Motocross first evolved in the United Kingdom from motorcycle trials competitions. When delicate balancing and strict scoring of trials were dispensed with in favor of a race to be the first rider to the finish, it was called scrambles. Originally known as scrambles racing in the UK, as the sport grew in popularity, the competitions became known internationally as motocross racing, by combining the French word for motorcycle, motocyclette, or moto for short, with "cross country".

Motocross Dictionary Of Terms

  • APEX:  Point on a turn where the motorcycle is closest to the inside of the turn.
  • BERM: Ridge or bank of dirt pushed up in corners by turning motorcycles that further assists cornering.
  • BIKE:  See MOTOCROSS BIKE. Slang for motorcycle.  Commonly used in motocross.  
  • BLOCK PASS:  Manner of passing another rider whereby their progress in a corner is impeded.
  • BOBBLE:  Momentary loss of bike control, causing loss of position or time.
  • BREAKING BUMPS:  Series of deep bumps formed by aggressive breaking just prior to a corner. These may get particularly large in a downhill section of the track.
  • BRAKE FADE:  Brakes failing to optimally stop a motorcycle; often due to excess heat buildup of brake pads or shoes.
  • BRAKE LEVER / PEDDLE:  Brake controls; hand lever on right side of handle bars control front brake, rear brake is controlled by a small foot peddle, also on right side of bike. Both items are subject to damage in case of wipeout.
  • CASE (A JUMP):  Under jumping, or coming up short in a double or triple jump, landing before or on the crest of the following jump. This compresses the suspension, allowing the underside of the motorcycle’s frame to slam into the face of the jump causing rapid deceleration (and often a crash).
  • CLUTCHING:  Pulling in the clutch lever (left side of handlebar) to keep the engine running or the RPM’s high.
  • CORNER WORKER / FLAG MAN:  People who work along the side of the track while the race is going on.  They utilize radios to communicate with race officials about incidents on the track and use flags to communicate with the riders.  Corner workers also serve a safety function by responding to accidents in their area.  Many corner worker stations exist on each track.
  • DOUBLE / TRIPLE (JUMP):  A series of jumps, either two or three, situated so that it rewards the rider with a quicker or easier path through the obstacle versus completing the jumps individually. Requires excellent and immediate rider judgment of speed, depth and trajectory.
  • DOWNSHIFTING:  Changing the gear of the bike from a higher gear to a lower gear; i.e., 2 to 1, 5 to 3, etc.
  • ENGINE BRAKING:  Using the compression of engine during throttle-off position to slow the motorcycle down.
  • ENTRANCE:  End of the braking area; the moment when the motorcycle enters a corner.
  • EXIT:  Point where motorcycle straightens out and can fully accelerate out of the turn.
  • FLAG MAN or FLAGGER:  Track worker positioned alongside track, usually before a significant obstacle, to warn racers of a downed rider out of their line of sight. Flaggers generally use yellow flags but may also wave a white flag with a red cross, indicating that medical attention may be required. A blue flag may be used to signal a slower rider that they are about to be lapped by a faster rider. A solid red flag indicates that the race has been stopped and riders should return to the start area.  
  • GATE:  Starting gate, usually a series of looped steel pipe, Location where bikes are arranged in order of qualification just prior to the start of the race. Racers choose location at gate according to place in qualifying heat or simply sign-in order.
  • HAIRPIN TURN:  A tight turn which makes a 180o change in direction.
  • HANDLEBAR CONTROLS:  Controls of the motorcycle mounted on the handlebar; clutch, throttle front brake, hot start, kill switch.
