The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Motocross

If you love bikes, any form of motorsport, or you’re just a self-confessed Adrenaline Junkie – starting motocross is for you.

Our beginners guide to motocross is going to help kickstart your new hobby.

I’ve been riding and racing motocross for over 17 years, and in the next 10 minutes I’ll explain the most important aspects of getting started in motocross riding and racing.

And, we’ve even included some cool motocross training videos from professional riders to help you learn to ride – fast.

Looking for something specific? Skip straight through to the relevant section in our guide.

Essential Motocross Gear List

Motocross gear isn’t just cool to look at, it keeps you safe. Your kit bag is going to bursting at the seams. But, motocross gear isn’t exactly cheap, so you’ll want to make sure you’re buying the right stuff.

So, I know what you’re thinking. What gear do I need for motocross riding and racing?

Here’s our list of essential kit.

#1 – Helmet

Your helmet is the first line of defence when you crash (which you will, and if you don’t, you’re not the adrenaline junkie you thought you were) – so don’t mess around here. 

Don’t buy cheap helmets from brands that are not quality tested.

In the UK, you’ll want a motocross helmet that has an ACU Gold Stamp.

In the USA, you’ll want a motocross helmet that has a DOT, Snell M2005, Snell M2010 or ECE R22-05 marking.

No brand worth their own bodyweight will sell a helmet without a well-known safety marking.

If you’re unfamiliar with the best motocross helmet brands, some of the top brands include: 6D, Answer, Arai, Bell, Fly Racing, Fox Racing, HJC, MSR, O’Neal, Shift, Shoei, Thor and Troy Lee Designs.

I’d suggest sticking to those.

Check out our guide to the best helmets for Motocross here.

#2 – Boots

The best motocross boots on the market will:

  • Absorb impacts when you land from jumps
  • Protect you from roost (the dirt and rocks being thrown from the rear wheel of other bikes)
  • Protect your feet from the sharp teeth on the foot pegs
  • Stop you twisting or breaking your ankles

There’s no doubt the most renowned brand worldwide for motocross boots is Alpinestars. I’ve had everything from their Tech 6 to the Tech 8 and Tech 10, and they’ve all been great boots.

However, the best motocross boots I’ve ever owned were a pair of SIDI Crossfires; the hinged ankle offered lots of flexibility, but they were lightweight and extremely supportive.

A couple of brands worth noting (asides from Alpinestars and SIDI) include: Answer, Axo, Fly Racing, Forma, Fox Racing, Gaerne, O’Neal, TCX and Thor.

Check out our guide to the best boots for Motocross here.

#3 – Goggles

Without a good set of motocross goggles, you’re not going to be able to see. Whether it’s wind, rain, dust, rocks or mud; you need to protect your eyes.

There are 3 types of motocross goggles:

Tear-off Motocross Goggles

A tab is located on either side of the goggle lens, allowing you to place around 21 clear pieces of film onto the goggles.

As vision is impaired by dust or dirt, rip one off at a time.

Be warned, it’s pretty easy to rip the whole stack off at once; pretty annoying when you’re 30 seconds into a 30-minute moto!

Roll-Off Motocross Goggles

Roll-off motocross goggles are orientated towards riding in the mud and rain. Being from the UK, I’ve had the chance to use them – a lot!

There’s two canisters, one either side of the goggles.

One has a fresh film in it, and when you pull the cord on the side of the canister, it drags the new film across to replace the dirty film, which then is placed in the backup canister.

Unobstructed vision, with just two quick pulls of a cord.

Rip And Roll Motocross Goggles

Rip and roll motocross goggles combine a roll-off and tear-off system. They are not cheap, and they are quite hard to source.

In the UK we have a brand called Rip ‘N Roll, whereas in the USA, there’s the Forecast Advanced Mud Tear Off/ Roll Off System which comes from the goggle brand 100%. It’s a lens replacement that fits any 100% motocross goggles.

#4 – Motocross Gear Combo (Pants, Jersey & Gloves)

Your motocross kit will come in a matching combo. A durable jersey and pant combo will offer some protection in a crash, and the best motocross gloves will stop you from getting horrendous blisters.

I always take a couple of sets in case there is a wet moto – there’s nothing worse than putting on wet gear for your 2nd or 3rd race of the day.

I’ve owned motocross gear combos from brands including Answer, Shift, Thor, Alpinestars, Fox Racing, MSR and Troy Lee Designs and have been more than happy with all of them.

#5 – Chest Protector

When reading product descriptions, it’s worth noting that a roost deflector is different to a chest protector.

A roost protector will shield you from rocks and dirt flung up by other motocross bikes.

A chest protector will guard you from roost, but will also protect you in the event of the crash. If safety is your thing, go with a chest protector (that’s what I use).

Most motocross riders prefer to go with a roost protector – they are lighter and offer a snug fit, so offer a little more flexibility.

I’ve got a UFO Shockwave and a EVS chest protector. The EVS provides a much better fit.

#6 – Knee Pads & Elbow Pads

Like the chest protector example above, I know a lot of riders that choose not to wear elbow pads (I prefer to wear them).

Arm pump is a massive thing in motocross, and elbow pads certainly don’t help. The straps can restrict blood flow.

On the knee pad front – I don’t know any rider that doesn’t wear some type of knee protector or knee brace.

#7 – Gear Bag

Now you’ve got all your gear, you’ll need a cool bag to lug it all round in.

I use a OGIO motocross kit bag. Although they’re a high-profile brand, I picked up my bag for under $80, and I’ve had it for over 5 years.

Non-Essential Motocross Gear List

#1 – Helmet Camera

We’ve all seen the cool videos on YouTube. If you want to capture some decent motocross videos of you riding, a GoPro is a fantastic way to do it.

Just edit out the crashes : )

#2 – Kidney Belt

Again, this isn’t what most riders would class as essential. Partly as they take a bit of getting used to if you’ve not worn one before.

If you’re just starting motocross, I’d suggest wearing a kidney belt and getting used to it from day 1.

Be under no illusion, motocross racing is adrenaline filled sure; but sometimes it’s not the comfiest sport in the world. I’ve used a motocross kidney belt for years, as it keeps my insides from rocking about.

If you’ve never physically felt your insides slamming around, get 30ft air and let me know how the landing feels.

#3 – Knee Braces

If you’ve got a history of knee pain, had surgery, or use anything to support your knees in other sports, you’ll want a good set of knee braces.

EVS, Leatt, POD, Asterisk and Alpinestars all offer knee braces from $100 upwards (some are as much as $500 per set).

But, if you’ve just got one bad knee, some brands offer a singular knee brace, rather than a pair.

#4 – Motocross Compression Gear

Looking for better temperature regulation whilst riding? Does lack of blood flow induce cramps?

Both things make riding motocross near on impossible.

I’ve found compression full sleeve shirts have helped regulate body temperature (both hot and cold), and reduce arm pump.

As I’ve always suffered with knee pain, I sometimes ride with a compression knee sleeve, which helps not just during riding, but I notice a huge reduction in pain in the days that follow.

If you want a compression knee sleeve too, make sure you buy one with a grippy rubber interior. Without this, it will just slide down your leg.

Choosing a Motocross Bike

2 Stroke or 4 Stroke?

There’s a big “2 stroke or 4 stroke” debate between motocross riders. It’s the only topic that’s guaranteed to get everyone chiming in. 

I’d lean towards a 250 four stroke as being the perfect beginner bike. Most people suggest a 125 (being smaller, and a little lighter), but I disagree.

125s need to be ridden in the high rev range and you’ll need to be slipping the clutch to keep the revs there.

The power can be a little unpredictable. Sure, the bike might be small, but they are a bike that require some technical ability, and it’s only going to make learning motocross that little bit harder.

A four stroke 250 offers a more predictable and smoother power delivery. The weight difference is minimal once you’re moving, and gear selection is less crucial thanks to increased torque.

The downside is, a 250 four stroke is a heck of a lot harder to kickstart than a 125.

Maintenance costs are also likely to be higher on a 250 four stroke when you consider checking valve clearances and cams.

The fact 2 strokes are basic engines means a lot of the engine work can be done on a DIY basis (saving huge labour costs).

But, all motorsport is expensive – motocross is no different –  so my recommendation is still a 250F.

Any of the top brands are fine. So, we’re talking about the:

  • Kawasaki KXF250
  • Honda CRF250
  • Suzuki RMZ250
  • Yamaha YZF250
  • KTM SXF250
  • Husqvarna FC 250

Where To Find Motocross Bikes For Sale

Over the years I’ve scoured all the usual classified ads websites trying to find MX bikes for sale. Ultimately, it seems the listings on all these websites, always end up on eBay as well.

There are a tonne of second hand motocross bikes for sale, and you’ll be saving thousands of dollars by buying one second hand versus brand new.

Unless I know someone personally selling a bike that I’m after, I tend to just head straight over to eBay.

Where To Ride & Race Motocross

Where To Practice – Motocross Track Locators

In the UK, I use this motocross track locator. They have an interactive map that includes details of over 300 of the best tracks. 

For those in the USA, there’s MX Track Guide. This site has over 1,000 tracks in every state in the US.

Where To Race Motocross

To start racing motocross, you need a license. And, that means you’ll need to join a club, and pay for that license. The licenses are issued by a governing body or motocross association.

In the UK, the top motocross associations include the AMCA, ACU and BSMA. They all run well organised events throughout the country.

For racers in the USA, the top motocross association is the AMA.

Once you’ve got your license and joined a club, all that’s left is to enter your first race.

You don’t need to be a professional to enter. But, it is worth heading down to a local event to see the level of riders in your club.

They’ll be classes from novice right through to expert, so there’s a class for everyone.

Learning To Ride Motocross (Fast)

Arm Pump

You might be wondering why we’re about to talk about arm pump, before we’ve even talked about riding technique. There’s a good reason; arm pump is going to affect not just how you ride, but how fast you can ride; from day one.

What Is Arm Pump?

In medical terms, it’s chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS). Blood needs to flow carrying immense amounts of oxygen when you’re riding, after all, you’re hauling a 100kg+ bike around.

People starting motocross are notorious for holding on far too tight. And, that’s the first step towards successfully giving yourself arm pump.

When the blood doesn’t flow quickly enough, pressure builds up, and oxygen isn’t fuelling your muscles. You’ll feel your forearms go rock hard and get a strong cramp.

Congrats! You just got arm pump.

And, it hurts. You’ll struggle to grip the bars, pull in the clutch and even worse, the brake!

So, arm pump isn’t just very common, it’s extremely dangerous.

5 Ways To Stamp Out Arm Pump

Hand Grip Strengthener

My Dad’s always had rheumatoid arthritis. Years ago, his Doctor gave him a hand grip strengthener to help work the muscles in his hands.

So, I started doing the same. And, it worked. By just working the hand grip a couple of times a day, I noticed my arm pump decrease considerably on race day.

Powerball

I have no idea when or where I found this product, but I’ve had a Powerball for years.

If I’m watching TV, I’ll grab the Powerball for 5-10 minutes to try and improve strength in my forearms; but it hardly feels like a workout. 

Unlike the hand grip, you can work in motions such as back-to-front, circular and left-to-right.

The nature of the device means it puts pressure in the opposite direction to where you’re moving, so it offers a great all-round workout for your hands as well as your forearms.

Highly recommended!

New Brake/Clutch Levers & Positioning

It was only 10 or so years ago that unbreakable levers (originally from ASV) became popular. And, who was I to avoid a bandwagon? I bought some.

Unwittingly, I fitted them in a much lower position than before, and found them easier to grab. And, the short and sleek profile of aftermarket levers means less force is needed to pull in the brake and clutch.

Now, I always fit a set of aftermarket levers on any bike I buy, and make sure I angle my levers correctly.

It’s a personal preference type-of-thing. So, trial a few different setups with your bars and levers.

Loosen Your Grip & Grip With Your Knees

I know, you feel like the last thing you need to do is loosen your grip. But, gripping too hard isn’t just inducing arm pump, it means you’re rigid with the bike. Your bike hits a bump, you kick to one side, and the bike comes with you.

If you loosen your grip and loosely grip with your knees, you’ll find the bike is able to move beneath you without kicking you off, and reducing arm pump at the same time.

