My 2021 racing season ended up being pretty evenly split between racing Motocross and Cross Country racing with a little GP racing thrown in which is a mix of Cross Country and Motocross, albeit more Motocross focused. This is what I learned.
The Cross Country racing experience is much more communal. I think this is because of the how the event is spread out over a weekend. Races take place on both Saturday and Sunday, this can cause families with different age racers or different skill level racers to compete on different days of the weekend. That format encourages people to camp out for the whole weekend which in turn builds a community. At many events you will see Toy Haulers and Motorhomes circled together with Fire Pits and BBQs going, offering strangers to join them for dinner or drinks. Motocross races (at least at the local Norcal level) typically take place on Sunday. You can of course come and practice on Saturday, but it is not a requirement and since there are no races on Saturdays many people come to practice, then leave and come back to the race on Sunday. This show up and leave and show up again, could also be attributed to the ease of getting to the track. All the motocross tracks in Northern California are close(ish) to major freeways throughout the area, while the Cross Country events tend to be a little more off the beaten path.
Winner: Cross Country
Motocross racing is way easier on your equipment. Let’s be real, Cross Country racing beats your equipment into oblivion. After spending the fall season racing CC I needed to replace/repair a header, grips, plastics and tires. Not to mention the races are much longer than a motocross race. A motocross race is 5 to 7 laps around a sub 2 minute track that is perfectly groomed, no rocks, no branches, no cows(Yes I said cows, a cow ran across in front of me at the Lazy Bumb). You race twice in Motocross, so you end up riding 20 to 30 minutes plus some practice time, vs 90 minutes to 2 hours at a Cross Country event. At a CC event, you will hit branches that scratch your helmet and tear at your gear. You will hit rocks that leave dings on your wheel and your header pipe. You will tip over and tweak a lever and scratch up your plastics.
Motocross racers are “Bougie” I say that AS a Motocross racer and of course in jest. Motocrossers have PRISTINE equipment. Graphics perfectly placed, bikes that are meticulously cleaned and prepped to look as close to a Factory racing machine as possible. Very rarely do you see bike more than a few years old on the line. Kits match, pants, jersey, gloves, helmet. All looking amazing. You will show up on the line at a Cross Country race next to a racer that rode their plated bike to the event, or a 20 year old 2 stroke with zip ties holding the plastics in place. Matching jersey and pants? Not important to the CC racer. It’s all about having a good time riding bikes. There was a guy that was in the lead pack most of the race in work boots, Dickies and a construction vest. 100% judgement free zone.
Winner: Neither. To each his own. As long as you are riding, you are 100 in my book.
My background is racing Motocross, I came from BMX and Snowboarding so I think I gravitated towards Motocross when I started riding dirt bikes in my 30s. I would ride trails now and then, but always thought it be a hassle, you needed a sticker for your bike, you needed a spark arrestor, the trails were so far away and either dry or muddy unless you timed it just right. The tracks were close and prepped. I say this to provide context to my next opinion. Is it harder to race Motocross, or Cross Country?
Motocross has jumps and higher speeds. Cross Country has single track, and roots and elevation changes but slower speeds overall. Dont get me wrong, there are some FAST sections at the Cross Country events, but you are not 100% all out for the entire race like you are with Motocross. I did really well at the GP races which are basically long Motocross races or at the Cross Country events that were partly on a track or included Motocross type elements and I think that was because I know how to jump. Talk to just about any CC racer and they dont like the jumps, where the Motocrosser in me struggled with going fast on Single Track or not being able to see what was coming around the next corner, or how to get over a log. I think that is easier for a CC racer to improve at Moto, then a Moto racer to improve at CC.
Winner: Cross Country
In the end, which is better? I cant tell you that. For me they are both super fun. They are both very challenging and keep me young. I will be doing both in 2022 and beyond. For whatever reasons the Cross Country events are much much more attended. Some events this year reached or nearly reached the 1000 racers entered mark. Where as Motocross races tend to be in the couple to few hundred entries. Why is that? Is it because one is more fun? One is less expensive, one is easier to do than the other? Again, I cant really answer that. There are simply way to many factors. I suggest you try a little of both this season.
Keep it on two wheels as much as possible, be kind to one another, encourage a friend to start riding/racing. See you at the track.