Beginners Guide to Motocross

Whether you're a rider or a parent of a young rider who wants to get into the sport, you understandably would want to know everything about it before you start.

Read this detailed beginners guide to motocross: everything you need to know about getting started with Motocross is addressed below.

What is Motocross?

Motocross is a motorcycle racing competition, which is held on a track with a rough terrain that is either natural or man-made. 

The riders have to compete in two races that have two laps each. Whoever crossed the line first after the checkered flag is waved, will be the winner of the set.

However, the overall champion will be determined by their scores on both sets of races.

Although motocross is an individual sport, there are team motocross events that allow riders to perform as a group.

And while Motocross was originally a racing competition, some competitions now test the rider's skills.

Also Read: 15 Best Dirt Bike and Motocross Helmets

In America, Motocross has four main competition types.


This type of motocross racing takes place in arenas that have tracks made out of artificial dirt.

The tracks have tighter turns, lots of jumps, shorter straights, and steep articles.


In this type of motocross, the riders compete for the best routine. The panel of judges scores the riders routine depending on their airtime and tricks performed.

Each rider is required to have 2 routines, each either 90 seconds or 15 minutes long.

Big Air

In this type of motocross, winners are determined by their jumps. The competition is set on a dirt track with jumps as high as seventy-five feet.

The judges evaluate two jumps the rider executed, and it is scored according to the jump's style, originality, and originality.


This is a type that crosses over to road-racing, as the motorcycles used in this type of competition have road-racing tires.

The race is held on a track that has a mixture of dirt and road.

History of Motocross

In the 1960's, Motocross was introduced to the United States by Edison Dye. When Dye was in Europe running his motorcycle business tour, he came upon a new style of motorcycle racing.

Although dirt bike racing was not unheard of in the US, European scrambles was an entirely different kind of competition.

People from the UK used to know the sport as scrambles, but the sport became popularly known internationally as Motocross.

It was derived from French words for motorcycle (moto) and cross country (Comte de Croix), Motocroix or what we now call Motocross.

motocross competition

When Dye became the US importer for the Husqvarna dirt bikes, his interest to bring the sport to the country took on a new life.

He recruited several European riders, who were mostly from Sweden, to help kickstart the sport in the US. And it didn't take long before the American people loved the sport.

Tom White, the owner, and operator of the Early Years of Motocross Museum in Villa Park, CA, attributed the success of the sports due to the riders being able to buy competition-ready bikes off showrooms.

And the spectators were in awe watching a manner of racing they have never seen before in the country. Plus, they were able to watch the event while they have picnics.

In 1976, Dye created the Inter-Am Series which became the sanctioning body for Motocross.

And by 1970, the AMA competed with the Inter-Am, they had better promotions to track owners.

In 1971, eventually had to fold his Inter-Am series and eventually went to work under AMA.

Unfortunately for Dye, he was made to leave the sports in 1974 after he canceled an event in St. Louis because of wet weather.

And Husqvarna didn’t help when the company decided to open their own office in the US, that made Dye sell out his importing business to them.

Edison Dye’s name almost disappeared from the history of Motocross, but thanks to Tom White, he was given the MX Lifetime Achievement Award, it is cemented in the ground of the raceway at Glen Helen.

Finally, in 2001, Dye was also given the Mickey Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Motocross through the years:

The 1970’s

American riders like Bob Hannah, Tony DiStefano, and Marty Smith, were beginning to become serious competitions to the European riders who predominantly won the races.

This was the beginning of a new era for American riders.

The 1980’s

American riders continued to build their mark in the Motocross sports. 

In 1981, 1983, and 1985, Broc Glover won three 500cc class championships and three straight 125cc wins. His 125cc reign was ended by Mark Burnett.

And then there was Jeff Ward, who was the first to become the champion in all three classes.

The 1990’s

American riders have already established their names in the Motocross sports. Ward was followed by Mike Kiedrowski as the champion in all three classes.

After the 1993 season, AMA folded the 500cc class and opened the Women’s Motocross.

In 1995, the great Jeremy McGrath won his one and only Motocross championship.

Ricky Carmichael the began his unparalleled and still unmatched 10 straight championship wins.

He won three 125cc championships before he switched to 250cc, where he won an amazing seven straight championships.

The 2000’s

The 250cc class was renamed as the MC Class, while the 125cc became the MX Lites Class, this happened in 2006.

Then in 2009, MC Class became a 450cc class, and the MX Lites Class became a 250cc class.

American riders continue to become one of the dominant countries in the Motocross world.


