Motocross is the most popular form of amateur motorcycle racing in the United States, and with classes for machines from 50cc to more than 450cc, and riders age 4 to 50-plus, it's a sport for the whole family.
Motocross races are run over natural- and man-made terrain courses with hills, jumps and tight turns, typically with two races -- or motos -- in each class. A combined score from each moto is calculated to determine the overall placing. Recognized as one of the most strenuous sports in the world, motocross is also one of the most fun.
Each year, the best amateurs in the country compete for a spot in the prestigious AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships in Tennessee. Just about every professional motocrosser in the United States today has passed through this program to reach the pro ranks.
The beginner's guide to AMA motocross racing
By Alex Hunter
Welcome to the sport of AMA motocross racing!
This info has been put together in an effort to help make getting started a little easier for new riders and parents. Hopefully it will answer a lot of the common questions that are asked and help you concentrate more on having family fun at the Motocross track.
If you have any questions at any time, please don’t hesitate to contact the AMA Racing offices at (800) 262-5646 or email@example.com.
Note: For a more general discussion of getting kids starting in recreational riding, see the "Kids & Bikes" section of this website.
Important Reality Check:
Motorsports racing is inherently dangerous. There is always a risk of serious injury. Riders should not participate in events or ride unless they have adequate medical insurance to cover a catastrophic injury. Riders and/or their guardians are solely responsible for using adequate equipment. Ride at your own risk.
Finding a dealer and buying a bike
Whether you already own a bike or planning on buying a new/used bike you will still have to find a dealer to get parts and service as well as additional advice on getting started. A local motorcycle dealer is a great source to find AMA racing events near you.
When purchasing your bike, it’s important to purchase the correct machine for AMA racing. The AMA racing classes are designed by AMA congress to fit the age of a rider to a machine engine size. Youth classes are designated by age and machine CC. Adult classes (125cc and up) are either formed by machine CC and age or rider classification/experience.
If purchasing a bike, use this guide to help pick out the correct machine for AMA Racing.
Ages: 4 to 6: 50cc 2-stroke/4-stroke. Max Front Wheel of 10”
Ages: 7 to 8: 50cc 2-stroke. Max Front Wheel of 12”
Ages: 7 to 11: 65cc 2-stroke
Ages: 9 to 15: 85cc 2-stroke
Ages: 12 to 16: 112cc 2-stroke or 150cc 4-stroke. Max Front Wheel of 19”
Ages: 12 & Above: 125cc 2-stroke or 250cc 4-stroke
Ages: 14 & Above: 250cc 2-stroke or 450cc 4-stroke
If you have any questions on AMA classes and bikes, please don’t hesitate to contact the AMA Racing offices at (800) 262-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a simple rule in motorsport racing: Dress for the crash, not for the ride. Crashes happen. The more gear you have on, the more likely if an accident happens you go home sore then something serious. In the past decade, the technology in motocross safety gear has grown significantly, allowing racers to feel more comfortable and have more fun.
Motocross racing is not a fashion show. Amateur riders, especially young beginning riders, should be more concerned with wearing as much protection as possible, then with looking like their favorite pro racer. Buying safety gear is something that a good dealer can really help with. It’s extremely important to get sized correctly for motocross safety gear.
Helmet: This is the single most important piece of protection you will buy. It is mandatory for all participants taking part in practice and competition to wear a full face protective helmet in AMA-sanctioned events. The helmet must be properly fastened, be a good fit, and be in good condition. The helmet must have a chin strap type retention system. When you strap on the helmet, make sure the strap is snug so if you do go down it will come off easily and you lose your protection. The helmet needs to conform to either the recognized standards of Snell M2010 or DOT. A certification sticker will be on the back of the helmet.
Goggles: These should always be worn while on a bike. Make sure the lenses are shatterproof. Try on different brands while wearing your helmet to find the best fit (flush to your face) and most comfortable. It’s critical to protect your face and eyes from roost and debris on the track at all times. Using a tear-off system is a great way to clear your vision while on the track during the race.
Body Armor: Also known as chest, back or roost protectors. You should learn to ride with these from the beginning because they can take some getting used to later. Body armor can help protect your core from an impact injury by spreading the impact over a wider area. It also protects you from roost (hard clods or small rocks thrown up from tires). There is a huge variety available in different colors in both body armor (front and back) and chest-only protectors.
Clothing: Protective pants made of a durable material and long-sleeve jerseys are required to race. We do recommend buying some sort of kneepads. Kneepads or knee braces are designed to fit under your gear. Gloves are also recommended. Elbow pads are optional, but also a good idea for beginners.
Boots: To race AMA events, boots with a steel toe must be at lease 8 inches high, and a combination of buckles and/or laces are required. When you buy motocross boots, take the time to break them in properly until they are comfortable. Racing with boots that are not properly broken in can restrict movement and restrict your ability to use the foot controls. If you are buying for your child get them a little big, but not too big, to allow for growth. Motocross boots can take a pounding. Cleaning and maintaining your boots, can help them last a while.
