BMX (bicycle motocross) racing has come a long way since it was first conceptualized. In fact, the humble origins of the sport are often cited as stemming from the motocross documentary, On Any Sunday, which opened in 1971. The opening scenes of that movie followed kids on their Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycles riding dirt tracks and imitating motocross riders.
Of course, those scenes were based on something that was already taking place. Generally it is recognized that BMX as a sport found its footing in California. The bicycle races were predominantly composed of kids who had the desire to participate in motocross but could not afford it. Instead, these riders would groom their own dirt courses and use their bikes. Today’s BMX racing tracks, with inline starts and expressive obstacles, trace back to this origin.
While ever since the invention of the bicycle there have been those who attempted innovations and tricks, most bikes up until this point were designed primarily as a means of transportation. Schwinn’s Sting-Ray changed that. The Sting-Ray was released in 1963 at a time when custom cars and motorbikes were becoming popular. It was custom-built for riding off-road at high speeds and landing jumps. These bikes became popular fast, and quickly became one of the best-selling bikes in the country. Afterward, more manufacturers took note and began designing bicycles with similar custom features, such as twenty-inch wheels.
As custom bikes continued to grow in popularity and design evolution, riders continued to test the limits of what they could do. As this trend continued into the 1980s, BMX came to be about more than just racing. Riders began to perform skateboard-style tricks, and this is how the freestyle division of BMX was born. As a result, new bikes were designed to provide optimal conditions for performing increasingly difficult tricks.
By the 1990s, the sport was nearly ubiquitous. BMX was featured as a major part of the X-Games on ESPN. That trend has continued to the present day, where BMX racing is bigger than ever. The sport has grown to have its own international governing body, and BMX races took place as an Olympic sport for the first time in 2008.
Along with the sport, the bikes themselves have continued to evolve. Anyone interested in BMX biking today has a high and diverse number of bikes available. Which bike is best for you depends on how you plan to ride.
In essence, BMX bikes are simply a type of mountain bike designed to excel on off-road surfaces. These bikes feature 18- to 24-inch wheels and are designed to be lightweight and durable. Their design makes them particularly suited for racing and tricks.
There are actually three forms of BMX racing, with specially designed bikes in each category; namely, racing, freestyle and jumping bikes. Whether you want to race competitively or just have fun on homemade trails, these categories can still be helpful for determining which kind of bike is best for you.
Racing BMX designs are made specifically with the idea of speed in mind. They are composed of lightweight frames and feature customized tires designed to excel on off-road surfaces.
Freestyle bikes are very sturdy, with thick frames and pavement-ready BMX tires. These bikes are best for riding in skate parks, where you can learn and practice stunts and tricks.
Finally, jump bikes feature strong, sturdy frames, capable suspension systems and knobby tires. As the name suggests, they are meant to handle jumps comfortably, whether that be as part of a circuit or a homemade jump in the backyard. These bikes are also good on trails.
If you are just starting out riding off-road at high speeds, then you may want to start with a racing BMX, as these allow you to get out on the track and will have you learning the basics in no time. It is also never a bad idea to contact your local bike shop to get advice on which bike will work for your purposes and with your build.
In addition to these categories, bicycle customization is becoming more widely accessible. This allows you to tailor your bike to your specific racing and aesthetic desires. Whether you want a bike you can occasionally take off-road at high speeds, or you are looking to become a devoted BMX racer, today’s BMX rider has more biking options available than ever before.