2017 has seen some of the best riders Motocross ever had, Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Marvin Musquin, Eli Tomac, Jason Anderson, Cole Seely, and Cooper Webb, to name a few, had all left Motocross fans in awe and excited for what the 2018 season will bring.

(Click here to learn how motorcycle clutch works)

How to Get into Motocross Racing

dirt bike competition

If you never have prior experience with competing in a Motocross race but you are interested to try it, or if you are a parent of a kid who wants to get into Motocross but you know nothing about the Sport, here are some tips to get you started.

Go to a Motocross Event

Go to the track not just to observe the event, take this time to meet an experienced rider and their pit crew. Fire your questions away.

This is the best way to learn about what goes on before, during, and after a Motocross race.

Ride Off-road with a Mountain Bike

This is a safer way to gain insight into how you ride on a rough terrain, especially for kids.

Most pro motocross riders admit that they ride on mountain bikes for additional training. Mountain bikes will help you spot your lines.

Buy Your Bike and a Bike Trailer

Research and check out all the stores that sell motocross bikes, for kids, parents need to take note that kids have an age requirement to ride certain types of bikes.

There are second-hand bikes available, however, you need to beware of its wear and tear.

If you’re buying a bike to take to sanctioned races, you need to consider that you will need a bike in its best condition.

And when you already have a purchased bike, you will also need to invest in a trailer you can use to transport it.

Buy Your Gear

Motocross gears are an absolute necessity, they are needed for a rider’s safety because if you are realistic, you know that crashes are inevitable.

A rider’s gear can be the only deciding factor in a life and death situation. So invest in your gears.

Take Motocross Classes

The classes might be pricey, but you will see the results are worth it.

Getting instructions from pro riders, being able to try out different motorcycle models, and basically having access to a facility with the latest know-how of the sport are all to your advantage.

Join a Motocross Club

Motocross is a popular sport in America, there is a huge chance that you have a race track on your location with an established club.

Join the local club if it’s available, or look for the ones nearest your location.

Motocross clubs have their own race events, and being able to race in those events will give you significant experience.

When you feel like you are experienced enough to join AMA-sanctioned events, you will also have to become a member of AMA.

Prepare to Spend, A Lot

You have bought your first motorcycle with a trailer, added with a complete gear, joined a club, and enrolled in classes.

coins and calculator

Now, prepare to do it all again. If you are a parent, once your kid reaches the level where they can compete in AMA-sanctioned games, you will need to spend again.

If you’re already an adult rider, you have to pay annual membership fees to AMA and spend on machine maintenance.

And you will have to buy new a bike and gear as you should expect to.

Clothing will eventually show wear and will sport a tear if you were involved in a crash. Which happens a lot.

Stay Fit: Exercise and Eat Healthy

Motocross is physically taxing. You need to be fit to be able to compete since the sport will test your endurance.

Create an exercise routine and make sure that you eat a balanced diet. And remember to drink plenty of water. And Remember to Stretch before every event.

Age Requirement

For kids, effective last January 1st, the minimum age required for amateur riders is 12.

Your kid needs to be 14 years old or older to be able to ride a motorcycle above 250cc, in all events.

In motocross events, your kid needs to be 16 years old or older to be able to ride a 450cc motorcycle or above.

Rules and Regulations

Now here's the part you need to focus your attention to, the following are important information that rookie riders and parents of rookie riders must know, to avoid, not just the potential embarrassment you or your child will experience in the track, but also to avoid getting penalized.

Pit Riding

You need to take note that AMA does not allow riders to ride their bikes at 5 mph, to and fro the starting gate.

AMA strictly do not tolerate any Pit Racing or burnouts during their sanctioned event. You will be penalized if found guilty.

Safety Flags

A Yellow Flag

It means that the track has a problem, you need to take note and be observant so as to avoid the problem, observe if the flaggers where the flaggers are directing you.

It is important to remember that passing and jumping is prohibited when a yellow flag is waved.

A Red Cross Flag

It means that there is a current hazard on the track because a rider is currently receiving assistance.

You must make sure to ride with caution and to remember that jumping and passing in the area where the red flag is displayed is prohibited.

You will be penalized if you endanger another rider by jumping or passing them or if you track worker.

It is important that you remember the meaning of each flag.

For the penalties given may vary from only being made to be in a docked position to getting disqualified from the race, both will not be good.

Cutting the Track

Riding off the designated race track is strictly forbidden. You must make sure to stay on the race track at all times.

If you are forced off the track, slow down, and enter at the next safe point. Similar to violating the flag rules, riders can be penalized to stay in docked position or totally get disqualified.

