What is a motocross? Is motocross a hard sport? What is the average salary of a motocross rider?


Have you come across statements discrediting motocross as a physically demanding sport? The reality is, that motocross stands out as one of the most intense and challenging sports globally, demanding significant physical and mental strength.

For those considering entering the world of motocross, here are some key facts highlighting the physical demands involved in the sport.

What is a motocross?

Motocross is an exhilarating sport that involves racing off-road motorcycles on specially designed tracks. It’s like a motor form of a dirt jumper sport, taking place on dirt terrains filled with jumps, turns, and obstacles. Let’s break down the basics to understand what makes motocross so exciting.

Firstly, the bikes used in motocross are not your average street motorcycles. They are specially crafted for off-road adventures, with robust suspension systems to handle jumps and rough terrain. These bikes are lightweight, nimble, and have powerful engines that can propel them at high speeds.

The heart of motocross lies in the tracks, which are purpose-built with a variety of challenges to test the riders’ skills. Jumps, also known as “whoops,” allow riders to catch some air and showcase their acrobatic abilities. Sharp turns demand precision and control, while the uneven, often muddy surfaces keep the competition unpredictable.

Motocross races typically consist of multiple laps around the track, and the first rider to cross the finish line is declared the winner. Races can be intense, with riders jostling for position, making daring overtakes, and navigating through the track’s twists and turns. The combination of speed, skill, and strategy makes motocross a riveting spectator sport.

Riders in motocross are a diverse group, ranging from amateurs honing their skills to professional athletes competing at the highest level. The sport provides a platform for riders to showcase their talents and push the boundaries of what is possible on two wheels.

Safety is a top priority in motocross, with riders donning protective gear such as helmets, goggles, gloves, and body armour. This ensures that they can enjoy the adrenaline-pumping action while minimizing the risks associated with off-road racing.

Motocross events are held worldwide, attracting enthusiasts and fans alike. Spectators gather to witness the excitement, cheer on their favourite riders, and soak in the atmosphere of a motocross race. The sport’s popularity has led to various competitions and championships, with riders vying for titles and recognition on both national and international levels.

Is motocross a hard sport?

Motocross is widely considered a challenging and demanding sport. Several factors contribute to the difficulty of motocross:

  1. Physical Demands: Motocross requires a high level of physical fitness. Riders need strength, endurance, and agility to handle the powerful bikes, navigate through the rough terrain, and maintain control during jumps and turns.
  2. Technical Skill: Mastering the technical aspects of motocross is crucial. Riders must develop advanced riding skills to handle the varied challenges presented by the tracks, including jumps, sharp turns, and uneven surfaces. Precision and control are key to success.
  3. Risk and Danger: Motocross involves inherent risks due to the nature of off-road racing. Riders may experience falls, collisions, or other challenges that require quick reflexes and the ability to stay composed under pressure. Safety measures, including protective gear, are essential.
  4. Mental Toughness: Motocross races are mentally demanding. Riders need to make split-second decisions, assess track conditions, and strategize for optimal performance. Overcoming the fear associated with high-speed jumps and manoeuvres is also part of the mental challenge.
  5. Continuous Learning: Motocross tracks vary, and each race presents new obstacles. Riders must adapt to different terrains, weather conditions, and track layouts. Continuous learning and improvement are crucial for staying competitive in this dynamic sport.
  6. Financial Commitment: Owning and maintaining a motocross bike, along with the associated gear and equipment, can be financially demanding. Participation in races, training, and travel expenses add to the overall commitment required.

While motocross is undeniably challenging, many riders find the difficult to be part of the appeal. The sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering the skills and conquering the challenges is a significant motivator for those passionate about the sport. Additionally, the camaraderie among riders and the thrill of competing in high-stakes races contribute to the overall allure of motocross.

starting line group motocross racers on race track

What is the average salary of a motocross rider?

Motocross riders make money from various sources, and one significant income stream is sponsorship deals with bike manufacturers like Suzuki and Kawasaki. If a rider showcases exceptional talent and consistently secures the top position in multiple events, they can earn more money compared to those finishing in 2nd or 3rd place.

Winning the championship for the season can bring additional earnings, with a potential bonus of up to $1 million from bike companies like Kawasaki. This bonus may be rewarded for displaying the sponsor’s logos on the bike or winning races with the sponsor’s bike.

In addition to sponsorship deals, motocross riders also earn prize money from each race. The race purse, or total prize money, is distributed among the racers based on their finishing positions. The first-place finisher receives the largest share of the purse, while the other positions receive a decreasing percentage.

For example, if the total purse is $66,950, the winner gets $12,000, the 2nd place racer earns $6,000, and the amounts decrease for each subsequent position. In a race with 22 participants, the racer in the last position would receive $1,415.

