BMX Race Guides
Below are a list of guides to help you get into BMX racing.
Author: Bruce Morris Date Posted: 15 July 2020
BMX Race Training: Two targeted sessions to maximise your limited track time!
Think you can’t improve your riding or race results with just two track sessions a week? Think again! Take a few minutes to read this article and then apply the session plans to make improvements you thought you’d never make. Especially useful for older (40+) riders with limited time because of you know, life and stuff.
BMX racing is difficult, even more challenging as you get on in years! Having gapped my 50th birthday a few years back I can definitely empathise with how you feel when you wake up in the morning after a couple of hours on the track the previous evening and spend the first few minutes assessing whether your back is going to bend enough to put on your slippers. Tennis elbow? Check. Knees that ache? Yep. I’m hearing you...
If you already race, or are just starting out, I don’t really need to break down how difficult BMX racing is. As a rider of a few decades, you’d think I’d be really good at it, but some days I really suck. Funny things happen to your mind as you get older, let alone your body, and being a BMX coach with older riders in my group just starting their BMX journey at 40 years old or so, it really challenges me to dive deep into the process of getting “better” on a bike, rather than faster. How do I maximise their limited time (job, family, volunteering etc) on a track to maximise their smile?
Everybody just wants to go fast! Personally, my thoughts are that most older riders inversely apportion their track time between “gates” over other forms of training. Firstly, there’s nothing better at jacking up your spine than smashing out 20-30 gates. And secondly, there’s another 20-30 seconds of racing to go after the first corner. The over-emphasis isn’t your fault necessarily, afterall, it’s nearly always termed “gate night” at your local. Forcing you into a certain mindset that you’re there for one reason. Gates and hill times!
But is this the right approach? Well, no, and yes. Sure if you want to improve your race results you need a decent gate/hill. But if your last three-quarters of the track sees you bouncing off every jump, or your legs give out in the last corner, then it’s time to reverse your training.
Session 1 - Skill before Speed
Hard to wrap your head around, until you bury your head into the track at warp speed. You want to approach your training with the overall mindset that you layer your training. Laying down a skill, then build your speed to match it, Then repeat. Gradually building your skill levels on various jumps/sections on the track. I’m lucky to live in South East Qld, with access to a bunch of tracks that lets me ride a variety of terrain and approach my own riding this way. I spend a lot of time at lower speeds working on manualing before hitting a section fast. For one thing, it’s actually harder to manual slowly than fast. And it gives my mind time to warm up as well. This concept is something I feel racers find hard to adapt as they are so conditioned to go fast all the time. Compounded by the issue of tracks sometimes only being available for limited times for a week and sessions sometimes only lasting an hour.
Ideally you want 90 mins of track time and resist the temptation mentioned above of just hammering out gate after gate. Every week just pick a straight or two of your local and work within your skill level to gradually increase your speed through it. When you feel like you’re “over-reaching” your skill level, then it’s time to slow it down and work on moving your skills to the next level. The natural progression being, pumping, manualing, then jumping, for a beginner to intermediate rider. If you’re comfortable with manalling the first step-up (as an example) at your local at three-quarter speed, then slow it down and manual it slower and slower so that you develop your sense of balance on your bike.
I’ve seen plenty of riders manual doubles using outright speed, but can’t manual the same jump slowly. And often they can’t do this jump as full speed without their rear wheel leaving the ground. In its simplest form, manualing a small to medium double or step-up has the same set up as pumping the jump. Staying loose and absorbing the face/lip. Hit it stiff and you’re heading upwards. Work on jumps you’re comfortable with, then progress to bigger, lippier jumps. Or jumps like a step-up / step-down. You can pump, manual, pump these. Pump, jump, pump. Or double manual then pump. Just do it slowly at a medium speed to accomplish the skill, then hit it fast. Not the other way around as I can guarantee you’ll be able to bumble your way through the jump just using speed without really improving the feel you have on your bike.
And experiment with the lines you’re taking through a section, just don’t repeat the same way every time just because you feel comfortable.That’s a trap we call fall into. And give yourself plenty of rest time. Don’t rush the session.
Session 2 - Horsepower Hour
Okay, now it’s time to open it up a little! But gradually over the weeks, rather than every single session. If it’s a gate session, then let’s do some gates, but only if you have that first straight of the track dialed in. Again, it’s no good having all the horsepower, only to yank on the brakes before the first jump. Or back off the gas a few pedal strokes before it. So get that straight dialed before you open it up against the fast crew. And yep, I see it a lot where older riders will be at gates every week and not really get the first straight dialed, yet week after week they continue to do sprints to get faster. Skill before speed.
