Features 11 Apr 2024

Conversation: Jalek Swoll

Triumph’s Supercross ace is eager to earn the brand's first US podium.

Five races into Triumph’s move into Monster Energy Supercross competition, Jalek Swoll has logged some competitive results for the British team. Despite dealing with fractures in his back from a crash earlier this year, Swoll believes he and the team are making steps towards podium success. We caught up with Swoll as he gets ready to go racing again following a mid-season break in the 250SX East schedule in this Conversation feature.

Jalek Swoll racing during the 2024 Indianapolis Supercross.

Image: Octopi Media.

What’s your opinion on your season so far? If you had to rate yourself, what would you give yourself as a grade?

I would say somewhere around a B, B+. I feel like it could have been better. I mean obviously we still have a few rounds to be able to change some stuff, but I feel like I really should have had a couple of podiums by now. Some things just didn’t go in my favor. In Birmingham, I just went down by myself. I was finding some strides and getting a little bit better. Vialle was a little bit quicker, but I was closing in on second and I feel like I was opening up a gap when I was in third. That was a night that kind of got away I feel. Other than that, I’ve been dealing with a fractured L3 and L4 for most of the rounds, so I try to give myself a little leeway with that. It’s tough to ride injured in general, but I’ve never had to race through something as difficult as the broken back.

How much physically would you say that’s holding you back if you could say how far off of 100% you are?

I’m getting back to more normal. It’s starting to be less painful to ride. Right now I’m probably 80% or 85%. For that Triple Crown in Indianapolis, I qualified probably like 14th or something like that. It was just a struggle. With those things, you take a Toradol shot, and it will help get you through the night, but you can only take one of those a day. So, through practice, it was pretty much just a suffer fest. Even Birmingham, that was a suffer fest all the way until the night and then I’d take a Toradol shot pre-race and it helps, but still quite a bit of pain. Racing [the past few rounds], I feel like I was at about 60%. There were some things I wanted to do that I just physically couldn’t do.

Jalek Swoll at the 2024 Indianapolis Supercross.

Image: Octopi Media.

Thinking back to before you even got to race this bike, how much different has the experience of going racing with a new brand been compared to how you expected it to go?

I mean it has its challenges. With my teammate [Evan Ferry] being injured pretty early on as well, and also our test guy Ivan [Tedesco] was injured too, it was pretty much all me testing. The tough thing about that is I’m coming from Husqvarna where I had a few years on that thing, so I know what it does and doesn’t do. Some things it does well, some things that it doesn’t. Going to Triumph, obviously a new bike and everything is new. A new frame. I’ve only been on a steel frame; I mean since 2013 I’ve been on Husqvarna, so it’s been a long time. Just getting to know the new bike is obviously a challenge, but then you add in having a new suspension guy, new technicians, and all that stuff, it all plays a little bit of a part. When my teammate was injured at the second round, it was just me doing the laps trying to learn a new bike while also trying to see what I like and don’t like. It’s a big challenge on top of just having to be ready for the season. There were a lot of things going on preseason. There were a lot of days where we could have tested, but we were starting to run out of time to where I just had to get ready with cardio and things like that. But once we got going, we’ve been in a pretty decent spot. The first few rounds, we were messing around with the dual injector and some rounds it was good, some rounds it just wasn’t. I feel like most strides we made were right before Arlington, but after Arlington, that’s when I fractured my back, so after Arlington I wasn’t able to ride until the first week off after Indianapolis. So, I didn’t ride at all. I was literally a weekend warrior. I would rest all week, literally not able to do anything. I couldn’t even bend down and tie my shoes, it was bad. I would just grit it out to make it through the races. Fortunately for me, I only had to go through like two rounds before we got the big break. It’s been a challenge. I feel like the bike is in a good spot, but there’s been hurdles. Nothing that I didn’t think wouldn’t come with it. But I think for a new bike and especially for a new team – like there’s a lot of personnel who never went to the races that are going now – so honestly for the first year I think we’re in a really good spot. I think the bike is a lot better than I feel people thought it would be and I can definitely see myself getting on the box before the end of the year. Hopefully a few of them!

When you transitioned to the bike, was there one area where right away you thought, “Wow this is really good?”

Really the chassis honestly! The chassis was a really good change for me. For whatever reason, when we got to that new generation bike with Husqvarna, I just couldn’t figure it out. I just never really felt like me. I never really felt comfortable. It had nothing to do with the team or anyone not working with me to figure it out, just that some years you have bikes you gel with and sometimes you don’t. I gelled really well with the bike that I won on, but that was the fourth year of development on that thing. So, there was a lot of time put in and a lot of days grinding trying to figure things out. But when we got to the Triumph, that was one thing I noticed. It instantly brought back the feeling of just being comfortable again. Being able to do things that I hadn’t seen myself do in a long time. Being able to get on a new bike and the chassis to just feel nice, honestly the chassis is probably about 60% of your headaches when things are going bad. So getting on a new bike and the chassis to be good right away, that was one of the standouts for me.

Jalek Swoll enters a whoops section at the Indianapolis Supercross.

Image: Octopi Media.

Coming from a team where the race team and shop is based on one coast and you guys were training on an opposite coast, how has that been for Triumph where everything is kind of based out of one place and you guys are close to them with where you guys are training?

It just makes things easy. We kind of have it like how Star has it where everything is there within the range of doing what you want. For us, it’s good. Obviously, our head guys are in the UK, so there’s still a bit of distance. But for the most part, UK gives us a lot of free reign to do what we want and what we need to do here. All of the testing being literally at your fingertips, it’s been good. It’s a lot different. With Husqvarna, most of the time you’d have to go to California and California isn’t very comparable to what we race on. Having all of that stuff within your fingertips at your own facility, that’s big time. Just being able to show up to the track and be like, “Yeah, I want to try this. I think this will help,” and being able to do that on the spot on that day while you have a fresh mindset on it is a big key to being better. You can always get the bike better. You can always get yourself better. The grind doesn’t stop. You’re always testing and searching, especially at this level where everyone is searching for that extra inch.

Looking to AMA Pro Motocross, I know you said there’s a little disconnect with you guys and the UK, but having seen what the Triumph guys are doing in Europe already getting a couple of podiums, does that give you guys a little extra, “Okay, we see what this bike can do outdoors,” and does that make you excited for what you could do?

I mean, I don’t need to see them doing well to know what I can do myself. I feel pretty good, and it can be forgotten about what you’ve done but I’ve literally won a National before. So, I feel confident in what I can do. Honestly, just from first riding the bike, I knew it was going to be pretty good outdoors. It feels like an outdoor bike. With those guys over there, they have so much testing and all their focus is outdoors. I could see them being able to get on the box even before they went racing. The bike is really good. But over here, the bike had never seen a supercross track. There’s just things you can’t avoid when it comes to figuring it out. Seeing what works, what doesn’t, and all that stuff we were kind of touching on earlier. Although the bike is really good, it doesn’t matter what brand of bike you’re on. You need hours of testing to figure out what’s going to make it work and what’s not. Just for what we touched on earlier with some of our guys being hurt, the testing had been limited, but for what has been limited, the bike is coming along. For the bike to feel this good on supercross for as little as we’ve been able to do, I think we’ll be good. Especially when we get to outdoors, those guys over in the UK, it’s all they do. So when I get to outdoors, all that testing will kind of be done. I can get on a bunch of different packages to see what I like and what I don’t like. A lot of stuff will be fast forwarded when it comes to outdoors, and I think that will be a big benefactor to my outdoor season. I’m really looking forward to that. I feel like I’ll shine there.