Zach Osborne started the 2023 season with the announcement that he was un-retiring from racing–but this time we was going off-road. He had joined the Am-Pro Yamaha team to compete in the GNCC XC1 Pro class. Unfortunately, he was sidelined almost immediately with an elbow injury. Dirt Bike’s Travis Fant gave him a call to see how his rehab is coming and find out when we can expect to see him racing once more.

OSBORNE – “How are you, what have you been up to?”

DIRT BIKE–FANT – Good. Actually been dual-sporting and riding off-road myself. I enjoy it and don’t take it too serious. Just having fun with friends.

ZO-“Yeah its a diff vibe, different crowd, different world huh?!”

DB- Before we get into what you are currently doing, I was thinking about your early days when you were racing for Geico Honda. You raced some Off-road even back then.

OSBORNE-“Yeah, so in 2013 I did 3 GNCCs and the Six Days. I also did the Six Days in 2014. In 2014, I was with Husqvarna.

DB -Who was on your team during the ISDE?

ZO-“The first one I did was with Mike Brown, Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall, Kurt Caselli, and I think Charlie Mullins.”

USA’s 2013 trophy team


DB – There probably are people who only followed you as a Motocross/Supercross guy. They didn’t know that you had interest in racing off-road even way back. It seemed like it was always a plan

ZO-“It was always the plan to have after my serious motocross racing career was done. This is something that I have always wanted to try. The right opportunity came along for me. I felt like I had to jump on it and I’m glad I did. It has been a rough season. I started off really strong fitness-wise and everything was clicking. My bike was perfect! I had one tiny mistake. I stepped off the bike and didn’t really hit the ground but my elbow hit a tree. That was that. It’s been an uphill battle since. Finally things are starting to come around and I am really hoping to do some work this summer. I want to be back in October and make things happen.

DB – Compare your training from a motocross rider (2020 Pro Motocross Champion) to the training you are doing now for GNCC style racing.

ZO-“The main adjustment I would say that I have done is work on the zone training that I do. I’m now working in those mid-heart-rate zones; 150-170.  Where before, all of our riding was wide open with the supplemental training (like cycling) was a lot more mellow. Now all of my training is kind of the same level of intensity. There’s not any less work I would say. I would say maybe longer hours on the road bike/dirt bike now than before. Before I would spend 4-5 days a week riding and now I am down to 2-3 days but its longer hours. There’s a few trade offs but for the most part I’ve been really enjoying it. Especially when things were going great I was really enjoying it (laughing). But you know what, it happens. I knew it wasn’t going to be just bliss and perfect. We’ve kind of hit a challenge and keep forging on.

DB -Have you had to adjust your technique at all? I know I had to be more patient riding Offroad in comparison to racing around the track. You have to be ok going 2nd gear for a bit, or getting stuck, or facing challenges like that. The weather, the courses etc …

ZO-“You know honestly I haven’t got to ride much of it because I’ve been hurt. The timing of all that hasn’t matched up great for me to experience everything. At the John Penton GNCC I did get to ride some of that nastier stuff. The Penton section this year was extremely gnarly. Even some of the guys were saying they hadn’t anything like this in the past before. For me it’s learning something completely new. Learning to ride rocks, learning to ride roots, learning how to manage getting stuck, etc, I needed a 10-year crash course in six months to go racing. I’m not going to learn it all over night and I know that, my team knows that too. My team has been extremely patient with me, especially right now. I just need to continue to ride and continue to learn. When I ride with my teammates or I’m around at the races I am able to pick up things I would have never thought about. These guys know this stuff just as well as I know Supercross/Motocross. It’s a game of playing catch up but at the same time I know I am capable of doing well and winning races.

DB – Do you feel like you have a target on your back. You are the 2020 Pro Motocross Champion and have a lot weight to your name in Supercross/Motocross. Id imagine some of these guys would like to say they were able to beat you at a GNCC

ZO-“I don’t really care but there definitely is some of the he’s not going to be good at this thing going on. Yeah, I’ve done SIX DAYS and GNCC before, but that was 10 years ago now. The level of GNCC and the sport has elevated so much over 10 years. It’s completely different. For me I am just starting over at ground zero. I am trying to charge forward and find my feet in this whole deal. There is definitely some level of they wanna beat me you know.

Zach Osborne won the final round of the 2020 Supercross season.

DB -Can you talk about the differences in atmosphere from an A1 Supercross style pit to a GNCC Offroad event.

ZO-“No doubt it’s a lot more laid back. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s less corporate or what it is. It’s a different group of people, it’s more pure racing, more people there to just race their bikes, and have a good time. There’s a business element and component to racing supercross. I get it on both sides for sure. For me this has been a breathe of fresh air.

DB -You go to a GNCC and you see these guys parked with new bikes and pitting out of a pickup or small sedan car. They are all in. So cool to see the grass roots and rawness of that.

OSBORNE-“Yeah they’re having the time of their life! I have to remind myself that sometimes when I’m out there. I’m on a factory team doing what I love. I get frustrated or I get to where I’m stuck and I’m asking myself what the heck am I doing here. Then you see guys paying to be there and having a far better time than I am. It’s just a reality check every now and then.

DB – Talk about your set up. Have you had to change much for Offroad racing in comparison to your Supercross/Motocross racing?