But now you’ve followed a plan, got your skills up to a level where they match your speed so let’s spend your second session of the week combining a gate/first straight set, with a track speed-endurance combo to increase your track fitness. This session then becomes more of a fitness session where you work on power and speed-endurance. Only having the opportunity to get to the track twice a week means compromise that needs you to have a purpose when riding, but not too “athlete” focused that it diminishes the fun of riding your bike. Don’t be a robot.
So split the session. Start up on the hill and do a few runs down the straight, warming up the body and mind. Then a few gates to dynamically warm up. 3 or 5 will do. Break down the first part of this session into sub-sets, 5x down to the first jump, 5x to the second jump, 5x to the first corner. If the straight’s a little short, do 5 runs to the first jump, then 10 to the first corner (split into 2x5 runs). Make sense?
Second part of this session will be 4x2 straight efforts. That is, use the last half of the track to do a little speed-endurance work. Again, do a couple of runs down these straights to get your eye in, then it’s time to let it rip. Working at a speed that your skill level matches, you’ll be rolling into the second berm and accelerating into the third and hitting it hard to the finish line (on a traditional “M” shaped track, if your track differs in shape, I’m sure you’ll work out a section to run). Do these runs at a 100% of your speed/skill level, with a 3 minute rest, and repeat 4 or 5 times.
The key here as you fatigue is to remain loose with your grip and resist the burn in your legs. By the third or fourth run you’re going to be feeling a little average. Don’t push it too hard to the point where you’re all over the shop. You might be cooked after two the first couple of weeks, but trust me, you’ll start to see (feel) the improvements in around 4-5 weeks. When you race, you’ll notice that your legs have a little more power in them as you come out of the last turn, or you are more composed down the 3rd straight in the 3rd moto because you’ve improved your anaerobic fitness. That resistance to fade.
From here you can layer up the weeks to throw in 3 straight efforts at 75-80% speed, then build your speed (with a little longer rest - 5 minutes) to 100%. After 6 - 8 weeks you’ll be feeling awesome, I guarantee you!
Final advice as a coach to you older crew… take it easy, don’t rush and remember to smile. You’re trying something that’s difficult, yet super rewarding. Plus you’re working on your fitness and mental health by doing something totally rad, and often with your kids.
Keep it upright.
Bruce Morris - LUXBMX Race coach
Author: Bruce Date Posted: 30 August 2019
BMX Racing – Get me on the track!
We answer all your questions.
Where’s the local BMX track?
Who can race?
How do I start BMX racing?
What bike do I need?
What do I need to wear?
How do I learn to race?
So you wanna race? You’ve probably landed here because of a few factors, but primarily because you want to find out more about BMX racing and how you can start, or maybe re-start with the kids. We’ve got you covered at LUXBMX not only with the gear you need, but we’re going to unpack the process on how to get started. There are a few jumps you have to clear before you’re allowed to take the gate to actually race, but we are about to lay it all out to make it super easy for you.
Where’s the local BMX track?
Great question. You might have already seen your local track or ridden it and hit Google to find out the name of the club and how to get started. We’ve laid out that process below, but in case you’re wondering where the tracks and clubs are in South East Queensland as an example, check the map. You can locate a track on our map and there’s a link for the club’s Facebook page. This is generally the best way to communicate with your local club, find out more about the club, phone numbers, email and days/nights they race or have coaching. Not all clubs are named after their location, so use this map at the end of this blog to find the name of the club and click though the links.
Any track with a start gate and infrastructure is likely to be a club that hosts racing and training events. Things like pump tracks and dirt jumps in your local park and mostly council facilities for riding. You can see a proper race track bellow, and they generally fall within 350-450m in length, with a fast lap taking 30 seconds for an elite rider, up to 50+ seconds for the youngest (or oldest) rider. There are regulations around minimum length, start hill height and a whole host of other factors, but at this stage this kind of stuff doesn’t really matter yet. You just wanna race!
There are some tracks in Australia that are referred to as supercross (SX) tracks and are defined by their 8m high start hill and huge jumps. Kind of a cross between a normal BMX track and the X-Games, though all of these tracks also have what is termed “amateur” hills and straights that are both lower and not as gnarly. They are located in Brisbane, Shepparton and Bathurst and look like the track you’ll see at the Olympics and are used for the type of training riders need in order to compete at an elite level on the world stage.
