One of the least understood aspects of motocross racing by non-participants is the incredible level of physical fitness required of competitors. Many people unfamiliar with the sport often assume that the rider is doing nothing more strenuous than steering a motorized vehicle around a field, something that would be just as easy as driving the family car around the block. This is not the case. Racing pocket bikes, or motocross racing, has actually been found to be one of the most physically demanding sports in existence. If someone really studies a rider’s actions while racing, it becomes easy to see why.
The rider must maintain incredibly ultra-precise control of a machine that is not only traveling, but racing, over the type of terrain that most people would have difficulty walking across. They have to do this while maintaining as fast a speed as possible. The rider is astride a machine weighing a large amount of weight and, at the most elite professional level, has an engine that pushes them at almost seventy-five miles per hour at top speed. A rider’s arms and legs are constantly moving during a race, fighting for control of the motorcycle while absorbing the energy produced by high-speed landings from heights that can often exceed twenty feet, not to mention the two-foot high stutter bumps (called whoops) that beat the crap out of both the motorcycle and the rider. The G forces produced from the race test the absolute limits of a rider’s strength and endurance. Finally, a typical professional race lasts a minimum of thirty minutes, if not longer. That means for a full half an hour, the faster the rider goes, the more violently and frequently he or she is punished. Unlike Nascar, there are no pauses, breaks, time outs, or pit stops.
The National Sport Health Institute in Englewood, California, tested several professional motocross racers in the early 80’s as part of a comparative study of athletes in different sports. Most of what was tested was the cardio-vascular (heart) fitness of athletes from various sports across the board. Athletes from track and field, American football, basketball, and soccer were tested, among several others. The cardiac stress and strength showed, to many people’s great surprise, that the motocross athletes had just as high of a fitness level as any other discipline tested. In other words, this isn’t a sport to get into unless you are willing to do the type of high level conditioning that athletes in other sports must endure to get to the peak of their game. Argue however you want, but tests show that pocket bike racers and motocross racers are athletes, and need to be viewed as such.