Wider tires grip on washed-out surfaces. Steel frame is both tough and light so tricks are easier to perform and control. The chainring is great for precision control and speed checks on jumps.
Seat bolt has been known to loosen every now and then.
The 24 inch wheels are good for adults and teenagers. Built from steel to make it durable when learning how to do new tricks. The alloy rims are light. Handlebars can be moved 360 degrees for more advanced tricks.
While the steel is great for durability, it also makes the bike heavy.
Old-school look. Laid-back seat is great for taller adults. The aluminum frame and rims make the back very light. Single-speed for ease of maintenance. All parts are upgradeable.
The material seat is made of is very uncomfortable.
Designed for experienced riders. Tapered head tube, powerful tires, and chromoly frame for speed, jumps, and tricks. Comfortable for tall riders. Not overly difficult to assemble.
Not ideal for beginners. Some reports of issues with handlebars and break lines.
Trike design with BMX-style front wheel. Easy to put together and fun to ride. Tough welded steel frame. The bucket-style seat is easy to adjust. Back wheels are perfect for drifting. Holds up to 200 pounds.
Back wheels are prone to breaking with pressure.
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You can't just watch. That doesn't open the floodgates of adrenaline. To get the full rush, to feel that addictive surge as you sprint headlong toward that ramp, knowing full well you're about to attempt a double barspin – and land it clean – you just gotta do it! There's no vicarious living in BMX, it's all first-person.
But before the bunny hop, there's the bike. You need something to ride. If this is your first foray into the BMX adventure, how do you know what you need? Are all bikes the same or is there one that is right for you? How big does it need to be? What should the bike be made of? What are the features that will launch you to freestyle fame?
BMX is an abbreviation for bicycle motocross. The activity originated when young cyclists began emulating their motocross heroes, performing stunts and racing with bikes instead of motorcycles. Although the opening of the 1971 motocross documentary On Any Sunday, which shows kids going off-road with their Schwinn Stingray bikes, is cited as the catalyst for the sport's popularity, there is BMX footage from Amersfoort, Netherlands, that dates back to the 1950s.
Where will you ride?
The physical demands on your BMX bike will be different depending on where you ride. There are five riding scenarios (each necessitating specific bike features): street, dirt, park, flatland, and racetrack. Yes, there is some blurring among types of bikes. As always, personal preference is the ultimate deciding factor. The following are some of the key differences among BMX bikes.
Street: Think of it as bike parkour. Cruising through an urban environment waiting to be inspired by a set of stairs and rails. This bike needs to be a bit sturdier and heavier so it can withstand those really hard hits.
Dirt: If you want to get big air, you need a solidly constructed bike that can survive those midair bails. To get the off-road traction you need, these bikes have knobby tires with deeper, thicker tread.
Park: These bikes are built for doing tricks in a controlled indoor environment. There are no unexpected surfaces or traction concerns, so the tires can be thinner with smaller treads. These bikes tend to be lighter than bikes for street or dirt riding.
Flatland: If you’re interested in this style of riding, you’re more concerned with grace than big air. The frame of this bike is different – the focus is on achieving balance in a wide variety of riding positions. You'll find pegs on both the front and rear, a system that prevents brake cables from getting tangled during 360° rotations, and the rear hub allows the wheel to roll backward freely. The tires on these bikes have slick treads.
Racetrack: There are two instantly noticeable differences on a racing bike. These bikes almost always have brakes, and they have a larger chainring/sprocket – the part attached to the crank that the chain wraps around – so the rider can go faster. Racing bikes are also lighter.
As dangerous as it may sound, BMX and brakes are not the best of friends. The cables get in the way, twist up, and make some tricks impossible. Additionally, in the heat of the moment or in a nasty spill, the lever can injure the rider.
That being said, the average biker can’t teleport to the park, he or she must ride through traffic to get to a destination, and that requires brakes. Whereas brakes can be an inconvenience or a hazard when executing tricks, for a novice rider, they’re a necessity when traveling (the soles of your sneakers will only last so long)!
The compromise in BMX? Rear brakes only. In a bike designed for tricks, brakes placed within the rear triangle on the back end of the bike frame are out of the way of the rider.
Bearings are the little rings with metal balls located inside the spinning or rotating parts of your bike. These can be either unsealed or sealed.
Unsealed bearings are less expensive but wear out faster.
