10 of the Most Extreme Motocross Races
Global events that will have you sweating in your leathers
Man and motorbike in perfect harmony. Poetry in 250cc glory. That is until these races came along. This isn't Easy Rider, coasting along the highway without a care in the world, this a whistlestop tour of the hardest, most dangerous races you can complete on two wheels. They challenge riders harder than any other in incredible locations and often horrendous conditions.
The good news is that all of these races are open to the public to enter and compete, the bad news is that these courses are going all out to break you and make you cry.
[part title="The New Zealand City Scramble"]
One of the common denominators for this list is the challenging natural terrain and exotic locations. The City Scramble proves that this isn’t a necessity with it’s technical riding and fiendish obstacles all located within the city limits of Auckland, New Zealand.
What it lacks in mountains, and abandoned quarries it makes up for it with challenging rock fields, steep climbs and narrow pontoons over the bay which have lead to more than one wet rider.
The City Scramble course is one that rewards technique over brute strength and as such it caters more for the trial biker than the flat out enduro racer but just because it doesn’t feature obstacles like the Hell’s Gate and the Devil’s Diner doesn’t mean you should take the City Scramble lightly.
The New Zealand City Scramble Video:
[part title="The Tough One"]
While the Tough One doesn’t feature the exotic locale of Ukupuchua or the incredible scenery of the Dakar Rally it makes up for it with almost guaranteed terrible weather. Motocross is a muddy sport but this race takes that concept to a whole new level.
Like the Hare Scramble it takes place in quarry, this time in Nawtmar, Shropshire. The race begins with all the riders having to sprint up a small hill before having to find their bike and hit the road which is always results in plenty of world class motocross riders being completely incapable of mounting a mountain bike.
It’s a track where starting from the front is especially useful as within a dozen riders the track has been destroyed beyond all recognition and the ruts start to get deeper and deeper and even less manageable.
The Tough One Video:
[part title="Sea to Sky"]
In sunnier climes is the Sea to Sky race that takes place on the Turkish coast. As the name suggest the race kicks off on the beach in the Turkish riviera and climbs all the way into the mountains, finished at 2300m above sea level.
As well as making your ears pop on the way up it also features three distinct challenges to the competitors. Over the three days riders take part in the beach race, the forest race and then the Mountain Olympos race. The latter is the most extreme test as it sees the field tackle Turkey’s biggest mountains having been in the saddle for four hours.
Sea to Sky Video:
Having only been established in 2010, the Ukupacha in Ecuador is the one of the newest events on the list as well as being one of the most difficult. ‘Ukupacha’ translates as ‘Hell’ in Ecuador’s native language and we think most of the competitors would agree.
The race offers a variety of terrain in extremely testing conditions. The organisers are hoping to emulate the test posed by Hell’s Gate and in some areas they have surpassed the Italian race. The 100km Hard Enduro course takes in rivers, mountains and jungles in the middle of October where humidity can reach at least 90%, enough to get you sweating in your leathers.
The race has already built up a reputation for its difficulty. It has started attracting some of the biggest names in Motocross and in 2012, despite an impressive field, only two of the professionals completed the race.
Lesotho has become the unlikely destination of one of the world’s most extreme motocross races around. It is also one of the most spectacular as it features stunning scenery and even occasional run ins with local wildlife.
The race takes place over 450km and three days and tests even the best riders to the limit. Not only is the course extremely challenging but the conditions take their toll. Despite taking place during Lesotho’s rainy season the heat is sweltering and dehydration and exhaustion often accounts for many riders. Often less than 50% of the field completes the race.
Roof of Africa Video:
Romaniacs is a four day festival in the heart of the Romanian countryside that celebrates all things crazy about Motocross enduro races. Set in picturesque countryside, each day features a different challenge for the 350 assembled riders. It begins with a wooden assault course that decides the starting grid for the mayhem to come.
The courses are always ingeniously crafted to keep things as challenging as possible for the riders - last year was no different as the field had to race up a powerful river, tackling deep water, waterfalls and rocky climbs the entire way before taking on the rest of the valley before finishing off with a trails segment in an abandoned factory which was a hard fought race to the roof.
Less of a race and more a once in a lifetime adventure, the Dakar Rally is one of the toughest things you can do on two wheels. It no longer takes place in France and North Africa, having relocated to South America in 2009, but that doesn’t mean it’s got any easier.
The rally takes place over two weeks and several countries with stages running almost a 1000km long every single day. Dakar has traded in deserts for the altitude of the Pacific coast of South America and has broken more riders than you’ve had hot dinners making it one of the most extreme races of its kind anywhere in the world.
The Dakar Rally Video:
When asked about the Hell’s Gate race in Italy champion trial biker, Andreas Littenbechler, simply replied “ah fuck - don’t talk about Hell’s Gate." The race is now into its second decade as one of the hardest on the Motocross calendar and in that time it’s claimed many victims.
Graham Jarvis, who won in 2013, called it the hardest race of the season and it’s not hard to see why. In fact it’s virtually impossible to finish without outside help. Having struggled through four hours of intense rockfields and technical riding, the Devil’s Gate culminates fittingly at the Devil’s Peak, a climb so hard that spectators spend most of their time winching bikes and their riders up to the finish.
Hell's Gate Video:
Every year the best and/or craziest Motocross riders congregate in an Austrian quarry to take part in the granddaddy of Hard Enduro - it’s the race that makes all the rest seem rather less hard. Last year Graham Jarvis was named champion with only 13 other riders finishing behind him - just 3% of the 500 man starting field.
The quarry, nicknamed the Iron Giant, is based in Erzberg and begins with a huge mass start that almost always descends into chaos. Riders must then tackle 32km of steep climbs, loose ground and a huge rock fields called Carl’s Diner and the Devil’s Kitchen.
The Erzberg Rodeo Video:
The Mongol Rally is like the Dakar Rally only without the handy infrastructure. Anyone can enter without the backing of a major manufacturer. Whereas the rest of these entries have carefully organised routes and rest stops, Mongol Rally has a finish line and tickets for your flight home from Mongolia 10 weeks from the start point. If you don’t get there in time you’re on your own - some incentive.
As well as providing backing for worthy charities as well as new vehicles for the Mongolian people, this 16,000km journey is a test of your riding and also your character. Injuries and poor directions are common, deaths aren’t unheard of and bribing your way to cross borders is commonplace. The Mongol Rally is not for the faint hearted.