A Short History of BMX Bikes
BMX stands for bike motocross, which is an apt name for these bikes. While many kids and adults might simply use the bike as their means of transportation and to ride and do some simple tricks with friends, they are often used for much more. They came into fame because they were the ideal type of bike to use when going over jumps and doing some incredible stunts.
The bikes first came into existence in the early part of the 1970s. It started in California, although some mistakenly believed it started in Eastern states. Kids were watching motocross and wanted to emulate those types of races with their bikes. They would head out to dirt tracks with their bikes, create jumps, and race one another to see who which rider was the best and fastest.
This would grow to include using the bikes to perform a wide range of stunts. Bikes were developed in order to more effectively meet the needs of this growing niche market. Just as with other types of sports like skateboarding and surfing, various subcultures started to grow out of the BMX bike movement. There were those who wanted to race on dirt tracks like their motocross heroes, those who took to the street, and those who embraced freestyle BMX.
The movement grew so large that it has become a legitimate sport. There are professional teams and riders with sponsorships for the countless competitions that take place around the country each year at the amateur and professional levels. Over time, there have been new designs and innovations to many parts of the bike including the stem, handlebars, wheels, and more.
A Quick Guide to BMX Riding Styles
Throughout this buyer’s guide, we’ve made mention of different types of BMX styles, which can help you determine which bike is best for you. But if you’ve never heard these styles before, or if you are buying a gift, you may want to know what we’re talking about! Here are the most common BMX riding styles:
- Freestyle BMX means doing tricks on flat ground, riding up and down ramps at skate parks, and generally just being very flexible with what you do while you are riding around.
- Dirt BMX means that you are playing on a dirt track. This type of BMX often involves jumping.
- Street BMX simply means riding around on the street, but it can also mean doing tricks, racing, and more. The key difference here is that the rider can expect to be on pavement, rather than on dirt or at a park.
- Flatland BMX typically uses a very lightweight and small bike for doing tricks.
- Racing BMX is just what it sounds like: going very fast on a variety of different types of tracks. This may involve jumps, obstacles, and more.
- Park riding refers to riding in skate parks both indoors and outdoors. Even though these parks are commonly thought of to be the domain of skaters, over the years, it has become common for them to share their space with BMX riders.
As you can see, freestyle and street bikes are very similar, and that’s why we recommend them for beginners. They offer the most versatility so that you can try some fast riding, some park play, and some street cruising. As you use your bike in more scenarios, you’ll learn which area you want to focus on for your next bike.
How to Choose a BMX Bike
When you are hunting for a quality bmx bike, you need to remember that the best bike for you might not be the best bike for someone else. Just because you might have a friend or a family member who has a great BMX bike, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right choice for you. It is important that you check several factors when you are making your choice for the bike if you want to have the best possible performance. This is true for kids and adults alike. Learn about some of the best options, check to see what’s available, and find out what works best for you.
You will find that most of the entry-level BMX bikes for racing, as well as freestyle bikes, will be made from Chromoly 4130, which is a type of steel composite. This provides a substantial amount of strength to the frame, forks, and other elements of the bike. This is a better material than what you will often find with the lower-end bikes that are sold in some department stores. With the Chromoly 4130, it is possible for the steel to be thinner toward the middle of the tube, which makes it lighter. It can still be reinforced at the ends, which is what provides it the necessary added strength.
Keep in mind, most people who are going to be riding a BMX are going to be doing freestyle or riding rough tracks. Quality materials are important for the comfort of the bike, as well as durability. The last thing a rider needs are cracked forks or busted sprockets.
Those who are going to be racing with the will want to make sure that they consider a frame that is lightweight. There are some great lightweight frames that you can consider. Typically, this will mean going with an aluminum frame for the BMX bike.
However, there is also the option of choosing a carbon fiber frame, as well. These are also lightweight, but they will cost more than an aluminum frame. The carbon fiber frame and forks have some other advantages, as well. It will be able to dampen vibrations, which means that when you are riding, it will be a more comfortable experience. It can also make the bike easier to handle. It may be something you will want to check out.
When you are looking at the material for the bike, make sure that you are looking at not only the frame and fork. You will also want to know what the rear hub is made from, as well as the sprockets, stem, and all of the other features on the bike. If you find a bike that you like a lot save for a couple of features that you can replace, it might still be worthwhile. You can then replace those features with the gear that you want.
