What to Consider When Setting Up A Motocross or Supercross Track
How to Build A Motocross or Supercross Track
How To Choose The Site For A Motocross or Supercross Track
Sounds basic right? Well it is and it isn't. Here's a couple things to keep in mind that will make things a lot easier as you get further along.
- Size does matter so it's important to ensure you have enough space.
To begin with, you need a minimum length of approximately 400' if you want room to string a series of obstacles together, or to get a dirt bike out of second gear.
- Width is more important yet. You're going to need 220' minimum width if you want 5 lanes and a start area or 6 lanes of track. That's about the same dimensions as a football shaped stadium, which probably seems too wide for a practice track since most people don't want or need a full width starting area.
- Remember, a motocross track or a practice supercross track resides outside in the weather and elements, so you want it to last more than a few days. That means you have got to be able to work on it occasionally and it has to drain. You can't put lanes right up against each other like most supercross tracks you may have seen in the past. You've got to leave room to get a tractor or a water truck in between the lanes, and you have to leave room for water to run off in between the lanes after a rain.
The guideline that DIRT WURX uses for a professional motocross or supercross practice track is:
A 20' lane and a 20' space, a 20' lane, a 20' space, etc...
6 lanes and 5 spaces = 220' wide.
If the track is going to be fenced, add another 15' or so around the perimeter for a space before the fence.
A good minimum size is 250' x 400'
Second...Terrain is Good!
For most motocross or supercross practice tracks, you're always better off with a piece of property with a slope or some rolling hills on it. This is because the dirt you will be needing for building the jumps, whoops or bowls can be generated on the site by the leveling process as you get ready to build the track's layout.
Third... Got Dirt?
Buying and trucking dirt is extremely expensive and you don't want to do it if you don't have to. Additionally, you don't need to go all the way to perfectly level. A couple feet of fall left on the site will be unnoticeable to the eye, or while riding and will help you to make the finished track drain correctly after a rain. If you want a more natural terrain style track, the value of a piece of property with some elevation should become even more obvious.
If your only choice is flat terrain without the luxury of being able to generate the dirt on site, then you are going to have to live with a more supercross style of track as opposed to an outdoor style natural terrain motocross layout. Additionally, you have to think about location as compared to dirt source.
Where is the dirt coming from?
Be sure to plan your site around the realities of where the dirt is coming from. You'll need about 3,500 cu. yards for a nice full size course, and you're looking for a clay based material that will compact well to hold shape.
Lastly... Do Sweat the small stuff!
- Are you going to dig into a hillside or bank?
- Are you going to dig a pond?
- Are you going to buy the dirt and have it trucked in?
Think of the little stuff now and save big headaches later.
- Are you going to need any permits, etc to work, build or ride here?
- Any environmental concerns?
- What about noise?
- What about dust?
- Where are you going to get water from, and how are you going to water the track?
- Is parking, trees or rocks too close to the track lanes for safety?
- Is there shade or emergency access?
- Who's going to ride here and how do you keep others out?
- What about insurance? Liability? etc.
Designing The Course & Getting Started
Now that you know about how to find the right site to build a track... what you need to look for, and what you need to avoid. Now let's get into the actual track design, laying it out on your site and what equipment or other materials you'll need.
Supercross or Motocross?
That's your first decision, but it's an easy one based on what you want and what kind of terrain you've got to work with.
Got a flat pad... I guess you'll be looking at a Supercross style track. Got a piece of property that looks like Ward Robinson's farm in Unadilla New York? I guess you would have to go natural terrain motocross in that case.
What's your strengths and weaknesses on the bike? Need to practice jumping and rhythm? Like Supercross style riding? Planning to do an ArenaCross series, or try to go pro and ride in the stadiums? Level that pad and start designing jump sections!
Got no interest in Supercross or ArenaCross? Do you like high speed and elevation changes? Want a track that's fun for vets and beginners as well as the good guys? I'd say look for terrain and think motocross.
Let's do it!
Motocross is the heart and soul, the roots of our sport, yet the initial stages of building a track are vastly different depending which way you go.
