While the previous article explained the variations of road-racing, this article touches on a few variations of off-road racing. Due to the existence of quite a few categories in the off-road discipline, the section will be divided into two parts. This part, the first one, goes over Motocross and the various other types of competitions derived out of it.

Motorcycle trials

From road racing, we move onto racing off the paved tarmac roads. The first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of off-road racing, is Motocross or MotoX or simply MX. But if one takes a look at the history of off-road racing, they may find that Motocross evolved from Motorcycle Trials, a competition predominantly popular in the United Kingdom. The sport is popular in Spain as well and though it may look like it is limited to Europe, it sees participants from around the globe.

The sport has been around for a long time and employed the motorcycles available at the time. But modern Trial motorcycles have evolved a lot. The newer motorcycles are extremely lightweight and even lack a seat as they are meant to be ridden standing up. Also, though the Motorcycle Trials is a sport in its own right, it is utilized my off-road racers and road racers alike to cross-train. The main reason for this is that Trials require fine throttle control, balance and a superior command over the machine.

The main objective for the participant in a Trial competition is to maneuver through an obstacle course without letting their feet (or any other body part for that matter) touch the ground. The obstacles can be natural or constructed and are choses based on the difficulty level to suit the varying skill levels of riders. The competitors are scored by an observer who counts how many times the feet (or any other body part) of the rider touches the ground. Each of those are referred to as prods or dabs. The scoring is done in the form of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. If the competitor’s feet do not touch the ground throughout the section they earn a 0, if once then 1 and so on. Failure to complete the section earns the participant a 5. At the end of the event, the rider with the fewest points wins.

Trials can be held outdoors and indoors (a stadium). Outdoor events are called Trial, while FIM indoor events are called X-Trial. There is a world indoor and outdoor championship, as well as indoor and outdoor national team "world cups" i.e. Trial des Nations, which Trial des Nations is the most important Motorcycle trials competition of national teams organized by the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM). In addition to these events, there are a few other major events in Motorcycle Trials like the Scottish Six Days Trial and the Scott Trial.


Motorcycle trials was a competition but not a race in essence and without taking any credit away from trials, one can say there has to be a race as well. Motorcycle Trial competitions were being held since around 1909. But it was in 1924 that a few organizers dispensed the traditional Trial for a race i.e. the fastest rider to finish would win. These races were called hare scrambles. The sport gained immense popularity in the United Kingdom and the world over.
Internationally, it was being called Motocross racing which came into being by combining motorcycle and cross-country. The motorcycles used for these races at that time were not very different from regular street motorcycles but constant evolution of technology and the popularity of the sport gave rise to specialized purpose-built machines like we see today.

Motocross is the off-road equivalent of motorcycle road racing. Motocross also takes place on a closed circuit which might consist of various non-tarmac surfaces such as dirt, sand, mud, grass, etc. Another common part of a Motocross circuit is elevation changes which may or may not be natural. Modern day Motocross circuits also include jumps where the motorcycle is airborne. Another notable feature of Motorcross races are is that the race begins en masse i.e. all the riders start together which results almost the whole grid arrive at the first corner together! Now we know why holeshots are important. Since it is a race, the winner is the first one across the line after a set number of laps or time.

The prominent championship in Motocross racing is the FIM Motocross World Championship. It consists of four classes; MXGP for 450cc machines, MX2 for 250cc machines, MX3 for 650cc machines and Women's MX. Other notable championships are the British Motocross Championship and the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) Motocross Championship. Another international Motocross race held after the all the national and international championships have ended, is the Motocross des Nations. In this event, teams of three riders represent their nations with each rider competing in a different class (MX1, MX2, and "Open").

Motocross has given rise to many other kinds of competitions like Freestyle, Supercross and even Sidecarcross! We are going to discuss a few of them ahead.


The next iteration or off-road racing that we are going to cover is the Supercross or SX. Now, this version of off-road racing is usually referred to as the indoor version of Motocross. This may be a bit hard to understand but basically while Motocross races take place outdoors i.e. circuits, Supercross takes place in a variety of stadiums and open or closed arenas. This is the reason why Motocross is referred to as the outdoor version out of these two similar sports. Another noteworthy differentiator between these two would be the numerous jumps that are a part of Supercross, when compared to Motocross.

Supercross or SX is an immensely popular sport in North America but not so much in Europe where the focus is on Motocross. The popularity of this discipline of off-road racing in North America is evident is evident from the flocks of spectators that turn up filling large baseball, soccer, and football stadiums where these events usually take place. The popularity can be mostly accounted to the easy accessibility and comfort of these stadium venues.

