What is Motocross? A Beginner’s Guide

Motocross is a form of off-road motorcycle racing. This race takes place on a closed track course. What this means is that motocross racing is set on a track course that has a variety of obstacles. This track course is often on natural environments. Motocross racing is characterized by obstacles including jumps, berms, and bumps. To excel at motocross, riders need a combination of skills, agility, and speed.

Man jumping off his dirtbike in motocross

The history of motocross dates as far back as the early 1900s. It started as scrambles where bikers would want to beat their records on the track. A few riders also sought to beat the record of others.  This kept going on until people began to ask, is motorcross a sport? Motocross became an official race for titles that include the fastest on the track.

This sport soon evolved to become officially known as motocross. The name, motocross is a fusion of two words, ‘motorcycle’ and ‘cross-country’. As time went by, the features of the bikes used in this sport were enhanced to be faster and safer. This included replacing the rigid frames of the bikes with suspensions. This was followed by the wide adoption of 2-stroke engines for faster racing. 

Safety and Gear

When motocross racing started, they were undertaken using regular bikes. This posed great danger to the riders who were at risk of serious injuries. But with the evolution of the sport, the bikes were modified. More safety measures were also adopted.

Now, the motorcycles used in motocross are designed to handle the tough terrain. They also have to overcome the obstacles that are typical in the sport. But this does not completely cut out the risks that riders still face during the race. If anything, the consequences of any injury are more dire.

These modified bikes are high-performance machines. They provide the high speeds necessary to compete in motocross races. These speeds over rough terrains on motocross tracks can cause the bike to slide off the control of a rider. 

There are also the risks of crashing into some of the obstacles or making a bad landing from a jump. Hence, it is important to be kitted in safety gear at all times. Some of the essential gear you need to compete in motocross include:

  1. Goggles to prevent dirt, dust, and debris from hitting your face or entering your eyes
  2. Helmet to protect your head during falls and crashes
  3. Gloves to protect your hand from bruises
  4. Chest protector to cushion your chest and back and prevent bone fractures from falls
  5. Boots to protect your feet and ankles from injuries while improving your grip on the bike’s footpeg
  6. Motocross knee braces reviews extol their qualities. Along with an elbow guard, they absorb impact. They provide support or protection against injuries in the event of a crash
3 men sitting on their dirt bike

Race Track

It cannot be stressed enough that motocross racing is one of the most demanding sports out there. This is because of the challenging terrain it is set on. The motocross track stretches over miles with various obstacles. A motocross rider needs to use the combined skill of precision and willingness to take risks. Speed is also important.

Due to the varying topography of different regions, motocross racing tracks are not alike. But there are a few constants that have been standardized in the sport to provide uniformity. 

They include the length of the race track and lap length, types of turns, and even jumps.

1. Length of the Race Track and Lap Length

The length of the race track is expected to be about 1-3 miles long. This is about 1.5 to 5 kilometers in length based on international competition standards. At various points in a race, motocross riders must adhere to the rules of the race. This includes not exceeding certain speed limits at some points. 

To make it easier for riders to mark these places on the track, the track has been lined with pointers. These pointers include flags, arrows, and cones. They help to guide riders during a race. While the race tracks are not always made to be wide, they can take a few riders side by side at a time.

Man riding his dirt bike in motocross

2. Types of Turns

The narrow design of the race tracks gives riders enough challenge when making turns. While it may seem simple enough, turns vary across different race tracks. Even on the same race track, the kind of turn you will need to take may vary.

For instance, some tracks have both right and left turns. This means you as a motocross rider will have to master how to take both kinds of turns. You should anticipate the next move you need to make while racing. Likewise, some turners are sharper and narrower than others.

There are tight hairpins and sweeping berms. They both require different techniques to gain mastery of the move. It is important to acquire this skill. Turns provide a great opportunity to gain an edge over other riders in the race. You will need to maintain the right speed and navigate the turn with precision.

3. Jumps and Hills

Jumps and hills are defining features of motocross racing. It requires you to launch yourself into the air, with the bike. You also need to clear obstacles that are often several feet high. When it comes to jumps, there are different types adequate for different skill levels.

