The name Zach Bell might sound familiar, and rightfully so. He won the AMA Horizon Award during his amateur years and turned pro with GEICO Honda in 2012. Bell would, unfortunately, suffer numerous injuries that kept him off the track frequently. With injuries and no solid ride for the future, he decided to walk away from motocross, but not dirt bike racing altogether. Bell found a new home racing off-road and has been happily building a career in the AMA Big6 series aboard an Ox Motorsports CRF450RX. That being said, he decided to bring his bike to the outdoor Nationals to race the first three rounds, and we caught up with him to talk about things on and off the track.
What is it like to take everything from off-road – the riding style and bike setup – and apply it to motocross?
We haven't really changed much. We left the big tank and the hand guards. We did a little suspension change, but we didn't do a whole lot to the bike feeling-wise. I had to change up my riding style to bring up the intensity. The off-road stuff has been really fun so it's good to come back and do some motocross stuff. I enjoy riding it still and it's keeping me busy. We haven't really done too much to change.
Last time we saw you, you were on a 250. Now you're riding a 450. How has that transition been for you, especially with the added weight of off-road equipment?
I feel like I've adapted to the bike really well. I was a 250 guy my whole life and then I got on the 450 and I feel like I ride it pretty well. I had to change the gearing for myself, and my mentality towards riding the bike. You have to slow it down to keep it going instead of trying to hold it wide open. I've adapted to the bike really well and I love the 450.
When you ride motocross, do you notice the off-road tank at all?
I don't even feel the tank, I'm used to it now so I couldn't really tell you if I do feel it or not. When I first got on the bike, the tank was a lot bigger and now I'm used to it so it feels natural.
How well did your suspension set-up transition over to motocross?
We had a pretty stiff setting and a soft setting. Coming to motocross, it's really choppy, so we actually went with the soft setting to get the bike to forgive a little bit in that area. Mainly it was just figuring that out. The motor and tires and everything was good already so we just had to get the suspension figured out.
How many outdoor Nationals are you planning to do this year?
We're planning to do Hangtown, Glen Helen, and Colorado. Hopefully, we can get some support to keep going, but if not we'll go back and keep training and finish the off-road series.
Are you planning to continue racing that off-road series as well?
Yeah, I still have three rounds left in the Big6 Series and I have the points lead. It'll be good to keep training for that if I don't have anything to ride and I look forward to the end of the year to finish it out.
Do you miss racing Supercross and motocross full-time, or will you stick to off-road?
I love the off-road stuff. We have a bunch of things between now and September when we go racing again. Obviously, I want to get back into motocross to keep me busy, but if I could keep doing the off-road racing I'll stick to that.
What do you feel are the biggest differences in the atmosphere between here and the off-road racing series?
Off-road is definitely a lot more laid back. You feel like everybody is your family at the track, so when you go to a Big6 race everyone shakes your hand and welcomes you to the community. With this kind of racing, there are a lot of factory teams and big name guys. Off-road is just more laid back.
What are your goals for racing these first three rounds?
Honestly, I just want to get a good start and just ride my own race. I can't say where I'm going to be, but I'm going to do my best to be upfront. Hopefully, I'll get a holeshot and run with the top guys.
Do you feel like there are any advantages with the style and set-up you're bringing from off-road?
With off-road, we have an hour and a half to really calculate where we're going to go on the track. It helps me out here to pick better lines during the moto and start changing it up. I think I'll also be able to last the entire 30 minutes plus two and have the mentality to keep plucking off laps until the white flag.
Who is helping you for these outdoor National races?
Bonanza Plumbing, Ox Motorsports, Answer, Scorpion, Monster Energy and Oakley. They're all here to get me to the races, but unfortunately only the first three. If the results show then I'm sure we'll be doing more.