Motorcycle Competition

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Thousands of classic and vintage motorcycle enthusiasts enjoy some form of competition with their machines. From slow, skillful handling tests (trials), to speed events (road racing or sprints), older machines are put through their paces regularly—often braking records along the way.

For the most part, competitions are split into two different categories, off-road (dirt), and tarmac events. In the off road category, there are four main types of competition: Trials, Enduro, Cross Country, and, MX.

In the tarmac-based events, competitors can select from three: Road Racing, Drag Racing (Sprinting in the UK), and - in some countries - hill climbing. In addition, there are events for circle track machines such as board track racers and speedway bikes.

Dirt Bike Events

It is generally accepted that most motorcycle riders begin riding on dirt bikes. Some of these riders go on to compete in national and eventually international events. It is not surprising, therefore, that riding motorcycles in competitions on dirt is very popular.


For tests of pure riding skill, Trials competition is hard to beat. Machines from most eras are catered for but the Pre-65 and Twin Shock classes are the most popular. The essence of a Trial riding competition is to find the rider who can cover a set section of marked out rough terrain without putting his, or her, feet down to assist balance. Points are issued each time the rider puts a foot down or if he should come to a complete stop. Points are generally awarded on the basis of one point for a single step, two points for two steps and three points for multiple steps.

If the rider stops or falls from his machine, he will be awarded five penalty points. The winner of the event will be the rider with the least points.

(For more details on trials riding, see the article: Motorcycle Trials for Vintage and Classic Bikes)

Enduros and Cross Country

Enduro riding is often a test of not only a rider’s motorcycle riding ability on rough terrain, but also of his physical fitness as these events are very demanding.

The course will be over some distance (this varies considerably) over various terrain (grass fields to hills and valleys to streams and creeks). Riders will be timed over the course at check points. The rider who completes the course - which can consist of multiple laps – in the shortest time will be declared the winner.


MX, or Scrambles, events are similar to Enduros except the riders in each class start at the same time (a mass start). The courses are much smaller than an Enduro, but the machines used are similar. The competition is simply a race over rough terrain, sometimes with as many as 40 riders competing.

There are a number of different classes at classic and vintage MX events, both for riders (age or experience related), and their bikes which can be classed on their engine size and/or their date of manufacture.

(For more details on riding MX, see the article: Riding Vintage and Classic MX—The Basics)

Tarmac/Asphalt Events

The most popular of the tarmac events is road racing. Events are staged throughout the world that cater for every conceivable classic or historic machine.  Races are typically started (using the clutch, not push starts) with all the riders setting off at the same time which some interesting first corner action! The winner is simply the first to complete a set number of laps.

 Most of the famous circuits of the world have events for classic, historic or vintage machines including Spa in Belgium, Brands Hatch in the UK, Phillip Island in Australia and Road Atlanta in the US.

(For further details on the costs of road racing see the article: Costs of Racing Classic Motorcycles.)

Drag Racing or Sprinting

Covering one quarter of a mile in the shortest possible time is an extremely popular sport in both the UK (sprinting) and the US (drag racing). Most events offer classes for the older machines in both stock condition and full race.

In the UK the NSA (National Sprint Association) is very popular. The organizers cater for most machines from stock to nitro-burning supercharged specials. As the NSA web site states, “It's one of the easiest motorcycle sports to become involved in.”

Hill Climbing

Motorcycle hill climbing – on tarmac – is one of the oldest recognized motorcycle sports and is also very popular in the UK. Historic bikes are well catered for and can be competitive against more modern machines due to the unique layout of the courses. The courses vary in length from 400 to 2500 yards typically rising steeply uphill through a series of corners.

Hill climbs are also held in the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and in France.

Further reading:

Classic Motorcycle Racing

Advanced Riding Tips
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