9 Countries You'd Never Guess Would Have a Great Motocross Scene
Turns out dirt bikes aren’t just for SoCal bros and mullet-sporting Belgians
Motocross might predictably be big in countries that crop up time and time again in the action sports world – America, Australia, Britain, France, errm Belgium – but spending weekends getting bucked around a rough as hell track, plastered in crap and trying not to mangle yourself attempting a new jump is a universal passion with surprisingly strong scenes in places you wouldn’t expect.
Here’s nine countries that you never knew loved a bit of good old fashioned scrambling…
Unless you get caught by the fuzz doing your best Wildout Wheelie Boyz impression, riding motocross is all perfectly legit in the UK.
Incredibly though, up until 2012 it was illegal to own or ride a motocross bike in Israel, where all motorsport was banned and you risked smuggling charges for owning a motocross bike.
The Israeli government finally passed a bill in August 2012 to rescind the law and local MX reacted to finally not risking a prison-shower incident to go riding by organising Israel’s first ever national championship a month later.
"Up until 2012 it was illegal to own or ride a motocross bike in Israel"
Since then they’ve been flat out making up for lost time and almost a year to the day after that first race, the country entered a team against the world’s best in the most prestigious race world motocross calendar, the Motocross of Nations team race.
They sucked, but you would too with only one year of racing under your belt.
They like their hobbies rough, tough and fast on the steppes of Mongolia – like bareback horse racing on unbroken stallions rough.
Racing an iron pony around a motocross track probably seems pretty tame in comparison, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that MX is rapidly rising in central Asia.
"They like their hobbies rough, tough and fast on the steppes of Mongolia."
It’s no surprise that Mongolian riders seem to be absolutely fearless too.
When the Mongolian motorcycle federation entered at team in the Motocross of Nations for the first time in 2008, the beer-happy fans took a shine to them thanks to unpronounceable names and their massive-balled willingness to try and launch even the biggest jumps on the track despite being 100% fully-fledged spodes.
[part title="Dominican Republic"]
We don’t know much about motocross in the Dominican Republic. We don’t know how many tracks there are, or if they’re any good.
We don’t know how many racers the Caribbean nation boasts, or if they’re any good either. What we do know is this – the Dominican Republic has the craziest race fans in the world.
"The Dominican Republic has the craziest race fans in the world."
Want proof? Check out the insane GoPro footage of local Dominican hero Ray Mejia battling with former American pro Jeff Alessi at an invitational race amid what can only really be described as a pitch invasion - all the way round the track!
Not a single f**k was given by the mentalists trackside…and not a single health and safety assessment was undertaken we’d guess!
They don’t just knock out dodgy copies of motocross bikes in China, they race them too – slowly. Very slowly.
Keen to show the might of communist motocross, the Chinese motorcycle federation shipped their three best racers over to the UK for a grand debut in the Motocross of Nations in 2006.
"The Chinese riders could barely ride up the jumps, let alone launch them."
Unfortunately they suffered the humiliation of being pressured to withdraw from the event after the hapless trio could barely ride up the jumps, let alone launch them, and clocked laps well over a minute slower than the front runners on a two-minute track.
They all rode spanking new Japanese-built Hondas too, which doesn’t say a lot for the build quality of their own Chinese dirt bikes.
NB: Because China isn’t big on internet freedom, the video above is the only Chinese MX video we’ve ever seen!
The barren hills overlooking Tehran might be last place you’d expect to find a rising motocross scene, especially a women's motocross scene, but amazingly that’s exactly what the Iranian capital boasts.
Banned by law of Iran from operating a motorcycle on the road, a small band of women led by Nora Naraghi stuck two fingers up to religious law makers by taking up motocross instead.
"Nora Naraghi stuck two fingers up to religious law makers by taking up motocross"
Also banned from Tehran’s only legit track, they built their own track in the hills to practice and in 2009 established the first Iranian national championship race for women with the help of a local club.
Naturally Naraghi won and made the Daily Telegraph in the process - which is more than any British motocross champion has ever managed!
Forget Ryan Villopoto vs. James Stewart, or American vs. Belgium, the biggest rivalry in motocross is the Central African grudge-race between Kenya and Uganda.
No nation really likes their neighbours (hello France!) and it’s no different in equatorial Africa, where the small communities of racers from both countries like nothing more than giving the suckers from next door a pasting and banging bars for bragging rights as the regional top dog in the FIM-backed (Federation International Motorcyclisme) Central African Motocross Challenge.
"The biggest rivalry in motocross is the Central African grudge-race between Kenya and Uganda."
Considering the sport is tiny and far beyond the financial reach of the vast majority of the population, it’s surprisingly well supported, featuring on prime time Kenyan news at every round.
Motocross is the working man’s motorsport, the affordable way for the average Joe to get their speed fix.
What’s affordable for the average Joe in India is not a six grand Japanese techno-wonder however, but knackered old road bikes tarted-up for a bit of off-road action with some re-tread knobblies, and hand-cut number plates.
"They're knackered old road bikes tarted-up for a bit of off-road action."
So that’s what the vast majority of Indian motocross race, in both motocross and supercross – yes India has an SX series!
So whilst the lucky few with a pucka MX bike line-up in the imaginatively titled ‘Foreign’ class, the core of Indian motocross are giving it large on bikes that look better suited for the scrap-heap than a race track. And it’s awesome.
There’s no worrying about having the latest bling bike parts or latest energy gunk branding, just racing hard accompanied by awesome old-school 50s BBC style commentating – the true spirit of motocross.
Motocross has a surprisingly long and strong history in Thailand. Supposedly introduced to the country by American GIs after the Vietnam war, it hosted an infamous international supercross series in the 80s that was wildly popular with pro riders for the off-track erm... ‘activities’. It has has even hosted a round of FIM World Motocross Championship for the past two years.
"Thailand hosted an infamous international supercross series in the 80s that was wildly popular with pro riders for the off-track erm... ‘activities’."
As in India, motocross bikes are a luxury many would-be motocross racers simply can’t afford. What they do have access to though is cheap scooters by the millions, which they strip-down, soup-up and wring the crap out of in the perfectly-named Grasshopper class like the teenagers that terrorise your local ring-road on Friday night.
Although unlike your local boy racers, the moped class is half-time entertainment at the Thai MX Grand Prix!
Finland has won more Olympic ski jumping medals than any other nation. That tells you all you need to know about the climate up there in the far, far north.
It’s sub-zero, covered in snow and dark or nearly 24 hours a day for half of the year – not exactly prime motocross weather.
"A bit of snow isn’t going to stop the Finns though!"
A bit of snow isn’t going to stop the nation that pumped out some of the most fearless car racers and rally drivers in history though.
Finns love speed and they love motocross, so instead of parking their bikes for half a year, they simply countersink massive screws into their knobblies for a bit of grip when winter comes, put on some thermal undies and go rip up their local tracks like normal. Rather them than us!