Is MotoAmerica The Most Dangerous Sport In The U.S.?

Dare I say it?

Barring extreme safety measures or defensive riding, Motorcycles are dangerous. I’m going to assume it’s also safe to say racing is dangerous. Therefore, when put together, you no questionably get one of the most treacherous and intense sports in the world.

Hell, the Isle of Man TT is considered one of the most prestigious races in the world, yet has killed more than 200 riders since 1910.

Here’s what current MotoAmerica champion riders had to say when I asked them what they’re scariest moments have been:

 “I’ve had some bad crashes, like any racer competing at a high level does. But, for me, I think it’s scary seeing that you can lose it all in the blink of an eye. You have to block that stuff out as a racer, though, and that can be hard to do at times.” – 2015 Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier’s

“I would say my most recent scariest moment was during this offseason while we were testing. I had a crash … as I slid off the track, the ground dropped away so I caught air. When I landed it was right on my back, on a big-size rock. As soon as I hit, I knew it was bad, and it hurt instantly … I knew, in that same turn a couple years back, another rider had been paralyzed. Luckily I walked away with some badly bruised bones and bruised muscles … But the thing that scared me the most was thinking I might have just hurt myself bad enough that I wouldn’t be able to race anymore.” – Supersport Champion, JD Beach’s

Cameron Beaubier following a win.

These riders who race in the U.S. National motorcycle road racing series put their lives on the line for the sport they love, a sport that exceeds 180 mph on a crotch-rocket with no roll cages, and, sometimes, in the rain. A line of work where crashing is just ‘part of the sport.’

It’s one of the most extreme sports on Earth, yet, believe it or not, the sport considers itself safe. Even over the past few years, safety measures have come a long way.

What keeps these racers from getting killed


Made with very lightweight materials, in some cases carbon fiber.  All designed to take heavy hits and also designed to slip through the air smoothly without buffeting the rider’s head.


Full one-piece racing suits that are typically about 1.4-1.7mm thick cowhide.  Some really high-end stuff is Kangaroo hide.  The suits have CE Rated padding in the impact zones of the suit.  For example: knees, shins, elbows and forearms, shoulders and other padding in the hips and thigh area. 


The boots that are used are designed to flex front to back but not side to side.  That allows them use of the foot controls of the bike but helps prevent any movement that could injure the ankles side to side.  The boots have replaceable impact protection on the outside of them as well.  In the heel and ankle area, shin and calf, and have a “toe slider”. 


The gloves are full gauntlet style gloves that cover the wrist and go over the lower arm of the leathers.  They have wrist protection and knuckle protection and some even link the pinky and ring fingers with a bit of leather to keep the pinky from too much movement in the case of a fall. 

Under the suits

– Usually a base layer like Under Armor breathable, heat expelling material.  

– Spine protector which goes under the leathers and straps around the body and is there to protect the spine in event of an impact. 

– Chest protection.  Similar as the spine protection but usually just a small piece that slips under the leathers right before they get zipped up. 


Some riders are experimenting with new technology in their racing suits which allows airbags to inflate within milliseconds if the rider comes off of the bike. 

The girls have just as much guts

Superstock 600 rider Melissa Paris

But even with all these precautions, riders know they’ll get hurt. It’s similar to football in that injuries are just part of the game. Only a crash off a superbike at 180 mph may have slightly larger consequences as opposed to being sacked by a linebacker. 

“When you’re trying to fight your way to the front of a pack of guys (and girls) that all want the same thing… you have to be willing to push to the limit of your bike and to your own ability. Because of that, the margin for error can be a bit small!” said Superstock 600 rider Melissa Paris, who rides for the MPH Racing 4 Suzuki team.

Her scariest moment? 

“I think the scariest moments are the ones that are unexpected … I had a brake failure on the back straight at Mid-Ohio one time. There just aren’t words to describe the feeling when you’re at the top of 6th gear, and you reach for a brake lever that isn’t there,” she said.

What makes motorcycle road racing so dangerous?

Aside from stating the obvious, the riders told me which situations make things sketchy. 2015 Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier had the most compelling insight.

 “Just riding motorcycles, in general, is dangerous, of course, but trying to shove 30+ bikes off a start and into turn one at 100 mph sounds crazy, right? But, that’s what makes it exciting … for the fans and for the riders. With no risk, we’d get bored of it.”

Video of the insanity

Superbikes can reach speeds of 200 mph while racing. Below, you’ll see many going at least 65-70mph before wiping out.  However, at roughly the :34 mark you’ll also see 2015 champion Cameron Beaubier coming into the world famous “Corkscrew” at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  I was told he’s probably braking from about 140mph into that turn and likely goes down at around 100mph.  

Effective sliding is another way the athletes are able to minimize injury. However, it totally depends on how fast they’re going at the time and how much room there is before hitting a gravel trap or air fence.

So why still race?!

Is it the adrenaline? The love of the competition? The need for speed? Why endure a sport that can put your life at risk?

Here’s what these three racers had to say:

“Because even if it’s dangerous or scary at some moments.. most of the time it’s just copious amounts of stupid fun!” said Paris. 

“All of us share the same passion. For most of us, it’s all we know. Even with the ups and downs, the bond my family shares and the friends I’ve made from riding and racing are irreplaceable,” said Beaubier.

“It’s kind of like most things in life, the unknown, the outcome of things after something goes wrong. Yes, racing motorcycles at over 180+ mph is dangerous, but we are professionals at what we do and have the best safety equipment that is offered. We love the sport that we do and know how to do it … Racing motorcycles has given me a better life than I could have ever dreamed of and has put people in my life that will be lifelong friends. I know every time I put my gear on and throw my leg over my bike, I’m taking a big risk, but it’s what I do and what I love. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way,” said Beach

The first race of the season is April 8-10 at Circuit of The Americas in Austin. 

Photos: Brian J. Nelson

Josh Helmuth is the editor of Crave Sports. Follow him on Twitter or like the channel on Facebook here