Introduction to Motocross
Motocross is a type of racing in which the participant uses a motorcycle sport or all terrain vehicles. The races are held on enclosed areas that are off any roadways. The first races were actually trials and were called scrambles, but the name was later changed to motocross, a combination of the French word “moto” and the word “cross-country.” For those who are interested in racing with non-motorized dirt bikes, BMX or bicycle motocross is the equivalent sport.
Motocross involves a great deal of speed and competition which have helped it become one of the most popular in the extreme sports categories. Motocross is also referred to as dirt biking and can assume many different forms beginning with races and up through expeditions on mountain trails. The sport is very demanding and as such creates great strength and physical condition within the upper body. If you are the type of person who loves speed, you will definitely love Motocross. It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy freestyle riding or racing, you can find many online resources that will help you learn the basics and how to get started in Motocross.
One of the most important things you need to do with you are on a bike is protect yourself. One of the most important steps in safety is to make sure your gear fits properly. Your safety gear will provide little protection if it is ill-fitting because you will focus more on how uncomfortable the safety gear is instead of focusing your attention where it should be: the road and your bike. When you choose your gear always buy the correct size—don’t be concerned about whether you might gain or lose weight in the future; you need to buy what fits now in order to assure the best comfort and safety while you are riding. If you are unsure what size you should purchase, ask your motocross vendor—he is experienced in this area and can provide you the sizes in order to ensure both safety and a comfortable fit.
In addition to obtaining properly-fitting gear, it is also a good idea to invest in some quality earplugs. While you are riding you will have to endure noises that vary from the wind zipping by to those noises the bike itself generates, and even though you may find a helmet that promises a quiet and smooth ride, it will still be necessary to wear earplugs for additional protection. With noises from the wind as well as your bike you could very easily damage your ears and ultimately your hearing.
Another essential part of your protective gear is a helmet that meets or exceeds both Snell and DOT certification. This means the helmet has undergone a variety of tests and still looks like a helmet rather than something that is completely unrecognizable. It is essential for the helmet to fit well on your head—you don’t want one that is too tight or too loose. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to helmets—heads come in different sizes. In order to determine the correct fit measure the size of your head just above your eyebrows—better yet, take the time to visit a store that sells quality helmets and try one on for the perfect fit.
You will also need a jacket, gloves and boots in order to protect your hands, fingers and body from any debris that may be flying through the air while you are riding. In addition if you should get into a spill with your bike (and everyone does at some time or another), the jacket and gloves can help you avoid nasty injuries. While you may have your own preference, Fox Racing offers a complete line of protective gear while Alpinestars manufactures high quality boots.
Learning to Ride
When you first begin riding you want to take it slowly with both your speed and time. Under no circumstances should a beginning motocross rider jump on and bike and speed off like he has been riding for half his lifetime! Take some time to learn about your bike: become familiar with its controls and the way it operates. Sit on it and take it out for short drives in order to learn the feel of your individual bike. You must learn what the bike can and cannot do before you attempt to speed around the track with it. If this is your first experience with any kind of motorized two-wheel vehicle, you may want to consider investing in a motorcycle riding course.
You may also discover that some tracks that are run by various organizations such as the MRA offer the opportunity for new riders to take practice runs. You can locate these organizations by talking to a motocross dealer, conducting a search on Google, or using your local Yellow Pages. It is also a good idea to obtain ideas from other motocross riders who are probably the best sources for information about the best places to practice.
When you go to purchase your bike, it’s a good idea to bring a narrow strip of white construction paper along with you. The purpose of this test is to determine the color of the oil in the bike—essential if you are buying a used bike. If the transmission oil is tan in color, the transmission oil is in good shape. If the oil is black this means it hasn’t been changed very often if at all. If the bike has a water pump seal leak the oil will be white or creamy in color. The presence of aluminum clutch plates can cause the oil to reveal a gray coloration—this is not necessarily a bad thing but rather something you need to keep in mind.