Who can race?
Almost anyone! If you can ride a bike, then you can race BMX but we wouldn’t recommend that you just sign up and pin it! We’ll cover how you learn to ride a track without heading straight to casualty a little later, and what type of bike is allowed. We’ll give you some recommendations on buying a bike and appropriate gear. Basically though, racing is broken down into male and female categories, age brackets, and at a state, national and world level, elite and junior elite men and women. The sort of rider you would see at an Olympic games. There are two wheel sizes as well, your normal 20 inch BMX bike that’s familiar to almost anyone, and cruisers which are a 24 inch wheel size (or up to 26 inch). More on the specific race bike types later. And lastly, there is a mini wheeler/balance bike class for the real youngsters. There’s a big difference between a 20 inch BMX bike, and a 20 inch mini mountain bike and as you’ll see, there’s no suspension on a BMX race bike.
At a club level where you will start, generally you will race against riders of similar age and ability, with the club’s officials working this out for riders. Kind of like grading. For the first few weeks or months, you might be content with just riding the coaching or training nights until you build the confidence to put it on the start gate to race, and that’s our inside tip. We’ve seen more than our fair share of bent bodies over the years because unlike other sports like snowboarding, the ground isn’t as forgiving as snow. And for you mountain bikers giving BMX a go, just park the ego in the esky and ease into it slowly. BMX bikes turn like shopping carts compared to your 29er and you’ll be on your butt before you brain even comprehends what just happened. But the upshot is that your bike control and handling skills will soon be on another level and your riding buddies will be in awe when you launch off jumps out in the bush.
How do I start BMX racing?
BMX racing is administered and overseen by AusCycling and any rider wanting to participate in official club training or racing requires a BMX licence (their term is "Race Off-Road" Licence). You can go direct online and complete your licence application here. Though our tip is to go with a FREE 4 Week Trial Membership first though, then convert it once you are hooked. There are some restrictions around this license, though you can hit up club training and coaching with this freebie. Within the Off-Road license there are different catagories based on age and once you click through, it will all make sense.
Another way to start is to head to your local club’s “Ride into BMX Day”, or "Come and Try Day". It’s an open day that gives people to opportunity to ride the track under the guidance of coaches and other riders. Almost always the club will provide BMX race bikes, helmets and gloves. Or you need to provide is to be wearing long sleeves and long pants. Jeans and a long sleeve tee are perfect. Some clubs hold these days 2 or 3 times a year, others at the start of the year right around when school goes back. If you love it straight up, you can organise your license on the day there at the club. You’ll meet other riders and parents who will be more than willing to share their knowledge and experiences of when they started up.
Alternatively, most clubs run what’s termed “club nights” which are the grass-roots racing level and you can just head along then and talk to the club’s crew and they’ll step you through the online process, and everything else we’ve outlined here. Predominantly held on Friday nights, these race events can be run during the day on weekends (particularly in the colder states), or during the week. Again, the club’s Facebook page is probably the best way to find out this info.
What bike do I need?
You can basically race on any 20 inch BMX bike, or 24/26 inch cruiser, but a race specific BMX bike has certain traits that lends itself to handling a modern BMX track better than say a freestyle bike. But there’s nothing wrong with giving racing a crack on your freestyle bike. There are provisions to race smaller wheeled bikes as well. 12 – 18 inch wheel sizes.
There are some rules around this though:
- Brakes: You have to run a rear brake. We do not recommend the use of front brakes.
- Pegs, stands, bells and reflectors etc must also be removed. Plus, no tassels sorry.
- You bike must be in good working order. Your local club peeps will help you asses its appropriateness.
The big differences between a race bike and a street dirt jumper style of BMX is the geometry of the bike and the way it is set up. Race bikes are generally sized appropriately for the rider’s height and built with lighter alloy or carbon frames. There are still chromoly frames out there too. The bikes overall are lighter and built for speed, not comfort. Ditto for the cruiser class of bikes.
