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Becoming A BMX Racer

BMX cycling offers a wide range of challenges across the sport but, from supercross racing to freestyle tricks, the skills required are developed from a passion for cycling creativity and adrenaline.

With its origins in southern Californian dirt track racing, BMX exploded in popularity in the early 1980s. The first BMX world championships were held in 1982 but it wasn’t until 1993 that the UCI integrated the discipline.

BMX became a staple of the X-Games but in 2008 the sport made its debut at the Beijing Olympic Games, which catapulted it onto a global stage.

The BMX Federation

From the moment that the starting gate slams down you and up to seven other racers blast at a full sprint toward the first obstacle, BMX racing will give you that rush of adrenaline you've been looking for. Big jumps can mean big air. Steep backsides, deep turns, and downhill sections can add up to massive speeds.

To realize the total thrill that BMX gives a rider, you really need to experience it. With over 300 BMX tracks located all around the country, there is surely a BMX facility near you. Once you try BMX racing, we practically guarantee you'll be hooked for life.

USA BMX

The USA BMX

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J&R Bicycles

J&R Bicycles

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BMX Race Bikes

The niche that started it all. BMX racing is at the core of the BMX bicycle's existence. Originally BMX was the adaptation of motocross racing to standard bicycles. These bikes feature tight racing geometry and are made of the lightest weight materials. They are not designed to take impacts and abuse typical of other BMX riding styles however it's up to you how far you push your new bike!

The Difference Of BMX Bikes

Freestyle BMX bikes are designed to withstand the stresses that come with performing stunts on street features, dirt jumps, and skate parks. This means that the frame materials, wheels, and components must be equally optimized for both strength and ease of maneuverability. Race BMX bikes are optimized for speed and acceleration, so are often made from lighter materials and feature different geometry to ensure they are stable, stiff and nimble at speed.

Because people often throw around the "BMX" term generically, it's important to understand that there are three different types of BMX bikes: the true BMX bike (Race BMX Bike), the street/dirt-jump/park 20-inch bike, and the flatland 20-inch bike. Another term used for BMX is simply "20-inch" due to the fact that the wheels have a diameter of twenty inches.

A cousin to the BMX bike is the cruiser. While it still offers a light, snappy feel and precise handling, it uses a larger frame that accommodates 24-inch wheels. It's slightly more forgiving and tall riders may find it more comfortable too. If you do plan to race, be aware that cruiser bikes race in their own separate cruiser-class category.

Dirt/Street/Park BMX Bikes

Dirt/Street/Park BMX Bikes

  • Description: Sturdy versatile rigs that handle crashes and rough riding well
  • Features: Knobby to low-profile tread pattern with wider tire, rear U-brake or brakeless, pegs and cable detangler
  • Ideal Use: Dirt jumping, street and park riding, tricks and grinding
Flatland BMX Bikes

Flatland BMX Bikes

  • Description: Smaller frame/wheelbase, longer seatpost, zero-offset fork
  • Features: Small frame geometry and specific components offer unique leverage for flatland tricks
  • Ideal Use: Flatland trick riding
BMX Race Bikes

BMX Race Bikes

  • Description: A light, nimble race bike
  • Features: Thin, low-profile tires with a slightly knobby to slick tread pattern, strong rear V-brake. Slightly steeper head tube
  • Ideal Use: Racing on a BMX track
BMX Bike Anatomy
BMX Bike Anatomy
  1. Frame: The foundation of your ride! Your frame makes all the difference.
  2. Forks: Hold down your front end with a legit fork.
  3. Bars: The steering wheel for your two wheel machine.
  4. Stem: Your stem holds your bars in place and keep you from flipping over your front wheel.
  5. Headset: The turn table of bmx. Your headset allows you to turn your front wheel, keep it tight and smooth.
  6. Grips: Keep a tight grip... with some grips!!!
  7. Seat: You put your butt on it! Make it comfy.
  8. Seat Post: Saddle up! This little guy connects your seat to the frame.
  9. Brakes: STOP!!! On a dime. Your brakes keep you from becoming one with the pavement.
  10. Brake Lever: The remote control of your brakes. Squeeze to stop release to go, it’s that simple.
  11. Brake Cable: This is the vein of your bike! Connected to the heart of it, the breaks.
  12. Spokes: Shiny and tiny, think of your spokes as support beams, except instead of a house they hold you up.
  13. Hub: Just keeps spinning and spinning and spinning and spin.....
  14. Rear Hub: Your rear hub regulates your speed and allows you to go faster than you ever dreamed.
  15. Chain: This is what makes your whole bike function. Connected to your back hub your chain helps you move along.
  16. Sproket: Your chain turner! Sprockets hold your chain in place and allow you to crank at full speed.
  17. Crank Arm: The piston of the bmx world. Accelerate with ease and smoke the competition.
  18. Pedal: Like a hammock for your feet...except your feet aren't sleeping and more than likely pumping hectically.
  19. Rims: Shiny, Round and connected to your spokes/hubs your rims are what make your wheels wheels.
  20. Tires: Sole, comfort, Rubber and more rubber. Think of your tires as the shoes of your ride.