ZO-“Obviously I run hand guards no matter what now where I never ran ’em in Outdoors or Supercross. I am still running the normal Cycra hand guards in comparison to what some of the other guys are using. They have bark busters or a hybrid type flag with a stiff aluminum mount attached to them. I run a more average hand guard that flexes when you hit something and doesn’t bounce me off a tree as much like the more rigid set ups do. Obviously the bike in considerably softer then a motocross/supercross set up. At the same time it’s not what you would think! It’s not a marshmallow soft set up that you can’t hit stuff fast on or do jumps on. For me those are the two bigger differences. Average hand guards and a softer set up on the bike. There’s less titanium bolts and things of that nature on my bike now. These guys don’t want anything to break. The bike is built to last versus a bike that’s made for short spurts of performance.

DB -Did you get any advice as you were making the decision to move to off-road from some former or current racers?

ZO-“Yeah pretty much everyone I talked to thought I was crazy. At the same time no one knows the reality that you’re living. So for me and my wife it was the thing that made the most sense. It was the next step for us and she knew I always wanted to do it. It was the right opportunity with the right people and all the pieces came together to make it happen. I’m glad we made the step and took a chance. At the same time it was something that I always wanted to do.

DB -So now talking in the present. Summer off? What’s the plan?

ZO- This week is Snowshoe. I had a weird tip over at the 2nd GNCC I had done since breaking my elbow. When I crashed I got put into a weird split position. It pulled me into a gnarly split and tacoed my leg out. Initially the doctors thought I pulled my hamstring. I actually pulled it to the point where it almost tore but didn’t. Then I got tendonitis and an inflammation of the tendon. I couldn’t really sit down on the bike or put my leg out for a while. I raced the Penton GNCC like that and it was terrible. I was like look guys I need to take some time to get my body healed up. My elbow was still sore too. I had cut my healing time on my elbow from 12 weeks to 7 weeks which was probably not my best decision. I knew where I was at pre injury and I wanted to be racing. I’ve undergone a couple procedures to try and get my leg better and it seems to be responding. I am just at a spot to get my body right and not be riding around at the back of the pack. The team understood that and they know what I was hired for and I know what I was hired for. To be at the front and if I couldn’t do that I needed the time to heal which I appreciate from them. I’ve ridden like 10 minutes in 3 weeks. I’m really close to being healed up and riding again. Over the summer break of GNCC I’m going to hopefully race a couple JDAY races, a couple local hare scrambles, and try to get myself going again. Maybe even hit a National Enduro before the next GNCC. You know actually I am going to be racing more this summer than I originally had planned for now. Somehow I gotta get this thing back on track and make it happen.

DB -Have you thought about coming out west at all and doing a couple races? WORCS or District 37 NGPC?

ZO-“I just don’t like the speed honestly. I did that WORCS race last year at Mesquite and yeah, it was not for me. Just so fast and those guys rip! I just think it’s out of the question for me to show up and try to compete. I would have to have some serious time and testing to pull something off like that and it’s not in the cards right now.

DB -Funny you mention that. I talk to a couple of the guys out West and they all mention how fast everyone is going and how scary it can be

ZO-“ Yeah it is. I’m not a FAST guy anyways. I prefer it to be super rutty and super rough so. Even Glen Helen National was fast for me. Ya the Mesquite race I did I was butt puckered the whole time, I was scared!

DB – Have you spent much time on two strokes? I know as a kid you did but how about now?

OSBORNE-“Honestly I’m not a big two stroke guy. I have one in the garage right now brand new and hasn’t even been started. Im just not that guy. I used to be I wish I was but not anymore. I got this two stroke to do a build on and haven’t even started it (laughs).

DB -Would there be any advantages at all to race the two stroke in GNCC? What’s your take on that?

ZO-“I don’t think so. The 4 stroke is so good now. This YZ250F that I am currently riding is honestly one of my favorite bikes of my whole career. Everything on it the public can buy too which is cool. I think the two stroke thing for me is kinda dead in the water .

DB -Zach you have always been easy going and great with the media. Supercross guys are hit and miss but you were always one of the good ones to work with. Is that something you were taught or just did on your own? Talk about that.

ZO-“I have always tried to appreciate the time people put into me by me putting time into them. I’ve always tried to put myself in other peoples shoes. You guys have a job and I am trying to do a job too. I can respect that. I always tried to see it from others peoples side. I have a lot of respect for other disciplines on making a living. I appreciate what you guys do. I wouldn’t say it’s something I have worked on but I’ve always tried to be conscious of. Just take the time for people who take time for me and repaying that.

DB -Excited to see you back to racing and I know you’re a fighter. You don’t care if it’s the last turn you’re going to send it for the win (referencing Vegas SX 2017 when he won the 250 title against Savatgy).

ZO-“No doubt. Looking forward to being healthy. Looking forward to making a stamp on GNCC racing. I’m one of the few guys in the last 20 years to make the transition from Supercross to racing GNCC. I want to pave the way for guys after me that want to do the same thing. I don’t want it to be like … oh, remember that last time someone tried that it didn’t work out. For me I want to just turn the ship around and make it happen.

DB -Thanks Zach for giving us 20 minutes today and giving some insight to what you got going on. Really appreciate it.

ZO-“Yes sir. Thanks for having me and have a good day!”

Zach Osborne

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