Brock Hepler Spotlight

BROC HEPLER IS A NO-FRILLS, HARD-WORKING, ALL-AMERICAN KID… AND HE’S NICER THAN YOU

Motocross is made up of a million different personalities. Its diversity is part of what has made it the sport it is today-the sport we love. Over the years, Southern California has grown into what many would agree is the Mecca of the industry. Home to all of the major bike manufacturers, factory test tracks, and a majority of the top professional racers (for at least a part of the year), SoCal has become the standard for motocross. And with so many of the top pros either hailing from or choosing to reside in Southern California, it’s rare for us to travel outside of the area to visit a rider’s hometown. Knowing full well that there is more to motocross than what we experience at home, however, we jumped at the opportunity to spend a day with one of motocross’ rising superstars on his turf. A day out of the rat-race with Team Suzuki’s Broc “Iceman” Hepler was a refreshing change from the norm, and reminds us just how lucky we are to be a part of this fine sport. Although pumped to get a taste of how Broc does things in Kittanning, PA, we weren’t surprised in the least to find what we’d already suspected. Whether at a race, testing in California, or back home in PA, Broc Hepler is a no-frills, hard-working, all-American kid with a passion for motocross. And yes… He is nicer than you.

I landed in Pittsburgh, PA, at about 9:00pm on a Monday night. After a call to Broc to confirm our meeting time for the following morning and a quick practice run with the studio photography equipment to help ensure that I didn’t screw up the lead shot for this feature, I hit the hay and grabbed a good night’s rest. Upon rising I wasn’t quite sure what the day would bring. I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would fit into Broc’s normal routine. As I drove down the state highways through Pittsburgh and into the Pennsylvania countryside, it didn’t take long to hit me that I wasn’t in Cali anymore. The landscape was filled with beautiful rolling green hills, the sun was shining, and I was heading out to hang with Broc Hepler for the day. Not bad! The directions that Broc gave me into Kittanning were right on, and I’d timed the roughly 60-mile drive perfectly. After a quick stop at the W. Kittanning Shop ‘N Save for some batteries for my tape recorder and a bottle of water, I was just minutes away.

Broc was born and raised (and still lives) in Kittanning, PA, a small town of roughly 4,900 people that sits along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River some 43 miles north of Pittsburgh. In a conservative house that sits next door to the home his father Dean grew up in (and grandmother still lives in), Broc and his family are within a fifteen-minute radius of the majority of their family members. When asked if he would ever consider moving away from his home in Kittanning, Broc laughed, replying, “I don’t think so, but it would be nice to move at least a couple minutes down the road from my parents someday.”

Broc comes from a family of honest, working-class people who value family and education. Unlike many of today’s rising stars, Broc attended school full-time through the tenth grade, always achieving As and Bs, before earning his high-school diploma by taking the GED. “I went to school through tenth grade before I tested out, so I don’t think I really missed out on too many of the “normal kid” activities. I probably did more than most of the other guys out on the track have, so I don’t think I really missed out on much.” Understanding that motocross won’t last forever, Broc plans to start taking college courses this fall to further his education. Touche_!

Broc’s father Dean was a fan of the sport well before Broc came along. Following guys like Glover and Hannah during their heydays, it was “The Golden Boy” who had the biggest impact on him. “Glover must have been my dad’s favorite because that where my name came from. It’s pretty cool to be named after a guy like him, though. I am too young to remember much about his racing, but now that I am a pro and he’s with Dunlop I’ve been able to meet him and hang out with him a little bit. He’s a real nice guy.” Named after one of the true legends of our sport, it seems that Broc’s career path was paved before he even made it home from the hospital.