There are table tops, doubles, and triple jumps. The table top jumps are small jumps when compared to the massive triples. The triples require expert timing and control. So, beginner riders can start from these small jumps. As they gain more mastery, they can move to bigger table tops and doubles so they don’t case their jumps.

2 men on motocross, the other is jumping off his dirt bike

When navigating hills, it is important to note that they vary. There are uphills and downhills that you will need to conquer. Practice getting into the right physical form for riding over or through hills. Proper weight distribution is important when going through hills. This will give you better control of your bike and allow you to maintain the appropriate speed.

4. Wet Area and How to Handle It

Motocross racing comes with enough risks already. But wet areas on a motocross track can be particularly treacherous. They create slippery conditions that can cause riders to lose speed. They can also cause them to lose control of their bikes. These wet areas may not be intentional designs of the race track. But may be due to the weather conditions in the region where the race is taking place.

In some cases, the wetness is intentional. Some tracks wet some areas in-between moto races. So, you should anticipate new challenges like riding through a wet area.

Motocross Training

Bad form and riding technique can be difficult to correct once you are used to them. This is one of the reasons why you need to get proper training. When you have mastered the proper body position, you put yourself in the best position to succeed in a race. 

The same applies to your riding technique. There are best practices for successful and risk-free riding. There is a different technique for cornering, and another for making turns and jumps. You need mastery of these techniques to excel as a motocross rider.

To do this, you may need to engage the services of a professional trainer especially, if you are a beginner rider. If your skills are at an intermediate level, you can also gain from an instructor. This way, you improve your skills.

2 men on motocross riding their dirt bike

Practice can elevate your skill level. You need to find a track near you that has obstacles fitting your current skill level. This way, you don’t find practicing or motocross intimidating. Physical fitness is also critical to motocross racing. Engage in physical exercises such as cycling and bench presses. Deadlifting helps to build endurance and strength. They are necessary to ride the long courses of motocross tracks and control the big bikes.

Choosing a Bike

The bike you choose for a motocross race will be determined by a few factors. They include:

  • The requirements of the racing event you want to take part in
  • Your skill level 
  • Your age
  • Your physical size

Motocross racing requires speed. As a result, you may want the fastest bike you can lay your hands on. This can prove to be detrimental to your progress as a rider since your skill level may not be able to handle the bike. 

You must have control of your bike to complete a race successfully. You get experience with the smaller bikes first before moving to bigger ones.

Isolated image of green dirt bike in white background

Also, your safety should be paramount while riding. Getting a bike that is not skill or age-appropriate can put you at risk of crashes or falls. This exposes you to injuries. 

There are many motorcycle manufacturers in the market. They have different bike models you can choose from. These bikes are classified according to their engine displacement sizes. 

Other factors that can determine your choice of a bike are:

  • Engine size. Different brands have the same engine sizes, but their performances may vary. You should try a few brand models before settling on one that suits you best. 
  • The specifications and features of a bike can also influence your choice of bike. 
  • Electric or fuel-powered dirt bikes. 
  • 2-stroke or 4-stroke bikes are another option. While the former generates more power, the latter is more fuel-efficient. This is due to their capacity to generate power from low RPMs.


Engaging in motocross racing can be expensive. There are a host of expenses that you may need to make to assure your safety. You may also need to make these expenses to gain a competitive advantage. These costs can add up over time. They include costs on:

1. Bikes

Getting a good high-performance bike can be a hefty investment. The price of a motocross bike varies based on the brand and the engine displacement size of the bike. This can cost up to $10,000.

2. Gear

Is motocross dangerous? Yes, it can be. Safety is important on the race track. Accidents can happen anytime and if anyone falls on the track course, it can endanger not just them but you as well. Thus, it is critical to wear appropriate gear at all times to maintain safety. These gear from the best motocross helmet, goggles, guards, and braces can add up to a few thousand dollars.

3. Race or Track Entry Fees

There are entry fees for most races. Depending on the location, they can cost from $20 to $100. Also, if you want to practice on a track, you will have to pay for membership or an entry fee every practice day.

4. Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance and repairs are necessary to keep your motocross bike in top shape and form. This cost can add up to a few hundred dollars if there is a big repair to be made.

5. Training

Training is a quintessential part of motocross. Be it motocross training from a motocross instructor or physical exercises. You will have to pay to gain access to gym facilities and motocross equipment. If you decide to get an instructor, you will also have to pay for their professional service.