Indecorous Behavior

You are to display appropriate behavior. Riders are held responsible for the actions done by a member of their pit crew and family.

Indecorous behavior includes: riding dirty, profane language, getting into conflict, vulgar gestures and so on.

Violators, if found guilty, can get disqualified in the event and worse be suspended from all AMA-sanctioned events.

An additional rule to remember:

Participants in all AMA-sanctioned events are strictly prohibited from drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Prior to events, riders are to take a drug test. During the events, staff will observe riders, if suspected the rider will be subjected to go through another test.

Read the AMA Rulebook and any Supplemental Rules the event may have created.

dirt bike rider competing

Parents, you need to make sure that your kids internalize the rules, for their own safety and the safety of everyone in the race.

Now, if you have the above rules engraved in your mind you can now proceed to the following tips and additional information on starting your road to becoming a Motocross rider.

What to Bring on the Day of the Event

When participating in an AMA-sanctioned race, you need to bring the following:

AMA Membership Card

You will need this card to join. For more information visit their site.

Riding Gear

You need to be in complete riding gear, and you should make sure that it is clean and in good condition.

Your motorcycle

A motorcycle with a gas can with an extra gas is essential. It has to be clean and in good condition to race.

The number on your bike

Your bike’s number has to be large to be visible. AMA will not assign racing numbers, but you can choose your own.


Research how much the event’s gate admission and sign-up fees will cost, and make sure you bring enough amount to cover all the expenses.

Release forms

Make sure that you have brought forms that the event has made you fill out, especially a notarized parental release form.

Extra parts and tools

Be ready for unprecedented situations and bring extra parts in case parts of your motorcycle experience failure.

Pen and paper

You will be taking notes of your practice and race order, so make sure you have them at hand.

What to Do:

At Gate Admission

This is your first stop, so you need to pay the gate admission fee before you can do anything else at the race venue. 

If they give you an armband to wear, please do not take it off. 

Take it off only if the event is done, or if you are leaving and have no intention of going back to the event’s venue.

The Parking Area

Most racing events place the parking area right next to the racetrack. But if the event has no designated parking area, it will be according to your personal preference.

You just need to take note of the area, do not block driveways or fire lanes. They are usually fenced or staked to mark them.

Registration Area

Underage riders will need supervision from their parents. This is where you will pass the notarized parental release form.

If the parent can’t come to the event, the authorized guardian needs to include a notarized authorization statement with the notarized release form.

This is a strict rule with no exceptions.

Sign all forms legibly and do not leave the registration area until you are informed that your number has no duplicate.

In case your number is already registered, you will be asked to add an additional number to the one you have.

The practice and race order shall be posted in the registration area.

The practice order will be posted during the registration process, while the race order shall be drafted during the practice and posted afterward.

Before the Practice Race

You will have 30-40 minutes before the practice will start, get dressed and depending on your practice order, look at the obstacles in the track.

If you can, go to a high place where you can get a bird’s eye view of the whole race track. Visualize how you can go around the track.

After that, warm up your bike, go near the track, and wait for your number to be called.

If you are one of the first riders to practice, then it is better to walk around the track after your practice.

You will need to be present when your number is up, for you will not be given another time to do it.

During the Practice Race

This is the best time for you to create a strategic plan of how you will go around the race-track.

Do not go for speed at this time, take it slow, learn and remember each obstacle, and pay attention to track flags.

During the Race

Enjoy and learn from your racing experience. Do not let a win get into your head, and do not let a loss discourage you from the sport.

It is important to remember that even the best riders have experienced losses.

Motocross Classes for Beginners

The best and easiest way to locate a Motocross class is to go to the site of DirtBike School and click on the Find a Rider Course near you button on their site or click here.

You’ll be taken to a page where you can enter your information, with your address, and they will provide you the name and address, both online and offline, of the schools nearest to you.

The training they offer is available to everyone.

Parents of kids who are interested in motocross at a really young age can enroll them here, they accept kids as young as six years old. 

They offer Closed Ranged Exercises (CRE) and Introduction to Trail Riding (ITR) for Motocross beginners. They require their students to have a complete set of riding gear.

You can also research for the best Motocross schools in your area if you prefer, just make sure that the school you have chosen are accredited and have training coaches who were pro motocross riders.

Different Types of Dirt Bikes

Recreational Bikes

This is the best bike for beginners, these bikes are easy to control and cost cheaper than any other bike types.

It generally has a 4 stroke air cooled engines, which remarkably reliable with little maintenance

Trail Bikes

This type of bikes are high technology bikes, that is liquid cools, has high compression, will deliver high performance, and generally a competition-ready bike.

