What Is a BMX Bike: Why Is BMX Different From Other Bikes?

If you’re a bike enthusiast, I’m sure you must have heard of BMX, which is why you’re here. But you certainly want to know more, so here it goes. 

BMX is an abbreviation for bicycle motocross or bike motocross. Cyclists use BMX bikes to perform off-road stunts and participate in competitive races. They are specifically designed to cycle over bumps, do jumps, and stunts, go uphills, and come down performing fancy tricks.  

But how are they different from regular bikes, and what sets them apart? What is their origin, and history, and how did they come into being?

What Is a BMX Bike?

BMX stands for  Bicycle MotoCross, one of the most popular bike categories. BMX bikes have a smaller structure and 20-inch wheels as compared to the big mountain bikes and road bikes. BMX bikes are designed to handle the pressure of performing certain stunts, off-road racing, bike street racing as well as freestyle riding.

They have a unique structure, which is strong and easy to maintain. 

BMX bikes are usually made of dependable Chromoly steel or aluminum. You can easily recognize a BMX bike from afar because of its small and compact body.

Furthermore, BMX bikes are more durable than other bikes. This is why you can’t pull off the stunts from a regular bike. This is also what makes BMX bikes one of a kind.

BMX bikes have become more identifiable because of the movies where they show actors performing all those cool stunts on their fancy vehicles.

What Are BMX Bikes Used For? 

BMX bikes were originally designed for off-road cycling purposes as well as performing stunts. However, they are now used for several different purposes such as racing, dirt/trail biking, flatland as well as freestyle biking. 

All these different types of riding require different styles of BMX bikes for their different terrains.

History of BMX Bikes

BMX bikes were launched in the 1970s in California when children began racing on their bicycles on dirt tracks in southern California. The name Bicycle Motocross (BMX) was inspired by the motocross (a cycling event where participants cycle over rough, hilly terrain). 

They were designed as an inexpensive and simple option for motocross. This sport generated an idea in Southern Californian bikes to build lightweight and handy bikes that can easily be used on both paved and muddy roads. 

The initial BMX bikes could then be ridden swiftly through motocross terrains and purpose-built courses.

Performing stunts became a center of attention for the Californian young and grown-up audience, who also saw such bikes as a great alternative to overpriced motocross bikes. 

How Are BMX Bike Gears Different From Other Bicycle Types?

Most BMX bikes have fewer gears (usually only one) whereas other types of bikes have multiple gears. BMX riders have the option to choose between two gear options, tall and short. 

This classification depends on the number of sprocket teeth as the more teeth the sprocket has, the taller the gear is. 

The bikes with taller gears are preferred by racers, while short-gear BMX bikes are preferred by flatland riders since they are ideal for stalls and grinds. 

What’s Unique About BMX Bikes?

6 characteristics make BMX bikes a hot favorite among biking enthusiasts. 

#1 Frame

The frame of the BMX bike plays a major role in its performance and efficiency. BMX bike frames have a 20-inch long tube as compared to the 45-inch tubes on regular road bikes. This shows the compact design of the BMX bikes. 

The short design of BMX bikes is ideal for stunt cyclists who can swing their bikes 360 degrees in mid-air without damaging the bike frame or falling.

The small frame also reduces the weight of the bike which makes it easier for riders to pick up speed between jumps. 

Moreover, the frame material also plays a major role in executing jumps and tricks. Such as, the freestyle BMX bike frames are made from a chrome steel alloy that is super lightweight. This allows the riders to perform stunts easily. Plus, the material is super durable. 

Another material used in BMX bike frames is aluminum which is even more lightweight than chrome steel alloy. It is more common in BMX racing bikes as it increases speed capabilities. 

#2 Fork 

BMX bikes have rigid forks. The high-end race BMX bikes use expensive carbon fiber forks. However, a majority of the bikes have old-fashioned steel forks. 

On the other hand, 4130 Chromoly is far more preferable because of its superb strength-to-weight benefits and since this high tensile material is more affordable.