As I rolled into the Hepler’s driveway, Broc and his parents walked out to greet me. Broc had just returned from his morning road bike ride and was still in his gear, so I took full advantage and had him do a quick hot lap down the street for my camera. We then joined his dad in the garage where he was working on one of Broc’s practice bikes. It was at this point that my day became a lot more interesting. “Do you ride, Ryan?” asked Dean. “I sure do,” I quickly replied. “Well, then how would you like to go on a little trail ride later this afternoon?” I remember thinking to myself, “Are you nuts?!? Pennsylvania… Broc Hepler… A trail ride… Of course I’d like to!” I replied in the affirmative and our afternoon was set. But first things first… Broc had to get his daily moto under his belt, and I was stoked to get the opportunity to watch him ride and to shoot some action photos of him on his home turf.

On our way to High Voltage, a local track about ten minutes from Broc’s place, we stopped in town for some gas. “I always go to the Sunoco,” Broc said with a grin. “They sell 94 octane.” I was not surprised to find that the premium 94 in Kittanning costs less than the 87 back home. While pumping gas into his Chevy pickup and into his gas cans, a friendly gentleman armed with 20 questions approached Broc. Broc politely answered them all and then the man moved on down the road. After speaking with him like they were old pals for almost five minutes, Broc promptly turned to me and said laughing, “I have no idea who that guy was.” “The life of a local hero,” I replied. We threw the gas cans back into the truck and bailed.

Broc started riding on a PW50 in the field behind his house when he was barely walking, and by age four had begun his racing career. After doing pretty well at the local level some friends encouraged the Heplers to try some of the larger amateur events, including the granddaddy of them all, Loretta Lynn’s. “I think I was about six years old the first year we went to Loretta’s. I got second place, so that definitely helped our decision to go back.” Over the course of Broc’s amateur career he ended up winning four Loretta’s titles altogether, including a 250cc A championship in 2003. For most amateur racers, a title at Loretta’s is regarded as the ultimate prize, but for Broc, that’s not the case. In 2001 Broc was invited to represent the United States at the FIM Junior World Motocross Cup in Spain. “That was a real honor to go over there and represent our country. I was the first American to win one, so that was really special for me. I still have the front number plate from my race bike hanging in my room.”

The severe Pennsylvania winters kept Broc from riding year-round throughout his amateur career-something that the West Coast riders didn’t have to worry about. “During the winter he’d put spikes in his knobbies to ride a little bit, but he was usually a little shaky at the first amateur National of the year since he’d been sitting most of the winter,” says Suzuki’s Cole Gress. “By Loretta’s he always peaked, though.” Broc’s calm, level-headed attitude and demeanor earned him the nickname “Iceman” by Gress a couple of years back, and Broc’s still running the name today. “Nothing ever rattles him,” says Gress. “That’s why I nicknamed him ‘Iceman.’ He could’ve been sitting at home in six inches of snow all winter long and then shown up at a National and gotten the job done. He definitely has ice water in his blood.” Whether it’s racing, riding pit bikes, or playing pool, Broc always wants to win.

Racing for the Heplers has always been a full family effort. Despite working a full-time job at PPG, Broc’s father Dean always maintained all of his bikes during his amateur days, and continues to maintain his practice bikes today. “It has definitely been a family effort,” says Broc. “My dad has always taken care of the bikes and my mom is always feeding me and taking care of my gear and all. The whole family needed to be there to do well. We all had a job to do.” Now with a factory Suzuki ride, many of their responsibilities at the races have diminished, but the Hepler’s continue to make the travels and do their part at home to help contribute to Broc’s success. To this day Broc’s mother Beth continues to go out to the practice track with him daily to take lap times and signal him on the pit board. “They’ve definitely taken more of a traditional approach, which I think is admirable,” says Gress. “They are solid, working-class people who don’t live over the edge. If I could blueprint an amateur family to work with, it would be the Heplers.”

Broc and I arrived at High Voltage just minutes after leaving the gas station, but the short trek was still enough for Broc to point out some sights, including the Allegheny River, the Kittanning city hall, and his high school. A small town with beautiful historic architecture, he was clearly proud to show it off. Broc hopped out of the truck and unlocked the gate at the entrance of the track. Rich, the owner of High Voltage, gave Broc his own key so that he could access the track at any time. “The life of a local hero,” I repeated with a smile. The High Voltage circuit wraps its way up and down a couple of rolling hills, and under what Broc described as normal conditions sounds like a blast to ride. On this particular day, however, it was much dryer than normal and extremely slick, and Broc didn’t appear to be having a whole lot of fun on it. Gracious host that he is though, Broc continued to pound out a moto for my entertainment and my camera, and even repeated some sections over and over to make sure we got the shot.

