Men and women have pondered questions in our society, tirelessly searching for answers to solve great debates. All through history, these great questions have sparked endless arguments and continue to burn infinitely.
Questions like, “day or night?”, “the movie or the book?”, “paper or plastic?” and “ninjas or pirates?” have stimulated some of the most profound freethinkers of our time. Today we add another question to this stimulating list by asking, “skateboarding or BMX?”
Maybe we went overboard with the profound freethinkers line, but these questions are a staple nearly anywhere in the world. While it may be impossible to ever provide a definitive answer to any of them, at the very least, they make for friendly debating with your friends.
Despite the lack of a clear-cut winner, one thing we can do is provide the important elements of each and let you decide which sounds better to you. Follow along as we highlight the features, facts, and fundamentals of skateboards and BMX riding.
Table of Contents
Regardless of whether you choose skateboarding or BMX biking, these activities have two things in common. They each require a heck of a lot of talent, and you need the proper equipment. Let’s go over the standard equipment list for each.
Over time, skateboarding has split into a few different sub-genres like trick skateboarding, longboarding, and others. However, the skateboard parts are the same regardless of how you choose to board.
The board, also known as the deck, is the main portion of the skateboard where the rider stands. Historically, the deck of the skateboard was made exclusively of wood, but things changed. Today, you can obtain decks made from aluminum, kevlar, and fiberglass.
A skateboard’s trucks are sort of like the axles on a car in how they connect the wheels to the frame or body. The trucks get anchored to the board’s underside, with one placed upfront and the other in the rear.
Typically aluminum is used to make trucks because of its lightweight properties. These aluminum components contain a central bolt, the main base, a transverse axis, two rubber pieces (bushings), and screws that attack each truck to the deck.
The ends of the truck contain the wheels. Typically the wheels are made from polyurethane, although there are other options.
Four shock pads get placed on a skateboard between the deck and the trucks. These pads absorb the force from hard impacts sustained typically when the skateboard lands.
BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross. Much like skateboarding, the world of BMX biking gets separated into different subgenres. However, the base components are still generally the same across the board. Or across the bike. (no pun intended)
The frames of BMX bikes usually get made from either carbon fiber, aluminum, or very lightweight types of steel. Frame materials get decided upon based on what type of BMX biking gets done the most.
If the sport is BMX racing, the frame gets cut longer than a BMX trick-bike used for flatland and street competition.
Handlebars are usually always made of aluminum or carbon fiber. One distinct feature of BMX bikes is that their handlebars get designed larger than normal bikes. This handlebar size gives the rider more control over the bike.
The handlebars get adjusted based on the size of the rider and the length of their arms. The scope of tricks performed also affects the handlebar settings.
BMX wheels are available in sizes of 20 inches and 24 inches. Smaller options are available for children.
Good traction is crucial when it comes to BMX tires. Higher-spoked wheels are stronger and come in 36 or 48 counts. Support impacts and jumps, so a strong wheel with a high spoke count is important.
Brakes are not a full-time component on BMX bikes. Riders will choose not to install brakes, depending on the riding style.
Equipping BMX race bikes with brakes for the front and back is standard. However, installing front brakes on trick-bikes is not recommended. Loss of control is an issue on trick bikes with front brakes.
Brake cables prevent handlebars from making complete spins on traditional bikes. Riders deciding to use brakes on freestyle bikes use rotors as opposed to normal brake systems with cables.
Installing a rotor allows a rider to turn the handlebars a full revolution with no obstruction from cables. Performing tricks is much easier with rotors as opposed to brake cables.
Optional Design Styles
Now you know the core essentials when it comes to equipment. Since skateboards and BMX bikes both have sub-categories that allow riders options, riding styles and competition types vary greatly.
Skateboards are designed differently based on their use, a rider’s skill level, and other elements. Listed below are the various skateboard designs and their most practical uses.
Longboards are typically 33 inches in length or greater. These boards have increased width sizes as well and bigger wheels to provide a stable, smoother ride.
Usually, riders choose longboards for long-distance rides with a lot of hills involved. A good skateboard is required for riding fast, and longboards usually get the job done. However, longboards are rarely used for trick or freestyle skating.
Longboards also come in various designs like the ones listed below.
- Cruiser longboards
A cruiser skateboard is a modified version of a longboard. The shorter design makes it more suitable for carving turns and navigating areas with sharp curves.
Riders choose cruisers in areas with less wide-open spaces that have more obstacles. The wheels aren’t as large on a cruiser, so avoiding high speeds and hills is a good idea. Flatland use is a better option for these boards.
