What to do if you want to start racing Motocross…..
Are you ready to join one of the most extreme, yet fulfilling sports in the world? Motocross very addicting for riders, but results in injuries for many. (If you don’t think you’ll be good enough, think again! Below is a video of my first race. Although I was at the back of the pack then, I am a lot faster now because I didn’t stop there).
Watching A Race
Before you actually start motocross racing, go out to a race and just spectate to check your urge. If you are not that excited even at a local race, then you’ll be sick of it after a couple races and wish you never even considered. But I will bet that you will NOT do that because this sport is just TOO exciting!
Getting The Bike
Once you’ve been to a race and are still itching to race then you’ll want get a proper bike that will fit your needs if you haven’t already (Check out my other posts What Dirt Bike Should I Buy? and How To Buy A Dirt Bike if you need help). If you haven’t heard me say it already, it’s the rider and not the bike when it comes to racing. That’s usually the case, but when you’re looking for you first bike to race, it’s critical that you get a good running and solid dirt bike so that it won’t break down on you. Choosing one that fits your riding style and experience is important as well, because you don’t want to start motocross racing on a bike that you can’t handle.
Choosing The Gear
As soon as you get a dirt bike you must get protective gear before you go out and ride. The bare minimum gear for this sport would be a helmet, motocross boots, long pants/shirt, gloves, and goggles. Other gear to strongly consider would be a neck brace (EVS Race Collar Review), knee braces/guards, body armor (check out my EVS BJ22 Body Armor Review)or chest protector, and elbow guards. Once you have the proper bike and gear, then it’s time to ride. Before you go out and race you should check out the track out by doing a practice (many tracks have a practice the day before a race). This is so that you can get used to the idea of being on the track with other riders. Plus, you can go at your own pace without worrying about being lapped.
If you’re still interested in racing (and hopefully still in one piece) after practicing and getting the feel of your bike, it’s time to get out to your local track on race-day. Many tracks here in the U.S. require at least an AMA and/or District membership to start motocross racing. So sign up for that, otherwise you my have to get a club membership to ride on specific tracks. This doesn’t happen too often, but to sign up for a track membership just call them or look up how to on their website.
Something that almost every rider has done or will do is forget a helmet, a pair of goggles, their boots, or some other gear that they need for racing. It’s very frustrating to get to the track and find out that you forgot to throw your helmet in the truck or trailer. From then on it’s just frustrating, especially if you live far away from the track.
Scrambling around the pits to find some one that you can borrow or buy a helmet, pair of boots, or whatever is often the scenario. You can usually find a rider with an extra set of gear, but the feeling of forgetting something is, well disgusting. Just think if you weren’t able to find something with that article of protection, you wouldn’t be able to race and just wasted a trip to the track, just because you didn’t remember an item that’s probably sitting next to the door at your house.
Well, there are two ways to help prevent this from happening again. If you don’t have anything your gear in, the easiest way to not forget anything is to clean your gear all at once right after a race, then put it all together so you know everything is there. Then when it’s time to race again you can just throw that pile of gear in the truck and go, assuming you don’t forget your bike!
If you really want to make sure nothing is forgotten, the best and easiest way to go is buying a Gear Bag for everything. Almost every motocross apparel company makes one, and they come in many shapes and sizes, so it won’t be difficult to find one that fits your needs. Then there won’t be any excuse if your forget something, because you can wash your gear after a race, throw in the gear bag, and forget about it until next weekend.
I know I have a bad memory, so while packing for a race I often forget things. One category I don’t stress out on anymore is my gear because I have a bag that I stuff it in. Do yourself a favor that will get solve future headaches and Buy A Gear Bag for your Motocross Gear.
Racers are always looking for ways to make their dirt bike go faster. I’ll admit, it awesome to have a bike that absolutely rips…. I hate to break it to you, but if you can’t handle the bike on the track, there’s not much use to having the fastest dirt bike in the world, unless of course you’re straight line drag racing against your pansy friends with quads.
A pretty much stock bike that is properly set up for your weight, height, riding style, experience, and riding terrain will be far better than one that’s cranking out 50% more horsepower than everyone else (It will also be more reliable!).
Whether you’re doing Motocross racing, hare-scrambles, enduros, or flat-track, if you’re suspension isn’t set-up right it’s not going to perform nearly as well. You won’t be as fast and will get worn out quicker because you’re either getting thrown around from rock-hard suspension, or you’ll be bottoming out and bouncing everywhere from it being too soft.