  • HIGH SIDE:  Loss of control of the motorcycle resulting in being thrown off in the direction of travel. 
  • HOLESHOT:  Being the first rider into the first corner of the track upon the start of the race. Generally provides a great advantage over the other riders, particularly those in the ‘back of the pack’, as they must work their way past many riders to gain a better finishing position. 
  • HOT BUTTON:  A small button or lever on a four-stroke race bike which allows slight decompression when restarting a hot engine.
  • KILL SWITCH (BUTTON):  Small button or switch mounted on handlebars used to stop engine by grounding ignition.
  • KNOBBIES: Tires used in motocross with special tread made up of large knobs for improved traction in dirt and mud.
  • LAPPED TRAFFIC / LAPPER:  Slower rider(s) in the back of the pack, passed by the leader(s).
  • LATE BRAKING:  Waiting until the last possible moment before applying the brake.
  • LINE, THE LINE:  The path a rider chooses through a series of bends or corners of the race course so to reduce them to the straightest line possible.  The line is different for different turns and conditions.
  • OVER-THE-BARS:  An aggressive fall taken on the motorcycle whereby the rider is pitched over the handlebars, usually as a result of hitting an obstacle or from an immediate and unexpected stop.
  • OVER JUMP:  To carry too much speed into and over a jump, thereby landing on a flat part of the track beyond the jump resulting in a violent impact. Loss of control can result.
  • PLASTIC:  Parts of the motorcycle that either protect the workings of the bike or protect the rider from debris from the track, i.e. mud, dirt, rocks.
  • PITS:  Area where crew members work on the motorcycle before and during the race.
  • POWER THROUGH:  Use of acceleration to get through a turn.
  • RAIL (A CORNER):  Carrying high speed into a bermed and/or rutted corner, following the perfect, quickest line.
  • REV-LIMITER:  Electronic device which cuts out the engine at a predetermined rpm.  Exists to avoid destruction of the engine from excessive rpms.
  • REVs:  Engine rpms (revolutions per minute).
  • RIDING POSITION:  The position of the rider on the motorcycle which assists in the control of the motorcycle. It is critically important in motocross to maintain proper riding position depending on terrain, obstacles and track condition.
  • RUTS:  Deep grooves in the track that may form during the course of a race, particularly in corners and on the face of jumps. These offer yet another challenging obstacle to the motocross rider. The best way to negotiate ruts is to set a course and aim high. 
  • RYTHUM SECTION:  Series of jumps, including singles, doubles and/or triples over the course of a straightaway, challenging a rider’s judgment of speed, depth and timing.
  • SCRUB [AKA, ‘BUBBA SCRUB’]:  Method of jumping in which the rider pitches the motorcycle sideways, parallel to the ground, upon launch, minimizing height and time spent in the air.   
  • TEAR-OFFS:  A series of thin plastic lenses attached to the goggle lens which can be quickly and easily removed as dirt, mud and/or water accumulate on the surface. Typically a rider to pull, or ‘tear’ one off over a jump, when one hand is free.
  • THROTTLE:  Right side hand grip, which controls amount of gas to the engine. Throttle-on, is Hand-controlled gas   
  • WHIP:  Stylized jump where the rider directs the back of the motorcycle to arc flat over the ground.
  • WHISKEY THROTTLE:  Loss of throttle control resulting in rapid, unintended acceleration, often leading to a ‘wipe out’.
  • WIDE OPEN (WFO):  Holding the throttle all the way open for maximum power and speed.  
  • WIPE OUT:  A fall taken on the motorcycle.
  • WHOOPS or WHOOP DEE DOO’s:  Series of bumps or rolling ridges that must be traversed on the bike. These serve as a common obstacle, threatening to pitch the rider from the motorcycle.

