May 11, 2021 5 min read
If you are relatively new to motocross and all things dirt bikes, then you may find yourself a bit bewildered at the sheer number of different races and what they are all called. Hare scrambles and Hare and Hound scrambles have been popular for decades. But what are they, and how are they different from other cross-country races?
In short, Hare scrambles are cross country, off-road dirt bike competitions. In a Hare scramble, all the riders start in a row simultaneously, and the winner is whoever gets to the finish first. No staggered start, no time-trials, just every man for himself until the end.
But there is much more to it than that. Knowing about the course, the timings, and the terrain are all important aspects of taking part in a Hare Scramble. There are also other styles of races that are similar to a Hare Scramble, such as Hare and Hound and Enduro so it is important to know the difference. Read on to get the low-down on this great form of racing.
On a Hare Scramble, the course is usually several miles long and forms a loop which the riders ride for either a pre-determined time or a pre-determined number of laps.
The course terrain can vary from desert to woods and often include plenty of hills and field sections. A race usually lasts around 2 hours, so not only do the riders have to ride as fast as they can they also need to have tremendous amounts of stamina to keep riding at a racing pace for that long.
Hare scrambles and Hare and Hound races were hugely popular in the '50s, and 60's when riders would strip down street bikes to their bare essentials and race across the desert - these bikes were often referred to as 'desert sleds'. It was not uncommon for 500 riders to take part in a race, and many riders launched their racing careers by winning a Hare scramble. Steve McQueen was also a big fan!
Nowadays Hare scrambles are well organized, competition events and are held all over the world. Races are differentiated by engine size and skill level, so it isn't quite the 'every man for himself' racing that it was in the '60s, although it's still pretty damn exciting!
But Hare Scrambles are not the only kind of race that follows this format. Hare and Hound racing have much in common with Hare Scrambles, as does Enduro. But what’s the difference?
A Hare and Hound race is different from a Hare scramble in that rather than racing around a loop multiple times, you race around two much longer loops, often with a pit-stop in between. Racers are not allowed to pre-run the race, so you don't know where you are going until you start.
Like a Hare scramble, every rider starts simultaneously, and the winner is whoever crosses the finish line first. In the past, the finish was marked by a stack of burning tires (or smoke-bomb as it was known) which could be seen in the distance the closer you got to the finish. Unsurprisingly, that custom is not so common now!
The course's two loops could each be up to 40 miles long, which is why a pit-stop is often necessary in between. Like a Hare scramble, riders need to be at the peak of physical fitness to maintain speed and endurance over such a long course.
This form of racing is called a Hare and Hound as it mimics the idea of a pack of hounds chasing a hare - a past-time that is thankfully very rare now! In a Hare and Hound race, the leader powers ahead, and everyone behind follows (like a pack of hounds), hoping that they are all on the right course.
In the past, Hare and Hound races were almost exclusively run in the desert, which presented enormous problems for the chasing pack of riders as the amount of dust and sand disturbed during the race meant that visibility was abysmal. This meant that riders often got lost when they couldn't see the rest of the pack or had to stop altogether.
Sometimes motorcycle clubs will use the term Hare and Hound to refer to any off-road race and which involves racing around a loop multiple times within a specific time limit. Ensure that you check the format of the race you are entering carefully, so you don't get any nasty surprises on race day!
When it comes to long-distance racing, the format that springs to most riders' minds would be Enduro. A Hare scramble and Enduro do seem pretty similar on the surface, but there are some pretty significant differences. For example, the course for an Enduro will be primarily off-road but will include some sections that are on public roads. The sections on public roads are generally connecting two parts of the off-road course. On the public road sections, the pace is often slower. A Hare scramble, however, is entirely off-road with no public road sections at all.
Another main difference is that you have to ride at a specific pace in an Enduro. If you go faster or slower than the required speed, you will be dinged (penalized). Timing is checked at check-points, and the winner is the rider with the least number of 'dings' at the end.
The other big difference between these two racing formats is the distance. A Hare scramble is usually about 2 hours long and pretty much involves sprinting around a loop until you get to the finish. In an Enduro, the distance is significantly greater, which means you will also be on the bike for much longer. An Enduro could be between 60-100 miles long and spread out over 4-5 hours.
Confusingly some Enduro's may run in a 'loop' fashion where three different loops are combined to create suitable courses for riders of varying standards. For example, a course using this format might consist of a short course of around 20 miles long with a speed limit of 12-15 mph. This course would be suitable for kids and inexperienced riders.
A second loop would then be added for intermediate riders to make the 'short-course’ which could be between 40-50 miles long. This would typically have a speed limit of 15-18 mph. For really experienced riders, the addition of a third loop would make up the long course. This course could be between 60-80 miles long and would have a speed limit of around 20 mph.
The terrain of these loops increases in difficulty along with the distance. The speed of these races may also vary depending on the type of terrain. Slow speeds like this might be more typical of a tight woodland course, whereas you would expect faster speeds on a more open course.
The 'loop' nature of these courses makes it easy to confuse Enduro with a Hare and Hound race, but the timing and speed limiting nature of Enduro are what sets it apart from Hare and Hound and Hare scramble races. The name of the game in a Hare scramble is to go as fast as possible to reach the finish first, which is very different from an Enduro.
If you have only ever raced Enduro races in the past, why not give Hare scrambles or Hare and Hound racing a try? You will already have the racing stamina, and you might enjoy putting yourself to the test over a different format.
Nothing quite beats all those racers starting at the same time and riding flat out to the finish. It would also give you the opportunity to ride on new courses and meet a different community of racers. Even if you're relatively new to motocross and dirt bikes, there will be a race out there to suit you. So, what are you waiting for?!
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