BMX (bicycle moto-cross) arose as a sport in the early 1970s as a result of kids wanting to emulate their moto-cross heroes but with pedal power. It rapidly grew into a worldwide phenomenon reaching its peak in the mid eighties. As with most phenomena its popularity waned and it all but disappeared from the mainstream media; but it didn’t die, far from it. The sport went very much underground and split into 3 distinct disciplines. In recent years it has exploded again, race BMX has become an Olympic sport and no ‘extreme’ TV channel would be complete without a BMX competition.
Types of BMX bicycles
The least common of all styles of BMX, race bikes are built for speed. They are raced on a purpose built course of jumps and banked corners (berms) with 8 riders at a time, it became an Olympic sport in 2008. BMX race bikes feature a light but strong frame often constructed from aluminium, light 36 spoke 20” wheels, a high ratio single gear and a single rear brake. You will often see some form of padding on the handlebars, stem and top-tube to help protect the rider in case of a fall.
To confuse matters there is another class of race BMX’s with 24″ wheels called ‘cruiser’! If you’re that serious about racing then you’d need to get in touch with a club for far more in-depth information, try British Cycling for more information on racing.
Prices start from around £350.
Is the most common form of BMX bikes and riding. Freestyle and Dirt were once quite separate disciplines with freestyle based around ramps and street obstacles and Dirt being all about BIG jumps on dirt! However they merged into one as most riders will do a bit of both and the bikes used share many features, geometry/size, handlebars, wheels, in fact the only differences are the tyres (dirt tyres being more suited to off-road conditions) and the use of pegs (tubular extensions on the wheel axles) that freestylers use for street and ramp use to ‘grind’ on but there is little opportunity to use them on dirt jumps. You can buy Freestyle/street bikes with no pegs and dirt tyres and Dirt bikes with nearly smooth tyres and pegs !! Essentially if it’s called a BMX then its suitable.
Prices start from around £160.
Flatland is a very specialized form of BMX, the bikes are designed for doing intricate tricks on flat surfaces without the aid of ramps or any other outside equipment. This sport involves riders standing on one or more of the four special pegs while balancing and spinning the bike in various positions. Professional Flatland bikes are very short, light and tall making them spin easier but you can use a Freestyle perfectly adequately.
Prices start from £170.
Now that you have some idea about the styles of riding, it is important to get the right safety gear. For racing you will need a full-face helmet whereas for the freestyle and jumping you will want to use a lighter helmet to just cover the top of the head, these are known as skate style helmets or sometimes as p**s pots! For all disciplines it is recommended you wear a long sleeved shirt, long trousers or jeans and gloves. Rubber soled skate style shoes are ideal as they have flat soles, which are good for grip. Extra pieces of body protection kit such as elbow pads, kneepads and shoulder pads are not essential although they are always a good idea especially if you are new to the sport.
April 13, 2012 Bike Guides