#1 THE RISE & FALL OF MOTOCROSS IN AMERICA
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
THE RISE & FALL OF MOTOCROSS IN AMERICA
By The mid 70’s I think it's safe to say Motocross was a mainstream sport.
Motocross was originally called scrambles, and can be traced back to the early 1900’s in Europe, but when it really took off in America was in the late 1960's to 1970s after being introduced to America bye Edison Dye, He is solely responsible for bringing motocross to America (some argue this but he definitely made it popular at the very least) He Started Importing Husqvarna’s to the USA in 1966, He then brought Torsten Hallman, Arne Kring, Joel Robert, Roger Decoster, Dave Bickers, Lars Larsson And Ake Johnson to America to showcase the sport. It was a big hit immediately, he started out with 10’000 Husqvarna’s per year and sold Them all.
Then there was a combination of things happening in the early seventies that really helped the sport blow up.
1971 The Movie ON ANY SUNDAY Came out in movie theaters.
1971 the AMA Had the first professional motocross race at a temporary track at Daytona international speedway,
1972 came a national series and an indoor Supercross series (Mike Goodwin is the father of Supercross)
they introduced Honda xr75 in 1973.
Mini Dirt bikes where a huge hit a couple earlier models the Honda Z50 and Honda CT70 And Indian Motorcycle had some mini dirt bikes also Harley Davidson Released some as well in 1974.
Many of the 1970’s Mx’ers got their start on a Honda XR75.
Most People Credit the movie On Any Sunday with having a Huge impact on helping the sport grow nationwide. The movie played in theaters on the big screen, and it was a big hit, Starring Malcolm Smith, Merti Lavall and Steve McQueen. McQueen was already very famous And brought a lot of star power to the movie.
(The film by Bruce Brown was nominated for an Academy Award in 1971)
Motocross and supercross also started getting media coverage and some professional races Started to be televised on things Like the ABC wide world of sports. There were a lot less rules on where you could and couldn't ride back in the 70’S so kids made tracks in vacant fields and pretty much anywhere else they could think of, most of the time trespassing but people didn't seem to mind as much at the time.
They were selling so many mini dirt bikes even Harley Davidson and Indian motorcycle Started making them.
Jeff Ward Pictured Would grow up to be a Top pro rider and a Multi time Champion.
Motocross got so popular that if you asked a school-age boy in America if he had ever tried riding dirt bike it would be more likely that they had than hadn't. They even had high school motocross leagues in some states. Motocross just exploded it was everywhere Back then it was seen as something everyone could do, people saw it and thought I could do this, it looks fun, not that looks dangerous. and It really was less extreme the bikes were a lot slower than they are now. The mini MX bikes were mostly little mellow four strokes and even the two strokes were air cooled and didn't have as much horsepower as modern bikes have now. The bikes of the 70’s also had much less suspension travel and that also kept the speeds lower and the jumps smaller, but they still had a blast riding them and racing against each other
The bikes kept evolving and getting faster people often say the late 70’s and early 80’s YZ80’s where a game changer Getting single rear shock and in 1982 becoming liquid cooled,
The 80cc bikes were evolving fast in the 80’s and by the late 80’s they were rocket ships (fast)
By the 1980’s they were selling as many as 1 million dirt bikes per year in the USA And right by the late 70s early 80s 100cc and 125cc classes where super popular These bikes were the perfect size for kids moving up from mini bikes
125cc motocross racing would remain popular all through the 80’s and 90’s
Also in the summer of 1980 The Yamaha PW50 was released, They were an instant hit and the perfect starter motorcycle for kids 8yrs old and under, they are affordable reliable easy to ride, and are still made to this day, and almost every single current top pro rider started out Riding a Yamaha PW50.
The Sport became very Lucrative ,and Not only manufactures and The pro riders, but people Made Crazy amounts of money making Safety gear goggles boots, and aftermarket parts for the bikes.
And I found it very interesting to learn that back in the 70's and 80’s they paid prize money even in local amatuer races not just trophies, it was so popular in California that there where different clubs and tracks having events all throughout the week, now days most local races are on Sundays but back than in California a Fast kid wanting to win some money could race in different places on Saturday, Sunday Tuesday Thursday, Friday, Some during the day And some at night under the bright lights at lit up tracks