Change Grip Compound

I’m a cheapskate, so I always went with Renthal’s hard compound grips (full diamond), hoping they’d last longer.

But, when I started entering 3-hour endurance races, I got serious arm pump.

Eventually, I borrowed a bike using 50/50 Diamond/Waffle (diamond is the small tabs of grip, waffle is the square shape – the grips are available in full diamond, full waffle and 50/50).

The softer compound felt like it absorbed a few more vibrations. With a softer compound and the waffle giving a little extra grip, I could hang on looser and felt a noticeable difference.

So, I’d definitely recommend grips such as the Renthal soft (or medium) compound 50/50.

Professional Motocross Rider’s Top Riding Tips (In Video)

So, you’ve got down to a track for the first time and you’re looking at ways to improve?

Here’s a few motocross training videos from professional motocross racers to help get you started.

#1 – Body Positioning

#2 – Race Starts & Getting The Holeshot

#3 – Cornering

#4 – Rutted Corners

#5 – Mastering The Sand

#6 – Hitting Your First Jump

#7 – Scrubbing Motocross Jumps

#8 –  Whoops

Motocross Bike Security

Not everything to do with motocross is rosy.

Unfortunately, I know one more than one person that’s had their bike stolen.

So, how do you secure a motocross bike?

#1 – An Alarm

I’ve had multiple break-ins and never had a bike stolen. They didn’t even get past the garage door; because the alarm scared them off.

Any normal house alarm will work fine, but:

  1. Make sure there’s a battery back up in-case the wires are cut.
  2. Place it somewhere where it can’t be seen.

#2 – Alarmed Disc Lock

The aim here isn’t to have an impenetrable lock (although that would be a bonus). Again, the aim is to sound an alarm that scares off thieves.

#3 – Ground Anchor & Chain

If by some means a thief can bypass two alarms, let’s keep making it difficult. You’ll want to cement the ground anchor to the floor, and ground off the bolts so they can’t be removed.

Make sure you couple your ground anchor with a hefty chain from a reputable brand like Oxford.

#4 – Keep Out Of Sight

You probably want to flash your new toy to your neighbours, but don’t; thieves will catch wind of the fact you own a motocross bike.

Get it into storage as soon as possible after a ride, don’t start it up unless you need to, and don’t wash it on your front drive.

#5 – Remove Your Wheels

I got into a habit of removing the wheels and chain after every ride, giving them a good clean and greasing up the axles. Removing the wheels takes less than 5 minutes.

I do like the idea of a thief going through the trouble of bypassing alarms only to discover their undeserved prize is wheel-less.

Bike Maintenance

Some people enjoy motocross bike maintenance, others prefer to take it to a local dealership.

The problem with dirt bikes, is they need to be cleaned and maintained after every ride; that’s a lot of $$$ on labour if you’re not prepared to do anything yourself.

Changing Oil & Oil Filters

You’re going to hear a lot of different opinions when it comes to how often you should change oil in a motocross bike.

Some riders I know change their oil every 4-5 races which is usually 6-7 hours of hard ridden bike time. Others change after every race. I drop the oil every 1-2 races, and change the filter every 2-4, depending on how hard I think the bike has been ridden (i.e. sand races I’d change the oil after every race – they are hard on the bike).

The one rule here is; you can’t be too safe.

What You’ll Need

  • Oil Filter
  • Oil
  • Funnel

Cables – Lubrication And Cleaning

If you want to keep your clutch and throttle running smoothly, you’ll want to disconnect them, clean out the housings, and lubricate them.

It’s surprising how much debris can build up in the cable housings.

And, trust me – the last thing you want is your throttle sticking wide-open, when you’re reaching for the brakes!

What You’ll Need

  • Cable lube
  • Cable Lubrication Tool

Chain & Sprocket Maintenance

A decent set of chain and sprockets will set you back over $100. You can make them last a lot longer by keeping them clean and lubricated, but you’ll also reduce the risk of your chain snapping (and smashing through either your leg, or the engine).

So, the first thing to do is to clean your chain and sprockets. For your chain, there are specialist chain brushes that get into the hard to reach places.

