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Motocross: The Most Physically Demanding Sport in the World?!

Go to a motocross event and you'll be awestruck at how seemingly effortlessly the riders glide through the air, nailing those 40 foot triples gracefully and continuing straight away into the bends and turns. What could be more fun than twists and jumps in the dirt? Not to mention, buying all those aftermarket motorcycle parts from an online retailer to juice your bike up!

But don't be fooled by appearances - motocross is actually the most physically demanding sport in the world! Seriously!

We know this topic always gets the athletic world up in arms, with many differing opinions. So let's see if this statement holds up true.

What happens at motocross/MX race?

A typical motocross raceconsists of two or more qualifying races, or motos. Each moto lasts 30 minutes long plus an additional two laps or so. This makes each one as long as 40 minutes. The overall winner is determined from the result of both motos.

The motocross race track takes place in an open area and uses the natural terrain of the area, with man-made elements to form inclines, dirt mounts, curves, obstacles, etc. or in an arena or stadium. The length of the track can be anywhere from half a mile to 2 miles long. The track is specially designed to be challenging, forcing the riders to frequently shift gears and make alternating right and left hand turns.

The reality of motocross

If that doesn't sound challenging enough to you, imagining maneuvering the track with 40 other riders on bikes. You're riding your fastest while still being in control of the bike and making sure that you stay ahead of the riders behind you. Dirt bikes may be known for being the smallest, most agile bikes out there, but it still takes complete head-to-toe strength.

You're not just sitting on a bike twisting the throttle for 40 minutes. Every single muscle in your body is being put through the wringer. Riders are actually on their legs most of the time, balancing and maneuvering a 250 lb machine around obstacles, tight corners, uneven terrain, and high up in the air.

You're also constantly having to keep track of what gear you're riding in, when to use the clutch, when to turn the throttle, what exact moment to hit it so that you can make the turn the fastest without sliding, so you can make the jump, so you can best pass another rider, etc. etc. It's a mental workout as well as physical.

And as for those fun jumps? How about jumping with a 250 pound piece of metal, bringing it 20+ feet into the air with you, making sure you have enough speed to clear the jump (but not tooooo much), and then crashing back down to earth in a controlled manner? Not only does the bike's suspension get a workout, your body takes a beating too.

Oh! And let's also not forget all the rocks and roost flying into the air and hitting you at 50mph as a result of the churning wheels of 40 bikes on a dirt track.

And for that entire 30 minutes + 2 laps of a moto, you get no breaks. Had a small collison? You don't get to pause the race while a referee decides whose fault it is. You get no breaks for fouls, going out of bounds, waiting for others' turn, etc. etc. You don't get to slow down and catch your breath, or else you loose your place. As soon as the race starts, you don't stop for 30+ minutes until the flag is waved and you cross the finish line.

And then after that one is done and you barely catch your breath, you get to do it all over again!

Motocross is a real test of strength and endurance, both physically and mentally.

And if you screw up...

We're not denying that other sports are physically demanding too with risk for serious injuries. But if you (or a fellow rider) screw up in motocross, you get to slam into the ground from 20' up in the air, break body parts, crash or be crashed into at 50 mph by a large piece of metal machinery, or get stampeded by 30 bikes. And let's not forget that these machines plowing into you have enough moving parts to shred or burn flesh.

Motocross riders are proven to operate at a high cardiovascular intensity

We know some of you may not believe unless you get some sort of evidence, so here's a study.

This study measured the heart rates of motocross racers while they completed both of the motos (each 30 minutes + 2 laps). The results found that for both the motos, the racers were operating at 94% and 96% (respectively) of their maximum heart rate. This shows that there is an incredible cardiovascular demand for motocross. This beats out other similar duration high-demand sports such as mountain biking.

Imagine being near your maximum heart rate for nearly 40 minutes! I can't think of a single other sport that requires non-stop action for 40 minutes where you are expected to perform at 100% for every one of those seconds.

So what do you think? Is motocross the most physically demanding sport? Or do you want to make a case for another sport? Share your experiences!
By Daniel Relich

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