Motocross is arguably the most popular form of off-road motorized sports. And despite how it may appear from the outside, it is organized. You just have to be on the inside to truly appreciate the system. It’s a big family and one that’s always looking to add members regardless of age or ability. So if you ride but don’t race, consider the benefits of motocross and give it a shot. After all, it’s a great way to meet with fellow moto-junkies (who may just become lifelong friends) and will undoubtedly fill you with competition-charged adrenaline. If you’ve never been to a race but love the idea of hitting the track on your dirt bike, check out these tips and you’ll have a head start on the learning curve that is motocross.What About A Bike
Motocross is definitely model-specific when it comes to bikes. Every major manufacturer commits a large portion of its time and money to developing its best machines for the motocross market. If you’re riding an off-road-specific enduro bike or even if you’re between bikes at the moment, racing motocross can still become a reality. Some racing series have classes designed for off-road bikes. Sometimes called sportsmen or enduro, these classes invite the headlight-and-spark-arrestor crowd to tackle the motocross track with their soft-suspended off-road bikes. If your local series has this class, it’s a great place to begin. Usually, the class is pretty empty so you won’t have to worry about too much bumping around. If you don’t have a bike or the races in your area don’t support sportsmen classes, you still have some options. The boom in four-stroke popularity has a lot of advantages for the serious racer. For someone who is looking to get into the sport without spending lots of money, the benefits are stellar. The value of used two-stroke motocross bikes has taken a dive. This means you can pick up a nearly new and still-competitive 250 or 125 for less than ever. Check your local newspaper classifieds or the bulletin boards at local motocross shops and you’ll find plenty of cheap two-strokes for your new MX hobby.Leave Your Bike At Home
When viewed from the outside, motocross can be overwhelming. Especially since everyone doing it seems to have secret schedules and rituals they’re not telling you about. Almost all racers who have been racing MX for a while have a sort of internal clock to remind them of when practice is, how long races last and when they should clean and lube their chain…among other things. One of the best ways to start your MX hobby is to go to a race and leave your bike at home. It’s best if you know someone who races-this way he or she can show you around. Without worrying about participating, you’ll be free to observe the ritual and get an idea about what’s going on. This is also your free trip to ask questions. And there aren’t any stupid ones. Any time you don’t understand something, just ask. The motocross community is an inclusive, welcoming group. Get to the track and begin snooping around.Go Shopping
We can guarantee at least one person at your local motorcycle dealer races or has raced motocross. That is, of course, if your local shop sells motocross bikes and/or accessories. As with a lot of things, your relationship with those working at your favorite dealership or hop-up shop can be invaluable. For instance, want to know if a track on the other side of the state is worth driving to? Ask your shop. If the shop guys don’t know, they can usually find someone who does. Want to find out what class (if any) your headlight-equipped trailbike is eligible for? Ask your shop (I’m sure they’d love the invitation to sell you a motocrosser!). The motocross shop is the original Internet search engine. Ask a question and you’ll usually be directed to an answer. Next to hitting the racetrack, the motocross shop is the best source of moto-information.Do Some Research
Does the race event you’re entering have a club affiliation? Is membership required? If not, is there a discount or some other benefit that might make it worth joining anyway? Will this race be part of a series of races? If so, does the series require or make some form of membership worthwhile? What classes are racing? How long are the motos? What classes are you eligible for? These usually are split by machine size or age, sometimes both. Do your research when you’re watching your first few races or nosing around your local shop. The information you learn before you race will help you be more prepared as you enter the racing world.Practice
If you’ve never ridden on a motocross track or your track time is very limited, you’re going to want to bust out some laps before tackling a race. First, this is going to give your arms, legs and back an idea of the complete flogging you’ll put it through. If you don’t practice MX, your body is going to be violently surprised about a lap into your first race. Second, you’ll get used to riding your bike around people close enough to touch. The thing about MX is there are a lot of people around a lot of the time. And predicting when and what they’re going to do is not only necessary for safety but also comes in handy when you begin passing slower riders. The key is to get in situations that mimic races and learn how to deal with the congestion of a motocross track. Last-this is going to give you an idea of how fast you are and, therefore, what class you should enter-find a local track and put in a few good practice days before you sign up to race.Include Friends And Family
One of the best reasons to race motocross is so you can talk about your race immediately after racing it. It’s called benchracing, and once you’ve done it you’ll be hooked. Everything is more fun with a friend (why do you think there are so many people racing?). So grab a riding buddy and hit your first race together. Or make it a family affair and get sisters, brothers, moms and dads involved. You wouldn’t ride off-road alone. So why do it at the track? Besides, if you find yourself cruising around at the back of the pack, you’ll enjoy the company of a familiar bike to roost around with. Don’t forget the all-important bragging rights. You’re not going to win your first race. But you might beat your buddy or sibling, and some good-natured boasting is a fine substitute for a trophy (plus it doesn’t collect dust).
