Motocross racers are motorcycle riders who race on tracks made of dirt
or grass for prize money. Course organizers use the natural terrain to design
a track filled with a series of obstacles ranging from winding hills to steep
hills and jumps.
Motocross racers use customized bikes -- often called dirt bikes or trail
bikes -- that are specially designed to handle large quantities of dirt and
mud. Most riders race on 125 cc or 250 cc bikes, because they are lighter
and easier to maneuver in the dirt than larger bikes. However, some racers
graduate to 500 cc bikes.
Most professional motocross racers begin racing as amateurs, slowly advancing
to higher levels of competition until they are competing in the "A" or professional
Experienced motocross racers may try supercross. While only part of the
motocross course is visible to spectators, supercross events take place in
a stadium entirely in front of the audience. Another difference is that all
the obstacles, from tight turns to steep jumps, are manmade.
Of the two, motocross is more technically demanding, says Lori Yarnell,
manager of a raceway in San Bernardino, California. "It's a longer course,
and the hills and ruts get deeper as the race goes on."
But she points out that many racers find supercross scary because of the
height of the jumps. "We have one jump, Mt. St. Helen's, that is 400 feet
straight up and straight down again."
Motocross riders race on courses anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 miles along.
For example, at Yarnell's raceway, the motocross track is 2.5 miles long.
Racers complete five laps, and then race again. The two times are added together,
and the racer with the best overall time wins the event. Supercross tracks
are shorter; they're about three-quarters of a mile.
The length of the racing season varies depending on geographical location.
For example, racers race all year in California and Florida. However, the
onset of winter brings racing to a halt in most regions of the United States.
Supercross is an exception -- racing continues throughout the year since races
are often held in indoor stadiums.
Physical stamina is a must for motocross racers. Experts disagree on whether
motocross or soccer is the world's most physically demanding sport. Many riders
train at a gym several times a week to remain in peak physical condition.
Technical skills are also important. Racers must be able to do wheelies
and ride while standing up on the bike pegs.
Racers are constantly forced to adjust to new situations. "Every track
is different," says Debbie Matthews, a veteran racer. "You have to change
and adapt on the spot."