Here’s a guide on sizing and the broad terms used within BMX racing circles to describe the race bike size. These are based up complete bikes you can buy, there’s another world where you build a custom race bike from the ground up. More than likely your first race bike will come from one of these categories though:
Balance Bike: 2 to 4 years old
Micro - 18 inch wheel: 3 to 5 year old
Mini/Micro: 4 to 6 year old
Junior: 5 to 8 year old
Expert/Expert XL: 7 to 15 year old
Pro/Pro XL/Pro XXL: 14 year old +
Cruiser (Pro sized 24 inch wheel): 14 years old +
Age is just a rough guide for you to get an understanding of sizing and a visit to your local club will sort you out for pinpointing the right bike size for as previously mentioned, most clubs have a range of trial bikes, or one of the families there will more than likely allow your rider to jump on one of their bikes to narrow it down for you. Just note down the frame size of the bike your rider fits best on, and the top-tube length. This is usually found on a frame decal. Or if you are in Brisbane, or close, come into the shop as we carry all complete sizes and the team there can "size" you up for a bike, and you can take it for a test ride.
Click here to go straight to our complete range of race bikes if you're ready to get started!
What do I need to wear?
This is pretty straight forward with the minimum requirements being a full-face helmet, gloves, long pants and long-sleeved shirt. You don’t need specific racewear just yet and you are allowed to ride and race club events in jeans and a long-sleeved tee. Once you move into racing above a club level, you will need to wear more specific racewear like the type you find here in our racewear section on our website.
You might also want to add some pads to wear under your race gear for extra protection and you can find these in the same link. Elbow and knee pads are our recommendation. You don’t want to “pad” up too much that it restricts your movement, so go for slimmer pads.
How do I learn to race?
Like any activity like snowboarding, or mountain biking, you will have an awesome experience if you learn the fundamentals from a professional coach or instructor. Not only will they give you more insights about the world of BMX racing, but it will make you a safer rider and lessen the chance of injury. It won’t stop it though! BMX racing is by nature a contact sport and crashes happen, but with the right safety gear on, your chances of hurting yourself are minimised. Don’t get complacent though, crashing is part of the sport, but work into it slowly and you’ll hopefully avoid injury.
Almost all clubs have coaches available and practice nights where you can go along and get the low down on the skills you need and the sort of things you can do to improve your riding and the enjoyment of attaining new skills. Any club offering coaching will ensure that these coaches will have the proper qualifications in place and are appropriate for your level of riding. If you’re older and returning to racing, tracks are a little more technical than you’ll remember and we’ve seen riders “learn” from YouTube and BMX isn’t like cooking, a firsthand experience is best from a BMX professional.
That answer all your questions?
LUXBMX has an in-house racing expert that you can shoot a message to if we haven’t answered everything for you here. He’s both a long-time racer and coach, actively coaching across all age groups from 6 to 50+, and levels from beginners through to national finalists. Contact Bruce Morris for buying advice, coaching tips or any BMX racing questions that you might have and he’ll steer you in the right direction.
Author: Bruce Morris / LUXBMX Race Coach - 10 minute read
I’ve done a few gates in my time, more than a few. But really, when I think back to the time when I started racing as a 13 year old punk in 1980 through to when I moved from the small northern NSW town I grew up in, to Palm Beach on the Gold Coast (when the folks moved in 1988), “gate night” wasn’t really a thing. I can’t remember practicing gates in those early years, only rocking up on race days and smashing out a thousand gates in practice. But then, with close proximity, Wednesday night gate night at Nerang with old sparring partners Paul Addams and Anthony “Howie” Waye were a thing! From 1988 to 1994 we would be there hammering out gates like our life depended on it and we banged bars like every gate was a pro final! Even to this day, the legacy of Nerang endures as a training and racing arena.
I took a break from BMX from 1996 to 2009 (got a job, mortgage, blah, blah, blah) and when I jumped back in, wow, had the landscape changed. Gate nights were a thing every night of the week just about! And this became the norm for the next 6 or so years for me until I bumped into Sean Dwight and had a conversation about the world of BMX racing, coaching and development. Discussing training intensities, volume and techniques. We kept in touch and he told me he had a product that replicated a gate start. The BMX Sprintblock.
A little sceptical at first that a "piece of ABS plastic could replace a gate, having a open and inquisitive mind combined with a 50+ year old back that didn’t particularly enjoy banging out 20 or 30 gates a night, the Sprintblock had me converted after receiving one and incorporating it into my training before heading to the USABMX Grands in 2018. I knew from previous trips that even in 51x, a short first straight and the ultra tough competition against guys who have a lifetime of USA racing meant that I better have my gate and hill sorted! That year I landed on the podium and I was convinced this training tool was intergral to that performance.