Visual Skills Important For Motocross

  1. STATIC VISUAL ACUITY:  Ensure that the motocross rider races with their best corrected visual acuity, utilizing corrective lenses (contact lenses) as necessary.
  2. DYNAMIC VISUAL ACUITY:  DVA is especially important in motocross as the motorcycle and rider are constantly in motion. Making immediate critical judgments is necessary to successfully negotiate the course and obstacles.
  3. PERIPHERAL VISION:  Important for rider to be able to see other bikes and riders along side of him, also to be aware of elements of the race track.
  4. DEPTH PERCEPTION:  Static not as important as dynamic.  Rider must be able to quickly read and respond to obstacles, mostly terrain-related, on the track and interpret the progress of the course.  Necessary for finding openings in traffic that will be large enough for him to enter to allow passing.
  5. EYE MOTILITY:  Saccades and Pursuits.  Saccades are very important.  Rider must be able to quickly and accurately locate landmarks, flag men, pit crews, other bikes, and any obstacles that may arise.  Pursuits are also important when the rider is watching his competition during practice from the sidelines; also, while riding, to follow other riders' course lines.
  6. EYE/HAND/BODY/FOOT COORDINATION:  Rider's ability to interpret visual input, and to then successfully coordinate his hand and foot movements, is a key element in Motocross.  The rider must be able to make hand and foot movements for shifting and braking, after properly interpreting the visual stimulus.  Coordination of this system can become complicated when a rider is braking, accelerating, and shifting simultaneously.
  7. VISUALIZATION:  Speed and flexibility, dynamic and static are important aspects.  Visualization skills serve the rider by allowing him to "drive the course in his mind" many times before the actual race.  He can establish his lines and his braking, shifting, and acceleration points by visualization.  The rider will also benefit from visualizing jumps and alternate lines.
  8. SPEED OF RECOGNITION TIME:  The faster a rider travels, the more important this becomes.  The rider must be able to receive input and instantly process it in order to respond to it before a serious incident occurs.
  9. GLARE RECOVERY SPEED:  The ability to quickly adapt from sunlit track to shaded track, as when moving into and out of a shaded portion of a racetrack, is critical as this could become a factor on courses that feature sections that move into and out of wooded areas.
  10. ABILITY TO SEE IN DIM ILLUMINATION:  Generally not critical for motocross, however, can be a significant in Supercross racing in stadiums.
  11. ABILITY TO WITHSTAND EYE FATIGUE WITHOUT DECREASED PERFORMANCE:  Vision provides approximately 95% of the input for driving.  Riding a race bike is more demanding physically than everyday driving.  If vision breaks down toward the end of the race, it can be a serious situation.  A rider must be able to maintain his skill level throughout the race.  The last few laps of a race are usually the most demanding, as this is when the most attempts at passing are made.
  12. COLOR PERCEPTION:  Important for riders to be able to discern different color flags used by flag men for communication.
  13. EYE DOMINANCE:  May be interesting to know, but will not be of significance unless rider is amblyopic.
  14. FIXATION ABILITY:  A rider must be able to maintain fixation long enough to assess a situation, then act on it.  The length may be variable.  The rider must be able to concentrate continuously through the race, but his visual fixation will change many times during the race.
  15. VISUAL MEMORY:  This is important for learning.  The annual series of races that a rider competes in are usually held at the same locations each year.  A rider must be able to remember how he drove a particular course the last time he was there.  He must also be able to change that memory if the course has been changed, or if the weather conditions are different.  There must be both long-term and short-term visual memory skills.
  16. CENTRAL/PERIPHERAL AWARENESS:  A rider must be constantly aware of where he is going.  This is central awareness.  He must also be equally aware of his periphery, as he must be able to act on challenges from other riders.  He must also be aware of the edges of the course and the course workers.
  17. SPATIAL LOCALIZATION:  This is as important as peripheral awareness, and is the next step when he acts on the challenges from other riders.  Localization is also important when an unexpected obstacle presents itself, such as an accident.

Visual Screening / Testing Procedures Indicated For Athletes In Motocross

    1. STATIC V.A.:

Snellen Chart

    1. DYNAMIC V.A.:

Kirschner Rotator


Vistech Tester

      1. Visual Fields Tester
      2. Peripheral Awareness Tester
      3. Tachistoscope
      1. A.O. Vectographic Slide
      2. Howard-Dolman Apparatus
      3. Humphrey Vision Analyzer
      1. Projected King-Devick
      2. Marsden Ball
      3. Wayne Saccadic Fixator
      1. Retinoscope
      2. Autorefractor
      1. Wayne Saccadic Fixator with Footboard
      2. Reaction+Plus Eye-Foot

Balance Board

      1. Maddox Rod
      2. Cover Test
      3. Kinetic Cover Test
      1. Farnsworth D-15
      2. Pseudoisochromatic Plates
      1. Distance Accommodative Rock
      2. Flippers +/- 2.00 D
        8 BI/8 BO



Bassin Anticipation Timer

      1. Brock String
      2. Electronic Brock String

Complete primary ocular evaluation

Vision Training Techniques Which May Enhance Performance In The Visual Skills Important For Motocross

      1. Static: Accommodative Rock for pseudomyopia
        Biofeedback to reduce myopia
      2. Dynamic:Sherman Sport Disc:  Different size numbers and letters on a disc which is rotated at 33-1/3 rpm.  Athlete is asked to call out numbers and letters as he resolves them.  Improvement earns the athlete the right to go on to faster rpms.

