Class A. Class B. Class C. And sometimes D.

The initiated already know the Motocross classes. Besides why else would you know how to sandbag?

For those just getting into Motocross racing, knowing what class to enter is crucial to not only personal enjoyment of the sport and a desire to continue racing but also prevents race officials from pulling you aside after the checkers and telling you to get your act together.

First off, when you check out a Motocross series you'll see a plethora of classes which look something like this:

  • 250 B
  • 51 (4-6)
  • 85 (9-11)
  • Vet B/C
  • Super Mini 1 (12-13)
  • Schoolboy 1 (12-16) B/C
  • And so on...

These categories are extensive, sometimes vary depending on the race series, and on first glance look pretty confusing. Each year, the Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Motocross hosts nearly 40 classes of racing. Schoolboy? It's actually not that hard to understand but you better know before you go.

Engine Size and Age

In the above example, the 250, 51 and 85 refer to the dirt bike's engine size. Generally, if you're riding a 51cc engine then you're not going to enter an 85cc engine race. But they just can't keep it simple because sometimes a 250 2-stroke races in the 450 class and not the 250 class. What's more, some 250 guys race in the 450 class because they either don't own the bigger machine or maybe just more comfortable on the smaller engine. When all else fails - ask the race promoter what's accepted and what's not.

The number in parenthesis, (4-6) refers to age. So 51 (4-6) is for 4 to 6 year-olds riding a 51cc engine. Therefore, the 85 (9-11) refers to 9 to 11 year-olds riding an 85cc bike. And that Schoolboy designation? That's just referring to riders aged 12 to 16. The Mini Os, held during Thanksgiving week in Florida, offers a "College" class for those aged 16 to 24. In these classes the engine size is typically considered "open" meaning any size but race promoters often identify a set range.

Looking at Loretta Lynn's you'll see Junior 25+, Vet 35+ and Senior 45+. This also refers to age. So, Vet 35+ is for veteran riders 35 years and older. Some race series include additional Vet classes like the Vet 30+. So anyone who qualifies for the Vet 35+ class can also ride in the Vet 30+ class but if you're 32 years old you can't ride in the Vet 35+ class. The Vet class is also sometimes referred to as OTH or Over the Hill.

It's worth noting that some of these detailed classes include the word "limited." So for example, 85 (12-13) and 85 (12-13) Limited are two separate classes. The "Limited" specifies a dirt bike right off the showroom floor without any modifications or upgrades. You may also see this listed as "Stock." Furthermore, lots of series include the "Super Mini" class. This does not refer to pit bikes but rather dirt bikes with modified engines like an 85cc engine converted to a 112cc and using larger wheels.

The bottom line is it's pretty hard to screw up registering for the wrong class once you've figured out the age particulars like, for example, 65 (7-9) or Masters 50+. If you're 51 years old you'll ride in the Masters 50+ class but NOT in the 65cc for children aged 7 to 9. However, it is pretty easy to enter a class you qualify for by age but have no business competing in.

You see, not everyone starts riding at age 4, in fact many get into the sport as adults because of their kids or finances allow it later in life. Therefore, a fresh-on-the-bike 35 year old should not join the Vet 35+ class. The Vet B/C 30+ is probably the appropriate class for you. The B/C designation is the clue to entering the right class.

Class A, Class B, Class C - What's it all Mean?

Of the 36 classes at Loretta Lynn's, three of them include 250 A, 250 B and 250 C. You'll also see this used at local and regional race competitions, which if you're new to the sport, can add more confusion to an already puzzling amount of different classes.

So, what class do I enter?

The number of course refers to engine size. The letter, quite simply, refers to how good you are. The Class A rider is better than a Class B who is better than a Class C rider.

Knowing is half the battle and if you've just started riding a dirt bike DO NOT register for Class A or even Class B. Some series offer Class D which is a beginner class therefore if you are new to the bike then stick with Class C if Class D or "Beginner" class is not an option. You'll lag behind but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. Besides, racing with faster riders only makes you better.