It may cost quite a bit of your money to get your dirt bike re-valved and set-up for your riding style, especially if you have to get different springs for your weight. But, the reward is more than worth it… Your bike will ride so much smoother over obstacles, and you won’t get so beat up from the abuse, allowing you to ride harder for longer.
If your bike isn’t jetted correctly, it’s not going to run as well as it should, and could possibly lead to a blown engine. I realize that many of the new four-strokes are going to fuel-injected, but many people think that they don’t have to do anything if they make any modifications to the engine or exhaust. Some bikes come rich from the factory, so if you put an aftermarket pipe on it, the jetting may be pretty close to spot on. But if it was already jetted to spec, then modifications will cause the bike to run lean. The result will probably make the bike slower, and you will be slowly burning down your engine because it’s not getting enough fuel.
Too rich, though, and you will be wondering why you’re eating through spark plugs. Your dirt bike will cough, sputter, and act sluggish. So now you know that too lean of jetting is not healthy for the bike, and too rich is slower and cause problems. Some people may say that too rich is fine because it’s safer for your engine, but it’s really not because you will foul more plugs, and get more carbon build-up from the gas that’s not being burned. A finely-tuned, stock motocross bike will run much better and be more reliable than a highly modified bike that isn’t.
3. Fresh Top-End
Aftermarket pipe, cams, porting, intake modifications, or even re-jetting aren’t going to help if your bike’s top-end is worn out. On a two-stroke motocross bike, this usually means that piston and ring(s), but on a four-stroke it could also have worn out or out of spec valves, timing chain, and tensioner. It all depends on what kind of riding you do and how hard you ride the bike, but a routine top-end rebuild/inspection is every 15-20 hours. A two-stroke should have a new ring installed every time you check it if you’re motocross racing. A piston can last anywhere from 15-50 hours depending on how it’s ridden.
Four-strokes have many more moving engine parts, so routine check-ups are crucial if you want the bike to last. Valves and timing chain should be checked every 15-20 hours because they can go out of spec in a matter of hours on certain bikes. A piston should last 20-40 hours of racing, but again, it depends on the rider and what kind of riding it is.
Before you do anything else, even jetting your bike, if your top-end hasn’t been checked or rebuilt in more than 20 hours, get on it! A fresh top-end is preventative maintenance, and it can bring back a couple ponies that you need to pass a rider.
4. Knock Some Teeth Out
Most stock motocross bikes come with a transmission and sprockets that are already geared well for racing. But, what if you get on a tight supercross-style track where you need to get out of corners faster to clear the next jump? That’s when it’s time to start messing with your sprockets!
Your goal for gearing is to able to rev the bike out in 4th, 5th, or 6th gear, depending on the track size. This means that if you’re in low-mid of 5th gear on the fastest part of a track, then you should re-gear it so that it’s in the meat of the power in either 4th or 5th gear. If it’s geared too tall then you’ll have to do more clutch work, and acceleration won’t be as good as it could be. Too low of gearing and you will be shifting too often.
Some people are confused when it comes to gearing, so let me explain what will happen when you change a sprocket. If you go down a tooth on the front sprocket (13 to 12), then the bike will accelerate quicker, but you’ll have to shift more and it won’t have as high of a top speed. The opposite will happen when you go a tooth larger on the front/counter-shaft sprocket (13 to 14). For the rear, if you go a tooth smaller (50 to 49), then the bike will have a higher top speed, and you won’t have to shift as often, but acceleration will be slower, and keeping it in the meat of the power will be more difficult. Vice-versa if you add a tooth to the rear. Also, don’t forget to adjust your chain when you change sprockets.
5. Smoke ‘Em With A Pipe
Ok, I know you’re probably thinking, “Why aren’t any performance parts on this list?!” Well, it’s kinda’ like what I previously said… A stock bike that’s finely-tuned and properly set up is faster than a bike with thousands of “hop-up” mods to make it go faster. You must realize that 90+% of racing is the rider and NOT the bike.
Anyway, the reason exhaust is even number five on this list is because they can change the power-curve to suit the rider and riding style. Exhaust systems are actually pretty good these days, so most bikes won’t gain much power from an aftermarket exhaust (yes, even after re-jetting it!). They usually move the power around more than anything (especially on two-strokes).
Remember that these are my top 5 mods for a motocross bike. But if you ask any good rider that knows what they’re talking about, I could guarantee that their top 5 mods are most if not all of these as well. Good luck, and have fun racing!