So, what’s the secret to a killer gate and the fastest hill time? Let’s break it down.
First up, let’s get our terminology right. When you see that time on the scoring app at racing, it’s not your “reaction” time. It’s your hill time. How fast you got from the gate to the bottom of the hill where the first timing loop is located. “Reaction” time is how fast you responded from the first horn/beep/light on the gate and it’s nearly impossible to measure without slow motion cameras and timing overlays. But one thing hasn’t really changed since the dawn of BMX, if you’re first to the bottom of the hill, you've got a pretty good chance of winning that race. Providing that you’ve got some top end and hunger.
If you’ve been around even for a little while, getting to the bottom of the hill first isn’t just a matter of horsepower. Getting out of the gate (getting the pop in old school language) quickly and smoothly requires the combination of skill, power and anxiety management. We could film this (and probably will in the coming weeks), but read on to get my insight in the process of beating your competition to the bottom of the hill, from a club race, to a national final.
This information in this article is exactly what I articulate it to the riders I coach as they move into the finals at national level. Not to go too far down the rabbit hole, my personal racing and coaching philosophy is to make even your “worst” gate as good as the competition’s best one. Has been since I was a kid. That’s pretty egotistical, but BMX racing is a sprint sport and you better have a good sense of ego to be a sprinter. Be it extrovertly demonstrated, or quietly destructive on the track.
Think of your gate like a golf swing. It has to be consistent time after time, and frustratingly, sometimes they go wayward. Consistency and repeatability are keys to a fast hill time. Combined with that other obvious trait, having the horsepower to lay down once you’re out of the gate! What you’re essentially trying to do is eliminate all the movements and processes that can lead to missing (mistiming) the gate to ensure that you’re solid every time. From those times you’re on the gate for training, to that national final.
So is the answer doing more gates? Well, no. This is where the Sprintblock comes into the equation as a training tool. Up until its release, all BMX sprinting was geared towards developing more power and speed. And a rider would normally use a stand of some kind to balance on, or roll to a stop and then fire off the sprint effort. The Sprintblock’s sliding top replicates the movement a well developed rider’s gate does. The initial movement of the front foot on the pedal should produce the opposite effect of firing your bike backwards. Sam Willoughby’s movement was measured up to 20cm by Australian researcher Josie Grigg.
This is where things get complicated, fast forward a bit, and the research Josie was doing demonstrated that one of the keys to a good gate is how smoothly a rider transfers to the second pedal out of the gate. But there’s a whole lot going on between that first beep/light and the second pedal. In fact, Josie’s PhD is based solely upon the first three crank strokes! Think about that for a moment, thousands upon thousands of words and countless hours of analysis to produce a PhD on the gate and those first three crank strokes. What hope do us mere mortals have of mastering the perfect gate.
Well we’ve kind of diverged a little, as I’m prone to do, though if you do race, you’ll have a pretty good insight into how good your gates are, or aren’t. I’m trying to provide context for those parents out there who may have never raced or been on a gate and wonder why little Johnny isn’t so hot down the hill, but seemingly fast as hell when it comes to riding away from homework. Let’s put aside all those other psychological reasons for that, and focus back on the gate.
Fast Hill Times - After all, that's the ultimate goal
A key ingredient to a fast hill time starts with (naturally) a fast reaction to the first beep/light. This is where a “random gate start” app becomes critical to use alongside the Sprintblock. So you can focus purely on reaction to a stimulus. The Srintblock’s sliding mechanism means that a rider is both reacting AND replicating the movement pattern created by the world’s best riders.
You can witness this movement on any World Cup coverage where the camera is focusing across the gate at the start. Just slow down the YouTube video to 0.25 speed and watch. We’ve captured a couple here and if you focus on the back wheel of the riders closest to the camera (Niek Kimmann is this case), you can see how much the rear wheel moves rearwards, and how much the rear pedal drops as a result. The images are a little dark, though you can easily identify the movement of the bike rearwards and in the image on the right you see Kimmann's back wheel nearly moves off the gate-start deck onto the flat!
Compare these to these images of my demonstration and you can see that the sliding top block mimics this movement as well. Dropping the rear pedal as the opposite pedal as force is applied to it. You just can't replicate this by using a static stand to balance on, and sprint off. This is the secret to the Sprintblock’s design and construction. A design that’s evolved as a result of years of experience from coaching a host of the world’s best racers by the Sprintblock’s developer, Sean Dwight. A quick note here. I'm using a timber base here as over the past couple of years of traveling everywhere with me, I've lost a segment from the kit. The segments allow you to adjust your pedal height.