        Athlete is presented a series of different size letters, numbers, and words while he is moving on a trampoline.  The athlete is asked to call out the letters, numbers, and words as he distinguishes them.  This is an attempt to train dynamic V.A. with the athlete moving instead of the target.

      1. TACHISTOSCOPE TRAINING will be useful.  Place a disc on the wall directly in front of the athlete.  Align the tachistoscope to present a series of numbers, with the center number falling directly on the disc.  The athlete is instructed to fixate on the disc while the numbers are presented to him.  He must then call out the numbers on either side of the disc.  With improvement, the number of digits presented is increased and the time of presentation is decreased.
      2. MARSDEN BALL rotations around head.  A ball is suspended from the ceiling, and hangs at the athlete's eye level.  The ball is rotated around the athlete's head.  He is instructed to maintain fixation on a point on the wall, but to be aware of the ball coming into his view.  He is told to call out "now" when he sees the ball enter into his field of view.  He then calls out "gone" when he can no longer see it.  Practice will produce longer periods between the calls.
      3. SACCADIC FIXATOR - both proaction and reaction modes can be used to improve peripheral vision.
      4. PRACTICAL TRAINING includes becoming aware of objects seen in the periphery while driving on the street.  Teach the athlete to pick a point in front of the bike off in the distance for fixation.  While driving toward that point and concentrating on maintaining fixation, become aware of the objects seen in the periphery.  Read out signs, note pedestrians, other bikes and landmarks.
      1. Stereopsis should be improved through BI and BO vision therapy.
      2. Awareness of monocular cues to depth can be improved by educating the athlete and by his careful observation of them.
      1. Saccades:
        1. Wayne Saccadic Fixator
        2. Projected King-Devick
        3. Saccadic training with afterimages:  This can be achieved by placing two discs on a wall, approximately five feet apart, at the eye level of the seated athlete.  The athlete is positioned about six feet from the wall at the midpoint of these two discs.  He is told to maintain fixation straight ahead on the wall.

          A flash unit is used to place an afterimage on the athlete's retina.  He is told to alter his fixation from one disc to the other on the therapist's command.  The afterimage should fall on the disc.  This provides input to the athlete directly so that he can make his saccades accurate.  As skills improve, the distance between the discs is altered and the athlete is moved closer to the wall.

      2. Pursuits: 
        1. Keystone Rotator
        2. Marsden Ball
        3. Spot flashlight chasing.
        4. Video games requiring visual concentration and pursuit movements
      1. Saccadic Fixator with Footboard
      2. Rotating Pegboard with and without Balance Board.
      3. Video Games, especially those that simulate Motocross.   Some have seats and require shifting and braking maneuvers, as well as steering.

A motocross rider should visualize all aspects of his race.  This includes being belted into the bike, moving up to grid, making the pace lap, and visualizing the start through the finish of the race.  At first, the visualization can be done with eyes closed.  As the skill level improves, the addition of distractions, such as sounds, should be introduced.  These could be tapes of the sound of the rider's bike; then add in sounds of other bikes.  Progress will allow visualization to be performed with eyes open and the sound of an actual race being heard.  A rider must also learn to visualize himself in traffic; i.e., other bikes on the track, making passing challenges, course workers signaling an upcoming obstacle, etc.  With practice, the speed and flexibility of visualization should improve.

    1. Tachistoscope
    2. Slide presentation of images commonly encountered by a race rider.  These should be quickly presented to the rider from behind him, on a wall which he is facing.  The rider should then describe the scene that he was shown.  Improvement will decrease presentation time and increase details and accuracy of the descriptions.
    1. Distance Accommodative Rock
    2. Flippers:  +/- 2.00 D lenses
      8 BI & 8 BO prisms

Sports Vision Problems Related To Motocross



A.  Riding Without Proper Correction:

The use of soft contact lenses is an excellent choice for motocross racers. However, if temperatures are high or too much heat builds up in the helmet, this may cause drying of the lenses. A good contact lens rewetting/lubricating drop is critical.

B.  Novice Riders:

This can be a problem in any aspect of Motocross.  For sports vision, it requires good pursuit and saccadic eye movements to keep the novice in sight whenever he is nearby.  Use vision therapy to improve these skills.

C.  Presbyopia:

Generally not an issue as competitive motocross riders are young and near visual demand is low. Multifocal or bifocal correction may adversely impact spatial perception, particularly in motion.