BMX Race Bike Components

True BMX bikes started it all, back in the late sixties. They were knockoffs of motocross motorcycles and were designed for racing over jumps and around berms in the dirt. Pretty soon kids everywhere had them, racers or not.

BMX bikes are still designed for racing, although you don't have to race to enjoy their nimble and precise handling. They have 20-inch wheels, 2- or 4-piece handlebars, small seats, long cranks and strong rear hand brakes. The frames are light and sturdy, and the higher the price, the lighter they get.

BMX bikes are generally made of chromoly steel or aluminum. Chromoly frames are a bit heavier and more economical.

Aluminum frames are lighter and are often made of oversize or exotically shaped tubing. BMX race bike brake mounts are located on top of the seatstays.Besides weighing less, aluminum is also rustproof. So, if you scratch your frame, there's no need to rush to touch it up.

BMX race bikes have their brake mounts located on top of the seatstays (see photo, right). This enables running a more powerful-braking linear-pull brake. Notice also how the chainring is rather large. This helps distribute the pedal force over more chain links and is safer when you’re loading up the pedals with pressure waiting for the gate to drop at the start of a race.

BMX Race Bike Selections

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Gears and Clothing

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Race Wear

Jerseys in BMX riding are vibrant and colourful, harking back to the fashions of the sport’s 80’s heyday. Long sleeves and covered legs are also a necessity, to reduce the damage a tumble can cause to exposed skin.

Protective Gears

Full face helmets, pads, googles

Shoes

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Numbers/Plates/Padsets

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The BMX Race

While BMX may not be a mainstream sport, the rules of BMX don’t operate the same as they would for a team sport, like basketball or football, and may appear to be daunting to someone unfamiliar with it. But no worries, there are plenty of helpful hints on blogs and websites devoted to the sport so that, in no time at all, you will be racing with the best of them!

Getting Started

If you’re just starting “out the gate” (yes, that’s an intentional BMX pun) on your BMX journey, then your probably not very familiar with how competitive BMX racing works.

To start off, BMX is an individualized sport, much like surfing or skateboarding, which means you will be awarded individual points based on where you place in any given race, and if your points add up to place you in the top percent (which can differ from race to race) you can move on to the next round, and eventually on to the next class.

If you are serious about BMX racing, your goal is to place number one in your whole district, which will propel you to states, then region and so on from there. There are several Race Series to compete in, some of which depend on your class and rank, which will lead you to the next step in the process of becoming a pro.

It’s important to remember, cliché though it may be, that a journey begins with the first step. Your first step, whether it’s on the road to the pro’s or just a life long hobby, will begin at the fall of your first gate.

As nerve racking as it may be, on your first time out it’s helpful to remember that every professional had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was probably a very slow and painful place. In your first race, you shouldn’t worry about being the best right off; instead, move slowly. Get a feel for how the track feels, and how you feel the best way to approach it would be.

BMX Race Classification

How Riders are Classified

USA BMX is the primary organization that organizes BMX racing for boys, girls and adults, throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. In order to race in sanctioned BMX races at your local track, each rider needs to become a USA BMX member.

When a rider signs up for their first race, they will be classified based on their age, gender, proficiency and bike wheel size. There are three basic proficiency levels in BMX racing – Novice, Intermediate and Expert. In an effort to keep the sport fun and engaging, every effort is made to match riders with other riders in their age group and proficiency level.

