The word BMX comes from Bicycle Moto Cross. It was coined in the 1970s by the kids who used their bikes for racing on dirt tracks in California, imitating the motorcycle competitions that took place on a professional level.
The people who started the trend were keen on racing bikes while making impressive jumps, speeding, and styling. Within a few years, an entirely new class called the BMX bikes was developed for such enthusiasts.
Meaning of BMX
As we mentioned earlier, BMX is short for Bicycle Moto Cross. However, BMX is much more than just racing. It is called BMX because the people who originated the term used their BMX bikes to race on various types of tracks, just like Moto Cross motorbikes.
Over time, the meaning of the word changed, and now it carries a lot more meaning.
If anyone is talking about BMX, it could either be about racing, freestyling or a mix of both these concepts. However, usually racing and freestyling are done completely separately, owing to the different nature and objectives of both genres.
The BMX union is centered on freestyling since racing is a completely independent industry with various brands participating in producing racing gear. Some even do both racing and freestyling gear such as S&M bikes and Profile Racing.
There are events held with sponsored riders for racing and freestyling, although the people involved are largely different.
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Different Types of BMX Bikes
As we stated above, there are two main categories of BMX, namely: BMX racing and Freestyle. However, these categories can be broken down into further sub-categories, Street, Park, Dirt, Flatland, and Racing.
Street riding is the most famous sub-category with BMX riders in the current era. These BMX riders use various setups to perform complex tricks that would otherwise seem insensible.
They participate by using multiple objects available in the streets, such as stairs, walls, ditches, curbs, banks, rooftops, and a lot more.
Any location where these street riders can operate their bikes and perform creative BMX tricks qualifies as a feasible spot for their excursions.
Some of the tricks that street riders usually perform are balance tricks, grinds, spins, tail whips, and bar spins. Additionally, there are several combinations of these tricks as well that can be executed by professional riders.
BMX park riding is the most recognizable for the public as it usually takes place in skate parks that have cropped up worldwide.
Also, park riding events are more frequently shown on television compared to other types of BMX riding. The tricks, typically performed by park riders, involve flips, spins, bar spins, and tail whips.
Park riding also uses a lot more combinations of these tricks. These may include grinds, stalls, and lip tricks that involve balancing the bike on ramp decks. The possibilities with park riding are endless.
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BMX dirt riding was the first spin-off to come from the BMX racing category. This is because dirt riders would often use jumps seen on the racetracks to carry out their tricks.
Dirt jumping/riding is only limited by imagination and the work riders are willing to put into their stunts.
Some of the jumps performed by riders are doubles (jump and landing), tabletops (jump and landing with the gaps covered), berms, hips, rollers, among other things. The tracks for dirt riding are sometimes constructed illegally, meaning that the lifespan of these tracks is not that long.
However, over the last few years, many legal trails have been developed for dirt riding. Jumps have been constructed with years of sculpting work put into them.
These jumps are as much a piece of art as they are props for the stunts performed by dirt riders. Style is the most important consideration when it comes to dirt riding.
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Flatland BMX riding is inspired by ramp riders who did not have a lot of riding spots in their area. As the name suggests, a lot of the tricks these riders perform are on flat ground.
Therefore, the BMX rider needs to have great balance and control to pull off these tricks. A lot of the people in BMX riding regard flatland riding as the hardest to master.
Over the last few years, flatland riding has gained a lot of traction as tricks from flatland BMX riding have trickled down to street riding, making things a lot more intriguing.
The variety of tricks performed by flatland BMX riders are bar spins, manuals, nose manuals, bar spins, tail whips, bike varials, and a lot more.
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There are many different classes of BMX racing, most of whom are dependent on the age of the rider. BMX racing ranges from kids using balance bikes to cruiser class racing and everything in between.
Although cruiser class racers use bikes with 24″ wheels, the most common wheel size is 20″ for BMX racing. Riders begin the race at a gate and ride through a track full of berms, jumps, rollers, etc.