You know the saying though, a tool is only as good as the craftsman, so what qualities and attributes produce a killer gate and hill time? We already know that being the fastest sprinter doesn’t make you a winner. What do you practice on the Sprintblock to make you better out of the gate?
Sprintblock Drills - using the tool to improve your gate and hill time
Note - I like to perform, and prescribe these following drills on flat pedals. There’s no scientific reason, other than this is what I’ve found works for me and the riders I coach. Though when I do hit a gate and hill at a track, I’ll use clips. In other sprint drills that I do on a track, I’ll also use clips, but these following drills are off track.
Let's break down the BMX start's components, then rebuild them
Balance and relaxation: Sounds simple, but I see not only new riders struggling to balance on a gate, but intermediate and advanced riders too. So straight up balance practice helps reduce the anxiety of lining up on the gate. Anxiety of starting the race is, I believe, one of the major contributors to poor performance. The simple act of going to “gate night” for a new rider is a noisy, intimidating environment, and mainly a counterproductive exercise. By having a rider practice balance and relaxation away from this environment will lead to a rider having more confidence.
Reaction time: By using a gate start app, a rider can practice reactive movement away from the noisy environment of gate night at the local track. Sure, we don’t discourage you from going still, but let’s take the stress out of focusing on smashing out gates and bring it right back to that initial reaction to the stimulus of the gate or light. Yes, there are definitely times when a rider needs to test themselves under “race” conditions and replicate banging elbows out of the gate, but work on this critical response time in a controlled environment then take it to the gate and more higher pressure situations. Gate nights are obviously part of the social aspect of BMX racing, but more often than not, I see riders just banging out gate after gate without really understanding what they are actually doing them for. If you’re training, have a goal.
Initial Movement: Imagine for a moment that you’ve never done a gate start in your life, and no one has explained to you the process. It looks like you’re just pedaling out of the gate doesn’t it? We all know that there’s a little more to it than that. Sitting in on a coach’s roundtable session with Connor Fields an he summed it up succinctly, as a rider you’re literally throwing yourself out of the gate. That’s exactly it. But you’re trying to do this by applying all the force your muscles can produce, firing in a distinct combination that produces a smooth, linear movement. Any disruption to the way your muscles are “recruited” can result in a poor gate. You “miss” the gate or you pop the wheel straight up instead of moving forward. At a certain level, this can be the difference to winning, and last place in the final.
Transfer to the second pedal: We've all done this, popped the front wheel out of the gate and stalled, this then in turn destroys the smooth transition to the second pedal. The first "full" pedal out of the gate. Even if you miss the gate a little, if you have this transfer to the second pedal sorted, then you're still in with a shot to lay down the horsepower on the 2 - 3 - 4 crank strokes and blow by everyone else. Pop a wheel and stall though and you're likely to get chopped. We'll use the Sprintblock to even out this critical transfer by focusing on it during a drill.
Linier (straight line) pedaling technique: Nothing kills speed like side-to-side movent in sprinting, This goes for BMX sprinting as well. Too often I see riders just going gate after gate in the hope that they get better at them. I've been guilty of this in the past, but now I've watched and absorbed a lot of sprinting technical training from the athletic track world and seen the importance of strong and powerfull trunk (core) and its role in stabilizing the body under acceleration. Side-to-side movement can be easily detected in a rider as they accelerate by watching the tips of their handlebars. You want all of your hip and leg power going into the pedals, not pushing upwards through a weaken core and causing body swing. Equal and opposite reactions remember.
Drill - Reaction and Movement
Using a BMX gate start app, you can combine reaction time and movement by setting up in a safe and quiet area. I recommend using bluetooth headphones so you can remove any distractions and focus solely on reacting and “sweeping the bike” back under you as you stamp on the leading pedal. You’re only doing 3 pedal strokes and the key focuses are reaction, foot movement and bike sweep. Not out and out grunt. You need to be relaxed and smooth in order to transition to the second pedal (the first full power stroke out of the gate).
Focus 1 - Balance and very minimal pressure on your front foot. The very fact that you’re not training your gate starts on an actual gate means that you can’t “load” up the front foot as you’ll move off the Sprintblock. This teaches you how to balance on a gate without trying to push it down with the front wheel. Too often I see riders shaking on the gate as they apply loads of force on their front pedal. This tension kills reactive ability.
