“We’re on the cusp of Jack not being able to ride, without (sponsors) getting on board.”
Although it’s a high-risk sport with racers travelling at high speeds close together, Jack says his focus is only on riding when he’s competing.
“When you’re on the track, you’re just thinking about racing and nothing else,” he said.
He has started his own training academy, JR 12 – JR for Jack Roach, and the number 12 is the number he wears when competing, and a number John also wore during his racing days.
“He’s creating a pathway, or common ground, for younger motorcycle riders to succeed,” John said.
Training young motorcycle riders to race safely is key, Jack said, especially because of the high speeds and risk involved.
Having broken seven bones and experienced multiple injuries because of racing helps make it all the sweeter when there’s a trip to the podium after a successful race.
“It’s nice when you win,” he said with a grin.
Anyone interested in sponsoring can call John at 778-385-1710.