Meet Pro Motorcycle Racer and Newly-Minted Model Joe Roberts

Meet Pro Motorcycle Racer and Newly-Minted Model Joe Roberts

Meet Pro Motorcycle Racer and Newly-Minted Model Joe Roberts

The 20-year-old professional motorcycle racer talks his MotoGP World Champion ambitions, his first steps into modeling, and more.

The 20-year-old professional motorcycle racer talks his MotoGP World Champion ambitions, his first steps into modeling, and more.

Photography: Adair Smith

When did you start racing and why?

I started riding when I was 3-years-old and racing when I was 5. At first, it was just a fun thing that my dad, my 3 brothers, and I did. We would go up into the Hollywood Hills behind our house and ride our 50cc bikes around hoping not to get caught by any park rangers! But then my dad started taking us to the track and it started to bring out a competitive side in me. I always had fun and loved every minute of riding, even if I wasn’t winning. I guess that’s the real reason I started racing.

Tell me about your family and their involvement with racing and your career.

My dad has been the main person that has helped me with my racing. He’s believed in me from the beginning and has gone to the track with me ever since I was 5. Without him, none of this would be possible. But my mom and brothers have played a big part in it too. I think my brothers had to be cool with all the money my dad was spending on me to do this early on because racing definitely isn’t a cheap sport and they have understood why we do it. We are all very close and support each other no matter what. And as time has gone on our parents have been able to help them with their careers also, one brother is an actor and two are making music, so it feels fairer these days and we are all following our dreams and doing well. My mom has been fine with me doing this even though it’s a dangerous sport but I’m pretty sure she has gotten a little worried sometimes, though she never says out loud.

You moved to Europe when you were 14 to race. Was that hard?

From 2011 to 2013 I spent a lot of the year in Europe. My dad and I based ourselves in England, which is where my parents are from, and I raced in a championship called The Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup which is a development series that races alongside the biggest motorcycle road racing championship in the world called MotoGP. They go all around the world to different continents, but they spend a lot of their races in Europe, which is where our championship raced with them. It’s for young up-and-coming road racers from the age of 13 to 18 and they are selected from all around the world. During my first 2 years, I was the only American picked to race and it was a very hard championship. A lot of the European riders had already seen these tracks, whereas I was seeing them all for the first time. I did very well and scored a win, some top 5 finishes and lap records which means the fastest-ever recorded time around a track. I got to see so many different countries which have been amazing and is not something every kid gets to do. It also taught me a lot about racing against really fast guys and when things are going wrong how to overcome them—so I’m very happy I got to do that.

What series are you racing in now?

I am Racing in the FIM CEV European Moto2 Championship which is owned by MotoGP and is also a development series for MotoGP.

What’s the transition been like this year going from racing in the US to racing in Europe with a whole different crowd and league?

It has been pretty smooth because I’ve raced in Europe before and I feel at home there and know it well. The only thing that has not been easy is the racing. The level is very high which I’m really happy about because it means I have something to learn to be better. I’m able to ride as fast as the best guys, so I’m sure it will be a fun and exciting year.

What has been your favorite race or series you have competed in?

My favorite race would probably have to be when I raced at Brno, a track in the Czech Republic for the Red Bull Rookies Cup back in 2011. It was pouring with rain and due to qualifying, etc. I had to start last in the race but I ended up beating everyone in the race and no one expected that.

I’d say this year has been the most fun year so far. Full of potential and I’m riding the bike I wanna be riding and have been having the most fun learning it.

What was the biggest setback or most challenging time in your career?

In 2014 I came back to race in America. However, I wasn’t on a very competitive bike and I had to ride over the limit of the bike to try to keep up which resulted in a lot of crashes and a broken hand. But I got through it and the following year I moved to a different bike and winning the Championship and 10 races.

You just signed with Ford Models, what made you want to sign with a modeling agency?

Racing is my passion, but I enjoy fashion too. I’ve also been on-camera a fair bit during my career so far and feel comfortable. So when I was l introduced to Ford and after I met with the team there, we all realized that day this could be a great fit. My manager Jesse Simon loves bikes and they all understand my lifestyle and see where things can cross over. I also thought if I could get some exposure as a model it could bring more people into the sport I love.

What is your end goal in racing?

The end goal is to get to the world championship and eventually become MotoGP World Champion—it’s what I’ve been working for my whole life.

What is coming up next for you?

Some weeks in Europe as I prepare for and race in the next CEV Moto 2 round, which is in Barcelona June 16th,17th, and 18th followed by Valencia July 9th.


An Afternoon with Model Neels Visser
As the first male ambassador of Maybelline New York and aspiring DJ, IMG model Neels Visser is a busy man. Here, he makes time to visit the VMAN office, take a quick trip around the neighborhood, and answer a few of our essential questions.