Staying on Track
Despite Injury, Enfield Man Pursues Motocross Dream
Dave Bill, of Enfield, N.H. competes in the 250cc novice division at the Canaan Lions Motocross Track in Canaan, N.H. on August 24, 2013. Bill recently fractured his knee but is determined to finish the last two races of the season. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Dave Bill, of Enfield, N.H. prepares to compete in the 250cc novice division at the Canaan Lions Motocross Track in Canaan, N.H. on August 24, 2013. Bill recently fractured his knee but is determined to finish the last two races of the season. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Canaan — When he was 16 years old, Dave Bill crashed after getting major air on the late-lap “intimidator” hill on the Canaan Lions Motocross track, sustaining a back injury that ended his season and dissuaded him from continuing to pursue the sport.
Twenty-two years later, Bill is back on the track, and he won’t be intimidated by anything. Bill, of Enfield, is determined to finish the season despite fracturing his knee during a pre-race practice lap Aug. 11. Noticeably hobbled while toting a brace spanning nearly the entire length of his left leg Saturday, he entered the penultimate 250cc novice series race at Canaan in the second place, trailing Rumney, N.H.’s Chris Bell by one point.
Whether or not the injury effectively derails his bid at a podium finish — he fell six points behind Bell with an eighth-place finish Saturday and has two healthy riders on his heels in the standings — Bill is determined to accomplish what he couldn’t as a teenager by finishing the series on his hometown track.
The season finale is Sept. 7.
“I came out here at the start of the season and just kind of stared out at the intimidator,” said Bill, now 38 and a parts specialist at Shaker Valley Auto in Enfield. “It’s a lot smaller now. When I crashed, it was a seriously big hill. I still have kind of a hard time with it, just thinking about (the accident). But I’m not going to let it get the better of me this year.”
Nor will he be deterred by his fractured knee, which he suffered on the first practice lap on race day two weeks ago. Coming around a sharp corner, Bill planted his leg for support and the limb, as he describes it, “went sideways.”
“Right away, I knew something wasn’t right,” the 5-foot-8, 230-pound Bill recalled. “I still had a long day ahead of me, so I had to ice it all day. Thankfully, I had my girlfriend (Jessica Laware) here. I couldn’t have done any of this without her.”
Unable to put pressure on his smarting limb, Bill still competed in both of the day’s motos, finishing ninth and eighth, respectively, for an eighth place overall finish. Viewing from the stands, Laware winced while watching Bill struggle, but was still proud of him.
“He was taking the corners a lot wider; you could tell it was bothering him,” she said. “But you have to give him credit for keeping at it. I didn’t even say, ‘You’re too hurt, let’s go home,’ because I knew he was going to race no matter what.”
When he got home, Bill began utilizing a pair of crutches he still had leftover from an injury to the same knee he suffered while playing lacrosse with the Lebanon Recreation Department while in high school. He went to a doctor Aug. 12 to find he had a stress fracture and torn cartilage. He was advised to hang up his riding gloves and helmet for the season.
He wouldn’t allow himself to consider it.
“(Finishing the season) is just something I need to do, for myself,” Bill said. “There’s only two races left, and I just want to do what I didn’t do last time.”
Bill, who at age 15 got his first dirt bike, a Kawasaki KX 80, said turnouts at the track were higher in the late 1980s and early ’90s. And there were more places in the Upper Valley to practice, he said, including a fully maintained dirt track off of U.S. Route 5 South in White River Junction, near where the Upper Valley Aquatic Center stands today.
“Back then, (the Canaan Lions track) had an affiliation with New England Motocross Association and was funded better,” he said. “I’d go to (the White River Junction course) at 8 in the morning and stay until 8 at night, practicing. I had a lot more endurance back then.”
Bill upgraded to a Suzuki 88 RM-125 as a 16-year-old and was in the 125cc novice division when he crashed after launching over the “intimidator” during a midseason race in Canaan. He suffered a compressed vertebrae that still afflicts him with periodic pain to this day.
After that, Bill lost interest in motocross — but remained a motor head. Working in various posts in the auto body industry, he began rebuilding imported cars as a hobby about 12 years ago and formed his own unofficial group with friends. They called their organization “Expensive Habits,” and spent a lot of time and money working on cars.
“That’s exactly what it was, a very expensive habit,” Bill said. “I put about $30,000 into a Honda Civic, and it was a Civic. My friends would say, ‘No matter how much money you put into it, it’s still a Honda Civic,’ and they were right.
“And the thing was, it wasn’t really worth it because you’d spend all this time building cars to go really fast, but you couldn’t really drive them (at full speed) ,or you’d get in trouble. I started thinking about motocross again because you can do all this dangerous stuff and not get in trouble.”
Laware and her daughters, Alexis and Lacey, have caught the bug as well. They celebrated Alexis’ 15th birthday while watching Bill compete on July 13, and Alexis has since practiced herself on a borrowed bike. Next year, she hopes to compete at Canaan.
“I love bringing my girls out here. It’s a great community of people,” Jessica Laware said. “I feel like it’s underappreciated because it’s just a really fun thing for families.”
It’s also great exercise. While it might appear motocross requires little more than a daredevil lust for speed and jumps, successfully maneuvering the curvy courses is all about leg and core strength.
“It actually takes a lot of athleticism,” Bill said. “When you can control your bike, you can get it to do almost anything you want. That’s why it’s so fun, but it takes a lot to get to that point.”
Bill, for one, won’t be denied.
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.