The last time we talked to Zach Bell, he was still healing up from a collarbone injury that required him to undergo four surgeries and miss the entire Monster Energy Supercross season. Now, as many of you noticed in our Racer X Films: Pala video, he’s back. But his setup is anything but traditional.
After healing up from his surgery, Bell struck up a deal with the OxMotorsports.com Honda team to race in the AMA Big6 series, which is an eight round championship run on the West Coast that mixes off-road/desert riding in with motocross tracks such as Glen Helen Raceway.
The deal came about after Bell did some riding in the hills of Beaumont with some of his friends and really enjoyed it. “My manager Jeremy Maul got me in touch with Mark Samuels [three-time Baja 1000 champion/co-team owner] to get linked up to go ride off-road. He saw some potential in my riding and he spoke with his teammate Colton Udall [co-team owner] to let me ride his bike,” Bell said. “Now I have the points lead which is really cool because I haven't raced much off-road.”
Bell placed fourth in his first outing at an off-road event, but then went on to win the next two events in the pro class. Looking at those results it may seem like the transition into the off-road world was natural for him, but it actually took a while to get accustomed to the different style of riding.
“Transitioning into off-road wasn't easy with rocks and really big holes, so I had to take it easy for a few weeks to get into the grove. But I have a really good bike setup for the off-road stuff so it made it a lot easier to ride it.” Combine the struggle of learning a new style of riding with the fact that Bell is working a day job during the week doing landscaping makes his two race wins and points lead even more impressive.
Now Bell is getting back into some more familiar territory as he is set to make his return to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross circuit at Hangtown a whopping 476 days after his collarbone injury in Oakland last year. He’s currently getting support from the Ox Motorsports team for the first three rounds of the Nationals where he’ll ride the same CRF450RX he rode during the Big6 events. After that, his motocross future is up in the air, but he’s hoping to show some potential and get more support after the initial rounds.
It’s hard to imagine an off-road bike performing well on the notoriously rough downhills of Hangtown, but Bell said he only changed the suspension setting and left everything else pretty much the same, including the oversized tank. He said he’s used to riding with it now and might as well show some love to the “off-road peeps” while he’s out there.
It’s safe to say there may be a little rust to knock off when he lines up on the 40-man gate, as the last time Bell participated in the Nationals was a full two years ago at Hangtown on May 16, 2015. He’s aware that his past is full of injuries, though, and is keeping his expectations in check for this three-race stretch.
“My expectations are to learn each and every race and get good starts. Don't want to put too much on my shoulders. Just have fun and stay safe.”