The sport of motocross was first developed in the United Kingdom, with the first official off-road motorcycle race taking place in 1924 in a British town called Surrey. At this point, motocross competition events were known as scrambles, with the sport as a whole referred to as scrambles racing. The motocross name grew out of a combination of the French word for motorcycle, "motocyclette," and the words "cross country," which described the outdoor racing conditions in which the sport typically takes place.
Following its early-1900s rise in popularity in the British Isles, motocross began to spread to European countries such as France before gaining popularity in the United States. The first official European championship motocross competition took place in 1952, and by the end of the decade, the competition was designated as a world championship. At this point, most motocross bikes were made by European companies, but Japanese manufacturers became competitive during the 1960s.
American interest and participation in the sport increased in the 1970s, with competitors from the United States starting to take home world championship titles in the 1980s. Prior to this rise in American motocross performance, the sport had been heavily dominated by European winners.