Motorcycle racing is done by amateurs and professionals with both off- and on-road tracks being utilised. It shares many of its roots with auto racing; in fact, the first town to town motorcycle races were held as a subset of the sport. In this article, you’ll learn more about the history and different types of motorcycle racing.
As a sport, it has enjoyed a long and storied existence. Racing began in the first part of the 20th century in France, as well and in North America around the same time. It was officially established as a sport with the foundation of the Federation of American Motorcyclists, which gradually evolved into the AMA of today.
Grand Prix racing began in the US after WWI, but its origins in Europe are much earlier than that (there were races held in Germany in 1925). In European racing, the Isle of Man’s Tourist Trophy (TT) race is one of the most well-known events; it was first held in 1907. There are many other kinds of motorcycle racing, however: trials, speedway racing, drags, motocross, hill climbs and ice racing are very popular.
- Trials began before WWI and involves contestants negotiating an obstacle course. Speed isn’t a factor here, the course is tricky to negotiate and balance is the key. Competitors are marked down every time they steady themselves by putting a foot down (often called dabbing).
- Speedway racing started in Australia in the 1920s. It’s done on a short, flat oval track, on lightweight bikes with no brakes, one gear and small fuel tanks.
- Motocross is a derivative of cross-country racing and events consist of a set number of laps. Races are held on closed courses, over man-made or natural terrain and riders must wear specialized clothing and protective gear (including protective motocross boots). It started in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s, not becoming popular in the US until the 60s.
- Drag racing is a product of the US and got its start in the 1950s. It involves two racers vying for the best time on a smooth, straight track exactly ¼ mile long.
- Ice racing began in the 1930s in Scandinavia. Races are held on icy stadium tracks or on frozen lakes; machines have studded or spiked motocross tires.
- Hill climbs are, as you may have guessed, uphill road races. There’s no racing against another rider; you’re competing against the clock and the hill.
There are two main ways to participate in motorcycle racing- either as a spectator or a competitor. The very best can make a career out of it, but most enjoy racing as a fun, physically demanding hobby. Motorcycle racing has had a long and eventful history, and the many varieties are enough to hold the interest of any fan.