What is Supermoto?
It began back in the late 1970s when someone wondered who the best all-around motorcycle racer was and from which racing discipline. Would it be a road racer, a motocrosser, an off-road racer or perhaps a flat-track pilot?
From that was born the notion of a new type of motorcycle race. It was first called Superbikers and it blended on-and off-road racing by featuring a track comprised of both pavement and dirt. Motocross bikes proved to be the best choice for this new form of racing, and with minimal modifications, a racer could easily build a competitive machine.
The discipline prospered in the United States for a while and then disappeared, perhaps due to the trend towards specialization. It found a home in Europe and grew modestly. Stateside, local clubs began to emerge as interest returned.
In 2003, supermoto returned to where it all started in the form of a new national series called the AMA Supermoto Championship, created and sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing.
Supermoto in the United States continued its growth with its inclusion in the ESPN Summer X Games, starting in 2006, as one of the major action sports disciplines during this multi-day, world-class event. And riders from all around the world raced the AMA series and in the X Games.
As was true during the Superbikers days, a motocross-based bike is the weapon of choice for the AMA Pro Racing brand of supermoto. Only a few motorcycle manufacturers, KTM being the largest, produce a “supermoto” style machine, so teams and riders are forced to work with one of the many motocross-based bikes as a platform. Key changes are needed to these machines for them to be able to handle the diversity of supermoto racing.
A four-stroke, single-cylinder motocross bike is the choice of many riders, with either 250cc or 450cc displacement the most common.
A purpose-built supermoto racing bike has to be able to handle high speeds on paved sections of the track, as well as negotiate large dirt jumps and steel ramps. To handle this range of terrain, a motocross bike’s knobby tires are exchanged for smooth, grippy “slicks”. Seventeen-inch spoked or magnesium wheels go on the front and rear, coupled with a large diameter front brake better able to handle the higher speeds of supermoto. Suspension parts are reworked, a slipper clutch is added, and the entire machine is built to be closer to the ground for better handling.
The typical series consists of both amateur and professional classes. Most pro classes have unlimited displacement.
With motocross-based machines the real weapon of choice in supermoto, it shouldn’t be all that surprising to learn that motocross racers have so far proven to be the most suited to the new discipline.
Riders who have an extensive motocross background have been leading the pack so far. Some riders with a dirt track racing background have also been somewhat successful. As the discipline matures and grows, expect supermoto racing specialists to rise to the top.
What makes supermoto unique is the race course that the discipline utilizes, often referred to as a “race-in-a-box.” It’s a combination of dirt sections, jumps (can be either dirt and steel ramps), and long high-speed straightaways and corners. The course requires a rider to master all types of track surfaces, something that is a rarity in today’s specialized motorcycle racing.
What makes supermoto unique is the location of the events. Supermoto tracks are built to suit the environment that the race is to be held. Supermoto races have been held in downtown settings, including in downtown West Branch, Michigan promoted by MISuperMoto, traditional oval car racing facilities, and utilizing NFL football stadiums. Sometimes the tracks are more pavement, sometimes they’re more dirt.
Backing-it-in: When a supermoto rider slides the back end out two-feet into a turn almost completely sideways to shave off speed.
Dirt Track: The original form of motorcycle racing, referring to an all-dirt oval course where riders slide around the corners. Also known as “flat track.”
Displacement: The space covered or volume swept out by the engine piston at each stroke.
Disqualification: Unless otherwise specified, the forfeiture of all points, awards and prizes earned during a particular race.
Dickhead: The guy who’s head is a dick.
Factory support: Refers to a motorcycle manufacturer providing product, cash, and/or other support to specific riders and teams.
Flaggers: Workers stationed at various points around the track to advise riders of track conditions by using different color flags. Also known as “corner workers.”
Heat Race: A qualifying race determining which riders advance to the main event.
High-side: A crash where the rider goes over the top of the bike, as opposed to laying it down, or a “low-side.”
Hole Shot: Taking the lead into the first turn of a race.
LCQ: Last Chance Qualifying race: where a limited number of top finishers advance to the main event.
Line: The fastest way around the track, or through a particular part of the track. Can vary with changing course conditions.
Moto: Typically used short for “motorcycle” or often used to refer to “motocross.”
OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer.
Pit /Paddock: Area primarily designated for the preparation and maintenance of race equipment. May also include parking for transporters and other support vehicles.
Pit crew: Mechanics and/or team assistants.
Pole: The racer who had the fastest lap time in the heat races.
Privateer: A racer competing without benefit of a factory contract or major sponsor support.
Program: The predetermined outline of events that make up a race.
Qualify: To advance to the final race event by time trial or finish position in a heat race.
Seize: When an engine fails due to excessive heat buildup.
Slicks: The tires that riders use which can stick to the asphalt, allow for a sharp lean angle, and have no tread.
Stoppie: Riding on the front wheel only, usually under hard braking.
Supermoto: Created with the mixture of having a super-series utilizing a long pavement section and a motocross, dirt-orientated section, typically a 70/30 split. The original term was Superbikers and the European version is SuperMotard.
Tabletop: A long flat jump that, depending on the rider and length of jump, can be cleared or can be jumped onto and off of.
Thumper: Descriptive term for a four-stroke motorcycle engine in regard to the deep sound of the exhaust.
Tire Warmers: Wraps that go around the tires to warm them before use in order for the tires to stick to the pavement, providing more traction.
UrbanCross: Steel jumps of various sizes placed on the asphalt portion of the course.
Wheelie: Riding on the rear wheel only, usually under hard acceleration.
Whoops: A series of small knee-high or hip-high jumps that riders skim over the top.
Works: Refers to parts being tested in competition by a manufacturer.
Wrench: Slang for mechanic.