What Do Motocross Flags Mean?

Motocross racing is a high-speed Darwinian chess match with most riders hell-bent on rearranging every dirt molecule, beginner riders jumping jumps they probably shouldn't, and riders of all levels flying off their bikes in every direction.

Keeping some sense of law and order isn't easy, and even in our entrenched high-tech society, the decidedly low-tech motocross flag still gets the job done. The flags won't help you if you don't know the flag meanings so here's a review of the motocross flag colors and meanings.

motocross riders on an MX track

There are two governing bodies that oversee the meaning of motocross flags. One is the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association), and the other is the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme). Here are the AMA motocross flag guidelines:

Motocross flag meanings (in alphabetical order):

Black flag: A black flag indicates the race has been stopped for one particular rider. The flag marshal will put the rider's number on a board next to the black flag and that rider has to stop racing and report to a race official.

Blue flag: The blue flag with a diagonal yellow stripe is used to caution a slower rider that they're about to be lapped (passed) by a faster rider and should not impede his pass in any way.

Checkered flag: The black and white checkered flag denotes the end of something. Most riders know it signals the end of a race, but it can also signal the end of practice sessions or the end of warm-ups.

Green flag: The green flag signals the start of the race on the opening lap and is presented at the end of the first lap of each moto, letting the riders (and spectators) know that everything went okay at the starting line and the race is underway.

Red Cross flag: A white flag with a horizontal and vertical red cross is the sign for the Red Cross (EMTs), and means there are medical personnel and/or medical equipment on or near the track. As with the yellow caution flag you need to slow down, exercise even more caution than with the yellow flag, and wait until you're past the EMTs before jumping or passing.

Red flag: A red flag indicates the race has been stopped for some reason, and all riders need to reduce their speed and proceed safely to the staging or pit area(s) to await instructions.

White flag: A white flag indicates the final lap of a race.

Yellow flag: If you've ever watched a motocross or supercross race, the yellow flag is the one you've seen most often. The yellow flag is a caution flag to signify a downed or injured rider, or some type of obstruction on the track. A flag marshal holding a stationary yellow flag means the danger is farther ahead on the track. There should be another flag marshal closer to the fallen rider, and he or she will be waving the flag not holding it stationary, which means the danger is very close. There is no passing allowed until you're past the danger or obstruction.

There's also a purple flag but it's a protest flag so you won't see that during the course of the race. It means a rider has lodged a protest about some perceived infraction.

Flag marshals:

Flag marshals are an integral part of motocross, whether during a race or at an open practice, and it's not an easy job. They're standing for long periods in all types of weather, and they need to pay attention to the riders at all times so they can't kill time playing with their phones. Most of the flag marshals at the small motocross tracks don't get paid, so if you see a marshal out in the parking lot at the end of the day, say thanks.