What is Motocross?

The traditional motocross course is of a grass surface, and knobby tires tend to create some soil displacement as they reach for traction. The dirt does not travel far, however, as a properly designed motocross course has netting behind each corner where dirt can be spun off the tires. Usually green or orange, this netting outlines the course just one meter outside of the actual track markers (those triangular flags on a rope – or sometimes just a white or yellow ribbon). Tires (drilled into the bottom for drainage) lining the inside of turns – or hay bales made from straw – serve the function in Motocross, Hare Scrambles and Dirt Track of delineating the innermost path allowed on a course.

The path that a properly laid out motocross course takes is meant to exploit the rough terrain: the more treacherous the route the better. When the natural terrain does not provide the rugged conditions expected from Motocross, it is artificially built into the course with earthworks. Extremes of height are sought in quick order, and a plunge into and out of simulated ravines is not uncommon. By contrast, the motocross rider wants to bound up and over a hill in one ecstatic leap. Landing safely on the other side, the rider experiences several laps of rising and descending. Where it differs from Hare Scrambles and Enduro is in the relative speed involved.

Now that we know what to expect on the riding surface and the traditional layout of a course, we can discuss the design of a Motocross track. First, it is a dirt trail. It is over 1 mile long, and less than 2 miles long. It is a trail through woods, but wide enough to support several riders wide between trees. Generally one main riding line will be used but the width of the lane must be maintained for safety reasons: speed sometimes necessitates alternative riding lines especially when passing. In addition, the width of a trail must take natural boundaries into account and provide a set distance from the riding area to the natural boundary as a buffer. Trees and poles are always wrapped with hay bales or other form of purpose-built barrier.

Lacking any woods, a Motocross course can be laid out in a field. This is one significant way that it differs from other professional and recreational sports: the facilities all differ in design. Without woods to chart a path through, the track designer looks for other natural features to exploit. If the available acreage is unremarkable, the designer begins constructing “man-made” obstacles. These are commonly known as jumps, whoops, berms and sometimes mud puddles. Whether in competition (where the length of each “moto” is 20-30 minutes) or just for recreation to practice one’s skills) the point is to feature as many elements for riding conditions as possible: grass, leaves, trees, sand, rocks, dust, rain, mud and severe heat on motorcycles that are able to handle powerful acceleration, abrupt stops, and pounding from sharp-edge bumps and hard landings from heights up to 20 or 30 feet. Riders train for these contingencies.

If you grew up thinking that the sport of Motocross was meant to be a never ending series of arena-style jumps, in a big pit of dirt, then you were misled. Traditional Motocross is set in a beautiful park-like setting, with green grass over hills and through forest shade. While speeds can reach a velocity of 65 miles per hour, the challenge for the rider is to see how quickly they can navigate a steep off-camber turn. Survive a high speed downhill that has been whooped-out from all the hard braking. Get through deep sand when heavy traffic has taken your preferred line. Find a rhythm on a course that was meant to deprive you of that. Learn from other riders when you see they have found a better line. And get a good start by weighting the front end, denying excess wheel spin, and shifting into 3rd with the heel of your boot. This is a sport like no other and Maryland has championship blood in its veins.

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts