by Lynn & Charlie
Copyright @ 2000-2014, Lynn Conway.
All Rights Reserved
This page gives an overview of motocross racing, and includes some photos to convey a bit of what it feels like to race MX. Maybe you've been interested in dirt bikes, and perhaps done some trail riding. If so, we'd like you to think of MX as a participation sport, and about how you might get into it too!
When we first started riding dirt bikes, we enjoyed practicing and play riding at the Mounds, and doing some trail riding up north in Michigan. When we looked for practice riding sites nearer home, we discovered that the Motocross Racing Association (MRA), held open practice sessions on their track in Milan, MI every week. Charlie tried this first; soon we both were practicing at "Club MRA".
One thing led to another, and Charlie entered some races; then I did too. We were pretty slow at first, but found racing incredibly exciting. Age wasn't as much of a barrier as we thought it might be, as long as you are physically fit and are attracted to excitement. We gradually got to where we could compete with some folks on the track, and got really hooked on motocross.
Many MX racers begin when they're young, and grow up in the sport as a family activity. But as we discovered, you can start at any age. If you're an enthusiastic trail rider, or maybe rode dirt bikes or raced when you were younger, come check out the open practice days at MRA and the other racing clubs.
If you have fun in the practice sessions, your bike is running well and you've got all the needed gear, you'll probably feel the itch to go ahead and try some racing. The racing clubs have different classes for different skill levels, including age groups for the "veterans", so that you can enter races with a group of reasonably matched competitors. There are local races in our Michigan area every weekend during the spring, summer and fall, so there are opportunities to race and practice as often as you'd like.
Well, what's it like to race anyways? We've put together some photos below of Charlie racing in a "moto" at AMA District 14's old Iron Mustangs motocross track in Brighton, MI that may help you sense what it's like.
Before the first races on a race day, there will be practice sessions, where you can get out and ride the track at speed, but with riders spread out a bit and not actually racing. This way you can get a good look at everything, and practice how you're going to handle various track features.
Then it time to go racing. In the first photos, we see a group of riders getting ready for a moto, lining up and picking starting position numbers, and then lining up behind the starting gate.
Before the moto in the starting area:
Riders will soon to pick straws for their starting positions
Waiting to enter the starting gate while watching an earlier moto wind down.
(Charlie is #834 in the middle of the picture)
Lining up behind the starting gate:
There's time to think as the earlier moto finishes, and the adrenalin starts to flow
Once everyone's in position in the gate, and all engines are started, the final countdown sequence begins. Flags, or colored lights are used, depending on the track, to give a preliminary warning about 30 seconds in advance of the start, and then a final warning just a few seconds before the gates drop. On that final warning, you rev your bike, get forward on it, and keeping the front brake on, slip the clutch a bit, and all set to feed it in when the gate drops. At the very first sign of any motion of the gate, you take off!
It's within seconds of the start:
Everyone revs their bikes; you're now zoned on adrenalin
Then the starting gate falls, the bikes leap forward, and the moto is on!
Getting out front early is a big advantage in motocross, because it can be hard to pass an equally skilled rider. So a good start is critical, and it usually gets pretty exciting as you head into the first turn with the pack all togather.
The pack rips down the starting straight for the first turn.
Charlie (#834) is out there in the middle of all this:
Most of the pack, including Charlie, got thru the first turn ok,
but not everyone made it thru without mishap:
Once you've gotten well into the first lap, things usually settle into open racing, trying to get thru turns, down the straights and over jumps a bit faster than your closest competition. You're going to work hard out there, so physical conditioning is important. But even more important is practice and more practice to learn the technical skills so important in modern motocross.
Charlie in mid-race, on the uphill jump at Iron Mustangs
A pack of racers heading up the big uphill turn
While racing, you'll keep your eyes open for flags used by the "flagmen" as warnings and other signals, such as yellow for caution (hold your position till you get by the accident or other danger), red for stop racing (serious accident or problem), white for one more lap to go, and checkered for finish!
Speaking of accidents, one advantage of motocross racing over trail riding or enduro racing is that there are always medics and an ambulance or two at the track, ready to provide emergency treatment if you ever need it.
Each race, or "moto" as they are called consists of 4 or 5 laps around the racecourse. On entering the last lap, you'll see the flagman at the finish line waving a white flag to warn you that it's the last lap. And then at the end of that lap you'll see the checkered flag - and the race is over.
Taking the checkered flag
A motocross event involves two such races, or "motos". Your positions in the two races determine your overall position in the event. Awards are usually given for positions well down into the class you race with, so there's a chance you'll collect some trophies as your skills improve. But the main thing is you'll find a lot of excitement and adventure, and have lots of fun!
Charlie returns to the pits to relax:
"Wow! That sure was fun!"
For more about our racing experiences, see:

Some Web Resources for Motocross Racing:
We usually race in the Motocross Racing Association (MRA) events at MRA tracks in Michigan, Ohio and Ontario. For some photos and more information, take a look at our webpage "Racing at MRA". MRA also has a website you can check out at: http://www.racemra.com/.
There are also a number of motocross racing schools where you can learn to race and where serious racers can greatly improve their skills - see Dirt-Rider Magazine's List of MX racing schools. Motocross racing is a skill sport, and is not just limited to "big, strong guys". There is a wide range of age and skill classes for racers, so that you compete against others of roughly similar capabilities. Motocross is a family-oriented sport, and there are racing classes even for little kids on tiny 50cc bikes. In addition, many girls and women also enjoy motocross racing these days.

When starting out, remember that motocross is a skill-based adventure-sport. It's not at all about wild risk-taking: it's about learning how to do really hard things, things most other people can't do, and then doing them with skill and grace under fire. Getting physically fit, practicing frequently, and constantly learning about how to race-better are all a big part of the fun. It's also important to remember to always wear good safety gear. That way you can safely push yourself onwards, especially when learning, but avoid getting badly hurt. 

There's an especially good page at MoToSPORT.com on Motocross Training for Kids - Safety Tips and Techniques. I encourage all kids and their parents to explore the links there. (Thanks to Dylan Lyons and the rest of Ms. Murphy's team in Compton, CA, for pointing me to that page!)

And of course there are lots of good publications and websites where you can learn more: Motocross Action Magazine covers all aspects of the sport and has an extensive website. Cycle News is a good source for up-to-date racing news and results. Motocross.com maintains an extensive website, including links to suppliers, services, places to race and ride, etc., and also links to many specialized and regional MX e-zines. ProSports USA's site also contains a good list of useful MX links.

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