Motocross started on completely natural terrain, and even today the best motocross tracks such as Unadilla, Thunder Valley or Washougal are more natural than man made but if you'd really like to go back in time, check out our page on the History of Motocross for more on where this sport has come from and been.
Supercross on the other hand is 100% man made. Supercross started off on a table napkin over dinner in an effort to recreate natural terrain in a stadium, but Supercross has now evolved to a point where there is absolutely nothing about it that is comparable to natural terrain motocross whatsoever. Supercross is purely an artificial creation of jumps and rhythm sections with a very uniform, measured look and feel and for these reasons, the DIRT WURX crew approaches Motocross and Supercross in a different way.
Motocross is best done without a static plan or blueprint. When designing a motocross track, it's better to feel out the terrain and work from your gut.
Supercross on the other hand cannot be done correctly or safely without a
real blueprint or scale drawing to work from. On a Supercross track, the distances and shapes, including the overall trueness of the track is what makes or breaks it.
How To Lay Out a Motocross Track
When you've got natural hills and terrain and you want to build a motocross track. DIRT WURX's advice is forget scale drawings, topographical maps, aerial photographs, GPS or whatever. Get out on the property and see what it has to offer. Fire up the dirt bikes & scout it out so you can get an idea of where you want the track to go.
To make the most of the property, look for natural terrain features you can use, hills you can cut and terrace to make step up or step down sections, off cambers, banks, ledges, g-out ditches, etc.
For an outdoor MX style track, try to imagine what can be done with the heavy equipment as far as enhancing what terrain is already there. Pushing up pre-jumps before hills, making cuts deeper and hills higher, carving in existing banks, etc. Look for the path of least resistance as far as trees and big rocks and other hard to move obstacles are concerned. Look for good dirt. Make it flow. Stay away from tight 180 degree turns and other features that feel unnatural.
Think of the really fun outdoor tracks you've ridden. They have big, flowing sweeping jumps and turns, lots of hills, big floaty jumps to air out with long down hills, rough, bumpy & loamy soil. That should be your goal when fleshing out a motocross track.
Machinery for Building a Motocross Track
Got the plan in your head? What do you need to make it happen? POWER! Pushing power. You're gonna' need a good sized dozer and not much else as far as heavy equipment goes. Most of the work you're gonna do on a natural terrain based motocross track is grading, shaping, and pushing of the dirt in about the place where you find it. You're not gonna' need to carry it anywhere.
You might also need a water truck, depending on the type of dirt you've got, and your ability to access the terrain. As for the actual type of dozer, within reason, bigger is better. The bigger machines have more power to move a lot of dirt and wider blades that let you make less cuts to get your track full width.
For this kind of work the DIRT WURX crew likes the John Deere 750H or the Caterpillar D-6H or D-7H. If you're gonna use a water truck stick to a 2000 gallon single axle truck, the larger tanks and double axle trucks are too heavy and not maneuverable enough for what you're doing.
How To Layout a Supercross Track
To do a Supercross track correctly, it's mandatory that you start with a scale drawing to work from. That means you make an accurate measurement of your site and then put it on paper by making an inch equal 30 ft. or any other workable scale. This way you know if your imagined track is going to fit, but don't forget about leaving room between the lanes.
To begin, lay out your basic footprint on the paper to scale. For a Supercross track, DIRT WURX advises to keep the footprint simple. Basically a number of parallel lanes with 180 degree bowl turns connecting them, maybe with a short cross lane at one end. Why? With Supercross, what you're really practicing and working on will be doing the various obstacles and stringing them together with good rhythm so you don't need a complex footprint. In fact, the more basic plan makes for the longest possible straight lanes on any given site and allows you to make better obstacle sections.
How to Build and Shape a SX Track
For a Supercross track, There are certain things you just gotta have. Supercross is about rhythm, so you need at least one lane of rhythm type jumps. Something simple like a series of 3 foot jumps a rider can double double or double through, or you can do a more complex series that includes 3 footers, backwards ski jumps, etc as this gives another way to do the lane.
