BMX 101

Geoff Meade BMX Pro Geoff Meade

So you want a BMX bike. Okay, no problem! Now what? We decided to put together this quick, informative guide to help you figure out what the right bike for your shredding pleasure. whether you are just getting started or  have a very specific model name or type of bike in mind already-this guide will help you make sense out of it.

You might think a great BMX bike will cost tons of money but don’t sweat it-It may not be as bad as you think. There are lots of bikes out there and figuring out what you need from your bike will determine how much cash you need to part with to make it happen.

If you are not totally familiar with BMX bikes here are some basics. First, BMX means Bicycle Moto Cross. Back in the day BMX meant racing a bike on a dirt track. It still means that today and is even included in the Olympics. There are still BMX tracks here and there as well but they are few and far between. The term BMX bike now also includes bikes that are used for street and trick riding as well. The four disciplines are “Street”, “Flatland”, “Park”, and “Dirt or Trail” riding. All of these styles have similar skill requirements but each has it’s own unique attributes as well.

  1. Flatland-This type of riding focuses on acrobatic maneuvers done on flat ground, usually concrete or pavement, in a confined area. The tricks involve moves that have the rider changing positions on the bike while keeping it rolling forward and may include bar spinning and hopping maneuvers. Flatland bikes will always have 4 pegs and a “Gyro” to allow the handlebar to spin 360 degrees without tangling the cables.
  2. Street Riding-As it’s name implies, is done on sidewalks and streets incorporating natural and man made obstacles that a rider overcomes using a variety of hopping, grinding, and wheelie techniques. A ride will be a point “A” to point “B” trip that includes stringing together multiple obstacles including walls, handrails, ledges, stumps, curbs, etc. The more style and flare a rider uses, the better.
  3. Park Riding-is done in a man made setting that incorporates various features including quarter pipes, half pipes, bowls, rail features and more. Parks are made with very specific layouts and dimensions so that the obstacles and features allow a skilled rider to connect a variety of tricks that flow one into the next. Park riding is popular because of the suitability to flow riding and also the lack of getting hassled by the man for riding in places you shouldn’t.
  4. Dirt-Also called Trail or Dirt Jumping. This type of riding takes place on non-paved courses and feature natural or man made dirt jumps in succession to create a flowing point “A” to Point “B” ride where one of the main objectives is to get “Air”. (Both wheels off the ground. The higher you go, the better.) As in Street riding, adding flare, or style maneuvers into the jumps is part of the fun.

All of these riding categories have a variety of skills in common including Bunny Hopping, Wheelies, Nose Wheelies, Tail Whips, Bar Spins, and Edge Grinding.

So back to the question-What is the right bike for me?

The good news is that even if you have a “Street” bike, you can probably also do some “Park” riding on it as well. Add pegs to all four corners of the bike and a Gyro and you can do lots of Flatland tricks too. Any of the bikes are great for short rides around the neighborhood with friends.

The bike you choose should be most suited to the type of riding that you will likely be doing. For example, if you have access to a dirt trail, get a “Trail” designated bike but know that you can use it for “Street” and “Park” as well.

And finally, how much should you spend? Well, no one is ever sorry for buying the better one but lets break down the difference between a $539, $389, and $100 bike.

On this $539 bike from Fitbike

Fitbikeco Begin FC

Fitbikeco “Begin FC”

you get a full Chro-moly steel frame meaning all the tubes in the frame are made from the lighter, stronger steel. The fork is Chro-Moly also. The crank set is a three- piece chro-moly unit and the rear wheel uses a double wall rim for added strength. A forged stem and 4-piece welded handlebar round out the package. This bike can take some punishment and is suited for a larger rider with some experience.

Down line a little bit is the Fitbike “STR” model.

At $380 your frame has only the 3 main tubes made from Chro-Moly and has single wall rims front and rear. The bike also has only a single piece seat and a heavier crank set. This is still a great bike for the money and is suited to a younger rider just getting started.

For $99 bucks you can get bike made entirely from hi-tensile steel that weighs anywhere from 2 to 6 pounds more and has the lowest grade materials for all of its parts. A bike in this range is not going to be very durable at all and is best suited to the rider who is hardly ever going to ride the bike. You shouldn’t expect more than a couple of months of use out of a bike like this.

Sub $100 Bike

Sub $100 Bike

Some general things you should know:

Virtually all BMX bikes will have 20” wheels and a traditional “diamond” shape frame and tall handlebars in the 8.5” to 14” tall range.

BMX bikes should be ridden with the seat very low. Even though this seems to contradict regular bike riding lore, the BMX bike is generally pedaled standing up and most tricks are done without engagement of the seat.

Even if you are tall you will ride the 20” wheel size bike. In some cases you might find a bike that has a 22”-24” top tube but most BMX bikes are 20” to 22” from the seat post tube to the head tube. For smaller kids there are some “compact” BMX bikes that may have an 18” top tube.

Frame material-Generally speaking BMX bikes are made from one of two types of steel. Either Hi-Tensile steel, or Chro-moly steel (short for chromium molybdenum) . Chro-moly is a steel alloy that is much lighter and stronger than ordinary Hi-Tensile steel. Generally speaking, the more expensive a bike is, the more Chro-Moly tubes it has in its frame.

Regular BMX bikes usually come with one hand brake for the rear wheel.  On a good quality bike the brake is generally very strong. For new riders sometimes adding a front brake might be a good idea. For the little kids though, a bike with a “coaster” or foot brake is still the best.

Front Pegs

Front Pegs

Pegs are the things that you see sticking out from the center of the wheel hub. Pegs are used for doing a variety of tricks. Pegs can be configured  2 in the back, 2 in the back plus 2 in the front, one left rear with one left front. The configuration depends on what types of tricks the rider wants to do.

Gyro Cable De-tangler

“Gyro” Cable De-tangler


A “gyro” is a device mounted between the handlebar stem and the frame that allows you to spin the handle bars around in a 360 degree circle without tangling up the cables. Most bar spin tricks are not possible on a bike that does not have a Gyro unless of course the bike has no brake cables either which we do not recommend!!

3 PIece Crankset

3 Piece Crank

3 Piece Crank– the arms that the pedals are attached to and is made from three separate pieces- a left and right arm and the bottom bracket which is the spindle that is threaded into the frame and holds the crank set together.

1 piece crank set-Made from one steel bar that is bent into an “S” shape, threaded through the bottom of the frame and rolls on inexpensive bearings. Usually found on cheaper bikes.

1 Piece Crankset

1 Piece Crank

Hopefully this guide has given you a good starting point for your BMX bike shopping. If you want to explore further check out some of these models on our website or, even better, come visit us at our Parsippany cycling center and let us help you pick just the right bike! In the meantime, if you have any questions, drop us a line here.

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