Bella Litinetski chased her motorcycle dream from Israel to Italy, became one of the first Israeli woman to compete in a road racing event, and plans to race in the Women’s European Cup in 2021
Words by Joy Burgess
Photos courtesy Bella Litinetski
Bella Litinetski has what she calls a “stranger story than usual.” Sometimes the love of motorcycles comes from the strangest of places, and for Bella, an automotive, product and graphic designer (and motoblogger, reporter and, more recently, racer) it all started in her home country of Israel. But that love affair and a desire to immerse herself in motorcycle culture would draw her across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
Bella never set out to make history for Israeli women; she merely chased her motorcycle dreams, from scooters to street bikes to road racing. And as she prepares to blaze a new trail in 2021 pursuing the Women’s European Cup, we had to sit down with Bella, hear more of her story and catch up with this young woman who’s done so many exciting things purely for the love of motorcycles.
Starting with Scooters
While many European racers grow up on the circuit, Bella got her start in motorcycling in a somewhat unexpected way. “I grew up in Israel,” she said, “and I just started riding motor scooters, doing pizza delivery aboard motor scooters as a 17-year-old. I got my license, got my first job, and I had to deliver pizzas in 30 minutes or less aboard scooters like Vespas.”
With just a taste of the freedom that comes with two wheels, she longed to immerse herself in moto-culture, and what better place to do that than in Italy. A blend of current and historical moto-wonderfulness, Italy is home to companies like Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Benelli, Aprilia – and the more historical classics like Aermacchi and Laverda – and well known for racing venues like Monza and Misano. The two-wheel culture is deep there, which is what compelled Bella and her husband to move to the moto ‘promised land.’
“A little over 10 years ago,” Bella mentioned, “I moved to Italy with my then boyfriend (now husband), but I didn’t really know I wanted to race then. Italy was the place to be for motorcycle culture, so it was a natural choice. I didn’t know how to ride much, really…I was just learning how to street ride. My first serious bike was a retro-flavored Suzuki TU250X single, with the original tires still on it back in about 2009. That was a fun experience, especially in the rain!”
She spent years getting used to riding on the streets of Italy, but it would be several years before she finally caught the racing bug.
It wasn’t until 2017 that Bella went racing for the first time. “My first racing approach was in 2017, and I decided to do that crono-climber of Monzuno, a climbing race much like a hill climb, but held on the road and you’re on the clock. By chance, I was the first Israeli woman to officially participate in a motorcycle roadracing event. I got third in both the Open 600 and Stock 600 categories.”
“We were racing the clock,” she continued, “and there was something very special about hearing the crowds cheering us on. I’d never done a race professionally until that moment.” And she was hooked.
From that point on she started heading to local tracks more often, working to develop her own riding style and reading interviews with racing greats like Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Kevin Schwantz, along with watching hours of riding footage to continue learning and developing a style of her own.
In 2019, Bella’s hard work paid off and she was approached by the Petrolettes (organizers of Europe’s first female motorcycle festival) to be a part of the Petrolettes Wrench Off, promoted by Royal Enfield and similar to the current Build Train Race program in the United States (a program continuing to grow to include road racing in the U.S. and women in additional countries in 2021). The program involved four female teams from four different countries and four bikes. Each female wrenching team was given a brand-new Royal Enfield Twin 650, a fistful of Euros and a few months to customize the bikes into race-able pieces of art.
“This time it was for real,” Bella said. “I had a big organizer backed by a huge company, and they were entrusting me with the customization and racing of a motorcycle. We were rushed getting the bikes ready to race, and I was feeling the pressure and responsibility. I knew I had to show up and deliver.”
Finally it was race day, when the four teams drag raced against each other at a showcase event at Glemseck 101, a yearly, three-day motorcycling event that takes place in Germany and pulls in thousands of racers, custom bike builders, bikers and spectators from across Europe.
“None of us really had much drag racing experience,” remembered Bella, “and everyone was super worried about it, but we raced those custom creations like nothing else mattered. And after the race, the look in our eyes had changed. We’d revved our engines and shot down the drag strip like our lives depended on it.”
Being in competition sharpened Bella’s senses in a big way. “Different types of motorcycles are portals into different worlds and experiences that you have,” she told us. “At a race track you are completely in a different state of mind. Nothing exists in that moment. It’s very liberating, and at the race track it’s even more amplified. You have no time to think about anything else. You have to concentrate on being inside that moment, analyzing everything you do and approach it with a method. It’s not just cruising around the hills and soaking in the scenery – it becomes scientific on the track.”
Blazing a Trail in 2021
For 2020, Bella planned to travel, do some motorcycle touring, and perhaps get involved with some café racer activities. But just like the rest of the world, she was blindsided by a global pandemic that changed her plans…and her direction.
By chance, the pandemic resulted in her crossing paths with Ran Yochay, an Israeli female motorcycle athlete determined to race in Europe and become the first Israeli woman to race on a track.
Despite a shorter 2020 season caused by Covid-19, Bella was able to pull strings, help Ran out, and the two made it to the last two races of the season. “I got to get into that professional racing atmosphere,” Bella shared, “getting to know the racers and seeing how the championship is done. It follows the World Supersport 300 specs, it’s super professional, and from there you can do a wild card entry in the World Champ Super Sport race. The level of professionalism is very high – it’s just like the international championships. You get a lot of back-yard style races locally, but this is the real deal.”
While the 2020 season just ended, Bella feels the call of the race track herself, and she’s decided to go for it. She’s working on putting together sponsors and an entire program, and she and Ran plan to race together (and against each other) in the Women’s European Cup for 2021 in a historic Israeli 1-2 combo team.
She knows that both the stakes and the risks are high. She may have followed an unorthodox path into racing and, yes, she’s an underdog. But she’s ready for the challenge. “Some girls have these moments where they imagine themselves performing on a stage or winning a beauty pageant. For me, I imagined myself racing, and now I get to see if I can make it a reality. And from where I stand today, it seems less impossible than I thought it would be.”
Learn more about Bella and how you can get involved in her 2021 Women’s European Cup project by visiting her website www.thebellalit.com or following her on Instagram @thebella.lit or on Facebook @thebellalit.