Walk The Track
OK, you’ve done your research, practiced, paid the entry fees and are finally ready to race. When you get to the track, there are a few things you should do before the gate drops. First of these is walking the track. Walking the track gives you a slow-motion view of what you’ll be flying by, over and across. It gives you the chance to make a map in your brain of the jump locations, corner directions, mud holes, slick spots and the all-important finish line. Also, if you’ve been hanging around some experienced racers in practice, this is a good time for them to say, “Hit this jump the same speed as in practice.” Or “Don’t, under any circumstances, try to jump this.” Take the time to study the track before you go for it.Get There Early
Nothing is worse for racing than showing up late. You can miss a lot of things by rushing around and trying to catch up. If you show up early and are ready to go, you’ll be less stressed and much more likely to have a pleasurable experience. The beginning of a race day is a busy time and just racing one class requires many steps of preparation. There is sign-up, the rider’s meeting, walking the track, practice and showing up to the gate on time-not to mention getting a good parking spot. If you miss any of these things in your first race experiences, you’ll regret it. It’s easier to show up early and take your time going through the motions. When you’re ready to go with time to spare, you can ensure your bike, body and mind are all going to the starting line as prepared as possible.Eat And Drink
Motocross is physically difficult. In fact, it’s just plain hard. As with all endurance activities, your body needs a pile of fuel to burn to avoid the dreadful bonk. Without getting into nutritional theories and complicated diet plans, here’s the idea: Drink plenty of water, more so than you think you should, and eat simple, nutritious meals throughout the day. If you’re working out or training for your racing experience, you should already be eating right-cutting as much junk food and simple sugars (candy, soda, etc.) from your diet as possible. Eat complex carbs the days before an event and keep it simple on race day. You’re going to be a little nervous, and the last thing you want is a stomach full of bacon and eggs cramping up on you. Popular prerace breakfasts include cereal, oatmeal, fruit and toast or bagels spread with peanut butter and honey. Lunch should be the same-simple and nutritious with more water than you think you should drink. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a DR staff favorite (include honey for an extra boost), as are Clif Bars and PowerBars for snacks. Some people down “energy” drinks and chow on caffeine-injected energy bars, but you’re better off sticking to sandwiches and water. Replenish after a moto with a sports drink (we like to dilute them with water). Stay hydrated and fed and you’ll be strong all moto long.Stretch
Next to eating right and practicing, stretching is the best way to prepare your body for the physical punishment you’re going to put it through. Do simple stuff such as touching your toes and then move on to stretching the major muscles in your body-you’re going to be using all of them. Pay close attention to your arms, legs and back. These are the areas used most. Swing your arms to get the blood flowing and even break a sweat before the race starts. Arm-pump is the enemy. If you get your blood moving before the race starts, that can only help fight it off.Bring Your Cash
The cost of motocross begins when you buy a bike and start dumping cash into helmets, boots, gear, goggles and gas. But it definitely doesn’t stop there. As soon as you get to the motocross track the day of a race, you’ll likely be hit with a gate fee. These serve different purposes and can range between $5 and $30. Usually they go to the track or sponsoring club to offset the operating cost, with a small portion sometimes being taken out for pro-rider payback or other awards funds. After the gate fee, there are usually more charges once you hit the sign-up booth. First is a club membership of some sort. Usually, this is a yearly fee to the sanctioning body of the race series. In some cases, you can get a temporary membership for one or two races. Then you have a race fee. This is the fee you pay to race each class. After that, you should be done paying fees. If you plan to camp, be aware that some tracks charge an RV hookup fee. Didn’t know motocross was so expensive? Surprise! It is. But if you save up for a couple of weeks and plan a race in advance, you should be able to swing it.Go Slower To Go Fast
You can’t win your first race, so don’t even try. OK, I suppose you could win, but in the long run you’ll be a much better racer if you take it easy and develop skills and speed slowly. This is especially important if you’re a true beginner and your seat time on any off-road bike is minimal. Riding and racing above your ability will only lead to crashes. Take it easy and always race inside your comfort zone. Even professionals do this. Mechanics’ pit boards always say things like: “Ride your race” and “Race the track.” What they mean by this is to ignore what’s going on around you and race as fast as you can with the conditions given to you. Those conditions include traction, track obstacles, your ability and your machine’s performance. If you push any of those outside what they can handle, you’re going down. And let’s be honest, crashing royally sucks. Minimize your potential for hitting the dirt by riding in your comfort zone. Some people hang it out right away and end up going pretty fast during their first few years. But more often than not, riding over your head will catch up to you and end up putting you on the dirt. Slow down and learn; speed will shortly follow.