By Donn Maeda
Photos by Simon Cudby/Courtesy GEICO Honda
Jimmy DeCotis is entering his second-consecutive season with the GEICO Honda team, and his motivation to win is higher than ever. The kid from Massachusetts is set to contest the Western Regional 250 Supercross Championship alongside his teammate Jeremy Martin, and he reports that he is ready to go…
Jimmy, you are entering the 2017 season with a contract with GEICO Honda. Does having backing from such a solid team give you extra confidence going into the new year?
Absolutely. I signed my deal back at Washougal last year, so I’ve known for a while that I had a great ride. The team let me go down to Australia to race there again this off-season. Things didn’t go as great this year as the year before, but it was good time on the bike. I came home early and have had plenty of time on the bike to get ready. It’s been huge for me, the testing. Today is only Wednesday and I am on my third day of testing and riding. I am more fit than ever before so I am definitely looking for better results in 2017.
At 25, you have the best ride of your career. For years you were that gritty privateer who stuck it in here and there. Back then; did you ever imagine that you’d be where you are now?
No, not really. Especially not at the age I am at now. In 2012 when I was on the GEICO Honda team and I got hurt and lost the ride, so many people told me that I was done, that at 21 years old I would never get a ride like that back again. People told me to go find something else to do! I always felt like I had the potential, though; and that if I took the sport as a whole more seriously I could get it back.
What kind of people told you to your face that you’d never get a ride back?
A couple of my friends would joke about it and say, “Do you really think you’ll get back on a factory team?” And I am really good friends with JoJo Keller, and he said the same. He didn’t mean any harm by it at all. I did an interview a few years ago and said a lot of bad stuff about the sport and how crappy the pay is…JoJo has always helped me throughout my career and he said, “Why are you doing this kid? I know you want to help this sport but sometimes you have to just shut up if you wanna get back on one of these teams. Just be quiet and do your work.” I mean, not too many people told me that kind of stuff, but as a racer you can have 100 people tell you that you can, but you will want to prove that one person who said otherwise, wrong. (Laughs)
As a production bike, the Honda CRF250R has remained unchanged for 2017. How does that translate over to your race bike? Are there many changes?
It’s not much different, chassis-wise. We have the option between spring and air forks and that’s what we have been working on the past few weeks. My bike is different, chassis-wise than the other guys’ because of my smaller stature, but honestly, I am basically on the same bike that I have been on for a while. I am really comfortable where I am at now and it should be a good year for me. They haven’t made many changes, but the ones they did are really good. All of the suspension guys are out here working with us and I feel like the effort is really high. As a racer you really appreciate that when everyone is working so hard…makes you really want to perform for them.
It’s awesome that you are getting to choose between spring and air, because when air first came out there were some teams that it was forced on. What characteristics do you prefer about each system?
There are a few different things that I prefer about air. I love how well an air fork holds up and how there isn’t much movement. It works great in the whoops and the front end stays up if you drop into the whoops and it won’t dive. That part is awesome. But to have that, there isn’t much feel anywhere else in the stroke, especially initially. So in a heat race when the track is smooth, I love the air fork. But when it gets rough and choppy, the air struggles to keep front-end traction. With a spring fork, you have all that feel and great front-end traction, but then you loose some of the performance in the whoops. It’s kind of a balancing act between the spring and the air. You have to decide which system you want to get comfortable with and which benefits outweigh which negatives. As of now I am on a spring fork and we are working to get it better. It’s hard to give it a real evaluation because we have been on the air fork for so long and it takes some time to get comfortable again. But yeah, right now I am on a spring but we are making good progress. It has a good feel and it works better as the track gets rough.
Earlier you mentioned a change in your attitude about training. How would you classify yourself now? Are you a hammerhead, or do you train just hard enough to race well?
Well, this time of the year is when you hammer and make sure that you are good to go for the races. But overall I am trying to train smarter. My friend Seth is our here helping me. I really feel like I am in a good position, training wise. I focus on quality over quantity. I make sure that all of my days on the track are good. Doing well at the track brings confidence, and confidence brings wins. No matter what, riding a dirt bike is hard and you have to be in shape for it.
The GEICO Honda team seems to have a pretty great team dynamic…
We all get along really well. When we do the scrimmages it’s hard to get along with everyone, because we all want to win and be the best and there are some egos in play. No matter what the results of our scrimmages are, everyone always seems happy at the end. It’s only benefitting us to do those races, because it gets us up to race speed. The suspension guys also get to see how the bikes are working at race pace. That’s when you really see if you are comfortable or not. I think the team dynamic is really good this year. Everyone has their limits and we all try to push them and push each other.
Tell me a little about these team scrimmages. I know you guys have been doing them for a while but I don’t know of other teams that do them…
Sometimes we do gate drops, mostly when we are simulating heat races, eight to 10 laps. When we do the main events, we usually space out by 10 seconds between each of us. It’s based off your total time. It’s pretty cool to do it like that because you can see if you are gaining on the next guy so it is motivating without being dangerous, jumping over each other’s heads. I am sure, though, that as the season gets closer we will do a gate drop main with the whole crew. It will get a little crazy out there!
Where do you stay when you are in California?
I rent a room from my buddy AP, Aaron Plessinger. In Canyon Hills. It’s me and Jamie and our dog Marley. It’s an awesome setup, there are lots of mountain bike trails right outside the front door.
Do you enjoy yourself in California, or it is a necessary evil?
Last year I was living in Menifee and driving up to Corona every day to work out and that got old. But this year I got a membership at The W Training Facility and I only have to drive down the road to work out. The gym is only 10 minutes away and the only time I have to drive in traffic is when I am going to the shop or our track at Milestone. For me, though, I really love being in Florida but you can’t really be there when your team is here. It’s a mindset. If you are miserable and hating it, you are not gonna get much out of it. I am happy here. With my dad passing a couple weeks ago I really feel that I am where I need to be. My dad worked his whole life for me to be out here, so I am just trying to do it with him. I feel content when I am out here. I am doing the right thing and I am doing what my father would want me to do and I get some pleasure from that.
Wow. I wasn’t aware of you losing your father. We’re so sorry, Jimmy.
It’s okay. That’s life. It happens. You have to move on even though it’s hard. I have to be there for my family, and I have to do my job. They are back in Massachusetts and it’s hard sometimes, but hey…life’s not always easy.
I’m sure that you’re gonna turn this sadness into some positive energy and do some racing for your pops in 2017…
Yeah, that’s the goal. I feel good when I am at the track because that’s where I feel close to him. He was super happy with the ride I got this year and with the work I have been putting in. I want to get out there and win a race for him. That would be something really cool to do.