Interview with Zack Leader (UK)
16 July 2015 / Posted by Brett Phillips
Images: Courtesy of Zack Leader, Circa 2015.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of riding with some incredible people. Next to the thrill of racing and my love of speed, it’s the people that have made this sport so incredibly rewarding and fun. Most have pushed me to ride faster, some have made me think quicker but only a few have inspired me with their energy, commitment and enthusiasm. Zack Leader is one of these people. Constantly looking to develop his skills and refine his craft, his love for gravity bikes can be measured not just in race results or fast times, but in the way he encourages and supports all of those around him. I took time out to speak with Zack about the UK scene and what he loves most about gravity bikes, this is what he had to say.
GBHQ: Where’s home Zack?
ZL: I'm from Kirton in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, UK. Friendly village with some good looking hills!
GBHQ: What’s the gravity bike scene like there at the moment?
ZL: Gravity bikes are starting to become more known. They are starting to become more introduced into soapboxes races, which is great as it allows the growth of the sport to continue. It's growing slowly, but surely.
GBHQ: How did you first get into riding gravity bikes?
ZL: I first got into gravity bikes thanks to the Belchford Downhill Challenge, which was just down the road from me at the time. I went to watch in 2011 and was originally interested in the soapboxes, so the following year I looked in to entering the soapbox class. Although when I did, entries for it were already full, but there was a message saying gravity bike entries were still open, so I researched what they were, built one and entered! We finished 9th out of 12 at Belchford and I loved it! These things happen for a reason I guess!
GBHQ: What do you love most about riding gravity bikes?
ZL: The thing I love most is the thrill of racing. I've always wanted to race bikes, so for me, gravity bike racing is not what first expected to be racing, but I'm so happy I am! I love how close gravity bike racing is, how much of a buzz it gives me, and how unpredictable it can be!
GBHQ: Tell us about your favourite riding experience.
ZL: My favourite riding experience was the Worlaby Downhill Challenge this year (2015). I bought a new, fast bike earlier in the year, and in March I sadly lost my cousin who was 14 so I was determined to do well for him. It was a very competitive day, everybody was fast. I got 2nd in the junior bikes, which would be my last junior bike result as after that I would be too old. It may only have been 2nd but I worked so hard for it, and I really earned it so really, I'd take a hard earned 2nd than an easy 1st any day! I'd never been that fast on my bike before so not only did I do well, but I got a real buzz too!
GBHQ: Do you have any mentors or people coaching you?
ZL: I have a few mentors. I have the man who seems to win every gravity bike race he enters, Ian Round, giving me lots of hints and tips on where to go faster and what to do with my bike. I have my team manager, Andy Pridham, watching me and telling what I could do better. And then I have my title sponsor, British Superbike racer, James Ellison. He gives me lots of useful tips on how to ride my bike to allow me to go faster. I have a great team and family supporting me all the way!
GBHQ: Tell us about your first bike.
ZL: My first bike was great, I loved it! It wasn't much, but it was mine. We built it from a BMX we bought from 'Toys R Us'. It got me going in my gravity bike racing life, and it gave me my first junior win. It was a great bike to start on, but wasn't capable of a senior victory in my eyes, so it now waits to be ridden again. It will be raced again one day though, that's for sure!
GBHQ: Tell us a little about the bike you are riding now.
ZL: The bike I'm riding now is the original Green Machine, built by Dan Verity. I bought it from him in January this year and raced it for the first time in March this year. It is fast in a straight line and smooth through bends, but my height stops me from getting high lean angles, as my knee is down through tight corners, and makes things slightly more difficult! But I love it, and really glad I bought it.
GBHQ: If you could choose to ride anywhere in the world, where would you ride?
ZL: If I could ride my bike anywhere in the world, I'd ride at a race track, like Cadwell Park or Brands Hatch. They may not have the biggest or fastest hills in the world, but I love race tracks, and I still have dreams of racing on them, so it would be very special to me to ride or race my gravity bike there.
GBHQ: Free ride or competition?
ZL: I'd take competition any day! It's more of a buzz and I just love to race!
GBHQ: Are you sponsored? If so, by who?
ZL: I am sponsored, and couldn't ask for better ones! I'm sponsored by: James Ellison (BSB Racer), Savage Squirrel (Clothing business), Spada Motorcycle Clothing (Leathers), Macauley Bowers Photography, ThirstyWork TV (Videographer), Gearlink Kawasaki (race team) and Xpress Coffee. Lots of them and they all do a great job, I can't thank them enough!!
GBHQ: What advise would you give to people looking to get into the sport?
ZL: The advice I would give to people is to talk to those who do it. Get as much advice, hints and tips before you start. It always helps you go fast, but stay safe too. I'd also tell people that Yes the roads are our race tracks, but only when they're closed. Be careful when testing or just free riding your bikes, save the true speed for race day!
GBHQ: What’s next for you when it comes to gravity bikes?
ZL: Next for me in gravity bikes is to do everything I can to win. Even if that means building a new bike over winter, I'm now a senior gravity bike racer, so that means things are now taken to a whole new level! I've got to be faster than I ever have been before, so things may have to change!
GBHQ: Thanks for your time Zack!
ZL: No worries, I always have time to talk gravity bikes!