In short, A or sometimes AA is also known as PRO or PRO/AM or Pro Sport. Class B is considered Intermediate; C is Junior; and D, if posted, is Beginner. So, in the above example of the Vet B/C 30+, that class combines 30 year old plus riders considered intermediate and beginner.

A word of caution: If you're a rider that enjoys the great outdoors a couple of times a year and can whip through the woods pretty good you might think "I bet I can step on the podium in next week's local Motocross race." Well, you couldn't be further from the truth. It's likely that you'd hold up the rear in a D class.

Definitely Class D riders

The Difference between Class A, Class B and Class C Motocross Riders

Class C racers typically ride well and know their way around the bike. They generally can rip it or blaze through the whoops, they didn't just start riding yesterday but for the most part they are developing experience or just race as a hobby. To the novice spectator, they look pretty good until the Class B riders take the track.

Class B riders look fast, ride fast and can hold their own on a track. The competition at this level is several notches above Class C and these guys have the experience and the gumption to bang bars and launch off a jump. Class B riders look like pros until the Class A riders take the track.

Class A riders make everyone else at the track look like a novice. These riders come in a step or two below the pro ranks, if not pro already, and at this level the rider is passionate and serious about taking their skills to the highest level. Obstacles are no match for the Class A and the way they fly into and out of turns gives those in the lower classes a reason to practice more.

The Class A rider is the best rider at your local track.

Now here's the thing, not all Class C riders are Class C riders and the same goes with Class B and Class A. Some Class B riders looking for a confidence boost or some mantel hardware enter Class C races and it shows. You also find Class C riders clearly ready for Class B who stick around either because they like winning or just afraid of the faster and stronger competition. This is called sandbagging. You will experience this at some point and you'll know how bad it sucks so hopefully you won't do it once you've moved through the ranks.

Conversely, a Class B rider thinking they're ready for the big time enter a Class A race and look like a beginner. You'll know it's time to move up when you constantly win at the top of your class and dominate everyone during the race. If you're serious about Motocross you'll want a new challenge, anyway.

Fortunately, many racing series have anti-sandbagging rules that prevent the Class B rider from competing in Class C for the win. After posting consistent results at the top of your class you might not have a choice as well-run racing series bump you up a class the following season.

In fact, if you race American Motorcycling Association sanctioned series, the AMA could automatically graduate you and thus eliminate any chance of future sandbagging. This should be taken as an accomplishment in your racing career, but if by chance you feel uneasy about moving on, appeal to your local racing promoter.

Additional Motocross Class Designations

There are variations on all of these classes depending on the race entered and even the section of the country. As noted above, some Class A riders are considered pro and it may even be a designated Class A/Pro class. Some series rank Class C as straight-up novice.

As an example, Thursday Night Motocross in Portland, OR doesn't use the alphabet class system. That series uses Pro, Intermediate, Junior and Beginner which is the same as A, B, C and D. Additionally, each class offers a range of engine sizes and sometimes additional rules. The 250 class is open to 125cc through 250cc bikes but requires full size tires.

A Thursday Night Motocross 2-stroke class

Anyone aged 12 and older can race in the 250 class but if you're that 35 year old just starting out, you'll get smoked by the 13 year old "Beginner." Enter "Over the Hill" which is for those aged 30 and old and start there as a "Beginner." Keep in mind those eligible for the 35 Vet class are not exempt from the regular A, B, C or D classes so the older riders who've been at it for a long time often tests their skills against the younger riders proving their mettle in the straight-up A, B, C, and D class.

Once you've graduated from local racing series and entered the amateur ranks (think Loretta Lynn's) you'll be subjected once again to the Class A, B, and C designation but by now in your career, riding days consist of working your way to the pros, you race just about every weekend and you won't need to ask where you belong because success pushes you where you need to go.

The information provided above is intended to give you some help to prevent an embarrassing day at the race so use it as a general guideline and do some homework since every racing series governs different class rules and variations. Ask around, visit the track and definitely watch others ride to see how you might measure up.

For more information see the AMA's Racing Rulebook.