off road racer preston campbell

Catching up with Preston Campbell

Oftentimes a culture is defined by its young people, or rather the amount of youth coming into that culture. If we are not bringing more young people in than the people that are aging out, our culture is dying. With the explosion of youth racing in Trophy Karts and UTV’s, it’s easy to forget about the consistent entry point of motorcycles. Bikes have and always will be the least expensive way to participate in off-road racing. Son of off-road racing legend Johnny Campbell, Preston Campbell is a prime example of the exuberance of youth thriving in desert motorcycle racing. Surrounded by a Jedi council of off-road bike racing even beyond his father Preston is narrowly focused on racing at the highest level in his recent jump to the 450 class, the top of the food chain in terms of off-road bike racing.

Matt Martelli:

So tell us what you’ve been up to this year?

Preston Campbell:

This year, I moved up to the 450 class, both National Grand Prix and National Hare and Hounds. It’s been a real learning experience, but it’s been really fun.

Matt Martelli:

That’s pretty much the deep end of the pool in terms of motorcycle racing, right?

Preston Campbell:

Yeah. The 450 class is the premiere class, pretty much everywhere in dirt bikes and off-road racing. I’ve been riding the 250s the last couple of years, and then last year I won the Enduro Championship and got a couple of podiums and consistent top finishes. Then this year I moved up to the 450s and it’s been really good.

Matt Martelli:

How has it been, getting comfortable with that bike platform?

off road racer preston campbell
Preston Campbell’s Custom 450 JCR Honda

Preston Campbell:

I had to spend a lot of time riding and change my riding style a little bit, to adjust to the power and how the bike handles differently. But it opens up so many more options with the power, the speed. You could go so much further, where on the 250, I felt like this is all it has and I can’t really go much more. So it definitely improved and raised my riding level this year.

Matt Martelli:

And now you’re competing against a lot of older guys who have been pro for a long time. What’s that like, is that a little bit intimidating?

Preston Campbell:

Yeah. I’d say it’s a little bit… I’d like to say no, but for sure, it’s a little intimidating because they know the speed. They have experience in the class, at that pace. I am just starting and trying to adjust right away, it’s a learning experience and a challenge to get used to. But definitely from where I started at the beginning of the year to now it’s way better.

Matt Martelli:

What was the most difficult thing you think, for you and making the jump?

Preston Campbell:

I think the most difficult thing is building your strength and conditioning to handle a 450 for that long of a time. Then riding, just bike training where you got to learn how the 450 works and where it’s better, where it’s worse, and then race. I’ve just tried to race as many times as possible all year long just to have as much experience on the 450 as possible.

Matt Martelli:

Sure. Obviously, your dad is a legend in the sport. Do you feel like there’s a lot of pressure on you to perform?

Preston Campbell:

No. I think some people think that, but he doesn’t pressure me at all. He never pressured me into riding or anything. It’s just, I like it and I like to go fast.

Matt Martelli:

Do you think it’s an advantage having him teaching you and his knowledge base?

off road racer preston campbell
Matt Martelli interviewing Preston Campbell of JCR Honda

Preston Campbell:

Yeah, it is an advantage because he’s got so much experience in all sorts of racing and it helps me a lot with knowledge. He has the best pit strategy, has race craft. He helps me in so many ways. It makes it a lot easier that, when I know he’s at a race, all I got to focus on is riding. Where, if he’s not there, there are so many other things I got to prepare and think of. So it’s really good to have him around.

Matt Martelli:

Yeah. That’s cool. For you, you’re just beginning your career. How many years have you been competing?

Preston Campbell:

I’ve been riding since I was three, but I didn’t really take anything seriously or care or whatever, until probably I was 16 and I started racing a lot more and putting some work into it. In the last five years just came a long way from riding the intermediate class to now lining up on the front row at these races.

Matt Martelli:

And what’s your goal with your racing?

Preston Campbell:

The goal that I feel is reachable right now is to work hard for the Hare and Hound Championship. That’s probably my main goal. Next year, I’m going to plan on going to The International Six Days Enduro and try to qualify for that. I’ve got a bunch of little goals, but, that’s my main goal right now. I want to stay focused on the Hare and Hounds.

Matt Martelli:

It’s a great building block for bigger, future races. Do you look at some of the stuff that your dad’s done, like Dakar and Baja, are those things that you look at somewhere down the line?

Preston Campbell:

Yeah. I’ve looked into those a little bit and they’re definitely on my mind a little, but I’m not going to go do those or do anything until I reach my goals here, locally or I guess, the national events. And then maybe move on to something if I would like.

off road racer preston campbell
Preston Campbell of JCR Honda

Matt Martelli:

Baja is always a question. Is that on your radar for the next few years?

Preston Campbell:

Honestly, no. I don’t have any desire to race down there right now. I’ve ridden some of the course pre-running with my dad and I didn’t enjoy it too much.

Matt Martelli:

In all the different forms of racing or the different styles of races that you’re doing right now, what’s your favorite? Is it technical stuff? Is it fast stuff? Rough stuff?

Preston Campbell:

I enjoy the technical, more single track riding. Where, the Hare and Hounds, some is fast, but you’re always on trails and stuff and it’s not big roads. And you’re going really fast across the valleys, but it’s fun because it throws you into some first gear, slow, technical, rocky, single track, some cool washes, waterfalls, whatever, so… And the locations they take you on and the series are really, really nice.

Matt Martelli:

That’s cool. Obviously, you started riding when you were young, but for you, what’s your favorite thing about motorcycle riding or racing? Is it racing or is it just free-riding?

Preston Campbell:

I enjoy racing because you get good… If you do good, you feel really good about it after you’ve achieved something. I like to just ride new places, anywhere I haven’t ridden, I like to go ride and just see new places that dirt bikes take you. It’s really cool.

Matt Martelli:

Tell us a little bit about your team.

off road racer preston campbell
Preston Campbell and his custom JCR Honda 450

Preston Campbell:

My dad runs our JCR Honda team and this year we raced the National Grand Prix and National Hare and Hounds. I got a Ricky Brabec, he doesn’t race too much in the U.S. but my dad helps facilitate him for training here and helps with whatever he wants to do, he’s pretty much ready to go. And then Kendall Norman, he’s really good to have around. Lots of experience, he helps me all the time. And Tarah Gieger, she’s super cool. It’s super fun to hang out with them at the races and learn. We have a good group of people, and for me, it’s all really special because they’re all older and they all have a lot of experience. They have won everything in all their disciplines and I’m a lot younger than them. So I got a lot to learn a lot from them.

Matt Martelli:

That’s an amazing group of really experienced racers to learn from. That must be pretty rad.

Preston Campbell:

It’s so fun just to go trail ride, or go to races. Just being around them and having them help me is pretty awesome.

Matt Martelli:

Cool. Anything else you want to talk about or people you want to thank?

Preston Campbell:

I’d just like to thank my Dad. Honda, Fly Racing, Maxxis tires, VP Fuel, and just everyone that supports us.

Check out the JCR Honda Team here: jcrhonda.com

Matt Martelli

Founder of Mad Media, a multidisciplinary creative and marketing firm and CEO of Off Road Racer and The Mint 400 Matt is one of the biggest influences in Off-Road Racing