After wrapping things up at the track we rolled through Subway to fuel up for the rest of our day. In fear of looking like a total kook, I didn’t mention to Broc that I was beginning to get pretty anxious and excited for our trail ride. Not having the slightest clue that I’d be riding when I packed a bag for the trip, I didn’t come prepared with riding gear, and wondered what he would come up with. After all, Broc weights about 35 pounds less than I do, so the chance of squeezing my butt into his pants would be slim to none.

Before gearing up and heading out for our ride, Broc gave me the grand tour of his house while letting our sandwiches digest. With a homemade pizza roll baking in the oven, the entire house had a glorious smell that made me feel right at home. The Hepler’s home is conservative but very comfortable, and Broc’s bedroom is more like what you would expect of any teenage kid with a passion for motocross, rather than a factory rider with the potential to win championships. Complete with trophies, posters of other riders, and walls with a motocross wallpaper border, Broc’s room was refreshing and reinforced the fact that Broc is just a normal kid, too. “I was expecting a young rider full of attitude who wants all the toys of victory,” said O’Neals’ Frank Kashare when I later asked him about Broc. “You know, a fat factory ride, the sick cars in the driveway, a new large home in SoCal, and a stable of fans to praise his every move. I was shocked when I actually met Broc. This kid is all about racing and all about winning. He couldn’t care less about the fortune and fame.” After admiring a few of his trophies and awards, we headed back down to the garage to get ready for our ride.

Few amateurs get the opportunity to transition into the pro ranks with a full-factory ride, but in 2004, Broc did just that. Having been supported by Suzuki

Racing for the Heplers has always been a full family effort. Despite working a full-time job at PPG, Broc’s father Dean always maintained all of his bikes during his amateur days, and continues to maintain his practice bikes today. “It has definitely been a family effort,” says Broc. “My dad has always taken care of the bikes and my mom is always feeding me and taking care of my gear and all. The whole family needed to be there to do well. We all had a job to do.” Now with a factory Suzuki ride, many of their responsibilities at the races have diminished, but the Hepler’s continue to make the travels and do their part at home to help contribute to Broc’s success. To this day Broc’s mother Beth continues to go out to the practice track with him daily to take lap times and signal him on the pit board. “They’ve definitely taken more of a traditional approach, which I think is admirable,” says Gress. “They are solid, working-class people who don’t live over the edge. If I could blueprint an amateur family to work with, it would be the Heplers.”

Broc and I arrived at High Voltage just minutes after leaving the gas station, but the short trek was still enough for Broc to point out some sights, including the Allegheny River, the Kittanning city hall, and his high school. A small town with beautiful historic architecture, he was clearly proud to show it off. Broc hopped out of the truck and unlocked the gate at the entrance of the track. Rich, the owner of High Voltage, gave Broc his own key so that he could access the track at any time. “The life of a local hero,” I repeated with a smile. The High Voltage circuit wraps its way up and down a couple of rolling hills, and under what Broc described as normal conditions sounds like a blast to ride. On this particular day, however, it was much dryer than normal and extremely slick, and Broc didn’t appear to be having a whole lot of fun on it. Gracious host that he is though, Broc continued to pound out a moto for my entertainment and my camera, and even repeated some sections over and over to make sure we got the shot.

After wrapping things up at the track we rolled through Subway to fuel up for the rest of our day. In fear of looking like a total kook, I didn’t mention to Broc that I was beginning to get pretty anxious and excited for our trail ride. Not having the slightest clue that I’d be riding when I packed a bag for the trip, I didn’t come prepared with riding gear, and wondered what he would come up with. After all, Broc weights about 35 pounds less than I do, so the chance of squeezing my butt into his pants would be slim to none.

