By Chase Curtis
Zach Bell, 22
Hometown: Cairo, Georgia
Sponsors: Ox Motorsports, Works Connection, Motion Pro, IMS, BRP, F&L Racing Fuel, Bajabound.com, Lava Propane, Split Designs, Hinson, Scorpion EXO, Monster Energy, Michelin, Galfer, AHM Factory Services, MSR, MotoSeat, AME grips, Oakley
Zach Bell is a well-known name in the motocross community. After harsh injuries left the 22-year old with surgeries after surgeries, he became an absent name on the race rosters. However, there is still light on the darkest days, as Zach found himself a new home in the off-road racing scene with Ox Motorsports as a fill-in rider. After winning some "Big 6" races and snagging a taste of the off-road side of racing, Zach is hopeful of landing himself a ride following his fill-in contract. The Ox Motorsports rider showcased an unreal amount of speed at Glen Helen, as he dominated the 450 Pro and Pro-Open classes at our most recent round of the 2017 TWMXRS West Coast Open series. After a fun and successful day of racing at Glen Helen Raceway, we caught up with Zach to discuss his ventures in the off-road world, as well as the injuries that led him to where he is now.
Last weekend, you raced the Two-Stroke World Championship, here at Glen Helen, aboard a bike you had very little time on…
Yeah, last weekend was my first race on a 250 two-stroke. I had one day on the bike and said why not give it a go (laughs). The plan to race was in the works for quite awhile. The bike was Colton Udall's in 2006 and it really hasn’t been ridden since, so the team and I attempted to dial in the bike one day before the race. We came out here the Friday before the race to do some laps, and got the bike setup as best as we could. First moto went great after getting the win, but unfortunately I got cleaned-out twice in the second moto. I ended up going 1-6 for fourth overall, but it's racing and I learned from it.
I'm sure the team did things to better suit the bike for racing, but at the end of the day it had to be different racing a 10-year old bike…
Yeah! It was an older bike, but it got the job done. I'll ride any bike, as long as I can go out there and have fun. As much as bikes have changed over the years, how old a bike is doesn’t matter… what matters is the ability of the rider.
After your move away from supercross and motocross racing, many people in the sport were curious as to where you went…
I was actually off the bike for about a year. Last year at Oakland SX, I broke my collarbone and flew to Georgia to have surgery on it. Following the first surgery, I ended up getting an infection; which called for another surgery. Then it got infected again and I had a third surgery, and it just wasn’t healing right after that. So in late September, I ended up having my last surgery on it. In conclusion; I had four surgeries on my collarbone last year, I wasn't able to use my arm all year, or workout at all. I was released to start riding in December, and I got in contact with Mark Samuels at Ox Motorsports. Unfortunately Colton was hurt, but it opened up a bike for me to ride which has brought me to where I am now. Winning some Big 6's is good, but being back on the bike and training correctly has been really key. These guys at Ox Motorsports are a really bike help to me.
During your year off the bike, how limited was your ability to train or exercise?
I really wasn’t able to do any type of training. The doctors told me that I wasn’t allowed to work up a sweat, because the sweat would get in the incision and could cause another infection. The incision took about seven months to actually heal closed, it kept getting scar tissue built up and tearing, so I was going to the doctors every other week to get it patched back up. So I wasn’t able to do any sort of physical training during that time period, which was really hard on my body and myself. Come December, I was really tired and worn out during my first day on the bike. I'm here now though, doing my thirty-minute motos and feeling good.
Coming from the supercross and motocross side of racing to the off-road scene has to be pretty different and difficult at times…
Yeah for sure. The nerves are definitely up there, mostly due to the fact that we're racing an hour and a half. A lot can happen within that time period, so you have to really learn to be patient and think ahead of time. You can go out there charging and be tired in thirty minutes, so you really have to keep your riding effort down to about 75% till you reach the last thirty minutes of the race. Just finding the right route to keep my pace and still have the speed all race took me a while to get used to. There are a lot of rocks around the courses and they're pretty wide open sections, luckily they have some motocross parts mixed in there, which is really cool. They really throw all types of racing in the courses, so I'm having fun with it.
What's the plan for the future?
As of right now, we're really enjoying these local TWMX races to get some seat time and have fun. Then we will go for the first three, and after that, we will see what comes together. We don’t have anything planned after those first three rounds, so I'll take the summer off, if I don’t get any rides, and keep coming to these TWMX races. The main goal is to do well at those first three rounds and hopefully get picked up.
Now that you've had a taste of both the supercross/motocross and the off-road side of racing, what do you favor more?
I like racing motocross, of course, I'm used to it. If I had to pick between the two, it would be motocross because that's my natural ability. I'm having so much fun with the off-road stuff though, I really can't complain about the team nor the bike. So it's a pretty close decision.
The off-road racing has to help build your technical skills on a bike, right?
It really does! In motocross, you pretty much are just pinning it everywhere and hitting everything a fast as you can. Whereas in off-road racing, you have to think about your line choices and how to hit everything consistently. You really learn to look for better lines in off-road racing, because you have to hit everything for an hour and a-half. My mental and physical endurance has really improved since I started racing the off-road events, you have to keep on grinding away at the time.
I believe the last full season we saw you racing supercross was in 2015, how'd that season go for you?
Yeah, in 2015 I was with Husqvarna and completed the supercross season, but I only got one round into outdoors, due to breaking my back and getting a hematoma on my brain from a practice crash. I was actually at Milestone practicing, I crashed in the whoops and got knocked out. My back was hurting after the crash, so we went to the hospital and stayed a few nights. They said everything was okay, so I got back on the bike the next weekend in Las Vegas. After a pretty good result, I went to Hangtown and had a small fall that resulted in a really bad headache. So we went to the doctors and they did a CT scan and MRI on my back, they ended up finding that I had a broken T3,T4,T5 and something in the C area. I was off the bike until 2016 from the injuries, then I joined Fiftyonefifty Yamaha and ended up breaking my collarbone and getting into that mess. I'm getting back into things, it's just hard when you’re up against people who have been racing every weekend, when you've been stuck on the bed from injuries. I think that having a year of racing under my belt, before I go back into motocross, is going to be really beneficial for me.