All riders start at the Novice level. Once a rider achieves first place in 10 Novice BMX races, they can move up. Boys move to the Intermediate class and girls move into the Girl class. Girl is the highest proficiency for amateur level girls. Boys, however, can continue to move up. Once boys achieve 20 or more first place wins at the Intermediate level, they move into the Expert class. This is the highest level in the sport for amateur boys.

For example, a 12 year old (boy or girl) who is just starting out in BMX will be placed into the 12 Novice class with other 12 year old novices. They will not move up in class until they achieve 10 first place wins.

Another USA BMX classifies riders is based on the wheel size of their bike. According to USA BMX, “…there are two bike categories, based on wheel size/diameter—20” wheel BMX bikes called class bikes, and 24” wheel BMX bikes called cruiser bikes. The 20” bikes are the required size for all Novice, Intermediate, Girl and Expert competition, while the 24” bikes are the required size for all Cruiser competition. But while the cruiser classes, like the 20” classes, are age and gender based, they are not divided into the novice, intermediate or expert proficiency levels.”

20" BOYS AGE CLASSES

20" Boys Age BMX Race Classes
Age Class
5 & Under Novice / Intermediate / Expert
6 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
7 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
8 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
9 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
10 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
11 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
12 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
13 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
14 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
15 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
16 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
17-18 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
19-27 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
28-35 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
36-40 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
41-45 Novice / Intermediate / Expert
46 & Over Novice / Intermediate / Expert

20" GIRLS AGE CLASSES

20 Girls Age BMX Race Classes
Age Class
5 & Under Girls
6 Girls
7 Girls
8 Girls
9 Girls
10 Girls
11 Girls
12 Girls
13 Girls
14 Girls
15 - 16 Girls
17 - 20 Girls
21 - 25 Girls
26 - 30 Girls
31 & Over Girls

24" BOYS AGE CLASSES

24" Boys Age BMX Race Classes
Age Class
7 & Under Cruiser
8 Cruiser
9 Cruiser
10 Cruiser
11 Cruiser
12 Cruiser
13 Cruiser
14 Cruiser
15 Cruiser
16 Cruiser
17-20 Cruiser
21-25 Cruiser
26-30 Cruiser
31-35 Cruiser
36-40 Cruiser
41-45 Cruiser
46-50 Cruiser
51-55 Cruiser
56-60 Cruiser
61 & Over Cruiser

24" GIRLS AGE CLASSES

24" Girls Age BMX Race Classes
Age Class
10 & Under Girl Cruiser
11-13 Girl Cruiser
14-16 Girl Cruiser
17-20 Girl Cruiser
21-25 Girl Cruiser
26-30 Girl Cruiser
31-35 Girl Cruiser
36-40 Girl Cruiser
41-45 Girl Cruiser
46-50 Girl Cruiser
51-55 Girl Cruiser
56 & Over Girl Cruiser
How Races Work

How Races Work

When a rider first signs up to race they will be placed into a moto (similar to a heat) with other racers in their age and class. There can be anywhere from 3-8 racers in a moto.

Each race is made up of 2-3 qualifying races and a main event for each moto. Each rider will race in up to three qualifier motos and their placings decide which riders move on to the main race.

There are two types of races, depending the riders in your moto. The race could be a “qualifier” race, where a specific number of riders will qualify to move on to the main race in each round. In the main race, the final place will be determined by how the riders finish in the main race.

There is also a “total points” race where all riders race in two qualifier races and the main race. Each rider will earn points depending on how they place in each race. These points are added together to determine the overall winner of the event.

Points and Awards

You might wonder how riders get the numbers on their number plates. These number are determined by the number of points a rider earns over the course of the year. When you first sign up with USA BMX you will be assigned a number. However, at the start of each new BMX year, your number will be reassigned based on the number of points you earn.

The more races you compete in, the more points you will earn. The more points you earn, the better your number will be. The ultimate goal is to ride off with the #1 plate!

 

BMX Tracks Accros Nation

Find a track near you and look up their hours of operation… Okay, as you probably saw, your local track is open certain days and times for practice and others for both practice and racing. Because the USA BMX season runs January 1st thru December 15th, and because BMX racing is an individual sport, there’s no better time to start riding and racing than right now. You don’t need to call or sign up before you go to the track. In fact all you need to get started is your bike, long pants and a long sleeve shirt, and any approved bicycle helmet. Whatever you’re riding now will do fine but be sure to check out THE BIKE and THE GEAR to see just how cool and advanced BMX race bikes, components and gear have become.