During the early 1860s, an innovator named Pierre Michaux installed a steam engine, the first of its kind, on a velocipede. And, so the motorcycle racing obsession began, starting with time trials in the UK.
Today, this sport is now a billion-dollar industry complete with back flips, cliffhanger jumps and jam-packed arenas. Following is the history of motocross, along with an infographic attached below courtesy of Cannibal Cycle.
Motocross: How It All Began
It was the spring of 1906 when the sport began its evolution. The Auto-Cycle Club’s very first motorcycle time trials involved bikers thrashing their personal times as they rode round and round the course. It came as no surprise that most really wanted to race, and beat others’ times. And, so came the invention of the weekly “scrambles”, races for titles such as “fastest on the track.”
By spring of 1924, Camberely, Great Britain was hosting the first ever, official scramble. In time, the official name for the entire sport itself became, “motocross.” The word was derived from “motocyclette” which is motorcycle in French, and the combined words “cross country.”
Because racers used their street bikes, the races were a bit dangerous. Technological changes had to be made to make the bikes safer and faster for racing:
- Suspension replaced rigid frames
- Swing fork rear suspension was invented
Post War Aftermath: 2 Stroke Engines Hit the Scene
As the aftermath of World War II emerged, motorcycles used in the war by the army were purchased by civilians. Soon, motocross racing became popular again.
In 1952, FIM took its place as the “motorcycling’s governing body”, forming the European Championship Series. At the time, the machines were equipped with 500 cc engines. By 1962, just one decade later, a new racing division was created, which used 250 cc engines.
Eventually, the concept of 2-stroke engines emerged on the scene from companies like Greeves and Husqvarna. The new motocross bikes were much more lightweight and agile. And, unlike their 4-cylinder big cousins, they were much cheaper to maintain. Motocross races became even faster and longer than ever.
By the late 1960s, Japanese companies like Suzuki got into the motorcyle manufacturing business. The following decade, in 1972, the first motocross race to ever be held in a stadium took place at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Motocross Racing in 2014
If fans and racers had to name one thing instrumental in keeping past riders and modern bikers connected, it would probably be “racing” itself. Today, the sport is one of the fastest growing sports in America. This is due to such popular motocross events as the X Games, as well as corporate sponsorships.
US motocross races of 2014 consist of four main types of competitions:
- Super Cross Racing – Held in sports arenas on artificial dirt, with articles and street jumps
- Freestyle Racing – Two dirt bike routines judged by best tricks and longest air time
- Big Air Racing – Two jumps made on dirt tracks, judged by trick originality and difficulty
- Super Moto Racing – Dirt bikes racing on road tires, usually involving berms, jumps and whoops
Attached below is an infographic explaining the history of motocross courtesy of Cannibal Cycle (click on infographic to expand).