On a Supercross track, you should also have a step on, step off section, like a 3 footer table top with a lip, a 3 foot combo, and a whoop section is also mandatory. You'll also need a good size step up or big table top. After that it's up to you and an honest evaluation of your or the intended rider's skills as to how radical you get with gap jumps, like full size doubles, triples and Ronny Mac quadruples.
Remember; In order to progress and improve your skills, you gotta ride... a lot... that means you gotta be able to do laps without being intimidated by the track or worse yet, wadding yourself up.
Anytime you're building the obstacles on a SX track, be honest with yourself, and remember it's just dirt. If you can build it to begin with, you can change it later making it more difficult as you get better.
Making The SX Track Take Shape
Got the drawing done? Wondering what you need to actually do it?
There is a little more required for SX than for MX. First, you'll need to transfer your drawing to the site, so you're gonna need a couple 300' measuring tapes and some stakes or flags to mark the jump peaks.
For SX or AX, you don't need a giant dozer like you would for an Outdoor Style Motocross Track because the dozer work on a Supercross track is finer finish work and is almost all on steep slopes or in tight quarters. DIRT WURX likes to use the John Deere 450, or 550, and the Caterpillar D-4. You will also need a bucket loader so you can get the dirt from your stockpile and place it where it needs to go for each jump or track feature. The John Deere 624 or 644 and the Caterpillar 938 or 950 are just the right size for this.
Unless you're lucky enough that your dirt is already moist. A water truck will be important because you'll need to compact everything pretty tight to keep the jump faces, bowls, and whoops from rutting and cupping out and you can't do that with dry powder.
Placing Stakes to Mark the Track Lanes and Jumps:
First, setup the track's lanes by placing stakes at either end of your pad at the right spacing for your lanes. Starting with the outermost lanes string the tapes lengthwise and put stakes in at the right distances for your jump peaks then get the loader, and start piling the dirt.
Building the Supercross Track
Just prior, Rich from DIRT WURX U.S.A. got you started with a design for a practice Supercross track and went over the equipment you would need and how to get the design from paper to the dirt. Now let's take a look at the particulars such as:
How to build the obstacles and what they look like.
Let's say you're caught up to the point where you have a plan you like and you have a lane marked out on the site. What's next?
Where to Start when building the SX Track
The best place to start is generally at the far end of a lane and work backwards building the jumps or obstacles in reverse order back down the lane. This way you're always working on the faces of the jumps, and you don't have to worry about getting stuck between two jumps where it's too tight to maneuver the equipment.
The exception to starting at one end is when there is a big obstacle like a table top or a step up jump in the middle of the lane. In that case you may decide to build that one first and work out in both directions.
The berms or 180 degree bowls that connect the lanes are the last thing built for the same reason, to allow you to work on the last jumps in the lanes without backing into something with the machines.
On Building Supercross Jumps...
Okay, now you're ready to build the first jump. Let's say it's a 3 footer at the end of the lane. Get the loader, dig into your stockpile and get a nice, even, full bucket. Ride over to the lane you're working on and line yourself up so you're riding down the lane straight. Gradually turn in so you are straddling the stakes on one side of the lane, (be careful not to knock over the stakes for the other jumps) and dump your first bucket on the stake on one side of the first jump, about half and half outside the stake and inside.
Why? Because the stake marks the top of the jump and the width of the lane, and you want the jumps to be the same width as the rest of the lane. If you put the dirt inside the stakes, the jump would be narrower than the lane when finished. Get another bucket and do the same on the other side of the same jump, covering the other stake. Third bucket goes in the middle to fill in the center. Then put a couple more on each side, and another pile in the center to fill it up again.
Try to get nice level buckets of about the same amount of dirt so when you get done piling the jump up, it is as close as possible to the finished shape. This will save a bunch of work when you get on the dozer to straighten things out.
Pile it up higher than what the plan says because it's gonna smash down when you get on it with the dozer.
