by Wirnani Garner
BMX is short for bicycle motocross and refers to a sport that involves extreme racing on bicycles in motocross style, usually over dirt tracks. BMX bike racing started in southern California in the 1970s when kids started racing their standard bicycles over dirt tracks. This eventually evolved into the extreme sport that we see today. Now, "BMX bike" is a fairly generic term that can relate to any number of styles of bicycle, including all-terrain bikes and mountain bikes. The type of BMX bike you buy will depend on what you want to do with it and where you want to use it.
What are the different types of BMX bikes?
There are three different types of BMX bikes: the true BMX bike, the freestyle bike and the dirt jumper or jump bike. True BMX bikes are imitations of real motocross motorcycles. They were designed specifically for dirt racing, especially over jumps. They usually have a lightweight frame made out of aluminum or chromyl steel, knobby tires and a strong rear brake. The more expensive a BMX bike is, the lighter it will be. Freestyle bikes are predominantly used for flatland tricks. They are good for street or pavement riding or for "getting vertical" at your local skate park. They tend to be beefy as they have to withstand multiple impacts when coming down from stunts. These bikes often feature extra appendages, such as axle pegs to stand on during stunts, and both front and rear brakes. Dirt jumpers, as their name implies, are designed for dirt tracks and dirt jumping. They are a compromise between the lightness of a BMX and the beefiness of a freestyle bike. They're specifically designed for cross-country dirt riding.
What type of wheel strength do I need?
Like everything else on your bike, the type of wheels that you should buy depends on what you're intending to use your bike for. BMX bikes use lighter wheels because they help you accelerate out of the starting gates faster when racing. However, BMX wheels won't survive the harsher environments of freestyling or dirt jumping. Freestyle bike wheels are always ultra-sturdy because of the landing impacts they have to constantly withstand. It's common for freestyle bikes to sport 48-spoke wheels that provide maximum rim protection. On the other hand, dirt bike wheels tend to be more varied, ranging from the extra sturdy to being only slightly sturdier than BMX wheels.
What sort of tires should I use?
BMX bike tires vary between pavement and dirt designs because even the dirt tracks used for off-road racing tend to be packed fairly hard, which requires tires with low rolling-resistance. The tread of a BMX bike's tire should maximize speed as well as provide traction and grip for cornering and accelerating. Freestyle bikes require your standard tire for pavement and indoor surfaces, but many people inflate their tire to higher pressures than normal to provide more protection for their rims. This also helps balance the decrease in tire pressure that occurs on landings. For dirt jumpers, speed isn't as important, and your tires should provide maximum traction. This is because the terrain that you'll be riding on isn't controlled and is often unpredictable, so knobby tires will serve you best.