The objective of BMX racing is to be the best and end the race in the first position. To do this, you must rely on speed, leaving little space for tricks to be performed. Racing is also the most competitive genre of BMX riding, giving out handsome prizes to the winners.
Structure of a BMX Bike
During the initial stages of BMX, the emphasis was on 20″ wheels and 20″ frames. As the sport developed, various aspects of BMX riding have advanced quite significantly.
With diversity in riding styles and uses, a lot of alterations have been made to the BMX bikes. These range from geometry to materials, sizes, and so on.
Racing BMX bikes have historically been equipped with 20″ wheels and 20″ frame size, even though there has been a lot of development since the early years.
Now, these racing BMX come in a lot more variants such as 12″, 14″, 16″, 18″, 22″, and 24″. These sizes cater to a large amount of BMX riders, from young kids to professional riders.
Freestyle BMX bikes usually come with 4130 Chromoly steel frames, which are much stronger and feature geometry specifically integrated to allow riders to perform the tricks they desire.
On the other hand, racing BMX bikes use aluminum or carbon fiber frames to achieve a lightweight design, allowing riders to jump better and ride faster.
Knowing the anatomy of the bike you are riding gives you valuable information that may be useful in dire circumstances. Here is a breakdown of the different components that go into making a BMX bike.
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The frame is the fundamental part of any bike. For a BMX, it is even more important. Frames were originally very similar to traditional bikes. With modern advancements, the frame design continues to evolve each year to cater to the rider’s style.
Irrespective of the riding style, every BMX frame comprises the same parts, carrying out similar functionality, such as supporting the handlebars, fork, drivetrain, and the east post. Here are the different frame designs:
- Freestyle/Dirt Jumping – These frames are built for the park, street, and dirt jumping bikes. Due to their usage, the frames are made stronger and heavier than other BMX bikes. The frame is made from steel suitable for larger rear wheel axles. These frames are also accompanied by detachable brake mounts. Some companies go as far as offering brakeless variants with no mounts if that interests you.
- Race – Race frames are made with acceleration and stability in mind. The geometry of the frame is such that it caters to racing and racing alone. The material used in the construction of the frame is exceptionally lightweight and strong. The usual candidates with these properties are aluminum and carbon fiber. Race frames feature v-brakes and smaller rear axles as well.
- Flatland – Flatland frames are considerably dissimilar to other BMX bike frames. They are made of lightweight steel, have a shorter top-tube length, steep geometry with smaller rear axles, and short seat tube length. This is to offer as much clearance as possible while carefully distributing the weight between the two wheels. This leaves the ride unsuitable for racing or freestyling.
- 24″ And 26″ – These frames are built for bigger wheels. They can be unitized in a variety of ways, from jumping stunts to flatland tricks. It all depends on the preference and size of the rider. Usually, people experimenting with larger wheels or those who are taller prefer these types of frames.
The fork of a BMX bike determines how the bike handles in general and when performing specific tricks. It is attached to the front of the frame, handlebars, and the stem of the bike.
The materials used to construct the fork for BMX bikes are the same as those used to make the frame.
You will also decide if you want to get brake mounts or not when selecting the material of your bike’s fork. This is because not all BMX bikes need a front brake.
The only ones that do are flatland and street bikes. The rest can do with only a rear brake.
The drivetrain is equivalent to an engine in a car. It is responsible for transferring the rider’s kinetic energy through pedaling to the wheels, which makes the bike run.
- Crankset – A crankset consists of the tubes that join the pedals and the sprocket. They come in various lengths and materials for the rider to choose from.
- Bottom Bracket – A bottom bracket joins the crankset to the mainframe of a bike while allowing the crankset to rotate unconstrained. It features a spindle that attaches to the crankset. The bearings inside the bottom bracket, on the other hand, let the spindle and cranks turn freely.
