Have you ever heard (or said) something like, “it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow?” If that’s a thing that you’d generally agree with, then motogymkhana may just be your new favorite form of motorcycle racing. For those unfamiliar, it’s a Japanese sport that started way back in the 1970s—and it’s a serious test of low-speed motorcycle maneuvers for all competitors. 

How does it work? A short course is set up in a small area, such as a parking lot with decent paving. A series of cones are placed with precision around the course, creating the challenges that riders will need to successfully complete in order to run through the course. As a general rule, there aren’t any long straights where riders can pick up a ton of speed. Instead, it’s all about doing tight turns and low-speed maneuvers as quickly as possible in a time-attack course run.  

What kinds of bikes can participate? It tends to be a “run what you brung” type of competition, where riders of all genders can show up on bikes of any displacement and compete. Really, what it’s all about is your low-speed skills, your ability to counterbalance appropriately, clutch work—you get the idea. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s exhilarating—but at the same time, since it’s a time-attack and overall speeds are low, there’s relatively low risk of big crashes. 

Are larger-displacement bikes inherently at a disadvantage? That really depends on your skills, your turning radius, and/or how well you’re able to counterbalance your bike at a low speed in order to hustle it around tight turns. Remember learning how to effectively use your rear brake to do U-turns when you took basic rider training? You’re going to be doing a lot of it here if you compete. As an example of how it’s about skills rather than displacement, here’s a list of the top 10 finishers in the 2022 Dunlop Motogymkhana Cup Round 1: 

  1. Honda CRF450X 
  2. Yamaha YZ250X 
  3. Honda NSR250R 
  4. Honda NSR250R 
  5. Kawasaki Ninja 400 
  6. Suzuki GSX-R1000 
  7. Kawasaki KX250F 
  8. Suzuki GSX-R1000 
  9. Yamaha TZR250R 
  10. KTM 790 Duke 

Over the decades since its inception, motogymkhana has grown to not only become popular in Japan, but it’s also spread elsewhere around the world. That’s probably because it’s not expensive (a lot of volunteers tend to get excited about and set up the actual events), it doesn’t require much more than a parking lot with an amenable owner, and it’s relatively simple for the local riding community to just show up and participate (usually after signing liability waivers) if they want. Plus, you know, it’s FUN. 

If you’re interested in learning more, YouTube channel Ramkhana posts a lot of videos from Dunlop Cup events (tire manufacturer Dunlop hosts just one of the motogymkhana series currently running in Japan, where competitors run on Dunlop tires). While the competition videos are in Japanese, the channel has helpfully also posted a few select videos with English voiceovers to help get non-Japanese speakers up to speed on the challenging, skill-building awesomeness of the sport. You can also occasionally find writeups of events as they progress throughout the season in Japanese-language publications.

Got a tip for us? Email: tips@rideapart.com