Evolution can be a real giggle sometimes. Hundreds of years of nothing much going on, and then, swoosh, something big happens. BMX emerged rather suddenly too. It was around the 1970s when playful kids started to imitate their motocross superstars by converting their bikes to use them on dirt tracks in Southern California.
Within a short span of time, many kids were already practicing stunts and began racing their bikes. Nowadays, BMX bikes are officially acknowledged as freestyle and racing bikes and have been introduced for the first time as a discipline in the Olympics of 2008.
What Is a BMX Bike?
The acronym BMX stands for Bicycle Moto Cross and was originally conceived of as an off-road racing bike. Nowadays, the term BMX has expanded and is used in reference to different riding styles, variations, and disciplines. From street and freestyle riding to flatland and dirt jumping, BMX bikes are robust and almost indestructible. Built to withstand a substantial amount of abuse in different terrains and in any riding style, BMX bikes have the following characteristics:
Lightweight and strong
BMX bikes are strong and resilient to take a harsh beating and withstand the rigors of freestyle riding and racing. They have strong yet light frame construction for quick movements, stunts and tricks. The material is typically made from chromoly and aluminium. High end bikes use chromoly and aluminium due to their lower weight and technical courses which demand speed and power. Cheaper models opt for high tensile steel which is a lot heavier and more difficult to maneuver especially during stunts and getting airborne but they are ideal for dirt jumping.
Bmx bikes feature a short and an upright handlebar position offering more room for pulling up and maneuvering with the front wheel while also allowing you to jump higher. However, you can easily modify and raise the handlebar to your preferred riding position. For instance, if you want to prevent any back or neck aches when riding, you could raise the handlebar to a taller position, although the 8.5-10 inches is the standard and the most common handlebar height.
Since speed and long-distance riding is not a priority for BMX bikes, they usually have low seats. Lower saddle height makes it easier to move freely and perform bunny hops and other essential tricks of BMX riding.
Beefy wheels and tires
Tires and wheels for BMX rides are generally wider for better grip in off-road tracks and easier spins on the ground with less friction against paved surfaces. The wide knobby tires are heavily laced for abrupt changes in direction and to facilitate landings, dirt jumping or ramping. Wheels have rigidly built rims to offer maximum protection and super strength. This is crucial when the terrain requires a lot of jumping and bumps.
Types of BMX Riding
BMX riding has a long and diverse history of fellow enthusiasts constantly modifying and bringing the sport of BMX to the next level. While BMX racing and freestyling were the first original disciplines, the sport has continually evolved and fanned out into many specific entities and different riding styles and conditions.
This is considered the traditional and the origin of BMX riding. BMX racing is a 350m circuit race with eight riders launching themselves over a track of short and high-speed sprints involving a lot of alternating bumps, multiple jumps and rollers and banked corners. This is a highly action-packed circuit that must be maneuvered with greater skill and added measure while going as fast as possible.
For this reason, racing BMX bikes are rugged but lightweight with knobby tires and a larger front sprocket which allows riders to go at a much higher speed. Tires are composed with lots of tread to maintain control and grip while frames are built from aluminium which is much lighter than steel. Racing bikes are designed with motocross bikes in mind and have many similar features except the engine part.
Unlike BMX racing, freestyle is a competition focused on tricks, stunts, and jumps which are judged based on their difficulty, style, and authenticity. This means that BMX freestyle bikes have to be super-sturdy to survive the beating that comes as a result of performing stunts and high jumps. They feature very strongly built frames which are usually made from reliable steel to survive crashes and soak up the punishment and trials of BMX freestyling.
The neat thing about freestyle riding is that doing tricks and performing all that magic with your bike offers an alternative which is exciting and full of redeeming qualities. First and foremost, doing freestyles is a real challenge and gets you in shape while also improving your coordination, confidence and overall bike handling skills. But when viewed from a different perspective, freestyling riding is all about being the hero of your block and winning some wows “and” “ahhhs”. But there’s a lot of fun in showing off as well. If you learn one trick and people like it, it makes you want to learn more. It’s just like eating sunflower seeds once you start, you cannot stop.
The term “BMX Freestyle” is an umbrella term which encompasses several sub-disciplines and various riding styles which can be further broken down as following:
BMX Freestyle- Dirt
This form of BMX freestyling is almost similar to BMX racing except it’s not a race and you don’t have to go as fast. Instead, dirt jumpers focus more on performing tricks and taking big steep jumps. Bikes used for this type of freestyling have sturdy frames and wheels designed specifically for better control in the air.
BMX Freestyle – Vert
Vert also known as halfpipes are inspired by skateboarders and include breathtaking aerial tricks such as twists, flips, spins and other kinds of stunts. Vert takes place in a half pipe and riders go from one side to the other doing grinds and other air tricks on the lip of the vert. Many tricks involve holding a part of the bike or removing body parts such as hands or legs off the bike.
BMX Freestyle- Flatland
Flatland is more or less a form of breakdancing where riders move the bike at a low speed and perform spins and twists and tons of other high-skill moves. One of such tricks is spinning the bike on one wheel and manipulating it into different positions and styles.
This form of BMX freestyling usually takes place on a flat surface such as parking lots or tennis courts. Bikes for flatland are generally more compact and smaller to allow the rider to roll in any direction and maintain balance. Flatland bikes feature a both front and rear U-brake and use a special tool called detangler which keeps the brake cable from twisting around when doing tricks.
BMX Freestyle- Street
BMX street riding is both creative and technical which requires a high level of bike handling skills and a unique bike setup. Street riding is performed on pretty much any surface with pavements such as streets of urban area, stairs, rails, leges, walls, etc. There is a huge amount of trick combinations that can be performed with street riding and bikes are particularly designed to deal with all the impact of barspins, tailwhips, and other tricks and stunts.
BMX Freestyle- Park
Park riding refers to riding in skateparks that feature ramps, quarter pipes, bowls, and sometimes even stairs. The terrain is both wood and cement and sometimes extends to particular indoor parks exclusively made for park riders. The bikes usually have smooth tires, a sturdy frame, and a full brake setup. Pegs are also very common with these bikes which are installed on both sides of the front and rear hubs for performing various grinds and tricks and even stand on them for certain tricks.
If you find yourself wanting to thrash around and head out to the dirt or do some tricks at your local skate park, buying a BMX can be a great addition to your stable. Even just buying one for aesthetics or cruising, a BMX can be a fun ride.