Californian won 1980 AMA Supercross Championship
PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Mike Bell, one of America’s leading Supercross and motocross racers of the late 1970s and early ’80s, has died. He was 63.
Born on Aug. 8, 1957, in Los Angeles, Mr. Bell began riding at age 10 in the mountains near that city, but he did not start racing until he was 14.
Mr. Bell’s father, Bill, was an avid racer and well-known tuner who did development work for American Honda on its four-stroke desert racing machines during the late 1960s.
“My dad didn’t want me to get into racing until he knew I was ready for it,” Mr. Bell once recalled during an interview. “I think it proved to be a good decision. A lot of kids were burning out by the time they were 16, because they’d already been racing for so long, and I was just really getting into it.”
Mr. Bell advanced from novice to expert in just six months. In 1977, he finished fourth at the Los Angeles Supercross, a precursor of future successes.
In 1978, Mr. Bell scored one of his biggest wins, the Superbowl of Motocross in the LA Coliseum, beating another future AMA Hall of Famer, Bob Hannah.
“When I woke up the next morning, I thought I had been dreaming,” he said. “But my father had put the first-place trophy at the foot of my bed, and there it was—I really had actually won the Superbowl of Motocross. It was one of the proudest moments of my career.”
At 6-foot-4, Mr. Bell was known as “Too Tall,” a nickname he said originated with Yamaha public relations person Ted Otto.
“They had all kinds of nicknames for me,” he said, “like ‘Granddaddy Long Legs’ and stuff like that, but ‘Too Tall’ just stuck.”
Mr. Bell raced for Yamaha during his entire pro career. His biggest claim to fame was winning the 1980 AMA Supercross Championship, but he also won 20 AMA and Trans-AMA nationals.
During the early 1980s, knee injuries began to take their toll. Mr. Bell retired at the end of 1983. He remained active in motocross and participated in legends racing and other local events.
Mr. Bell was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2001. His biography is available at motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.aspx?RacerID=127.