Before gearing up and heading out for our ride, Broc gave me the grand tour of his house while letting our sandwiches digest. With a homemade pizza roll baking in the oven, the entire house had a glorious smell that made me feel right at home. The Hepler’s home is conservative but very comfortable, and Broc’s bedroom is more like what you would expect of any teenage kid with a passion for motocross, rather than a factory rider with the potential to win championships. Complete with trophies, posters of other riders, and walls with a motocross wallpaper border, Broc’s room was refreshing and reinforced the fact that Broc is just a normal kid, too. “I was expecting a young rider full of attitude who wants all the toys of victory,” said O’Neals’ Frank Kashare when I later asked him about Broc. “You know, a fat factory ride, the sick cars in the driveway, a new large home in SoCal, and a stable of fans to praise his every move. I was shocked when I actually met Broc. This kid is all about racing and all about winning. He couldn’t care less about the fortune and fame.” After admiring a few of his trophies and awards, we headed back down to the garage to get ready for our ride.

Few amateurs get the opportunity to transition into the pro ranks with a full-factory ride, but in 2004, Broc did just that. Having been supported by Suzuki for several years and enjoying the success that he did as an amateur, Roger Decoster put faith into Broc and gave him the nod. While many rookies with the level of attention that Broc has received have cracked under the pressure of the transition, Iceman kept the mental game in check and rode his way to an amazing second place overall behind James Stewart on the 125cc East Coast Supercross series. “I really didn’t feel that much pressure, actually. This was a learning year and everyone kind of knew that. There were a few other big names coming in this year as well, so I don’t think anyone was specifically looking at just me.”

Heading into his debut season Broc experienced a couple of setbacks that nearly kept him from competing altogether. A lingering back injury kept him off the bike for most of the fall, and then after only a couple of weeks back on the bike a crash at Suzuki’s test track left him with a separated shoulder. “A lot went through my mind those couple of months that I was injured. I actually remember thinking at one point that maybe I shouldn’t even have signed my contract. Maybe I should’ve stayed amateur for another year.” Even while hurt, Broc continued working on his endurance to help stay in shape, and by the time the first East Coast round showed up mid-February he came out swinging. With the uncertainty of not knowing how he’d stack up against the competition, Broc turned some heads by finishing second in the Houston main; his first Supercross main event ever. “I was really just hoping to get some points without having my arm rip off the handlebars that night in Houston. I got a great start from the outside and led for about a lap and a half before Bubba passed me. After that I just concentrated on putting in smooth, consistent laps, and in the end it was enough to hang on for second.”

The 2004 outdoor Nationals have also started off strong for Broc. At the Hangtown opener he proved that he is without a doubt for real, with a solid fourth overall, after running on Bubba’s pace for much of the second moto. “At Hangtown I think Roncada and I proved that we can actually stay with Stewart and put pressure on him. You can’t let him get away because he doesn’t make many mistakes once he’s out front.” The second National round was held at High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, PA, a track where Broc grew up watching his motocross heroes race. Broc charged to two second place moto finishes for second overall at day’s end. “I’ve been waiting all of these years to turn pro and race the best guys in the sport, so to come to my home track the first year out and do so well was really great for me. I think doing well there is going to help me out for the rest of the year. I feel great on the bike and I feel strong at the end of the motos. Now I am just working on picking up a little bit of speed in the beginning of the race to try and stay with Stewart.” At press time Broc is sitting in third place overall in the 125cc AMA Motocross Championship points standing after four rounds.