Second, you’ll want to ensure the chain is lubricated before every ride. I even quickly wipe off and lube my chain in between motos.

Lastly, a chain that’s too tight will snap. Too loose, and it will wear the sprockets incredibly quickly.

You’ll want to see a two-finger gap between the chain guide (at least) to ensure there’s enough slack. Re-adjust the chain after every ride.

What You’ll Need

  • Chain Lub
  • Chain cleaning brush
  • Degreaser (to clean the chain)

Maintaining Your Air Filter

In the same way your helmet protects your head, a motocross bike’s air filter protects the engine.

The bike runs on a mix of fuel and air. As air is sucked in, so is debris (such as dust); the air filter catches all this dust.

If you ride muddy and wet trails, your air filter will be so wet and dirty, debris and water will start to push through the air filter, and into the engine.

But, on the flip-side, if you over oil your air filter (the oil helps to catch dirt), the excess oil will be sucked into the airbox – not good.

There’s a tonne of ways to clean an air filter. Warm water, a bucket and some degreaser is my cheapskate way of doing it.

It’s a messy job, so I tend to have 3-4 filters in total (1 in the bike, then wash, dry and lube the other 2-3 at once).

If you notice bits of foam degrading, or the glued seams breaking away, chuck the filter. If you’re unsure, don’t take the risk; throw it.

I’ve tried using petrol as an air filter cleaner. It gets everywhere, stinks, and tends to break the glued seams within a few washes.

Others I know wash their filters in their washing machine. Two precautions on that front:

  • Your partner will probably kill you when they figure out the big patch of oil on their new dress, was your fault
  • If you don’t run the wash on low or zero heat, it will melt the seams on the air filter

Remember to seal the contact point between the airbox and air filter – dust likes to get through here.

What You’ll Need

  • Air filter cleaner
  • Air filter oil/spray
  • Plastic gloves
  • A bucket
  • Spare air filters

Spokes

The abuse motocross wheels take on a ride is unreal. It’s a wonder they don’t fall apart. And, they will, if you don’t maintain them.

I’d suggest skipping straight to the video for this one, as overtightening can lead to disaster – pay close attention!

What You’ll Need

Spoke Wrench

Topping Up Coolant

Naturally, motocross bikes will burn a bit of coolant, especially in races that are hard on the bike (sand and mud).

This will come out via the overflow. The radiator cap has a pressure release seal, so once the coolant gets too hot (and risks blowing the rads, or the hoses off), it releases the fluid (and pressure) via the overflow.

But, if coolant is dropping almost every ride by a considerable amount, you’ll need to find the root cause (e.g. a split pipe or radiator). If you don’t find the root cause, you’ll be heading for a blown engine!

If you’re certain there’s no leak, and your bike is probably just running hot, look at investing in some Engine Ice.

What You’ll Need

Engine Ice

The Best Motocross Websites & YouTube Channels

Like any “normal” motocross-nut, I’ve spent a tonne of time over the years on motocross websites.

So, I’ve listed some of my favourite motocross forums, websites and YouTube channels below.

Websites

Thumper Talk

If you’ve gone and grabbed yourself a 4 stroke motocross bike and need to ask a question, or maybe are just looking for someone to ride with, head over to the forum at Thumper Talk.

MX Large

Looking to keep up to date with everything MX?

There’s some great updates from the FIM World Motocross Championship, AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross over at MX Large.

Best Motocross Videos & YouTube Channels

Enduro Kex

OK, technically not motocross, but dirt bikes all the same. If you like the trails, and a pint full of crazy – go check out Enduro Kex here.

999Lazer

Looking for some of the best motocross videos on the net? Look no further than 999Lazer.

Motology Films (AKA ARiemann1)

Some great original footage here from the motocross, enduro and adventure riding scene.

MotoSport.com Official

Everything from ride outs at a pro’s house, through to a trip to the first electric motocross bike manufacturer. Some seriously cool edits over at MotoSport.com’s YouTube channel.

What’s Next?

Thanks for reading our Beginners Guide To Motocross.

Have a question about starting motocross? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.

And, don’t forget to hop onto our email list.

Motorcycle geek, outdoor enthusiast & confirmed racing nut.

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