Carving skateboards became popular between the longboard and double-kick skateboard era. Designs began on these boards when the bowl form of skating became popular, and riders emptied pools for areas to perform vert tricks.
Carvers get equipped with front trucks that allow riders to turn the board easier and generate speed. By carving back and forth, users can maintain high-speed levels while still enjoying maneuverability by pivoting the front trucks.
Considered the modern-day skateboard, a double-kick has slants on both ends of the board. In the 1980s, when skaters adopted ollying and kick-tricks, these dual kick side skateboards were perfect for vert ramps.
These boards aren’t ideal for going fast or using for long distances. However, these are the ideal boards for performing tricks and maneuvers that are popular with the modern-day skateboarding style.
Two main BMX design styles exist, depending on whether a rider wants speed and stability or resistance and maneuverability.
BMX race bikes have extremely lightweight designs. Speed is a top priority, and the lightweight materials used on the frame provide riders the ability to reach a breakneck pace.
These race bikes get designed with firmness and durability in mind. Riders navigate steep jumps and razor-sharp corners, so a solid design is a must.
A BMX freestyle bike gets designed with a considerably shorter length frame compared to its racing counterpart. Performing tricks is much easier with a compact design allowing for extra maneuverability.
Handlebars lack grips on freestyle bikes. The added maneuverability from this noticeable absence allows a rider to perform tricks in midair efficiently.
These freestyle bikes possess an elevated level of hardness mixed with resistance. Being exposed to hard landings and blows from tricks means these bikes take a beating and must get protected.
Styles of Riding/Competition
Since we know what type of skateboards and bikes exist, let’s talk about action. These are the most popular styles of riding or competition types for these two sports.
Big air skateboarding uses three sections of ramps in succession that allow skaters to gain huge elevations to perform tricks.
Freestyle skateboarding is the oldest style of competition in skateboarding culture. Skaters use flatland to perform kick and flip-style ground tricks.
Half-pipe skateboarding consists of two vert-ramps placed together to form a half-circle. Skaters start at the top of one side of the ramp and jump in, moving from one end of the pipe to the other while performing air tricks in rotation.
This was the earliest style of big air vert-ramp skating that elevated skateboarding from horizontal to vertical. The name isn’t just a clever one as players maneuver through a pool to gain air for hitting tricks.
Skaters add elements of cityscapes and parks in this hybrid form or freestyle skateboarding. Ramps and other elements usually get incorporated in closed-course environments with elements of a skatepark.
Not all BMX riders rely solely on tricks. BMX Racing pits multiple bikers against one another on tightly-packed dirt paths with sharp curves, small, rigid, speed bump-like hills known as whoops, and giant dirt ramps. Speed gets offered through long, straight stretches of flatland. These BMX riding races are based on placed finishes and can be very exciting.
BMX Freestyle riding is a trick competition where bikers have a variety of options for landscape and setup while performing freestyle stunts. These are the various freestyle categories.
- A Dirt jump is a two-section course where a biker launches into a dirt ramp to perform midair tricks.
- BMX park competitions are similar to street skateboarding, with various obstacles at the rider’s disposal, including tabletop ramps and quarter pipes.
- Vert-ramp BMX competitions are identical to skateboarding half-pipes.
- Street riding BMX competitors are comparable to freestyle skateboarders. Bikers use a combination of rails, stairs, and other obstacles to perform tricks.
- In the BMX flatland competition, there are no rails, stairs, ramps, pipes, or tables, just a man and his bike. Bikers use the bike frame to perform tricks, utilizing the pedals, pegs, and handlebars. Balance is key in this competition.
Pros and Cons
Both of these extreme sports have their benefits and downfalls. Let’s examine these elements for both sports.
- Less expensive to get started
- Easier to learn for most people
- Skateboarding can generally be safer than BMX biking
- Skateboards require less maintenance
- Fewer options for long-distance and reliable travel
- Not as versatile for tricks on different terrains
BMX Bike Pros
- More practical uses for a bike in general
- Options aren’t as limited for terrain and areas for competing
- BMX bikes are more customizable than skateboards
- Bikes have a longer life
BMX Bike Cons
- BMX biking is more dangerous
- Fewer young BMX riders become experts at an early age. Even the simplest tricks are difficult to master for BMX newbies
- BMX requires more mechanical skills
The need for an adrenaline rush is the common desire between skateboarders and BMX bikers. Both offer high levels of excitement and can be very fulfilling.
Your decision should come down to an external element and an internal element. Physical ability, including balance and coordination, should be factored in as an internal decision. Externally, make your decision based on your geography in regards to park location and natural environment. Make a choice that allows you maximum enjoyment and usage for either platform!