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What’s the Difference Between Supercross and Motocross?

Covering Supercross in Arlington, TX this weekend got me thinking about another related sport that my family loves. Motocross is another epic battle of the bikes where athletes come from near and far, ride in the dirt, in an effort to prove themselves the fastest––and the season is right around the corner. Supercross might seem the same to some, but these two sports are definitely different. What’s the difference between dirt bike sports Supercross and Motocross?

According to Dirt Bike Gear Guide, there are several sports defined by their use of dirt bikes. Motocross, Supercross, Enduro, Trials, Arenacross, and more. Arguably the most well-known of the three (especially here in the sates) are Motocross and Supercross. So what’s the big difference?

The difference between Motocross and Supercross

Although Supercross and Motocross each revolve around the racing of dirt bikes, these two disciplines have their poignant dissimilarities. Motocross is typically raced over a longer outdoor course. The wider tracks are toured during the summer season in the U.S.

supercross riders taking a jump in a race
AMA Supercross 2021 | Field Entertainment

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Supercross on the other hand is a short course that is built within a sports arena. The season starts in early spring. One major similarity between the two is that each sport holds races for both 450cc and 250cc class dirt bikes.

What is Supercross?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Supercross is defined as race performed on dirt bikes in a stadium. The track is variable and includes obstacles such as sharp curves and ramps to up the stakes. Each rider must learn to understand their bike as well as navigate the track in the most efficient way. The fastest rider will overtake the competition for a victory.

su·​per·​cross | \ ˈsü-pər-ˌkrȯs  \
Definition of supercross
a motorcycle race held in a stadium on a dirt track having hairpin turns and high jumps.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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After various qualifying races –– as explained by Supercross Live ––Supercross riders that make it through for their respective classes will race for points in the main event. The two divisions are the 450SX Class and the 250SXClass. Cooper Webb, Justin Barcia, Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac are all well-known riders on the 450SX circuit at the time of this writing. As per the class name, the race is performed astride two-stroke 450cc dirt bikes.

Mostly made up of younger riders, the 250SX Class is split into regions by East Region and West Region. These riders take on the track while riding four-stroke 250cc dirt bikes. The two regions don’t meet in competition until the season finale, at which point they race in Las Vegas, Nevada for the final face-off.

What is Motocross?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Motocross as a dirt bike race on a course of either natural or simulated terrain. There are also ramps and tight turns with varying track conditions. Engaging in this sport is Motorcross.

mo·​to·​cross | \ ˈmō-tō-ˌkrȯs  \
Definition of motocross
a closed-course motorcycle race over natural or simulated rough terrain (as with steep inclines, hairpin turns, and mud)
alsothe sport of engaging in motocross races

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Ken Roczen on his honda dirt bike doing a motocross jump
Ken Roczen riding Motocross | Honda Racing Corporation

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So, Motocross is similar to Supercross. But the fact that it’s outdoors means the tracks are vastly different. Plus, it’s considered a summer sport. Riders must achieve high levels of physical endurance in order to succeed as Motocross racers. The place the track is built for these two dirt bike sports greatly impacts the style of the track. Motocross is outdoor––longer, wider, larger in general. Supercross is a more compact track, as it’s curated inside a sporting arena.

The Motocross track is longer with higher ramps and farther jumps. It’s a whole new strategy and level of fitness that riders need in order to win. That said, there are many riders who crossover compete between the two dirt bike sports.