Dirt spills naturally at about a 1.5:1 angle, and that's about right for a 3 footer.
Shaping the Dirt to Create a Professional Shaped Jump
Once you get the dirt piled, get the bulldozer and finish the shape. Usually it's best to just walk all the way across the jump with the tracks of the machine first. This will firm the base up and give you an idea of how far off your piling job is. Then when that's done, you can put the blade up and over and get the top of the jump leveled out. Next, fix the face to make it uniform all the way across, with no waves or swells. Back drag out your track marks and you are done with the dozer work on jump number one.
The last optional step depends on what you want your track surface to be like. If you want a looser, more tacky, surface that provides good traction but will require more periodic maintenance, you're done right now. If you want hard pack, and consistent, low maintenance, but maybe not quite as rider friendly on the surface, you can take one further step and wheel pack the jump by rolling over the jump with the front wheels of the loader and then skin your tire tracks out with a rolling motion of the bucket.
What If?... The next jump is a little more complex than a 3 footer? Remember the loader's job is always the same. Try to pile the jump up on the stakes, at the right width, over the finished height, and as close to the finished shape as possible to save aggravation on the dozer.
Let's say your next jump will be a backward ski jump with a kicker on the bottom. Start the same way as you did with the 3 footer, piling up the high front of the ski jump, dirt on both stakes slightly over wide, fill it up in the center then just go higher until it's over the finished height to allow for the dozer "crush factor".
Then, being careful not to disturb the peak, start laying buckets into the face, all the way across, and slightly lower. Back up and do it again, and again until you get to a point just short of the stakes for the kicker and have a slope built that approximates the look of the ski jump.
If you mess up and dump a little too much or too little, you can rake it into shape with the bucket. Leave the kicker off until you get the ski slope shaped up with the dozer, then build the kicker just like the way you built the 3 footer.
Shaping the Landings on a Supercross Track
Landings are a critical part of a jump and are mostly built the same as a ski jump except that you need to put a few buckets in front of the peak as well and then roll over the edge with the dozer so the leading edge is round and not a do or die wall in the event someone comes up short.
Distances Between Jumps
Getting the distances between jumps on a rhythm lane similar to what's described above is variable depending on skill but the average distance between jumps:
- On a Pro Track The jump distances on a pro track would range between 24' and 30' or so and be very uniform. In other words, there would not be an obvious take off or landing spot, just a series of jumps with very similar spacing between. This makes for a challenging lane with several choices of ways to ride it for pro level riders.
- On an Amateur SX Track You may want to make the landing and take off spots more obvious by making them longer and the gaps to be jumped shorter in order to make the course more forgiving while building the skills or confidence to gap a larger jump.
Building Takeoffs, Tabletops and Whoops
The bigger jumps on your track, whether they are table tops, step-ups, big doubles or triples are probably the most important things you will build when it comes to making your track fun and safe to ride. A big jump doesn't have to be intimidating or dangerous, infact a big but well designed jump can be safe, fun and a confidence builder if you take the time to do it right.
Obviously table tops, step-ups or step-downs are a lot safer to learn and practice on than any kind of gap jump, but a double can be made a lot less intimidating and dangerous if you build the landing like a table top with a nice slope down the back side.
Make the gap short, maybe 30' at the maximum, then a 20' table top and a 20' long landing ramp. That way it's easy to at least jump on it, you have the safety margin of the table top itself, and as you get better you can easily downside it in confidence.
How to Build Table Tops
Building a table top starts off the same as with the smaller jumps. With the loader, put your first buckets on the two stakes on one end of the table top or the other. Remember to overhang the stakes to maintain your width. Fill in the middle and then go up to the desired height and slightly more. You don't have to go as much above the desired height as with a peaked jump because you're not gonna crush it as much as you would rolling over the top of a peaked jump with the dozer.
Put your next buckets in front of your finished peak working your way back towards the other end of your table top. After a few buckets curl your bucket under and use the cutting edge to rake back so everything is level and even with the desired height you started off with on the peak.