D.  Fogging Of Goggles:

Anti-fog solution may be applied to goggles if fogging is an issue.

E.  Eye Fatigue Due To Sun Glare:

Tinted goggle lenses are available. 

F.  Poor Visibility Due To Haze Or Light Rain Conditions:

Special tinted goggle lenses may be utilized to block out short wavelength light.

G.  Ocular Foreign Bodies And Perspiration:

Motocross riders should always wear protective goggles. Only in extreme conditions may they ride without them. If sweat getting into the eyes is an issue, the rider can use a sweatband or bandana.

Protective / Corrective Eyewear For Motocross

A helmet is required for motocross and Supercross and serves as a safety feature for the rider's head as well as their face and eyes.  Helmets are rated by the SNELL Foundation.  These ratings are updated every five years, and most forms of Motocross require that the riders use the most currently rated helmet.  The type of racing a rider does will often dictate the style of helmet he uses.  Riders of open wheel bikes, that is bikes without fenders, are always required to wear a full-face helmet with a face shield.  The full-face designation indicates that the helmet has a bottom collar on it which rests just above the shoulders. 

The first choice for corrective eyewear would be a soft contact lens of large diameter.  This would allow easy placement of a helmet and the large diameter would prevent displacement of the lenses from the eye during any jarring accidents.  If the rider is accustomed to wearing RGP lenses, then these would also be a suitable choice, although they may be less stable in an accident than soft contact lenses.

Spectacle correction is not a good choice for motocross racing, but some riders insist on wearing them rather than contact lenses.  If a rider does choose to wear spectacles, it is best to recommend a 3.0 mm polycarbonate lens.  This would be especially important if the rider does not use a face shield.  It is possible that a piece of debris could be kicked up into the rider's face and hit the spectacles.  If this is the choice the rider makes, then the frame must be flexible enough to withstand having a helmet pulled on over it or be able to be put on through the small opening of a full face helmet.

A better solution to the rider who will not or cannot wear contact lenses is to wear corrective goggles.  These will allow full correction and provide better protection than spectacles alone.  The goggles must be carefully chosen so as to not decrease any of the rider's peripheral vision or to provide distortion in the periphery.  Goggles can also be worn in combination with an open face helmet to replace the face shield.

Most Common Ocular Injuries Sustained In Motocross

  1. Ocular sequela to head trauma
  2. Foreign bodies
  3. Chemical burns
    1. Fuel
    2. Oil
    3. Battery Acid
    4. Coolant
    5. Cleaning Compounds
  4. Thermal Burns
  5. Lacerations

Ocular Supplies Which Should Be Contained In A Trainer's First-Aid Kit For Motocross

  1. Sterile Eyewash
  2. Sterile Cotton Swabs
  3. Penlight
  4. Sterile Eye Bandages
  5. Fox Shields
  6. Medical Adhesive Tape
  7. Ice Packs
  8. Butterfly Bandages
  9. Lubricating Drops
  10. DMV
  11. Saline
  12. Replacement contact lenses

Extra Information About Motocross And How To Make Contacts

It is possible to attend bike club meetings in your area.  The largest national organization of amateur racers is the American Motorcycle Association (AMA).  It is headquartered in Ohio, with many local regions throughout the country.  This club is open to anyone who would like to join.  All that needs to be done is to make contact with the local region and fill out an application.  The annual membership fees range around $50.00; it varies slightly from region to region.  The AMA sanctions many different types of racing.  It would be helpful to become familiar with all of them.  The national office of AMA will be able to supply you with information on all the different forms of racing, as well as the club's history, and the names of the local AMA region officers.

It is also possible that the local regions would like you to make a presentation at one of their monthly meetings.  This can be arranged by contacting the region officers.  Since this is a non-profit organization, it is most likely that they will not pay you for your presentation, but you may realize new patients from this contact.  These regions usually have a monthly newsletter in which you can advertise.

The address and phone number of the AMA is:

American Motorcycle Association
Phone:  (303) 694-7223
FAX: (303) 694-7391

The AMA is probably the easiest way to get involved in any aspect of Motocross.

Bibliography And Web Resources

  1. Racer X  Illustrated
  2. Motocross Action Magazine  
  3. Dirt Bike Magazine 
  4. TransWorld Motocross Magazine
  5. American Motorcycle Association