British invention down under

British invention down under

From Scrambling to Motocross

history of australian motocross - chapter 1: THE BRITISH INVENTION DOWN UNDER
From Scrambling to Motocross - Trials
From Scrambling to Motocross - Harley Scramble

The English invented “Scrambling” in the 1920s, adapting it from trials. Right: The first bikes were street machines, up to 1300cc with only the lights removed (Lloyd and Barb Hartree collection).

Scrambling - A British invention

Motocross is one of the most popular forms of motorcycling in the world and has been around now for almost a century.

Fans can thank the British.  For it was some crazy Englishmen who invented the sport in the 1920s. 

It all started on 29 March 1924 when a group of clubmen in Camberley, Surrey became bored with trials. 

They cut out the gymkhana section of its classic Southern Scott Trial and concentrated on the timed trial section.  

The race would be over the roughest and toughest ground available and the winner would be the rider who recorded the fastest times over two heats.

It was a punishing occasion with no less than 80 riders assembling for it, with almost half retiring.  

The birth of scrambling

But a great new sport was born – Scrambling, as it was called in those days.

The sport quickly became popular and within just a few years of its creation, it spread across the world and down under to Australia.


Preserving our motocross history for future generations

Scrambles down under

According to newspaper reports, the first organised scramble in Australia was held at Waverley in Victoria, in 1926, organised by the A.J.S. Motorcycle Club.

However, the first ever large-scale scramble in Australia took place in Perth on 17 June 1928 at the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park, Western Australia.

The Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club hosted the Harley Scramble between 1928 and 1964 at that circuit, with breaks during the war years.

This event was originated by Aubrey Melrose, one of Australia’s earliest Isle of Man contestants. During his stay in England in 1927,  Melrose witnessed scrambles and bought the idea back home.

Riders rode heavy bikes (like 1000cc Harley Davidsons and 500cc B.S.A.s) with suspension being non-existent.  The circuits were longer – like an enduro – with the first event finishing at Billy Goat Farm on the banks of the Swan River.  

The ascents were so steep that gangs of helpers were stationed at the top, armed with ropes and grappling hooks, to haul stricken riders to the top if they failed mid-climb.

With the sport expanding to Europe, the new name ‘Motocross’ was given with the first Motocross of Nations being held in 1947 between England and Belgium.

In Australia, the sport came of age in the mid-fifties after World War II when our first National Championships were held in  Korweinguboora, Victoria in 1953.  

From Scrambling to Motocross - 1939 Harley Scramble

The 1937 Harley Scramble.  In the early days the circuits were longer – like and Enduro – with riders travelling  up to 100kms over two hours

1952 Harley Scramble - Aub Bicker on his 1929 350cc Harley Davidson

Aub Bicker on his 1929 350cc Harley Davidson at the 1952 Harley Scramble.  The popular annual event would attract crowds of over 20,000 people

Harley Scramble - Ropeworks Mosman Park 1950s

The Harley Scramble was Australia’s first large-scale scramble and was held  at the Rope Works circuit between 1928 and 1963

Video gallery

Look at Life – 1960s Scrambling – ldnshabba

Motocross  Scrambling in the 1960s – Duke Video

From Scrambles to Motocross

Click ON IMAGES below to view other chapters

Chapter 1
The British invention
down under

Chapter 2
Australian Motocross Championships

Chapter 3
Australian Championship format

Chapter 4
The Great Australian Motocross Jumper War

Chapter 5
Australian motocross on the world stage

Chapter 6
Australian International Pioneers

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  1. Awesome site and great work all round.
    After watching the southern cross video I noticed that when talking about crashes and injuries Dean Nickerson’s crash wasn’t mentioned. He had a bad crash after the step up jump at the southern end of the circuit. High speed and very nasty. I was watching from near there and as a close friend was really worried about him. He was flown to Royal Perth and had injured several vertebrae in his back unfortunately.
    Thought you might like to know that’s all. Cheers and keep up the good work 👍

    Michael Miles
    1. Hi Mike, glad you like the site and thanks for the update on Dean Nickerson’s crash. I am aware of lots of crashes and injuries there, but not all. I raced the event myself in the sidecars and, a couple of times visited Southern Cross Hospital, when my cousin and other sidecar riders were injured. At the time I was amazed how many riders were at the hospital being treated for minor injuries, so mainly the stories of the more serious injuries became public. If you have any more details or photos on Dean, I’m happy to include this in the Southern Cross MCC page. Cheers John Steyntjes (Author)

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Australian Motocross History