#3 Handlebars

The handlebars of BMX bikes are mostly tailored to suit different individual riders. Some riders prefer to have wider bars that are essential to provide more control while some like to use narrow and stubby bars that provide them with a faster way to turn. 

The handlebars are different and unrecognizable due to their two-piece or four-piece construction. Some handlebars are tall since they help the riders improve their posture whilst riding, whereas shorter bars can increase the jump height. 

You’ll most likely see flanged handlebar grips on BMX bikes.

#4 Brakes

BMX bikes typically come with two brakes: front and rear. The rear brake is a V-style one as it is powerful and lightweight. Freestyle BMX bikes also have both brakes and sometimes even a gyro on some models. 

This is a combination of cups and bearings placed below the stem, allowing the bars to be spun 360 degrees without getting tangled in the brake cables. 

However, BMX riders don’t use brakes to stop the bicycle. Instead, they stop the bike with foot friction on the rear wheel.

#5 Wheels & Tyres

The wheels of the BMX bikes are different from standard bikes. The wheels vary depending on what the bike is being used for. Normal BMX bikes come with small wheel sizes and knobby tires, making them ideal for gripping the dirt on off-road dirt tracks. 

Freestyle BMX bikes have 20-inch wheels, which makes them the most popular variant. These tires are designed with a pattern that has improved grips.

Meanwhile, the flatland BMX bike wheels are intended for pavements and roads, so an increased grip is not necessary for them. 

Their wheels have powerfully built rims which gives them more durability to survive a lot of bumps and jumps.  

» Read my blog post: 700c Vs. 26 Inch Bicycle Wheels

#6 Drivetrain

The BMX bikes have three different kinds of cranks: one, two, and three-piece. The one-piece is the most basic one, which uses a single piece of metal to form both the crank arms and the axle. 

The two-piece versions are mostly similar to mountain bike cranks that have the axle bonded to the crank arm. Lastly, the three-piece cranks are the most preferred type since they have increased strength. 

#7 Weight

BMX bikes are usually between 20 and 30 pounds. The lighter the bike, the easier it is to do tricks.

There is no weight limit for BMX bikes because a rider’s weight does not affect its function or design.

However, 250-300 pounds is a safe number to look at. Riders who exceed this weight limit may put too much strain on the frame and components, leading to breakage or damage.

Different Types of BMX Bikes

In recent times, the majority of BMX bikes have been widely used for several disciplines of riding.

#1 Racing

There’s a whole variety of  BMX bikes for racing. 

Quick trivia: Racing was the origin of the bicycle motocross (BMX). 

Whilst racing, people in the 1960s would perform jumps, berms, and even turns on BMX bikes when they would cross the checkered flag. 

Nowadays, bike riders between the ages of 5 and 65 compete on the national circuit through the USA BMX.

BMX racing is clean and lightweight as well as super exciting for families to compete in. These bikes are stable as well as maneuverable which can allow the riders to control their tricks without impacting their speed. 

With them, riders get to perform tricks while riding on hilly terrains.

The frame of the BMX racing bikes is tall so the riders can have improved handlebar control and line of vision. 

Riders barely ever sit down while riding them, so they’re built smaller than normal bicycles. They are low profile and contain thin 20-inch wheels to create a balance between traction and speed.

They contain a long crank which can allow the riders an increased pedal power and improved efficiency. The rear brake is strong and also provides improved stopping power on the dirt track. 

» Maybe this also could be of interest to you: 10 Most Famous Races in Cycling

#2 Flatland

Flatland is another type of BMX biking, which is considered more of a dance performance. Flatland is all about balance and control because flatland riders tend to have incredible balance as they move the bike through a series of complex motions without leaving the ground. 

Flatland was inspired by the early ramp riding when the riders didn’t have much area to ride. They developed the tricks to perform these motions on flat ground. This type of riding is often very difficult to master. 