Sealed bearings are more expensive, more durable, and allow for smoother motion.
Rims can be single-, double-, or triple-walled. Each level up makes for a stronger rim – less prone to buckling under impact – but it also comes with an increase in price.
BMX bike tires are specifically designed for the type of riding you do the most. There are three broad categories: slick, multi-purpose, and knobby.
Slick: A slick tire has little tread. These tires are best for flatland, but some riders use them for parks and ramps.
Multi-purpose: This type of tire has a little more tread, but not enough to offer much resistance. If you're planning on using your bike in a variety of situations, or you just want to stick with street and park riding, this is the tire to use.
Knobby: These are thicker tires with deeper grooves designed to give you more traction in dirt and on trails.
Two other considerations regarding BMX tires are thickness and air pressure.
Thickness: The thickness of a BMX tire ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 inches, and most are 20 inches in diameter. You’ll see this expressed on the side of the tire as 20 x 1.5, for example. A general rule of thumb is that thinner tires tend to be faster, while thicker tires increase balance and traction.
Air pressure: The lower the tire’s air pressure, the more give. If you do a lot of trick riding on harder surfaces, a lower pressure (40 psi to 70 psi) will give you softer landings. Harder tires (90 psi and above) tend to go faster. These are better in instances when speed is the more important factor.
The hub is the center of the wheel, and with BMX bikes, you are particularly interested in the rear wheel. There are four different types of hub: freewheel, cassette, freecoaster, and coaster brake.
Freewheel: A freewheel allows you to coast when not pedaling. The cog and the ratchet are one part. It’s actually an external piece that is threaded onto the hub.
Cassette: A cassette also allows you to coast when not pedaling. The key difference is the ratchet is inside the hub, not part of the cog. The benefits are that it weighs less than the freewheel and is easier to service. This is the preferred choice for most BMX bikers.
Freecoaster: This hub allows the rear wheel to coast backward (as well as forward).
Coaster brake: This hub will brake the bike when the rider pedals backward. It is of no use to freestylers. In fact, it will prevent the biker from even attempting many tricks.
A BMX bike isn't your typical bike. A smaller frame is needed to execute tricks, so both children and adults ride bikes with the same wheel size (20 inches in diameter). The bike's size difference is measured by the length of the top tube, the one that runs from the seat to the handlebars. As noted, everything in BMX eventually comes down to user preference, but in general, top tube length is related to the rider's height.
Rider's height Top tube length
5'0" to 5'4" 18.5" to 19.5"
5’2” to 5’6” 19.25” to 20”
5’7” to 6’0” 20.75” to 21.25”
5'3" to 5'8" 20" to 20.75"
6' and over 21.25" to 22"
When it comes to adult BMX bikes, weight, materials, and price are closely related. The lighter the bike, the better the material, and the higher the price. You can expect to pay from $150 to $800 and up for an adult BMX bike.
Inexpensive: For between $150 and $400, you can find heavier bikes with carbon or hi-tensile steel frames that are designed as entry-level bikes. These bikes likely won’t have sealed bearings and only have single-walled rims.
Mid-range: For between $400 and $800, you will see chromoly 4130 frames (chromoly is lighter and more durable than hi-tensile steel). You will also find a braking system designed for facilitating tricks, as well as possibly sealed bearings in both wheels.
Expensive: For $800 and up, you’ll find custom bikes for serious riders. The more expensive adult BMX bikes feature the lightest materials and most durable construction along with sealed bearings and stronger rims.
Q. What kind of safety gear should I get for BMX?
A. You need a helmet. No compromise. Get one that can protect the back of your head for those times you take a backward tumble. Gloves are a necessity, too. They will protect your hands from both the grips on your bike and the concrete (or dirt) when you fall. Elbow and knee pads are also highly advised. The more protected you are, the greater the chance you'll feel ready to attempt that trick that's been eluding you.
Q. What is a bash guard?
A. Like it sounds, a bash guard is a shield that will help protect something on your bike – usually part of the drivetrain – when you collide with a stationary object.
Q. What are those short tubes attached to the wheels of a BMX bike used for?
A. Those short tubes are called pegs. They allow you to do numerous tricks. You can stand on them, use them when grinding, or execute a peg bonk with them! There are no limits. If you’re brave enough to attempt it, eventually you'll be able to do it.