Another part of your preliminary inspection should entail bouncing up and down on the bike’s seat. The purpose of doing this is to ascertain if the bike has any problems with the suspension—if there is a loud squeaking or the suspension sticks you can expect to spend a great deal of money on the bike in the near future. You should also listen for any metallic “rings” or “slapping” sounds which are indicative of piston and/or cylinder problems.
While you are checking the color of the oil in the bike, you also want to check for any seepage in the forks and rear shock—replacing those seals is quite expensive just for the labor. If the fork tubes have any dents of other signs of damage they will eventually damage your seals.
The flywheel/magneto arrangement should be completely dry. If you find any signs of moisture this means the cover is leaking and rust has already set it or will at some point in the near future. If you detect the presence of oil there may be problems in the crankshaft seal, something else that is very expensive to replace.
The last fluid you need to check (at least if you are buying a bike that is water cooled) is the radiator fluid—it should be green in color. If the radiator fluid is any color other than green this means it has never been changed and the bike may experience internal blockages within the radiator passages causing the bike to lose its ability to cool the engine.
Caring for Your Bike
Once you find the bike that is right for you (whether new or used), it’s essential to know how to properly take care of it. Do not base your decisions on how you take care of your car because the two of them do not come even close. This is information you should research before you make a final decision about the bike you are going to buy.
One thing you will need to know is how often to clean the bike’s air filter. No matter what anyone else may tell you, it is essential to change the air filter after one or two rides. Failure to change the air filter on a regular basis is a sure-fire way to guarantee most costly repairs later.
You must change your bike’s transmission oil every two to four rides in order to make sure the clutch and transmission remain in top notch condition. If you purchase a bike that is a four-strike model you must change it every 250-500 miles because the oil not only lubricates the engine but also the transmission. You will substantially shorten the lifetime of those essential parts if you do not follow the manufacturer’s mileage guidelines.
You will also need to find out the brand and type of oil filter and transmission lube your bike uses. Taking care of the fluids in your bike not only extends the life of your bike, but it also adds to the pleasure of your rides. When you are buying your bike, make sure you question the seller or dealership about these items—their knowledge about these items will help you gain insight into how much they know about taking care of the bike they are attempting to sell to you.
Pit Bikes and Mini-Motocross
Pit bikes are small motorbikes that riders who are participating in powersports events use to ride around the pits—the pits are the staging areas where you can find the team support vehicles. Recently they have also been used by participants in races that are held on both supercross and motocross tracks. It is usually necessary to perform numerous upgrades in both performance and appearance of pit bikes.
At one time the only way to obtain a pit bike was to buy a child’s minibike which was usually a Honda CRF 50 or Kawasaki KLX110. The buyer would then perform all the necessary upgrades and modifications in order to make it a competitive pit bike. Of course, the rider could also buy a used pit bike, but within the last seven years (since 2004) manufacturers have been designing, manufacturing, importing and selling pit bikes that did not need any additional upgrades or modifications. These bikes are less expensive and do not require as much time to complete as that necessitated when the buyer upgrades and modifies a child’s minibike. Most pit bikes are just small dirt bikes, but in recent years it has become common to buy pit bikes that have wheels and tires designed for street use. Pit bikes that have street tires instead of knobby tires are used in Mini Supermoto Races.
Quite often pit bikes include many decorative add-ons and have been optimized for higher performance. Both riders and mechanics choose to bore-out or replace the existing engines so they can increase the displacement of the engine which in turn increases power output. They may also add heavy duty suspension systems because the original suspension was designed for a small child rather than a full-size adult. The new buyer may also perform upgrades to wheels, brakes and tires in order to improve the bike’s handling on and road and the track.
For those who are interested in entering their pit bike in a competition, there are separate pit bike competitions. The competitions include various classes that usually correspond to the size of the wheels on a specific pit bike. This differentiation is substantially different from the Motocross and Supercross competition where the classes as designated based on engine displacement. Because pit bike racing is a fairly new competition within the scope of motocross, there is currently no government body that even closely resembles the AMA.