Flatland BMX bikes are different from regular BMX bikes as they are built with different geometrical principles to provide maximum balance and control over speed. This type of riding usually doesn’t focus on speed or doing tricks like jumps or turns. 

This is why these BMX bikes have a small and compact frame to provide the riders with better clearance during their performance through tight spaces. 

They also have a zero-offset fork and a free coaster hub which allows the rider to spin the rear wheel in a backward motion without cranking. These specifications are meant to improve the rider’s balance. 

#3 Freestyle

BMX Freestyle biking is more of a competition than a race. In freestyle racing, the riders perform two-minute runs where they execute a small sequence of tricks on ramps, box jumps, or walls throughout a park. 

After this, all the riders are judged on their tricks — based on difficulty, and originality. Freestyle BMX riding is done almost anywhere — from skate parks to ordinary streets. Freestyling is more focused on tricks and stunts instead of speed and racing. 

In 2016, the International Cycling Union (UCI) collaborated with Hurricane Action Sports, organizers of the FISE (International Festival of Extreme Sports) World Series to create the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup series. 

These competitions have given bike riders a platform to qualify for the Olympic games. 

Freestyle BMX bikes have front and rear wheel pegs for standing, grinding tricks, and stalling. Their frames are heavier than the BMX racing bikes. They also have a full brake setup and short gearing. 

#4 Dirt

BMX bikes are popular for dirt jumping as well. Dirt riding has evolved from normal jumping to stunts like doubles as well as tabletops (jump and landing with the gap filled in), hips, berms, rollers, etc. 

Dirt riding is quite similar to racing. However, instead of going fast and far, the riders are focused on big steep jumps and maintaining an effortless style. BMX dirt rigging is often done on secret grounds. 

Dirt jump BMX bikes are often thick, sturdy, and extended along with chunky tires. This thickness is meant to give the rider increased control in the air on big jumps. 

Plus, thick tires with lots of treads are also favored by trail riders because they give more traction on high speeds and loose ground. 

What is a Cost of a BMX Bike?

A BMX bike typically costs between $200 and $500. The exact cost depends on the brand, the quality of the components, and other factors. Some BMX bikes may cost more than $1,000.

BMX is a sport that requires a lot of specialized equipment, and that equipment is often very expensive.

BMX bikes can cost several thousand dollars, and they need to be replaced more frequently than other types of bikes because of the demands of the sport.

In addition, BMX riders need to wear special clothing and shoes, and they often need to travel to competitions, which can also be expensive.

Who Shouldn’t use BMX Bikes?

There are a few groups of people who shouldn’t use BMX bikes. Older adults may be unable to handle the physical demands of riding a BMX bike. You must select the right size for a BMX bike for maximum safety.

BMX bikes make a great choice for thrill-seekers but not for someone afraid of personal injuries. BMX bikes are mainly designed for performing stunts and tricks.

BMX bikes provide excellent stability, grip, and speed to perform stunts safely. However, if you are not careful enough, it might cause some serious injuries because of its lightweight structure.

BMX bikes are also not recommended for long distances as the pedaling gets uncomfortable over time.

Since BMX bikes work on a single-speed low gear, their maximum speed is restricted. Hence, it’s not an ideal choice for someone looking for fast commuting.

Is a BMX Bike Good For Beginners?

Yes. BMX bikes are not just limited to pro recreational cyclists, beginners can also ride around in BMX bikes. There are many BMX beginner-friendly bikes as well.  Be sure to start by practicing small stunts like jumps and then slowly moving forward.  Plus, always wear the BMX bike safety gear at all times. 

Final Thoughts on BMX Bikes

BMX bikes are certainly unique and popular amongst young cyclists. You can even see BMX bikes at normal skate parks. People with BMX bikes stand out because of their amazing stunt performance abilities. 

Overall, BMX bikes are used for various types of riding. If you are someone who is looking to buy a BMX bike, go for the ones which suit your riding style. 

Have fun exploring the inner stunt rider in you! 🙂

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