Ken Roczen came out swinging in 2017, winning the first two supercross races and looking like he had the field covered, until the crash that shattered his arm at Anaheim 2. It’s been a long road to recovery, with 11 surgeries to save then rebuild the arm, and likely another surgery at the end of this year to clean up scar tissue. What looked like the end of a racing career has turned into the biggest story in supercross for 2018—will Ken Roczen be back, and will he be the same? He sounded confident at the Honda team intro while facing a group of journalists as we threw questions at him. Here are the highlights from the Q&A:
It’s pretty good, you know. I go back and forth between soreness, like if I do a lot of riding… It’ll get sore every once in a while, but other than that—I mean, obviously I have a lot of restrictions in movement; I’ve gotten used to it now to where I don’t feel like it bothers me too much riding. So I should say, all in all, my arm will never be the same, but I’ve adjusted to it so well I kind of ride just like the way that I rode before the crash. I’m very fortunate to be in this position because I feel like I recover, I heal pretty quick. Actually even the doctor says he’s never seen anybody who heals that quick from an injury like that, so I think the position we’re in right now, we have a good shot at winning races. Hopefully a championship toward the end…
For me going to Anaheim, I’m just going to enjoy myself. I’m so glad to be back in the spotlight with people and get to race again because that’s what I miss the most. Sitting on the couch is the most miserable thing ever, especially for that long. I’m getting paid and I’m just not in use for anything; I’m not racing. I’m trying everything obviously, not bumming around, but trying everything I can to get this arm back going. But at the same time there was such a long healing process that I was just kinda waiting and waiting, and I didn’t see anything getting better for a long time; it took a long time to get a little bit, and then at one point it started getting a little bit better. But man, all in all though, my arm feels pretty solid.
Yeah, I mean, I have very low, very small movement so I have to do push-ups on my fists, for example. I’m very limited to the things I can do. I can’t throw; I’m a lefty actually, but I can’t throw a ball, and things like that. But hey, as long as it’s good enough for riding then I’m fine with it.
I was up there [in central California] for about four weeks. After that I went back to Florida. A couple days ago I came back from Florida, I was only there for about 10 days. It was a good change because the tracks and dirt is so good in Florida. But it [Castillo Ranch] was probably by far the best boot camp I’ve ever had. We mixed things up a little bit; I think that’s the great part about Peter [Park]. The knowledge that he has is pretty incredible and we learn things every single year. We changed a few things up and made it that much better… It was the perfect amount of training—really hard but not to the edge where your nervous system gets trashed and then you don’t recover and things like that…
I feel super fit, I feel strong… I’ve been having some hard days of training and work in general, mixed together with travel, so it’ll be good over the weekend to kinda take it easy a little bit on the riding side because today will be my fourth day in a row, actually. Next week I think I’m going to have another hard week; [and] as we’re getting closer, kinda backing it down a little bit to slowly start peaking at Anaheim.
No, if anything, I haven’t raced in a long time, so I’m sure it’ll take some getting used to. That’s why I said whether I win or whether I’m fifth or third, hey, I’m gonna be walking out there with a big smile on my face just being behind a gate and racing again with my team. Working together with Oscar, being on the gate—he’s been waiting for me this whole year to finally come back racing and we’re a great team together. So whether it’s a win, like I said, or for the podium, doesn’t really matter to me; I’m just happy to be back there… I’ve adjusted everything very well so I don’t really go into Anaheim thinking that I have limitations. If I already think that I have a disadvantage because of my arm, then I might as well not race. So I’m going to Anaheim thinking that I do not have a disadvantage.
No, I don’t need to. I know what I’m capable of and I know that I’m going good, so I don’t really need—first off, I don’t need anybody to ride with me to know how fast I am, and also tracks change all the time so it’s really hard to compare lap times from the previous year, plus the track’s already new here [at the Honda HRC supercross track].
No, because bar bend wouldn’t have done anything. There’s no need to, and I have a lot of people around me that, you know, if there were any problems or continuous problems… We actually, the only thing we’ve worked on is my grips. My left grip is actually a little bit thicker than [the right]. I’ve been riding with that for a little while now, but it’s actually a little bit thicker than your standard, average grip. I’m riding a pretty soft compound, too, and other than that though… I didn’t really have to change anything with my bar position or anything.
No, because I don’t fail. I’m not afraid of failing, absolutely not. Because a fail would have been me not trying to come back and jump on a bike again. That would have been a fail to me. But I tried—even if I tried and it wouldn’t have happened, that wouldn’t have been a fail to me because I did everything in my power to do [it]. But, hey, I’m riding and I’m riding well. And you never know what’s going to happen. You can crash quick, whatever, it doesn’t matter. I’m riding and I basically reached my goal of being back on a bike. Not a fail.