Motorcycle racing has been a fascinating sport for many over the last century. The first known motor rally took place in 1895. And that is seven years after Daimler and Maybach invented the first motorcycle. After the formation of FIM in 1904, motorcycle racing finally became an acknowledged global sporting event.
Today motorcycle racing has come a long way from its initial days. With technological advancements, different manufacturers have aimed to push the limits of human abilities through this sport.
The end goal of motorcycle racing to this day remains the same. However, different iterations have made racing innovative, exciting, and challenging over the years. With the tremendous fan following, these events are only going to grow in the coming days.
Here, we have highlighted 12 types of motorcycle sports that are organized globally. Read along to find out more about the different types of bike racing.
Types of Motorcycle Racing
1. Motorcycle Grand Prix
This is the most popular motorcycle racing sport in the present world and falls under the road racing category. There are four different sub-divisions of the Motorcycle Grand Prix. They are:
Moto GP is the highest class of Grand Prix motorcycle race and the most popular form of road racing. With a series of eighteen races run in fourteen countries across four continents, this is one of the most highlighted sports bike races in the world.
It features riders from ten different nations and prototype machines designed by Suzuki, Yamaha, Ducati, Aprilia, Honda, and other brands. It originally started with large displacement four-stroke engines in the early years. But it has shifted to 4 strokes 1000cc engine from 2012.
The Moto GP qualification starts with three 45 minute practice sessions held on regular race weekends on Friday morning, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning. The time records set in those sessions decide the participation in Q1 or Q2.
The top 10 fastest riders from the free practice sessions are put in Q2, whereas the bottom 12 are put in Q1. The qualifiers are 15-minute race sessions where the lap time determines the starting position in the race. The top two fastest riders from Q1 get a chance to qualify for Q2. Q2 riders are placed above Q1 riders in the grid formation during the race.
The MotoGP point is distributed from the 1st to the 15th rider. Anyone finishing 16th or above does not get any point for the race. The highest individual point for each race is 25.
The Moto2 category was introduced in 2012 to replace the 250cc category. The machines contest in this category are powered by a 600cc 4- stroke engine. A rider has to be at least 16 to compete in Moto2. Moto2 is contested on race day just before MotoGP.
It was introduced in 2012 to replace the 125cc category. This category uses 250cc 4 strokes single-cylinder engines for racing. The minimum age to compete in Moto3 is 16 years, and the maximum age limit goes up to 28.
As understood from its name, this category features all-electric motorcycles. Energica Motor Company provides motorcycles for this series. MotoE is composed of seven rounds held at six different European circuits like Le Mans, Assen, Jerez, Barcelona, Spielberg, and Misano. Each race consists of seven laps.
- Three 45-minutes practice sessions
- Two Qualifying practices
- Race length of 95-130km
- Lasts between 40- 45 minutes
- Differing number of laps according to each track
- Championship awarded to the most successful rider of the season based on GP championship points
- Eighteen races across fourteen countries in one season
2. SuperbikeWorld Championship
Superbike World Championship also falls under the road racing category. But it’s less popular than MotoGP. Modified production sports bike races are featured in this category. Superbike World Championship was introduced in 1988.
Unlike MotoGP, the races in Superbike World Championship features standard production models like Ducati 1198, BMW S1000RR, Yamaha FZR750, etc. 22 riders from 11 different nations participate in the Superbike World Championship.
All modifications except for chassis and looks are allowed. The engine capacity of motorcycle racing bikes of this category must be between 850cc and 1250cc for V- twin 4 stroke engines. For a 4-cylinder 4 stroke engine, it should be between 750cc and 1000cc. Superbike World Championship became a professional competition after it was incorporated into the FIM schedule.
There are two qualifying rounds in this category. The first one is a 60-minutes practice session on Friday, which is followed by a 60-minute qualifying session. The second qualifying session is on Saturday morning, followed by another free practice session.
The combined finish time in both sessions is calculated. The first sixteen riders compete for their position in the grid for the final race in ‘Superpole.’ The rest of the riders are placed according to their finish times in the qualifying sessions. The main race is held on Sunday.
- The main race length is 90-110 km
- Race duration is 40-45 minutes.
- Two races in each round
- 13 rounds in total
- Points are distributed in the same manner as MotoGP
3. Supersport Racing
Supersport racing is the compact and stricter version of the Superbike World Championship. In 1990, this category was introduced to the Superbike World Championship as a support class. Tighter regulations indicate standard chassis, homologated size displacement capacity, bore, and stroke.
Slick tires are allowed in supersport. The technical specifications of bikes in this category are four-cylinder engines between 250cc and 600cc and 750cc for twin cylinders.
There are 3 practice sessions in total. Two on Friday and one on Saturday morning. The top 10 contest each other for grid positions on Saturday afternoon at the Tissot Superpole. The result determines the grid order for the main race on Sunday, and the places 11 and above take their positions according to their finish times in the three practice sessions combined.