Just for Parents
Motocross racing is a great sport. It teaches discipline, maturity, the importance of preparation, goal setting and the satisfaction that comes from reaching your goals as well as dealing with the disappointment of working hard but coming up short. Motocross differs from a lot of sports because unlike team sports like baseball, football, soccer, etc. Motocross is an individual sport. This can be helpful in teaching young people personal responsibility.
As in any sport that involves young people there are parents that sometimes push too hard for success. It is the classic "Little League Parent Syndrome." However, pushing your child too hard in motorsports can result in your rider and possibly other riders getting injured. Motocross is not as easy as the pro riders make it look. There are skills that will develop only with time and practice.
It is a good idea to step back occasionally and look at racing through your child’s eyes. Remember that the most important thing in racing is to have fun and to spend time with family.
Practice makes perfect
The best thing that can prepare you for racing is riding. When you go out to ride, don’t just ride in circles all day. There are different things you can do to improve basic riding skills. Practice riding wheelies and doing power slides.
Concentrate on using different controls like the clutch, front and rear brakes, etc., so that you will know your machine's limits. Using the clutch will help you attack corners harder. Proper use of the brakes will shave seconds off your lap times. While jumping is important in motocross, motocross races are still won and lost in the corners. Practice corners by doing circles or figure eights to improve your riding skills with leaning and bike controls, including clutch, brakes and throttle control. This will make you faster and make you a safer rider.
Motocross is kind of like golf and tennis. Learning proper form early will make it easier in the long run. Keeping the elbows up and learning to stand up on the bike are very important. Learning proper body position will help you save energy and make you a safer rider. Having better control of your machine will allow the rider to able to respond easier to what the bike does when it hits ruts, bumps and holes on the track.
Working with an experienced riding coach is recommended to master your riding skills.
Ready to Race
Let’s start with a list of what you need to bring to the race.
AMA Membership Card. Visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com/membership/join for information become an AMA Member.
Riding Gear. Helmet, boots, pants, jersey, roost protector, goggles, knee pads, etc. Make sure your gear clean and working properly.
Your bike, with a gas can with extra gas. Make sure your bike is clean and ready to race.
Make sure to have a large, visible number on your bike. The AMA does not assign racing numbers. It’s encouraged to use the last three digits in your AMA number. But if you have a favorite number, that’s OK too.
Make sure to research the AMA race event to bring enough money for the promoter's gate admission and race sign-up fees. Don't forget any type of releases that you will need to fill out ahead of time, such as a notarized parental release.
Research track directions, admission and race sign-up times for opening and closing.
Miscellaneous Parts and Tools. It’s good to bring an extra tire tube in case of a flat, spark plug, levers, bike stand, WD40, etc.
Snacks, drinks, chairs, paper towels, etc., for your pit area.
Pen and paper. You will need to take notes of the practice order and race order.
Race Day: What to Expect.
Start the night before by going over your checklist and making sure you have everything organized and ready to go. Try to arrive to the track at least an hour and a half early. Giving you time to park, register, unload your equipment, walk the track and get your gear on before practice starts.
Gate Admission: The first thing that you will do when you come into the track is to purchase your gate admission. Everybody will sign the required releases when they come on the grounds. This gate admission will sometimes include an armband. You must keep this on until the last time you are leaving and not coming back.
Parking: Where you park is a personal preference. At most tracks there is parking next to the racetrack. Some riders look for shade if there is any. Others prefer to be as close to registration as possible. When you park, make sure you are not blocking any driveways or fire lanes, these are usually marked by a row of fence posts or stakes. Some like to be near the PA system so they can hear when you are called to practice or race.
Registration: Find out where rider registration is located. Riders under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent/guardian or another adult with a notarized statement authorizing them to sign for the minor. There will be no exceptions to this rule! Fill out a registration form and a minor release (if under 18). Be sure to write legibly and then sign the forms. Do not leave sign-up until the staff has told you your riding number is good. If someone else has already registered with the same number, you will be asked to add a piece of tape as a slash or add a No. 1. (For example, the number 6 can be changed to 6/ or a 16.) You will also be given a practice sticker that needs to be put on your front number plate to practice.<>
The practice order will be posted at sign-up, so take a pen and paper to make a note of your practice order. The race order is often determined by class entries and will be made up and posted during practice.
Walk the Track: This will help you relax as well as learn the track. Take the time to look at the different obstacles. Find a high spot and stand and look at the track like you are watching a rider go around it while they are racing. This will help you learn the layout. Take your time.
Practice: About 30-45 minutes before your practice, start getting dressed. Check the gas in your bike and then warm it up. Ride in first gear to the staging area at the start gate. Do not pull into the staging lane until it is time for your group. Remember to take some deep breaths to help you relax before going out on the track.
Use the practice session to learn the track and warm up. Try different lines so you will know what to expect if you need to take them later. Pay attention to the track flags. Be sure and hold your line and not to zigzag. Don’t worry about racing with anyone because it's practice. Remember not to ride over your head.
When you are flagged off the track, slow down to 5 mph as you exit. Ride back to your pit and look your bike over. Refuel and lube the chain. Make sure to eat and drink some fluids to stay hydrated. Go to sign-up and write down the race order.