The most notable event in this discipline, is the AMA Supercross Championship. It was started in 1974 and takes place from January to early May. Though the championship started in 1974, the first Motocross race held on a track inside a stadium took place in 1948! The motorcycles used in this championship are very much like the ones used in Motocross and are run on a constructed dirt track consisting of steep jumps and obstacles and the tracks are usually constructed inside a sports stadium.

These tracks feature a combination of obstacles such as sections where riders skim along the tops of multiple bumps, irregular series of jumps with a variety of combination options, and triple jumps (three jumps in a row that riders normally clear in a single leap of 70 feet or more). The classifications of motorcycles is governed by the displacement of the engines.

Every year, three Supercross Championships are held namely; 450cc (MX1 is Europe) and both an East and West division on the 250cc (MX2 in Europe). The season consists of 17 rounds in the 450cc Class, and 9 rounds in 250cc West Class and 9 rounds in the 250cc East Class, which the twelfth round at Indianapolis in April and the final round at Las Vegas in May have an East-West Showdown. The final race of the season is also known as the Monster Energy Cup and the winner of all 3 races gets US $1 million!


The 4th discipline in the off-roading category of motorcycle racing is Supermoto. In essence, Supermoto is a category or type of race which is a crossover between road racing and motocross. And because of that assigning Supermoto to either road racing or off-road racing is both appropriate and not appropriate at the same time. Also, since 50-75% of the race track is tarmac, it should belong to road racing but due to the type of motorcycles used in these races, which are motocross type, we have assigned it to off-road racing.

As we mentioned above, the race track for a supermoto race is a mixture of road and dirt courses in varying proportions. They usually take place on closed circuits purpose built for this kind of a race but in some cases some temporary locations may also be used like a closed street track which can be modified with surrounding off-road sections. Another differentiating factor between Supermoto races and road races is the riding style.

The riding style in Supermoto is different from races on tarmac is the sense that the riders use a different line into corners, sliding of the back wheel around the corner, and using the leg straight out to corner. This technique varies considerably from the knee and elbow sliding technique in road races. The motorcycles used too are a crossover of sorts with off-road motorcycles shod with road-racing tyres and are known as Supermotard motorcycles.

Supermoto racing was conceived in 1979 by Gavin Trippe. It was supposed to be a segment of the TV show Wide World of Sports. The idea was to have like an all-star game where riders from different genres of racing could come together to fight for a title of the best all-around racer. And the idea was a hit and so much so that today Supermoto is distinct genre in motorcycle racing.

Despite the running successfully till 1985, the event was cancelled by ABC (the organizers of Wide World of Sports). But the European racers who were a part of the event, took the game to Europe where it gained a lot of popularity. The sport was resurrected in 2000s with the introduction of AMA Supermoto Championship and the addition of the event in X Games. But soon after, both the events were cancelled after the 2009 season. Announced in 2019, a couple of rounds (Daytona International Speedway TT and Arizona Super TT round) of the American Flat Track series are Supermoto styled races.

Freestyle Motocross

Another variation of Motocross, though not a race per se, is freestyle motocross. This is perhaps the most dangerous variant of Motocross. There are a variety of reasons for this and the history would back us up on this. The main focus of a rider in freestyle motocross events is to impress the judges with stunts, jumps and tricks.

Usually, there are two main types of freestyle events are: Big Air and Freestyle motocross. In Big Air, the rider gets two jumps (usually more than 75 ft.). The judges evaluate the rider based on the style, trick difficulty, and originality and produces a score on a 100-point scale. Each rider's highest single-jump score is compared; top score wins. Freestyle Motocross riders perform two routines i.e. a series of jumps on a course. Here too, a panel of judges assigns each contestant a score based on a 100-point scale, looking for difficult tricks and variations over jumps. Notable freestyle motocross events include Red Bull X-Fighters, NIGHT of the JUMPs, the X Games, Gravity Games, Big-X, Moto-X Freestyle National Championship, and Dew Action Sports Tour.

The birth of freestyle can be referred to as a result of some fun riding by professional racers. So according to what we know, freeriding is the original form of freestyle motocross. It came into being because of professional racers like Jeremy McGrath and Phil Lawrence just riding to have fun in the hills of Reche Canyon in Southern California. Freeriding has always traditionally been done on public land. Usually riders look for natural jumps and drop-offs to execute their tricks on.