Points are distributed according to the Grand Prix events scale from 1st place to 15th. The winner gets 25 points, and the 15th place finisher gets 1 point respectively.
- 3 practice sessions to qualify
- 1 Tissot Superpole
- The main race length is 90- 110 km
- Race duration is between 40-45 mins
- 13 rounds in total
- Maximum fuel tank capacity 18 liters
4. Endurance Racing
Endurance racing was introduced to test the endurance of participants and the durability of machines contested in the race. The Endurance World Championship is the premier championship for this class. It consists of a series of endurance races with a duration of six, eight, twelve, or twenty-four hours.
It used to be arranged on a yearly basis but later on changed to a European race schedule. The races are now held in the summer and spring of each calendar year. Multiple driver teams compete to cover a huge distance in a single race, with riders getting a chance to change during the race. Usually, a preset amount of time is given to cover as much distance as possible.
Technical specifications for this class are:
- 4-cylinder engines between 600cc and 1000cc (4-stroke)
- 3-cylinder engines between 750cc and 1000cc (4-stroke)
- 3-cylinder engines between 850cc and 1200cc (4-stroke)
Similar to Supersports racing, this class doesn’t allow modifying the bore and stroke to reach the class limit. It also doesn’t allow any form of modification on the displacement value.
- Different point systems for each of the three categories.
- The top 5 teams on starting grid places receive bonus points
- Manufacturers are Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, BMW, Yamaha
Supercross is an indoor racing event of Motocross. Motocross is one of the most popular motorcycle racing events in North America. This form of motorcycle racing is held in a variety of stadiums and open or closed arenas. Supercross is held from January through May in open stadiums. The dirt events take place in closed dome stadiums.
What’s interesting about this sport is that it contains exciting obstacles like jumps, turns, and bumps. This category consists of two division racing – the 450SX Class and 250SX Class. Primary manufacturers for this category are Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda. Most bikes are of 4 stroke engines with either 450cc to 250cc displacement.
The main event of each class is held at night. During the practice sessions held in the afternoon, 40 top riders in each class make it to the two heat races at night. Heat race is the qualifier event, and riders from there are seeded to the main event.
Riders who don’t qualify in Heat Race go to the Semi-Final race, and those who don’t qualify in the semi-final are given another chance in the Last Chance Qualifier. In the 250SX Class, riders contest in the Heat Race and the Last Chance Qualifier to get seeded to the main event at night.
- Practice sessions followed by Heat Races, Semi-Final, and Last Chance Qualifier
- The winner gets a total of 26 points, and the last one gets 1 point.
- Held in a stadium or arena with dirt.
Imagine a crossover between Motocross and road racing, and that’s Supermoto for you. Supermoto uses road racing tires and motocross bikes for the event. What’s interesting is the tracks contain both tarmac and dirt courses and are held on urban locations or closed circuits. There are World and European Championships for this category.
There are a few classes in this category, including Open, Lites, National Amateur, Sportsman MX, and Kids. Manufacturers for this category are KTM, Husqvarna, Suzuki, Ducati, Yamaha, Honda, and Aprilia. The minimum age for amateur riders is 12 years, but a rider must be 14 or older to ride a 201cc to 250cc motorcycle.
There are 2 free practices of 20 minutes each with a maximum of 32 riders. Additionally, there is another one-off practice session of 25 minutes.
- Top 6 riders from the one-off practice session make it to Superpole, where each rider gets 2 laps to determine the grid order
- The superfinal event race determines the point order in the race
- Points are distributed from 1st to 20th position with the winner getting 25 points.
7. Motorcycle Speedway
Motorcycle Speedway is a closed-circuit rally event held on an oval track without any brakes. This form of professional motorcycle racing is also simply known as a speedway. Apart from dirt, the track might also contain loosely packed shale and crushed rocks. This race category is more popular in Central and Northern Europe and is administered by FIM.
Bikes in this category must contain a four-stroke, single-cylinder engine with one carburetor and one spark plug. A maximum displacement capacity of 500cc is allowed. And obviously, no brakes at all. Speedway motorcycles can accelerate from 0-60mph faster than a Formula 1 car.
Riders here are divided into two types of teams – home team and away team. The home team wears blue and red helmets, whereas the away team wears white and yellow/ black.
Heat races are conducted where four riders (two from the home team and two from the away team) contest over 4 laps from a standing start. The champion team is announced according to Calculated Match Averages for every rider. CMA scale ranges from 3 to 12.
- The first, second and third position gets three, two and 1 point respectively.
- Points of 2 riders are added together for a cumulative heat score.
- Motorcycles with no brakes and a single gear
- Heat scores are added progressively to decide the final score.
8. Indoor Short Track and TT Racing
This is another form of track racing, but here the track is different from that of speedways. The track here consists of a polished concrete floor with coke syrup. Other variations include loose or hard-packed dirt tracks.