The seats of this types of bike are higher for greater ground clearance and for a longer suspension travel.

Motocross Bikes

As the name suggests, they are bikes that are specifically made for Motocross Competitions.

These bikes deliver high performance, has stiff suspensions and has engines and transmissions best suited to Motocross.

Mini Bikes

Motocross is an inclusive sport that allows people who are smaller in frames due to dwarfism have their own division.

They ride and perform just like the normal framed riders, just in smaller scales. And their bikes are also built in smaller scales.

Bikes for Dual Sport and Adventure

This types of bikes encompass a broad category, with many subtypes available. These bikes are street legal bikes that can have a lot or little off-road functions.

sport bike stunt show

Some of this bikes are simply trail bikes that are modified to market them as a dual sports bike.

The best way for you to be able to buy the bike most suited to your needs is for you to talk to Motocross Bike Dealers.

The information above is only provided as a general information about the different types of bikes.

Think about what you need in a bike and ask experts what type of bike will meet all your needs.

Motocross Gears

Motocross gears exist because the sport is dangerous, a rider needs to dress for a potential crash, which happens a lot no matter how a rider tries to be safe.

It happens even to pro riders. So, you need to invest in the following gears:


This is a must-have gear even when you are riding recreationally at local tracks because the helmet protects the most important part of the body, the brain.

In AMA sanctioned games, helmets used need to bear a certification sticker as proof that it conforms to the recognized standards.


They protect your eyes from the debris that is on the race track. The goggles used for Motocross needs to be shatterproof, with different variations that are suited to different track situations.

Some are made for warm weather and some for cold weathers, you need to purchase the variations according to the weather forecasted for a race event.

Pants, Jerseys, and Gloves

This gear usually comes in a set, with knee pads and shoulder pads. Motocross clothing is specially designed to withstand wear, they also come in variations for cold and warm weathers.

When purchasing this gear, make sure that everything is a perfect fit for your comfort during the race matters.


In AMA events, the boots of the riders are required to have a steel toe that is at least 8 inches high and the boots need to have a combination of laces and buckles.

Leather boots need to be broken in, if you race with a boot that is not broken yet, you run the risk of harming your feet or limiting your movement.

Body Armor

This type of gears is created for the rider's body to be able to further withstand impact during crashes.

They can be uncomfortable for riders who have not ridden while wearing them, so it is important that you train while wearing a full body armor, such as chest and back armors, rooster armors, and neck braces.

How to Go Pro in Motocross

All Motocross rider aims to become professional racers. Even though you are at the beginning stage.

You undoubtedly, aim to become one of the professional Motocross racers one day, so take note of the following steps to becoming one.

Get into Motocross

The first step is just to start, so you have to start off as an amateur to be an expert.

When you have, or your child has achieved success in getting into Motocross, continue moving up to bigger tracks and races.

Never stop training, and when you are confident enough, compete in the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship.

Look for Sponsors

Professional races will be costlier, to help you shoulder your expenses you should look for sponsors.

They will pay you to promote their company just by putting their company name on your race equipment and motorcycle.

Apply for Pro Motocross License

Finally, you need to apply for a professional license from AMA. You can only apply if you can provide the following:

  • check
    A current AMA membership
  • check
    Proof of an existing Medical Insurance Coverage
  • check
    Passed the ImPACT Concussion Management Test with proof, check if your test is still valid, as ImPACT tests are only good for 2 years.
  • check
    Complete a Direct Deposit agreement, for Foreign Riders, you will have to pay thru cheque
  • check
    Filled out IRS W-9 Form or 8233 Form for Foreign applicants
  • check
    Visible and colored headshot photo
  • check
    A copy of your Birth Certificate if you’re a new applicant
  • check
    Foreign riders will need to additionally process a Permission Release and a certification from their home country’s Licensing Board.

If you have all the requirements ready, you can now process your application. Go to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship website.

There you will see a guided three-step process on how to get your Professional License.


Motocross, while being risky, is also a sport that inarguably builds your character and confidence, which is why a lot of parents fully support their kids who want to become Motocross racers.

It’s also a sport that lots of motorcycle enthusiast love to enter and become pros.

While winning is unquestionably the goal of Motocross races, beginners need to allow themselves a grace period of learning.

It’s important for beginners to accept losses because there are racers more experienced than you.

Hopefully, after reading the beginners guide to motocross, everything you need to know about Motocross has been answered.

Check out the best motorcycle helmets out there: