Motocross riding is now over a century old. Its origins can be traced back to the United Kingdom, where motorcycle competitions, such as the Auto-Cycle Clubs’s first quarterly trial in 1909, steadily gained popularity.
Originally called ‘scrambles’, complete with delicate balancing and strict scoring trials made to see the fastest rider to the finish line. Soon, the sport became known as ‘Motocross Racing’, by combining the French word for motorcycle (Motocyclette), into a portmanteau with “cross country”. The very first “scramble” took place in Camberley, Surrey, back in 1924.
In 1962, a 250 cc world championship was created, and European riders from Belgium and Sweden began to dominate the sport during this period. Advancements in two-stroke engine technology meant that heavier, four-stroke machines were relegated into most competitions.
Motocross only arrived in the United States in 1966 on the heels of Swedish champion, Torsten Hallman’s enthusiastic rise to notoriety. Torsten rode an exhibit against America’s top TT riders in California, and came out victorious.
By the late 1960s, motorcycle manufacturers in Japan began to challenge European factories, creating a relative boom in motocross technology. Water-cooled machines with single-shock absorber rear suspension became the new must-have models. Suzuki claimed the first world championship for a Japanese factory when Joel Robert won the 1970 250cc crown.
In 1972, a 125 cc world championship was introduced. European motocross riders continued to prevail and dominate the motocross world throughout the 70s, but in the 1980s, American riders were soon catching up, and began winning – as well as holding - competitions of their own.
By 2003, strict environmental laws in California saw the manufacture of machines that were environmentally friendly, with four-stroke technology.
By 2004, all major manufacturers were competing with four-stroke machines. European firms also saw a resurgence in Euro-made machines, with Husqvarna, Husaberg, and KRM winning respective world championships.
In recent years, motocross riding has evolved with several sub-disciplines such as supercross, and arenacross, held in indoor arenas. It has become a thriving sport industry with an ever-growing crowd, and cutting-edge technology.
But, not to forget the sport’s beginnings, vintage motocross (VMX) events are held for motorcycles from 1975, and remain extremely popular to this day.