After all that hard earned money spent, Dirt Bike Insurance is something to consider in case something happens.
I’m really glad you’re considering participating in this extravagant and addicting extreme sport, but there are some downsides to doing it as well, unfortunately. Cost is the biggest reason why so many people aren’t able to race motocross, whether it be the cost of bikes and maintaining them, or having to pay for entry fees, gas for bikes, gas for vehicles, food, etc.
Your dirt bike is probably going to be the most expensive part of motocross racing. You can find a good motocross bike for $1500 or less, as I show you how in that article. But if you want to go the four-stroke route, you will probably have to pay more for the bike, and it will cost more in the long run to maintain and repair.
Depending on the route you go, the amount you can spend on keeping a bike running can vary greatly. Two-strokes generally require a little more maintenance, but when it comes time to rebuild the engine, they’re usually much less than a four-stroke. Now when I say maintenance, I’m talking about your regular oil changes, air filters, tires, chain, sprockets, and fluids.
If you’re going the four-stroke way (not that it’s bad, but it will more than likely cost more), maintenance should consist of changing your oil every 2-3 rides, and replacing the oil filter every other time you change the oil. Air filter should be cleaned/replaced every 1-3 rides, depending on riding conditions. This simple and cheap maintenance will keep your four-stroke running much longer, which is why they appear to be cheaper to race. You may end up finding out that this is not always true, unfortunately, when the engine grenades on you. It’s important to know When & Why to replace your valves and timing chain on a four-stroke, because these parts can fail in the blink of an eye. Many people fail to realize that these parts should be considered maintenance on a four-stroke motocross bike, so keep that in mind.
On the flip-side, you don’t have to deal with a valve-train on a two-stroke, which is why they are cheaper to keep running in the long run. Maintenance is similar to a four-stroke, other than the oil filter, but you may go through top-ends quicker if you’re constantly wringing it out. This is another reason why many people think that two-strokes are just as expensive, if not more. But they are only looking at the intervals of engine rebuilds, when the real difference is how much they cost to rebuild. A two-stroke can last 15-20 hours, even with a fast A-rider on it. A four-stroke may or may not last longer than that before you start replacing engine parts.
Next you have to consider gas, both for your bike and your mode of transportation. This all depends on what bike you’re running, what gas, how many classes you’re racing, and what vehicle. A two-stroke uses pre-mix, so oil will cost a couple bucks extra, but some four-strokes require race-gas (i.e. high compression), so they may even out. If you’re running two classes, that’s twice as much gas you’re going through (duh!), so consider that factor. Trucks and SUV’s can be gas hogs, so if you want to save money on that, either get a small truck (S10/Ranger), or you can get a Motorcycle Carrier to insert into the hitch of your van or truck instead of pulling a trailer.
Next thing to consider is the cost of entry fees and memberships. An average cost of one class of racing is $30 around here, and usually a little cheaper if you do more than one class. Yearly memberships (District and AMA) add another $40-50 each. So the cost of entry fees comes down to how often you’re going to race and how many classes.
Don’t forget about food! You have to eat and drink, whether you pack for a picnic at the track or buy food there. Camping will also cost extra if you spend the weekend at the track, which many riders do if they have a camper or RV. Also, you will sometime or another have that unexpected problem; a blown tire, or crash on your bike that breaks several parts.
There are probably a couple more things you could have to add to the cost of motocross racing, but do you see now why so many people cannot afford it, especially when they’re not prepared? I really don’t want to scare people away from this terrific sport, I just want YOU to be well informed of how much you can expect to pay if you want to start and continue racing for years to come. After you figure out that you are able to do it or have enough money, check out my tips for first-time motocross racers so you won’t be left in the dirt. Also, don’t forget to get footage of your first race with an HD Helmet Cam!
That should cover just about everything, so here’s an overview of what it will cost (based on if you race about every other weekend:
Dirt Bike: $2000 (guesstimated cost of a good running bike)
Maintenance (Oil, filter, lube, etc.): $50 every couple races
Engine Rebuilds (Varies greatly): Two-stroke top-end $150 every 20 hours, $300-800+ every 25-40 hours
Gas: Depends on vehicle, $10-30 depending on how much racing
Memberships: ~$90 for District and AMA
Race Fees: $30 Each race (more if you do multiple classes)
Misc (also varies greatly): This is one category I cannot really determine for you. It all depends on how much/where you eat, what you buy, what breaks, and all that jazz.