While different riders will have different preferences, the frame size is something that you will need to consider for yourself when you are choosing the bikes with the best performance. However, there are guidelines that tend to work well when choosing a BMX bike whether for kids or adults.
● 4’ and under – Bike frame size from 15” to 16”. These bikes are called micro-minis.
● 4’ to 4’6” – Bike frame size from 16” to 17”. These bikes are known as minis.
● 4.4” to 4.10” – Bike frame size from 17” to 18.5”. These bikes are called juniors.
● 4’8” to 5’4” – Bike frame size from 18.5” to 19.5”. These bikes are called experts.
● 5’4” to 5’10” – Bike frame size from 20” to 20.5”. These bikes are called pros.
● 5’10” and up – Bike frame size from 20’5” and up. These are Pro XL or XXL.
Something that you will want to remember with the size of the bike is that the wheel sizes are going to stay consistent. The frame size will change, and that will be what makes it possible to work with not only the height of the rider but also his or her preferred riding style. Always be sure to check the frame when choosing a bike.
Most of the time, the freestyle BMX bikes that come standard will have a 21” top tube. This ensures that the riders will have plenty of room where they can swing the bike under them. This is essential for doing various types of tricks, particularly those when the rider is in the air. However, there is an exception to the rule. Flatland frames, often used for street riding, will be lighter and have shorter tubes. This helps to provide better control and balance.
With bikes built for racing rather than regular bikes for the street, you might notice that there is a slacker head angle, as well as a longer wheelbase. This will put the rider further back on the bike, providing them with great handling and better stability even when going fast. You will also want to note that there is a much wider selection of frame sizes for racing than those listed above.
Consider how the bike will be used, check the features it provides, and then choose one that can provide what you need.
The tires are also an important factor to consider for any BMX customer. The tires that are used on the bike will affect the grip, handling, and the speed of the bike. Those who are riding in the street or a skate park will find that wider tires that are smooth-rolling tend to work quite well. Those who are out on the dirt rather than the streets will want to find options that have more traction and that will have lower pressure. Tires with lower pressure will provide more grip.
One of the great things about tires, unlike the frame and fork, is that you can have multiple tires for your BMX bike and switch them out quickly. Even if you aren’t happy with the initial tires on your bike, they are simple enough to change out until you find the best option for your riding style whether it is as a freestyle BMX bike or a racer.
Gearing, Brakes, and More
Even though these bikes will not have multiple gears, you should consider the number of teeth on the chainring and sprocket. This is called the gear ratio. Because racing bikes will need to provide more explosive power, they will have a larger chainring and sprocket. Freestyle BMX bikes will have a shorter chainring and sprocket, as this can provide better clearance over features and so you can easily ride out of tricks.
Check the quality of the brakes and the type of brakes that are available with the bike, and make sure they can give you the type of stopping power you will need. Most of the bikes will feature rim brakes, while freestyle bikes will have a U-brake.
It takes time to find the perfect bike, and it takes research. You need to check the materials, tires, wheels, stem, handlebars, and a host of other features before you make your choice. Ask those you know to share information they have about their own bikes, which can help you make a decision.
However, you don’t simply want to choose the same bike as they have. Remember, to get the perfect bike, it needs to be right for you. Whether you are simply out riding the roads on a Sunday afternoon, there is an option that’s right for you. Check the BMX’s features and remember that you don’t have to start with the best and most expensive bike out there.
Grab Some Safety Equipment Too!
Before you choose the BMX bike that is right for you and call it a day, don’t forget that safety equipment is an important part of BMX riding. You want to make sure that any new BMX rider, whether it is an adult or a child, has a helmet that fits well, and possibly gloves if they’ll be doing tricks that could see them falling a lot. Everyone who is riding should have their own safety equipment, so they do not have to share and to be sure it fits properly. Padded clothing for races or dirt BMX is also a very good idea to protect your body. It is also possible to find other types of safety gear including kneepads and elbow pads. These can help to prevent injury in case of a fall.
Now that you know what you need to get started with this high-speed sport, it’s time to get out and find the best BMX bike for you.