If the table top is going to be a landing for a gap jump, you can just lay in a down ramp once you get to the other set of stakes marking the table top. (Do it the same way as a ski jump mentioned above.) When you switch to the dozer, walk in the sides and the front face of the table top first before you get on top of it. That way the top won't want to cave off when you get near the sides.
Getting the top of a table top finished and flat is a time consuming job, because as the dozer tips off the front, back, or either side, the blade will lift off the surface and leave a row of dirt sitting on the table top. It's also difficult to generate up the dirt needed to fill low spots when you're working in such a confined space. If the table top is a landing, and has a down ramp on one side, it gets a lot easier because you can come on and off the top on the ramp side without your blade loosing contact with the surface and loosing your dirt.
How to Build One Good, Big Jump
Okay, so now we come to the big one, how to make a safe, fun takeoff for a big jump. All the basics mentioned above remain the same of course as far as getting started:
- Cover the stakes
- Stay wide enough, come up in lifts and go slightly higher than you need allowing for crush.
Remember the dirt is going to spill naturally at about a 1:1, or maybe 1.5:1 ratio. That means for every foot up you go, the toe of the ramp is only coming out the same amount or slightly more. That's steep, way too steep for a good takeoff on a large jump face. Even at the Pro Supercross tracks, we are going about 2:1 for the triple takeoff and similar jumps.
Meaning the distance on the ground from where the jump ramp first starts off the flat, to the highest point or peak is twice the height of the jump. A six foot tall triple takeoff would therefore be twelve feet from peak to toe of the ramp.
For an amateur track this is still pretty steep. For an amateur track it might be best to do approximately a 3:1 pitch which is a much mellower and more forgiving a slope that will also allow quads to hit the jump if your track were to see any four wheel action. To get this longer ramp you need to put additional dirt into the lower 2/3rds of the jump face after you get the jump piled up to the right dimensions.
Use the same process as before. Place a couple of buckets on either side and fill in the center evenly. Then rake the dirt up or down the face with the edge of the loader bucket to get the approximate shape or angle of the ramp then jump on a dozer and finish it up.
Again, it's best to track up and down the face all the way across to compact the dirt a little and get an idea how close you are. It's up to you whether you want to go over the top or not. We usually don't on a tall jump face, instead we put the dozer blade over the top and press with it to level it up. Then blade the face until you've got the angle you want (3:1).
When building or shaping the jumps, make sure to keep everything consistent all the way across the face and all the way to the top. You don't want a swell or hump anywhere in the face before the peak or it will make the riders leave the face at the high spot instead of at the top of the takeoff like they should. You also need to make sure that there isn't a lip or bump right at the top. This could make for a dangerous kicker that pitches the rear wheel up on takeoff.
One last technicality you have to think about is the belly or transition. A completely flat 3:1 (or whatever) ramp is not going to give you much lift, if any. You need a little bit of belly (curve) to the face to compress and then unload the suspension to give you that lift and nice float so you can nose over for the landing.
Of all the things we talked about so far, getting the belly of the jump right is the hardest to describe and to teach because it's not a measurement or a set technique. It's kind of an art that comes with practice and feel. It's easier to grasp if you are a rider or you have the rider with you while you are shaping the jump. Too much transition in the jump is as bad or worse than not enough. It will be too much of a g-out and launch you like a major seat squat! Nose high or back end high, Either way, it won't be good.
Pay attention to doing the faces right. Take your time, look at your work at intervals while you are working on it, (both straight on and from the side). Is it still straight and in line with the lane? Is the ramp uniform with no swells, hollows, or kickers? Is the top edge level?
How to Build and Shape Whoops
A common question DIRT WURX is often presented with is: "How do you make whoops?"
Rich say's: There are a couple of ways.
Here's how DIRT WURX does it on a Supercross or on a pro level practice track.
- First, lay down a pad of dirt the right width for the lane and as long as we want the whoop section to be in total. The dirt should be approximately a foot and a half deep, meaning a foot and a half above the existing grade of the racetrack surface.
