History of motocross racing

Written by rob wagner
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History of motocross racing

Motocross, a worldwide motorcycle off-road racing competition, began in England shortly after World War I, and was known as "scrambling." The motorcycles are essentially factory-produced street motorcycles used to race on dirt roads and hilly terrain. Motocross helped spur motorcycle technology over the decades, especially in suspension and frame construction. The sport has since become popular worldwide, especially in the United States.

British Dominance

Motorcycle makers BSA, Matchless and Norton were among several British builders who supplied racers with motorcycles during the early years of scrambling.

History of motocross racing
Brian Stonebridge races a 498 Matchless at Brands Hatch, Kent, England, in 1952.


The International Motorcycle Federation created racing divisions in 1952 using engine displacement size to divide competitors and level the playing field.

History of motocross racing
Jeff Smith rides a BSA with a titanium frame.

Other Makers

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, Spanish-made Bultaco and Husqvarna of Sweden emerged as popular models rivalling BSA and Matchless in the United States off-road racing circuit.

History of motocross racing
Ty Davis rides a 2009 Husqvarna, a motorcycle that has made a recent resurgence.

Stadium Competition

Motocross racing became so popular in the United States that the first stadium off-road event was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1972.

History of motocross racing
Suzuki started competing successfully in the 1970s.

Japanese Influence

The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed a move from British and other European-made bikes to Japanese-made Suzukis, Kawasakis and Yamahas as the dominant bikes.

History of motocross racing
Japanese motorcycles, like this Suzuki, continue to dominate many areas of motocross.


Disciplined racing made room in the 1980s and 1990s to freestyle, or FMX, riding that demonstrated a rider's aerial acrobatic talent.

History of motocross racing
Honda motorcycle used in a freestyling motocross event.

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