You may not, and probably won’t go exactly by this last, because there are many factors in motocross that can cost more or less. Using guide as a reference will give you a good idea of how much this sport can really cost, and why it is slowly dying in some areas. Keep it alive if you can, and have fun riding!
I love to race motocross, there’s no doubt about it. I’m sure you think the same if you’ve tried it. If not, learn How To Start Racing Motocross here. But if there’s one thing I hate the most, it would probably be a broken bike on race-day. I try to keep up on maintenance as best I can so that my dirt bikes won’t fail when I’m on for a ride or on the day of a race. There are many things you should do in order to prepare you dirt bike for a motocross race, so I’m going to tell you how.
They May Be Called “Dirt” Bikes, BUT…..
First of all, is your bike clean? You should never put away your bike dirty. Although I hate to admit it, I do not achieve this goal just because I can’t at times (getting back extremely late at night, not having a pressure washer, etc.). But it’s very important that you keep your bike clean. It will make everything last much longer, and working on the bike will be easier when you have to do maintenance on it.
Filtering The Impurities
Okay next question…. When’s the last time you changed oil and filter? It depends on your bike, but you should change oil every couple of races, or every 5-10 hours if you ride in between. Oil filters should be replaced every other/second time you change the oil. Many riders make the mistake of not changing the oil often enough, and this results in seizing of the engine. A big NO-NO, especially for four-stroke motocross bikes. If they even run low on oil, the cam(s) might not get enough lubrication, causing them to score and possibly seize. And if one thing goes out on them, often it will destroy more parts. So don’t forget to do you oil change intervals!!!
Breath of Fresh Air
Next on the list is your air filter. Another crucial part of maintaining your dirt bike that many riders neglect doing. Cleaning or changing an air filter is easy, and cheap, so there’s no excuse for not doing it. Hardcore riders often clean it every ride, but that isn’t necessary if you aren’t riding in sand or mud. Clean it every 3-5 hours or so and you should be good. Your engine will last much long if it’s sucking clean air going to it instead of dirt. Make sense?
Cleaning and tightening your chain the day before will save you a headache. Not only will this help prevent the chain from falling off or breaking, it will save you time if you’re in a hurry on race-day.
Lay Some Rubber Down!
Tires can help you win a race. If it’s cracked or worn out then it’s time for a new tire! Tire pressure is also very important for racing. Although you’ll probably have to check/change it throughout the day, it’s good to pump them up to 15 psi the night before. A good pressure for soft terrain is about 10-12 psi, and hard-pack about 13-15 lbs.
Check Your Fluids
There are many fluid lines on a dirt bike, so remember to check those for cracks, wear, and tighten them if they’re loose. These include lines for gas, coolant, brake fluid, and clutch if you have a hydraulic clutch. Top them off and/or flush them if they need it (I’ll show you how to flush fluid lines in a future article/video). Also, check your brake pads to make sure they aren’t worn out. You don’t want to start racing and all of the sudden you have no brakes.
Check your clutch and throttle cables for wear. If they are starting to fray, replace them. I also recommend you to lube your cables every few rides just to help prevent them from seizing up.
A fouled spark plug can end your day like that. Or, it can hold you back just one moto/practice if you are smart enough. If you haven’t changed plugs in a while, you may want to check what it looks like and possibly replace it. You never know when it could go out, especially if you’re jetting isn’t spot-on. Always remember to bring a spare plug or three; 2-stroke motocross bikes sometimes eat through them quickly. Click here if your bike is fouling plugs.
Don’t take the chance…
Last but not least, don’t forget to use fresh gas!!! I am a living example of this, but in my terms it was a little more extreme. I had a riding accident late August this year (2010) and hurt my shoulder, so I was out for about two months of any real riding… Well when I went riding at the end of October, I took my 125 out for a good ride on a sand track. After an hour or less of riding the bike it stalled and couldn’t get it started. I found out it was bad gas, causing it to score the piston and cylinder.
The reason I say this case is a little more extreme is because I have to a mix of race gas and pump gas, mixed with castor oil; all of which don’t last very long, especially when mixed together. So the best thing to do is buy gas the day before, and wait to mix it (if you use additives or 2-stroke oil) until race-day.
That should pretty much do it. If you do all of these things, there will be very little chance your bike will break down. Good luck, and ride safe!
If you have dumped many dollars into your ride, you may want to consider getting Dirt Bike Insurance in case something should happen to it.