- Next, take the loader and ride down the pad in the direction that the riders will travel and make a steep cut into the pad about 3' from the end, flipping the dirt you dug up onto the pad on the far side of the cut.
You're cutting the last whoop first and will back your way back down the pad.
- After the dirt is flipped up, get the top and front face shaped up a bit with the bucket, then roll the loader down into the cut and up and over the dirt just piled up. Do this all the way across as this rounds the bottom of the "V" cut we made and rounds and packs the first whoop.
- After it's packed all the way across, put the bucket over the back side of it and curl it over as you back drag to take out tire tracks and other imperfections.
Spacing between Pro level whoops is approximately 8' top to top. And the front side of each whoop is much steeper than the back, because that's the side you're working. This is all good for pros, but probably too much for an amateur track.
For Amateur whoops you gotta use a different method. You can pile 'em up one by one with the loader and roll 'em in as this gives you a bunch more control over their height and shape than cutting them into a pad, but it's much slower. Or you can make the pad as above, but then cut the whoops with the dozer. The dozer gives a flatter, more forgiving face, mellower bottom, and wider spacing that makes the whoops a lot more friendly.
That's a bunch of info that should get any motocross or supercross track started nicely. If you should need any more help or info on building a professional caliber track, be sure to: Contact DIRT WURX directly.
Things you may be interested in knowing about DIRT WURX U.S.A.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. was founded in 1990 by Rich Winkler.
- Rich Winkler is a former AMA professional rider with over 30 years experience in motocross racing, motocross and supercross event production, and racetrack design and construction.
- Over the years DIRT WURX U.S.A. has demonstrated the ability to design and construct race courses that are safe but challenging to riders ranging in skill from local sportsman to world class professionals, while at the same time being exciting and spectacular to the paying fans.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. maintains solid working relationships with race organizers, sanctioning organizations, racing teams, facilities, and individuals worldwide based on trust, honest business practices and reasonable cost.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. employs the most talented and capable heavy equipment operators and production staff available anywhere in the world and DIRT WURX U.S.A's entire staff has extensive experience in racing, (which many still race today), and all are specialists in racetrack construction.
- This depth of experience and work history has allowed DIRT WURX U.S.A to grow to a point where DIRT WURX U.S.A. is now the premier racetrack design and construction team in the world.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. is the exclusive racetrack design and construction firm for Feld Motor Sports. This long-term contract means DIRT WURX U.S.A. designs and builds every course on the AMA Supercross Series Tour, and the World Supercross GP Tour.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. has extensive experience in specialty dirt projects for the television and motion picture industry. DIRT WURX U.S.A. has worked on television shows, including NBC's The tonight show with Jay Leno and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel live, television commercials, and even feature films including most recently, Columbia Pictures, Charlie's Angels II Full Throttle, and Supercross, The Movie.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. has designed and constructed factory test tracks for all five U.S. factory teams (Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha), as well as the test tracks of Honda research and development (Honda Proving Center of California), etc. DIRT WURX U.S.A. has also built many of the professional riders' private practice tracks, including those of Ricky Carmichael, Robbie Reynard, Larry Ward, Kevin Wyndham, Ezra Lusk, James 'Bubba' Stewart and Travis Pastrana.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. has also designed and constructed the courses for many of the FIM World Supercross Series Tour events, including all the Japan Supercross Series courses, and are currently the exclusive racetrack design and construction contractor for Future West UK Supercross and the British Championship Series.
- DIRT WURX U.S.A. has extensive experience with USHRA Monster Truck racing, IFMA Freestyle Motocross and USHRA Off-road car and truck racing, and currently builds most of the courses for these various series.
- A significant portion of DIRT WURX U.S.A.'s business is outside the limelight of live events. DIRT WURX U.S.A. has designed and constructed many courses for arenas, fairgrounds, public riding parks, outdoor motocross facilities, and courses for private individuals who want the very best.
- In addition, DIRT WURX U.S.A. has designed and / or constructed many courses for smaller arenas, fairgrounds, outdoor motocross facilities and private practice or testing tracks.