Boots? Check! Socks? Check! Knee braces? Check! Jersey? Check! Gloves? Check! Helmet? Check! Goggles? Check! Pants…? Yeah… Right! After trying to squeeze into a pair of 32-inch waist O’Neal Hardware pants for a few minutes, I conceded and accepted my fate. I would be wearing the pair of shorts that I’d had on all day on our ride. Looking like I belonged at the X Games rather than the Pennsylvania countryside, we fired up our steeds and headed out through the field that is Broc’s backyard. On the way out Broc reeled off a couple starts on his cement starting pad, which sits on the outskirts of his property, and then we split. Through a field, past a pair of wild turkeys, down his neighbor’s driveway, across a street, and we dove down into some trees and away from humanity. I’ve been on a number of trail rides in my day, but few can compare to this one. The terrain that Broc and I covered was absolutely amazing. After two hours or so oof railing through single-track, climbing hills, sliding through mud, crossing creeks, racing down railroad tracks, and fleeing from junkyard dogs, Broc and I wrapped up a great ride. Thanks again, Broc!

We returned back to the house in time to clean up the bikes and get set up for the story’s lead shot that I had yet to take. With Beth helping by holding my soft box, I fired off a few rounds with my Canon and we called it a day. Nearly ten hours since arriving at the Hepler’s house that morning I packed up my stuff and headed down the road toward my airport hotel. As I reflected on my great day with Broc, even after that amazing ride we took, one thing continued to ring clear in my mind… Broc Hepler is a helluva nice guy! Soft-spoken, down-to-earth, and loaded with talent on a motocross bike, Broc will be a welcomed success in this sport for years to come.

BROC HEPLER

DOB: 8/1/86

HEIGHT: 5’11”

WEIGHT: 150 lbs.

EYES: Blue-green

HAIR: Red

BIRTHPLACE: Kittanning, PA

RESIDENCE: Kittanning, PA

BIKE: RM-Z250

MECHANIC: Lee McCollum

HOBBIES: Pit bikes, billiards, and hunting

FAVORITE MOVIE: Bad Boys 2

FAVORITE MUSIC: Don’t listen to it

HOOPTY: 2004 Chevy 1500 4X4

BIGGEST FEAR: Getting hurt… Then I can’t ride

BIGGEST INFLUENCE: Rick Johnson

2005: Championships

several years and enjoying the success that he did as an amateur, Roger Decoster put faith into Broc and gave him the nod. While many rookies with the level of attention that Broc has received have cracked under the pressure of the transition, Iceman kept the mental game in check and rode his way to an amazing second place overall behind James Stewart on the 125cc East Coast Supercross series. “I really didn’t feel that much pressure, actually. This was a learning year and everyone kind of knew that. There were a few other big names coming in this year as well, so I don’t think anyone was specifically looking at just me.”

Heading into his debut season Broc experienced a couple of setbacks that nearly kept him from competing altogether. A lingering back injury kept him off the bike for most of the fall, and then after only a couple of weeks back on the bike a crash at Suzuki’s test track left him with a separated shoulder. “A lot went through my mind those couple of months that I was injured. I actually remember thinking at one point that maybe I shouldn’t even have signed my contract. Maybe I should’ve stayed amateur for another year.” Even while hurt, Broc continued working on his endurance to help stay in shape, and by the time the first East Coast round showed up mid-February he came out swinging. With the uncertainty of not knowing how he’d stack up against the competition, Broc turned some heads by finishing second in the Houston main; his first Supercross main event ever. “I was really just hoping to get some points without having my arm rip off the handlebars that night in Houston. I got a great start from the outside and led for about a lap and a half before Bubba passed me. After that I just concentrated on putting in smooth, consistent laps, and in the end it was enough to hang on for second.”

The 2004 outdoor Nationals have also started off strong for Broc. At the Hangtown opener he proved that he is without a doubt for real, with a solid fourth overall, after running on Bubba’s pace for much of the second moto. “At Hangtown I think Roncada and I proved that we can actually stay with Stewart and put pressure on him. You can’t let him get away because he doesn’t make many mistakes once he’s out front.” The second National round was held at High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, PA, a track where Broc grew up watching his motocross heroes race. Broc charged to two second place moto finishes for second overall at day’s end. “I’ve been waiting all of these years to turn pro and race the best guys in the sport, so to come to my home track the first year out and do so well was really great for me. I think doing well there is going to help me out for the rest of the year. I feel great on the bike and I feel strong at the end of the motos. Now I am just working on picking up a little bit of speed in the beginning of the race to try and stay with Stewart.” At press time Broc is sitting in third place overall in the 125cc AMA Motocross Championship points standing after four rounds.