Rider's Meeting: Make sure to attend rider’s meeting. The Rider’s Meeting will either be before or immediately following practice. The race referee will give you important information, and the race order will be announced. If there are any problems that have come up during practice, they will also be addressed. The race referee will go over the scoring type (two-moto format, heat/main format, etc.), how many laps in a race, starting procedure and race procedures.
Following the rider's meeting there will usually be a short break and then a prayer and national anthem. Riders in the first three races need to work their way to the staging area immediately for their race.
Race Staging: Make sure to arrive at the staging area at the starting gate about three motos before your race. The Staging Manager will either have you randomly select pins for gate position or the gate position will be random by computer selection. Make sure to stay in order during staging and while making your gate selection.
Start Procedure: Make sure to watch the races ahead of your moto to learn the starting procedure. When you get up on the starting gate, leave your bike shut off until the white flag comes out for the class racing. Start your bike and make sure the gas is turned on. The start card will go up with a "2" showing. If you are having problems starting your bike, let the card man know by waving your hand so that you will get 2 minutes to correct the problem. If everyone is ready, the card will be turned to one. The card man will check down the line again. If everyone is ready, there will be a slight pause then the one will be turned sideways. The gate will fall 2-7 seconds later.
Stagger starts: Sometimes if there are several small classes that can be run on the track at the same time they will be combined in the race but scored separately. If the classes are very small, they can leave the gate at the same time. If there are enough riders, then the classes can be stagger started. One class will leave them line, the gate will be reset and then the second class leaves. Stagger starts are usually marked on the race order. If you are supposed to start with the second group, and you start with the first ,you will be penalized one lap. Don’t get excited and start with the wrong class.
Indoor motocross/Arenacross: At the Indoor events, qualifiers are used to determine gate pick for the mains. If there are more riders than will fit on the starting gate, these qualifiers will be used to narrow the field down to a full gate. Depending on how many extra riders are in the class, there will either be a last chance qualifier or the extra riders will get to start on the back row. If the class is really big, it can be split into two different divisions and each division will get separate points and awards. The details will be in the race order and rider’s meeting.
Outdoor Motocross: The outdoor events are generally two-moto format events. The motos are added together to determine an overall finishing order, and the awards are handed out based on this overall final. See the AMA Rulebook for tie-breaker procedures and motocross scoring.
Results: Shortly after your race, the results will be posted on the results board at sign-up. It is each rider’s responsibility to check the results for errors and notify the AMA Referee or someone in registration. Once the results have been posted for 30 minutes for protest, they will be official unless changed by an AMA Official.
Awards: The location that the awards will be handed out will be announced at the rider’s meeting. Please check the posted results before coming to pick up your awards so that if there is a mistake it can be corrected. No awards will be given out until the protest time for a class has expired. The number of awards given out should be posted.
If You Crash: If you go down on your bike or ATV and are not hurt, your top concern is to get off the racetrack and out of the way of danger. If your bike is in the middle of the track, move it before trying to restart. Do not wait on the track crew to move your bike or start it for you. The track workers' priority is to let the other riders know there is a problem and to keep you safe. If you are hurt, stay still. Medic personnel will be on their way. At AMA-sanctioned events, an ambulance and medical staff are mandated to be on the grounds for rider safety.
General Race Rules
Please make sure to always look over the AMA Rulebook and any Supplemental Rules for the event.
Pit Riding: Riders are allowed to ride their machines to and from the starting gate at 5 mph. Absolutely no pit racing or burnouts will be tolerated at an AMA-sanctioned event.
Safety Flags: Yellow flags mean there is a problem on the track and you should be in control of your machine and look for the problem so you can avoid it. Watch the flaggers to see if they are directing you to one side of the track. Passing and jumping are not allowed under a yellow flag. If a Red Cross flag is out, then there is a problem on the track that is causing a hazard or a rider is receiving assistance. Riders must ride with caution. No Jumping or passing is allowed through the area where the flag is being displayed. If you jump, pass another rider or endanger or hit a track worker, you will be penalized. Penalties vary from being docking positions to disqualification for more serious violations. This rule is to protect you and your fellow riders and will be strictly enforced. Parents of young riders, please explain this very carefully to them so they will know what the different flags mean.
Cutting the Track: Leaving the designated race course is forbidden. A rider must make every effort to stay on the course at all times. If forced off the course, riders are expected to slow down and enter at the next safest point. A rider can be docked positions or disqualified for cutting the course.
Unsportsman-like Behavior: This includes dirty riding, fighting, profanity, obscene gestures, etc. Violators can be penalized, including disqualification that could include being suspended from AMA-sanctioned events. Riders are responsible for the actions of their pit crew and family. Please make sure to notify the Racing Staff of unsportsman-like behavior immediately.
Use of alcohol and/or drugs by participants while riding will absolutely not be tolerated at AMA-sanctioned events.
See you at the Races!
Hopefully, this will give you enough basic information about AMA-sanctioned motocross racing that you will be able to focus on having fun and staying safe rather than worrying about staying organized. If you have additional questions please contact the AMA motocross staff.