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What does BMX stand for? | Jackson Trophies

Friday, 24 January 2020 09:45:45 Europe/London News , By George Finney

Man smiling whilst jumping a bicycle motocross bike

What does BMX stand for?

BMX is an acronym for Bicycle Motocross. A BMX bike is made for off-road racing and trick riding. 

BMX originated in California in the 1970s. Inspired by motocross riders of the time, people started to race their bikes on dirt tracks. 

In fact, BMX bikes were designed to get more people into motocross, but it soon developed into a sport of its own….

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A bicycle motocross bike standing against a rustic backdrop 

What makes a BMX different from a regular bike?

The BMX design is small, strong, lightweight and manoeuvrable. Good BMX’s are designed to withstand a lot of rigorous off-road riding. 

You can distinguish a BMX bike from a regular bike in a few ways. Mainly, they are characterised by their small frame size, wheels size and distinct u shaped handlebars. They are very basic bikes. Only having simple parts, they’re easy to build, maintain and fix.

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A 20” BMX Wheel

The most obvious difference between a BMX and a regular bike is the wheel size. BMX wheel sizes vary from around 16” - 26” but the standard size used by most BMX riders is 20”.

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A BMX Bike Frame

BMX’s have low frames and seats, which enables the rider to move more freely on the bike. This is especially useful when controlling the bike on jumps and around tight corners.

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BMX Bike Handlebars

BMX’s have high rising U-shaped handlebars. This is important because the bike is very low to the ground. The handlebars have to be high to reduce slouching and keep the riders back comfortable. The high front end and low back end work together well, giving the rider more control and leverage to do jumps and tricks.

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BMX Bike Sprocket

BMX’s only have one gear. Single-speed gearing is preferred by BMXers because it’s light, hard to break and easy to maintain. 

Moreover, good BMX's are made from strong and light metals. They’re also designed with a geometry that works with your body, making it easier to manoeuvre and do tricks.

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BMX bikes leaning against a fence on the beach

The different types of BMX

As the sport developed, BMX riders began to specialise in different sub-disciplines of the sport, which have grown into their own similar but separate entities. 

BMX racing and BMX freestyle were the original sub-disciplines. However, BMX freestyle can be further broken down into Street, Park, Dirt and Flatland. 

Most BMX riders will take part in all of these activities at some point, but most specialise in a single area. Each area requires a slightly different type of bike.

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Six bicycle motocross racers racing on a bmx race track

Racing

BMX racing is the origin of bicycle motocross. Eight riders race head to head around the track, and the first rider across the finish line is the winner. The tracks are usually made from dirt and tarmac. They’re full of jumps, pump bumps and tight corners. 

Race bikes have long frames and lots of tread on the tyres to give the rider more control. They also have high gear ratios and lightweight parts. This enables riders to gain and maintain speed around the track.

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A BMX trails rider doing a no-foot can

Dirt Jumping (Trails)

This sub-discipline of BMX is similar to racing. But, instead of going fast, far and low over jumps, trails riders focus on style and tricks. Dirt jumping is all about big steep jumps and effortless style. 

BMX dirt jumps are usually built by local riders with spades. They’re often pretty secret too. Jump builders don’t like other people riding their jumps as it means they have to spend more time maintaining them. And, if the council finds out about them, they might knock them down if they view them as a safety hazard. 

Dirt jump bikes are thick, sturdy and long, with chunky tyres. The thickness and length of the bike gives the rider more control in the air on big jumps. Thick tyres with lots of treads are favoured by trails riders too, as they give more traction at high speeds on loose ground.

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A street BMX rider doing a barspin over a water fountain 

Street 

Street riding is a very creative type of BMX. Street BMXers ride in urban locations like city centres. They use the city’s architecture as their skatepark. Street BMXers love to trick stair sets and grind handrails and ledges. 

Street BMX is very technical and requires a high level of manoeuvrability, which means the bikes have to be as light as possible. They’ll also usually have pegs for grinding. Rounded tyres with minimal tread are popular with street riders too. They maximise the riders ability to lean and control the bike on flat concrete surfaces. 

You’ll also notice that street riders don’t usually run brakes. This is for two reasons. Firstly, it makes some tricks easier because the brake parts don’t get in the way.

Secondly, removing the brake makes the bike look a lot better. Without the brake parts, the BMX has a very simple and clean aesthetic, which street riders love.

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A park BMX rider doing a tuck no hander air on a quarter pipe 

Park

Park riders love riding skateparks. They are known for doing big technical tricks and competing in freestyle competitions. Half pipes, quarter pipes and big ramps are a park rider's favourite riding spots. 

Park BMX’s are very similar to street BMX’s. Although, park BMXers usually have two brakes and a giro. A giro allows the handlebars to spin around without getting the brake cables tangles.

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A flatland BMX rider balancing on his pegs

Flatland

This sub-discipline is all about balance and control. Almost like dancing with the bike, flatland riders demonstrate incredible balance, moving it through incredibly complex motions, usually without leaving the ground. They spend their time practising on flat concrete surfaces like car parks. 

Flatland BMX’s are quite different from other BMX’s. As you can see from the picture, they’re built with different geometric principles to enable maximum balance and control at speed.

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So, do you ride bicycle motocross?

If you’re into BMX and entering BMX competitions, head over to our cycling trophy section and take a look at our BMX trophies!