6. Medical Expenses and Insurance

Riders are likely to sustain an injury or two while riding. As such, you must get insurance that can help offset your medical bills in the event of an injury. Also, you may want to get insurance on your bike. This way, if it crashes or packs up, you have something to fall back on.

All over the world, there are motocross events that take place in different seasons. Some of these racing events have fixed venues and tracks where they take place. But for some, the locations are moved based on peculiarities. These peculiarities are determined by the organizing body.

Here are a few popular motocross events in the US:

Motocross Event in the USVenue
Monster Energy AMA Motocross ChampionshipHurricane Mills, Tennessee, United States
Mammoth MotocrossMammoth Lakes, California
Spring Creek NationalMillvale, Minnesota

Other motocross events across the world include:

Motocross Events Around the WorldLocation 
FIM Motocross World Championship Location is in different continents based on the FIM calendar. The 2023 World Championship will hold in Europe, South America, and Asia
International Woodville Motocross Grand PrixWoodville, New Zealand
International Motocross, MuriMuri, Switzerland

Top Competition Categories by Dirt Bike Engine Size

Motocross competitions are often categorized by the engine size of the dirt bikes. This ensures that riders are grouped according to their skill levels. It is also based on the capabilities of their bikes. The requirements vary with different races. But most of the categories by dirt bike include:

  • 50cc, this is for beginner riders. These bikes are best to be used in motocross for kids.
  • 65cc, riders of intermediate skill level can ride this bike
  • 85cc, this is for riders who have advanced beyond the 65cc bikes
  • 125cc, more experienced riders who want to go to a higher level
  • 250cc, this bike is used in the highest level of amateur competitions. It also features in professional ranks
  • 450cc, this is the highest engine size used in motocross racing. It is used in professional competition.

Getting Started With Motocross

If you are a beginner interested in motocross racing, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Learn the basics of motocross. Research the rules, equipment, and techniques employed in the sport
  • Get your bike and gears to protect yourself
  • Attend a class or get a professional trainer to guide you on the fundamentals. Most training schools or personal trainers have websites or social media pages. You can find them online. 
  • Find a training track near you. Research local clubs around you where you can meet a local community to chat about motocross facts and history. Local bike shops can also guide where to find local training tracks. There are also online forums like Reddit where you can ask where about tracks for motocross near me.
  • Practice often to improve your skills and build confidence.
3 men on motocross racing riding their own dirt bike

Transporting your Bike

Motocross bikes come with a hefty price tag. Hence, you must transport them to the race venue without incurring any damage. This means using a safe means of transportation. You can opt for a pickup van or truck. Whatever vehicle you choose, they must have ample space to accommodate your bike. 

Remove all loose parts or accessories to avoid them falling apart during transportation. Also, secure the bike in place with straps to stop it from moving during transportation. Drive slowly over bumps. This will prevent the bike from tumbling over while being transported.

Sign Up and Sponsorship

The signup process for motocross races varies with the racing event. But generally, the steps are similar. Find a race and check the eligibility requirements. Register then prepare for the race. On the race day, arrive with your bike for inspection.

To attract investors, you need to show the value you can provide. This may involve building a great racing portfolio and maintaining a professional image. You can also pitch to potential sponsors.

Final Words

Riding on a motocross track can be exciting with lots of thrills. It can also be intense as much as it can be demanding. The motocross landscape is ever-changing. Thus, riders need swift adaptation skills and laser focus. But, you should ensure you prioritize your safety above the adrenaline rush.


Is motocross and dirt biking the same thing?

Motocross and dirt biking are not the same. They are similar in that they are both off-road motorcycle sports. But motocross involves racing on a designated path with various obstacles. Dirt biking refers to a wider range of off-road riding. They include trail riding and enduro racing.

What is considered motocross?

Motocross is a form of off-road motorcycle racing that involves racing on a closed course. This course must have a variety of obstacles over rough and usually, open terrain. Also, the riders can compete in motocross races based on their bike engine sizes, age, or skill level.

What do motocross riders do?

Motocross riders can ride for personal entertainment or take part in racing competitions. In competitions, the riders take part in off-road racing on a closed course with lots of obstacles. They take turns and make jumps at high speeds in different laps of the race.