- Sprocket – A sprocket, is also known as the chainring, retains the chain alongside the pedals and crankset. It comes in two variants, 23 and 36 teeth, contingent on the type of bike and the gearing used.
- Pedals – This is the platform connected to the crankset, allowing the rider to power the drivetrain with their feet.
- Chain – A bicycle chain is constructed of metal links that run on top of the sprocket and the rear cassette. They transfer the power from the pedals to the drivetrain, which eventually turns the rear wheel.
- Rear Hub – The other point of contact for the chain is the rear hub. It oversees using the chain’s energy and rotating the rear wheel. Some hubs, such as Freecoaster allow you to move backward without having to pedal at the same time. This feature is not available on standard hubs.
- Wheels – The bike tires are mounted on the wheels. You can configure your wheel in various ways by selecting the weight, rim size, and spokes used. The usual wheel size is 20 inches.
- Rims – BMX bike rims come in two variants: single-wall and double wall. The double-wall rim is more reliable as the additional material gives it strength. Usually, the rims are constructed of aluminum.
- Spokes – Spokes fortify the wheels and rims of a BMX bike while adding stability to the whole structure. In the early days, 48 spoke configurations were the most common. However, now most BMX bikes use 36 spokes which are thicker in size to allow for weight savings.
- Tires – The choice of tires is subject to the rider’s style and the surface the bike is used on. BMX bikes used on Flatland have smooth treads which are inflated as much as possible. Dirt BMX bikes have the most knobs and grooves in the treads, while racing bikes have mild treading to allow for grip without giving up on speed.
- Tires on street and freestyle bikes are a lot thicker to counteract any oncoming stunt landings. The treads on these tires are also small.
- Handlebars – The handlebars are attached to the headset and the fork of a bike. This is the part that allows the rider to steer the bike in different directions, available in 2-piece and 4-piece arrangements. The height and material used for the handlebars are the rider’s preference and the bike’s use.
- Brakes – The brakes are used for stopping the bike and are controlled with hand levers on the handlebars. Linear brakes provide greater stopping power compared to U-brakes. Generally, almost all the BMX bikes will have a rear brake, with some having front brakes, such as the flatland bikes.
- Seat – Seats are sometimes not given enough attention on BMX bikes as most makers focus on weight savings instead of rider comfort. This is despite the fact that some people prefer decent seats in case they use their bikes for long travels.
Gearing on a BMX Bike
The gearing system on a BMX bike is vastly different than what is available on road bikes or mountain bikes. Road bikes and mountain bikes have multiple gears, whereas most BMX bikes have only one gear.
This makes the gear configuration a big deal, which must be according to the user’s riding style and needs.
Taller gears have a higher ratio of teeth to the sprocket and rear cog. Shorter gears are the contrary.
Tall gearing makes it hard to pedal the bike with fewer cranks that allow for a higher top speed. Short gearing makes it easier to pedal the bike but requires more cranks to reach a higher speed. The top speed of short gear bikes is also lower.
The gearing option one chooses is based on how they use their BMX bike. Flatland riders typically prefer a short gearing to perform their tricks, while racers opt for a taller gear setting that allows them to reach a higher top speed.
An alternative reason why some riders may take the shorter gear setting over the taller one is that it provides better ground clearance. This is useful on a street course full of grinds and stalls.
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BMX Brands We Suggest
If you are looking to purchase a BMX bike, our recommendation would be to choose one from Mongoose, Diamondback, Wethepeople, Haro, or Kink.
These brands have a long-standing history in the production of BMX bikes. The bikes produced by these brands are used by professionals and come with guarantees of reliable performance.
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There is a lot more to BMX bikes than your normal bicycle that can be easily paddled around the city. BMX bikes are designed to test your balance and strength. In return, they give you the ability to go fast, perform crazy jumps and tricks that leave people in awe.
BMX bikes also test your mental ability along with physical strength. They test your pain tolerance, risk calculation, knowledge of geometry, physics, and much more. It is safe to say, BMX bikes are not for everyone.
I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.