Motorcycle racing is more than some bikers competing against each other; there is a humongous variety of motorcycle races, and categories are mostly determined by surface and racing style. The International Motorcyclism Federation distinguishes between four major genres, each having a number of sub categories.
As its name says it, road racing is racing motorcycles on surfaces similar to roads and which are most times paved with tarmac. The roads can be built on purpose or they can be closed public roads. Main subcategories include:
Traditional road racing
This is how motorcycle racing has started, by organizing competitions on closed public roads. This practice is less common these days, and only two championships of this type still exist (The International Road Racing Championship and The Duke Road Racing Rankings). Road races for motorcycles are mostly found in countries like Ireland, Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Great Britain.
Motorcycle road race
Grand Prix motorcycle racing
This type of motorcycle racing uses grand prix motorcycles, which are prototype machines instead of production motorcycles.
This category uses modified production motorcycles. However, there are some requirements that need to be followed, such as having a four stroke engine between 800 cc and 1200 cc for twins, and between 750 cc and 1000 cc for four cylinder motorcycles. Other aspects that need to stay the same as with bikes homologated for use on public roads are the profile and the overall appearance. What can be changed are the mechanical elements of the motorcycle.
For this type of racing, motorcycles must be extremely reliable, because participants need to test the durability of their equipment and their endurance as well. The multiple riders in a team need to cover a long distance in a single event and riders can be changed during the race.
The difference between road racing and motorcross is that the later takes place off road, on a closed circuit. Examples of motorcross surfaces are grass, mud, sand, and dirt. Elevation changes are also featured in this type of racing. Participants often get airborne, which was made possible by advances in motorcycle suspension technology.
Supercross takes place indoors, on stadiums or arenas, either open or closed. This sport is more popular in North America, while Europeans prefer motorcross. A common element for the two types of racing is represented by the numerous jumps.
Supermoto is a mixture between road-racing and motorcross. The vehicles are of the motorcross type, but their tyres are specific to road racing. The riding style on tarmac for Supermoto is different – the leg is used straight out to corner and the back wheel is used to slide around the corner.
Enduro and cross-country
In this type of racing the focus falls on the endurance of the competitor, who needs to complete the race off road and through forestry most times. There are various stages to be completed, and participants are penalized both for getting there early or late.
This type of racing uses the largest bikes and events last for days. Hundreds of miles are travelled mostly on off-road terrain, and the most famous competition of this type is the Dakar Rally.
Participants need to complete multiple laps on wooded and off-road terrain, and the winner is the one who manages to maintain the highest speed throughout the entire event, thus completing the circuit as fast as possible.
The defining aspect of this type of race is the oval track; variants are determined by the surface type.
Speedway takes place on a flat oval track whose surface is made of dirt or shale. The bikes have one gear and no brakes. Skills like using the rear wheel to reduce speed into bends are vital for speedway race competitors.
The floor of indoor races circuits is made of concrete and polished with media like coke syrup to ensure proper traction of the tyres.
Grasstrack is outdoor speedway taking place on grass. Unlike with speedway, bikes can have two gears.
This is the equivalent of speedway on ice; bikes need metal tire spikes and screws to ensure proper traction.
This category is a Japanese sport held on an oval course covered with asphalt. Auto race is generally seen as a gambling sport.
This type of motorcycle racing has fallen into obsolescence after being very popular in the 20s and 30s of the 20th century. The race course was oval, but surfaces were made of wooden planks and inclined.
These are the main types of motorcycle racing, but even more genres can be described, depending on track type, motorcycle features, driving style, and winning criteria. One thing is for sure – motorcycle racing will always be a popular sport and attract crowds.