Boots? Check! Socks? Check! Knee braces? Check! Jersey? Check! Gloves? Check! Helmet? Check! Goggles? Check! Pants…? Yeah… Right! After trying to squeeze into a pair of 32-inch waist O’Neal Hardware pants for a few minutes, I conceded and accepted my fate. I would be wearing the pair of shorts that I’d had on all day on our ride. Looking like I belonged at the X Games rather than the Pennsylvania countryside, we fired up our steeds and headed out through the field that is Broc’s backyard. On the way out Broc reeled off a couple starts on his cement starting pad, which sits on the outskirts of his property, and then we split. Through a field, past a pair of wild turkeys, down his neighbor’s driveway, across a street, and we dove down into some trees and away from humanity. I’ve been on a number of trail rides in my day, but few can compare to this one. The terrain that Broc and I covered was absolutely amazing. After two hours or so of railing through single-track, climbing hills, sliding through mud, crossing creeks, racing down railroad tracks, and fleeing from junkyard dogs, Broc and I wrapped up a great ride. Thanks again, Broc!

We returned back to the house in time to clean up the bikes and get set up for the story’s lead shot that I had yet to take. With Beth helping by holding my soft box, I fired off a few rounds with my Canon and we called it a day. Nearly ten hours since arriving at the Hepler’s house that morning I packed up my stuff and headed down the road toward my airport hotel. As I reflected on my great day with Broc, even after that amazing ride we took, one thing continued to ring clear in my mind… Broc Hepler is a helluva nice guy! Soft-spoken, down-to-earth, and loaded with talent on a motocross bike, Broc will be a welcomed success in this sport for years to come.

BROC HEPLER

DOB: 8/1/86

HEIGHT: 5’11”

WEIGHT: 150 lbs.

EYES: Blue-green

HAIR: Red

BIRTHPLACE: Kittanning, PA

RESIDENCE: Kittanning, PA

BIKE: RM-Z250

MECHANIC: Lee McCollum

HOBBIES: Pit bikes, billiards, and hunting

FAVORITE MOVIE: Bad Boys 2

FAVORITE MUSIC: Don’t listen to it

HOOPTY: 2004 Chevy 1500 4X4

BIGGEST FEAR: Getting hurt… Then I can’t ride

BIGGEST INFLUENCE: Rick Johnson

2005: Championships

or so of railing through single-track, climbing hills, sliding through mud, crossing creeks, racing down railroad tracks, and fleeing from junkyard dogs, Broc and I wrapped up a great ride. Thanks again, Broc!

We returned back to the house in time to clean up the bikes and get set up for the story’s lead shot that I had yet to take. With Beth helping by holding my soft box, I fired off a few rounds with my Canon and we called it a day. Nearly ten hours since arriving at the Hepler’s house that morning I packed up my stuff and headed down the road toward my airport hotel. As I reflected on my great day with Broc, even after that amazing ride we took, one thing continued to ring clear in my mind… Broc Hepler is a helluva nice guy! Soft-spoken, down-to-earth, and loaded with talent on a motocross bike, Broc will be a welcomed success in this sport for years to come.

BROC HEPLER

DOB: 8/1/86

HEIGHT: 5’11”

WEIGHT: 150 lbs.

EYES: Blue-green

HAIR: Red

BIRTHPLACE: Kittanning, PA

RESIDENCE: Kittanning, PA

BIKE: RM-Z250

MECHANIC: Lee McCollum

HOBBIES: Pit bikes, billiards, and hunting

FAVORITE MOVIE: Bad Boys 2

FAVORITE MUSIC: Don’t listen to it

HOOPTY: 2004 Chevy 1500 4X4

BIGGEST FEAR: Getting hurt… Then I can’t ride

BIGGEST INFLUENCE: Rick Johnson

2005: Championships