A Beginner’s Guide to Motocross

A Beginner’s Guide to Motocross

Motocross isn’t one of those sports that you have to dream about from afar – it’s much more accessible than you think, so long as you have a bike, the gear and a motocross track at your disposal.

Of course, motocross is more complex than that, seeing as how it places plenty of physical and mental demands on the rider. If you want to improve your balance, strength and stamina; impress others with your developing technique; and test your risk-taking and nerve threshold, it could be the perfect sport for you.

Here are some tips and advice about how to get started in this adventurous, adrenaline-pumping sport.

Getting To Know Some Basic Motocross Techniques and Terminology

The majority of your motocross training will come when you’re actually on your bike, but knowing a few basics beforehand will help to lay the groundwork.

Motocross

Motocross, also referred to as MX, is a specific type of off-road racing that’s performed on a particular type of motorbike. Motocross circuits are designed to make rides feel fast and thrilling. The terrain has a mix of natural features, like hills, and man-made features, like jumps and tight corners. It’s an exciting, dirty and physically demanding sport.

Stance

The correct motocross stance includes keeping your knees flexible while your thighs tightly grip the bike. By flexing your knees, your body is able to absorb bumps and you’ll be cushioned when landing jumps.

Throttle Control

This is how you have control over the engine. Operate the throttle by using your right hand to twist the grip on the handlebar. This will help you accelerate and will let you regulate the bike’s speed. Too much throttle applied quickly will cause the rear wheel to spin, which will make you lose traction, which makes it hard to keep the bike in control.

Clutch and Gears

Gear changes and the clutch are infamously difficult for newbies. The clutch is used to go from a standing start to accelerating. (While you’re moving, you won’t need the clutch in order to change gear.) Get used to slowly, smoothly easing off the clutch before you take on any dangerous obstacles. Experienced riders also use the clutch while moving to rev the engine and gain speed.

Different terrain calls for different gears, and for your bike to perform its best, it needs to be in the correct gear. A single circuit may require switching gears mid-ride. The goal is to have your bike ride smoothly the entire time.

Cornering

Cornering is the term for taking turns, and it’s a lot more than simply turning the handlebars. Cornering requires a lot of attention, and it can make or break a race. You’ll need to know how to handle your breaks and throttle while remaining in the correct position.
As you come upon a turn, reduce your speed and stick out your inside leg while keeping it suspended above ground. This provides you with security in case you need to get your balance back by touching the ground. To keep your leg safe, keep it suspended high and forward. Lean into the corners and stay balanced in order to keep the bike stable.

Bumps and Jumps

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you start tackling small jumps. As you do, keep your upper body firm but still a bit relaxed. During take-off, keep your weight centralised. Note where you’ll land early. As you gain more experience, you’ll learn to make adjustments mid-air, such as bringing the front of the bike up or down as needed.

motcross-jump A Beginner's Guide to Motocross

Whoops and Rollers

Whoops are mini mountains set next to one another, and they’re common places for wipeouts. The goal is to just graze the peaks of the bumps, which requires a lot of upper arm strength and leg grip to stay on the bike as it bucks.

Rollers are flatter and more gradual than whoops, and are prone to fewer wipeouts. Rollers often come after a corner, so knowing how to exit a corner is important.

8 Steps to Get Started with Motocross

1. Get in shape.

Being in shape isn’t a motocross prerequisite, but it’s great if you have a decent level of fitness to build upon. Your inner thighs are going to get a major workout when riding, so prep them for the strain with regular squats. Also, a full body conditioning routine will help you handle motocross at every stage.

2. Ride a BMX or mountain bike.

Starting with a BMX or mountain bike in the woods or on a trail will get you used to riding on dirt, which is a big part of the motocross learning curve. You’ll experience some of the same technical challenges that motocross riders deal with, and you can even try out a couple of tiny jumps. Mostly, you’ll get used to focusing on the trail. Concentration is a major component of motocross – the best riders focus in a way that lets them race at full speed for 40 minutes at a time. That amount of focus is draining, so aim for 10-minute sessions when you’re starting out.

3. Buy a motocross bike.

Motocross bikes are off-road motorbikes with specialised suspension and tyres. Four-stroke engine bikes are advanced, coming equipped with electronics and traction control technology. While manufacturers still make two-stroke engines, and while they’re lighter weight and easier to maintain, they’re not nearly as reliable. Green motocross bikes that are powered by electricity have high price tags, as do road-legal motocross bikes, which are heavy because they’re not solely built for speed.

While you may have your eye on a top-end bike, buy something basic and less powerful at first ¬- a secondhand bike with minimal wear and tear is a good option. Whatever bike you buy, learn how to maintain it ¬- you’ll need to perform routine maintenance after every ride. Additionally, you’ll need a way to transport your bike, such as with a trailer or a van, since most motocross bikes are not road-legal.

motocross-bike A Beginner's Guide to Motocross

4. Buy quality motocross gear.

Your helmet is the single most important piece of protective gear you’ll own, and you have to buy it brand new – a used helmet doesn’t offer protection. Check out our Essential Motocross Helmet Buying Guide. Other basic motocross gear includes lightweight, protective clothing; back and chest body armor worn underneath your clothing; gloves with excellent grip; sturdy motocross boots; and a strong pair of goggles. Additionally, knee braces will keep your knees protected from twists, and a neck brace will protect you against injury in the case of an accident. For the best price, get a kit with a full set of clothing and gear.

p-117787-2174_033 A Beginner's Guide to Motocross

5. Locate nearby motocross tracks.

Look for a local motocross track with different degrees of difficultly so that you can advance as you gain experience. Start on a trail with hard-pack soil, which is easier to ride than other types of tracks (sand tracks, for example, are notoriously difficult). You may also find indoor tracks to ride during the winter months. Some tracks will offer an intro day, with packages covering everything from clothing and equipment to training and lunch. This is a good way to get a taste of motocross before investing money in a bike, gear or organization fees.

Many circuits charge by the hour, and some are only open to members of a motocross club. When you find a track you want to try, make sure to read its rules first ¬- motocross tracks will often have strict guidelines.

apex-motocross-track A Beginner's Guide to Motocross
Photo from Apex Motocross

6. Attend a riding school.

Motocross riding schools come with a lot of perks. You’ll be able to try different types of bikes before buying your own; you’ll ride on a track and at a facility that’s perfectly suited to your riding ability; and you’ll get tips and training from an expert or professional rider, which is way of learning skills that would take years to master on your own. While your chosen motocross school may provide you with a helmet and boots, you’ll eventually want to buy your own if you plan to continue riding.

7. Get involved with a local club.

Seek out amateur leagues and regional organizations in your area. When you become part of a local motocross club, you’ll have the opportunity to compete in races and participate in events. You’ll pay a fee to join and you may be charged for meetings; in return, you’ll be part of events that are well-organized, safe and supervised. You’ll also meet people who share your interest, and you’ll get to travel around the country to compete.

8. Keep practicing.

Motocross riders can be found on their bikes several days a week. On top of competing in races and meets throughout the year, continue riding to keep your fitness level up and to continually test yourself. To improve and stay in shape between races, try out a variety of riding conditions. You’ll get used to making wise decisions even when your adrenaline is pumping, and you’ll have plenty of time to improve your weaknesses before your next competition. Plus, you’ll become more comfortable on your bike and learn how it responds to all sorts of challenges.