To maximize earnings, it’s crucial for a rider to consistently achieve top positions, preferably 1st or 2nd place. Riders who consistently finish lower may need additional jobs to support their passion for racing. Fortunately, professional riders have other avenues to generate income beyond race winnings, such as sponsorships and endorsements.

Manufacturer-Sponsored Roles

When a manufacturer sponsors a rider, it means the rider becomes part of the manufacturer’s racing team. The salaries are divided among all team members and are usually paid in 12 equal monthly instalments. Riders also receive bonuses for winning races, championships, and travel reimbursements.

Sponsored riders typically have access to at least two bikes: a race bike and a practice bike. The race bike is expertly tuned by the company and is reserved for official race days. Professional mechanics are present during races to perform necessary bike maintenance. On the other hand, the practice bike is for the rider to use during training, ensuring they can focus on improving their skills without worrying about the bike’s race readiness. In many cases, the title of the practice bike may be transferred to the rider.

Endorsements for Products or Services

Top racers often receive requests to endorse products from various companies. The compensation for these endorsements is negotiated between the racer’s agent and the company, as there is no standard payout. Racers might be involved in commercials or events as part of their endorsement deals.

Successful racers can earn significant sums through product endorsements, as long as the endorsed products align with the team’s approval. Privateers, who are independent riders, can choose endorsement deals based on the highest payout. However, endorsing products from competing teams may lead to contract breaches, fines, or termination.

Commitments for Factory Team Riders

Factory team riders are obligated to dedicate 35 days each year to promote the team through activities like autograph sessions, corporate events, or commercials. Failure to comply with these commitments may result in fines.

Privateer riders have more flexibility, participating in activities according to their contracts as long as they fulfil the agreed-upon terms.

Prize Categories Based on Bike Make or Size

The amount of prize money a rider receives also depends on the make or size of their bike. For instance, if you don’t have sponsorships and you ride a Kawasaki 450cc bike, winning first place could earn you up to $50,000. However, if your bike is the same make but has a 250cc engine, winning first place would get you $28,000.

Different bike manufacturers offer specific payouts for various motorcycles. The more attention they want for a particular bike, the higher the prize money for securing the first position with that bike. Riders affiliated with certain manufacturers may even negotiate private deals, earning up to $100,000 for each race.

Unrecognized athletes riding a sports motorbike racing fast on a motocross track field. Challenge and competition.

Earnings Linked to Race Performance

How riders perform in races directly influences their annual income. If a racer consistently finishes in the tenth position for most races, their total earnings, including bonuses and prizes, could amount to $52,700. However, a racer securing first place in every race throughout the season has the potential to make over $200,000 for the year.

It’s important to note that these figures do not consider the additional income from endorsements or sponsorships that racers often receive when consistently achieving top positions. Some riders go on to earn more than a million dollars solely from prize money, not to mention the lucrative opportunities from endorsements and commercial sponsorships.

For instance, a rider who clinched first place in every 2015 AMA Supercross race would have earned $205,000 in prize money, along with $1,700,000 in factory bonuses, $1 million for the championship, and a $100,000 Feld Entertainment bonus. This example illustrates how a racer could accumulate over $3 million in a single season.

In the same scenario, a racer finishing fifth would still receive over $51,000 in purse money, in addition to approximately $16,000 from the Feld Entertainment bonus. Some riders also have team-specific bonuses tailored to their skill level and finishing position.

What Are the Top Earners Bringing In?

In 2013, Valentino Rossi set a motorsports record by earning $22 million. Although the average annual salary for motocross racers is around $85,000, many find additional lucrative opportunities through endorsements, team racing, and promotional activities. Riders can also pocket substantial aggregate bonuses, with first-place finishes in races fetching up to $100,000. When you combine all these income streams, the top earners can make a significant sum.

Top Earners in the 2014 Season

  1. Ryan Villopoto amassed over $740,000 from both purse and bonus earnings.
  2. James Stewart earned slightly over $701,000, with purse earnings at approximately $90,000 and the remainder from bonus earnings.
  3. Ken Roczen brought in $385,000, but only $70,000 came from race prizes.
  4. Ryan Dungey earned $326,000, with only $66,000 from prizes.
  5. Justin Barcia accumulated nearly $150,000, including almost $50,000 in prize money.

These examples highlight how earning bonuses during the motocross season can significantly contribute to a professional rider’s income. It’s worth noting that factory team riders often have the potential to earn even more, ensuring a consistent profit while being part of a team.

In conclusion

Motocross is not just a sport; it’s a thrilling and physically demanding adventure that pushes riders to their limits. From navigating challenging tracks to securing top positions for substantial earnings, the world of motocross offers excitement and potential financial rewards.

Whether you’re a rider aiming for victory or a spectator enjoying the action, the blend of skill, speed, and strategy in motocross creates an electrifying experience for all involved.

Leave a comment