In the US, short track and TT racing are held mostly outdoors. Short track races are usually less than ½ mile, while TT races can be of any length with at least one right turn and one jump to qualify.
Are you wondering what TT means? Tourist Trophy races are one of the most demanding ones in the European motorcycle races. Isle of Man TT is known for its dangerous track of 37.7 miles starting from the mountain with over 200 bends. It also has a high fatality record.
- Riders are placed according to finish times on the track
- Similar to speedway track racing
- Known for its high fatalities
9. Enduro Racing
Enduro racing is the first off-road endurance testing motorcycle race which consists of over a 10-mile long lap. The riders have to ride through tough forest terrains as most of the track is set off-road. Enduro races typically last for about 3 to 4 hours. Sometimes events take place for over several days. Small rows of contestants are flagged off in one-minute intervals, and scores are collected from the checkpoints along the way.
Two types of enduro racing are currently dominant. They are the traditional enduro and start-control enduro racing. While start-control penalizes riders for arriving late to checkpoints, traditional enduro penalizes them for arriving early or late.
To minimize penalties, riders need to arrive at the exact moment. There is a World Enduro Championship that is run in countries across Europe with a few excursions to North America. Bike manufacturers in enduro racing include AJP, Kawasaki, KTM, Montesa, MZ, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc.
- Off-track motorcycle racing
- Two types of an endurance test
- One of the longest timed races
- Infamous for its fatalities
10. Cross-country Rally
You may be able to relate this one with the popular Dakar Rally. It is a form of long-distance off-road racing that runs for several days. The timeline ranges from 2-3 days to as long as 15 days. Apart from individual endurance, navigation, machine, and co-driver endurance are a big factor here.
The distance ranges anywhere between 600km to over 5000km. We are talking forest roads, mountain roads, dry river beds, sandy dunes, and many more exciting terrains.
There are 3 classes in this category. They are RallyGP, Rally2, and Rally3. The rules and regulations of the cross-country rally are similar to other grand Prix motorcycle races. Similar to the Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the RallyGP here is the flagship race of the event.
There is a World Championship for RallyGP every year. All of these classes allow motorcycles of a maximum displacement capacity of 450cc. A cross-country rally has 4 to 6 timed stages with a scoring coefficient of 1. A marathon cross-country contains more than 6 timed stages with a scoring coefficient of 1.5.
- Second most popular racing form after road racing
- The points are provided from the first through to 15th position in the race
- Final classification established on a rider’s best four finishes with at least one marathon rally
11. Ice Speedway
Think of a motorcycle speedway race but on ice. This category is a developed form of the speedway with an enhanced bike suitable for the icy terrain. Bikes contesting here have a longer wheelbase and a more rigid frame. Like motorcycle speedways, bikes here have no brakes as well.
Bike specs further change according to full-rubber and studded tire classes. The studded tire category requires bikes with spikes up to 3 centimeters in length, all screwed into a treadless tire.
Technical specifications of bikes are similar to those of motorcycle speedways. Due to the traction created by the spikes, a two-speed gearbox is also required. World Championship is run in Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany, etc.
- The winner gets three points. The second and third-place finishers get two and one points respectively
- Points of 2 riders are added together for cumulative heat score
- Motorcycles with no brakes and single gear
- Heat scores are added progressively to find out the final score
12. Auto Race
All the races mentioned above are administered by FIM, whereas JKA Foundation regulates the Auto race. This is a Japanese version of flat track motorcycle racing, which is run throughout Asia. This race goes on for six laps involving eight riders. Motorcycle speedway is considered as the origin of an auto race.
However, motorcycles here have brakes, and riders lean round the corners more similar to road racing. Technical specifications for a bike to qualify in this race are fixed at a displacement capacity of 599cc and a two-speed gearbox.
Auto Race is also famous for gambling. Riders are refrained from all sorts of external contacts to prevent race-fixing.
Riders have to pass a qualifying examination as well as the race before becoming competitive riders. The grid position is determined through qualifying races.
- Independent feature races outside of the FIM
- 599cc and 2-speed gearbox requirements
- Flat track with high-speed corners
In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are other less common motorcycle races. These are often held on a local level without direct supervision from the FIM.
This is a moto class of automobile drag races where two participants line up and contest down a quarter-mile track. Usually, a paved track is selected for this purpose.
- Elapsed time and terminal speed are collected
- Nitrous Oxide using motorcycles also compete in this category
As the name says, this race is all about reaching the hilltop before anyone else. Another format is reaching the bottom of the hill from the top.
- Held on closed public roads
- Follows a rough mountain terrain
There you have it, 12 types of bike racing ranked according to their popularity in the current world. Although many formats have developed throughout decades, Grand Prix events are still the most prestigious, and its contestants are awarded the highest fame and prize money.
Though others might be comparatively less popular, they still have their dedicated fanbase. Which one is your favorite?