The first known motocross race was held in 1924 at Camberley in Surrey. The British off-road event was known as the Scrambles. The first motorcycles to race in the motocross were no more than bicycles that had a small internal combustion engine mounted to the frame.
1910 to 1924
Before the first motocross race was held many companies who built motorcycles would enter their bikes in different competition events. This helped to publicize their brand and show the public how their bikes performed and how durable they were. The first competition featured track races, hill climbs, and endurance trails.
Some of the very first races were run on endurance trails that covered hundreds of miles. The roads and rough terrain would take competitors two to six days to complete the course. However, the very first hill climbs were different from the rough terrain races. The riders would wind up the big mountainside, like a snake, by following the road for several miles.
The Scott Trail
After several years of different events and competitions the English developed an event to test the rider’s skills and abilities. The English called this event, the observed trail. They created a difficult course that would test the rider’s ability while judges evaluated the rider and scored their performance.
The Scott Trail was an event to test the rider’s skill and ability. Alfred Angus Scott, a Yorkshire engineer and designer of Scott motorcycles, helped lay out the track over the northern English rugged terrain. The participants were encouraged to move as quickly as possible over the rugged terrain to reach the next observation section. The winner was judged on their mistakes and how long it took to finish the course.
The Scramble is Born
Soon, the Southern Englishmen took offense to the Yorkshire men being labeled the toughest of all the riders in Britain. Therefore, a motorcycle club in Camberly challenged all of Britain in a test of skills. They felt it was only fair to design a course in the South so riders from the North and South could test their skills on their own home terrain and on foreign terrain. The club decided to do away with the observation section and laid out a 2.5 mile course where speed was the only factor in winning the race.
The English governing body, the Auto Cycle Union had a problem with this event. Since the club proposed to do away with the observation stations, the race couldn’t be called a trail. Therefore, the South was forced to think of a name for their event. The club was trying to figure out a name for there even when one of their members was joking around and said “no matter what we call it, it will be a rare old scramble!” That was how the race got its name.
1924 to 1946
From 1924 to 1946, motocross was a European sport. In 1947, motocross went international. Motocross finally arrived in America in 1960 thanks to Edison Dye. However, in 1972, dirt bike racing or otherwise known as motocross was sparking an interest in the sports world. Spectators from all over enjoyed bring a picnic basket to the track and watching the day's event.
1980 to Present Day
The 1980's brought a new change to the motocross race when Japan introduced their technological enhancements to the motocross bikes. This year, Japan introduced the first water-cooled machines with monoshock rear suspension. However, in the 1990's new laws were introduced that demanded the new production of four-stroke motorcycles were environmentally conscious.
Today motocross has taken on new forms of disciplines and riding skills as it moved to indoor stadium arena events. Today the sport requires the riders to have an array of different skills to perform the different stunts and jumps during the race.
Learn more about motocross history:
- MotoSport: The History of Motocross – American Style
- Motocross America: The birth of motocross
- Freestyle Motocross: History of Motocross
- Ultimate Motorcycling: History of Motocross Racing