Focus 2 - A relaxed grip on the bars as you wait for the signal to go. And when the beep/light does go, try to resist the temptation to grip those bars as if you're about to swing an axe into a big tree. Again, a relaxed body will react faster to a stimulas and leave you less prone to flinch. This is definitely something to take to the gate, if nothing else, your gates at racing will improve if you can remain calmer on the gate.
Reps - you can do 10 / 20 of 30 of these as we aren’t draining the tank. Just tuning up the electrical system in the body. You can have all the power in the world, but this doesn’t mean you’ll have the best gate in the world if you react like a sloth.
Drill - Reaction / Movement / Acceleration
Using the start app, we’ll start bringing the elements together that produce a fast hill time. Six pedals max, now you can start laying down the horsepower. From the block, measure out six pedal strokes (remember, left and right are counted as one/two) and mark the spot. Warm up by going for a ride for 15 mins, throwing in sprints as you ride.
Focus 1 - Sweep the bars (and bike under you) and a smooth transfer from that initial first movement as you transfer to your second pedal. You want to prevent pulling up on the bars, which has the effect of popping the front wheel up and producing a stall before hitting the second pedal. One of the most common mistakes and a destroyer of a cadence of the first 3 pedal strokes.
Focus 2 - Once you're motoring, you want to produce straight line movement by using your core to prevent unwanted side to side movement. Watch any 100m track runners at a world elite level in slo-mo and you'll never see any twisting motion in their body (and arms) as they drive forward.
Reps - 8 to 12 with 3-4 mins rest between efforts. These are short, but you want to be fully recovered for these max efforts. Another common mistake I see at every gate night are riders not resting and just smashing out gates. Think of this like a 1 RM effort in the squat rack.
BMX Sprinting Focuses
We’ve covered a lot and really only got to the bottom of the hill. I hope that you now have an understanding of what goes into a winning hill time. Sure there’s another 300 metres or so to go, but it sure helps your winning percentages if you can get down that hill first. The biggest takeaways utilising the Sprintblock are to improve your reaction time, develop the ideal movement pattern that can be transferred to the gate, improve sprint performance by developing a smooth transfer between the first pedal (really your initial movement), and improve outright acceleration. With the overarching theme of reducing anxiety throughout the whole process as anxiety and tension affects your ability to react to the first beep/light as mentioned above.
Thanks for reading and we’ll be following up with articles on how to develop power and track endurance.
Click this link to pick up your very own Sprintblock and revolutionise your BMX race training.
Bruce Morris / LUXBMX Coach
Back on Track - Top 5 tips for returning to race fitness after a break from BMX
Author: Bruce Morris - LUXBMX Race Coach
In most parts of Australia we’ve been unable to access our local BMX track, pump track or skate park due to the Covid19 lockdown rules. Though as of mid-May 2020, it looks like most states are opening up access, albeit at slightly different rates, and with restrictions in place. For most of us it’s meant nearly 2 months off the track and now we’re all itching to get back out there. Me included! This advice applies to the young shredders, and older classes too. And this return strategy can be used for any layoff, whether you're returning because you're motivated again, or you binned it and spent some enforced downtime.
Here’s my 5 top tips for getting back in shape for BMX in preparation for a return to racing. It looks like we’re all going to be in race prep mode with it looking like mid-July 2020 at a minimum until racing even at a club level can recommence, open days etc could be the end of the year. Or even 2021! Let’s look at your return and more importantly, hopefully keep you upright and stoked on BMX.
Number 1 - Take it easy
Take it easy! I can’t stress this enough and it might be age showing here, but I took one of my riders with me to a track recently and although he’s young and healthy, 6 weeks off a bike saw him not feeling so good and laying down for a bit. EVEN though my words were “take it easy mate….” Kids huh!
You might think that a couple of months off the track (and BMX bike) wouldn't affect you too much, but I’ve had enough forced time off the bike through numerous injuries over the years to be pretty honed at rebuilding my track fitness, and skills. The fact that I was still cutting laps while he was laying there at 3x his age is testament to my experience (old age) and I enjoyed saying “told ya so”. You’ve got ages until you have to pull full race laps, just enjoy riding the bike for now. BMXers, always in a rush!
Number 2 - Play
Play! A BMX track is a big playground and wearing my salty old-guy BMX hat, I want to say that I hardly see kids (small and big) “playing” on the track these days. It appears that every time riders hit the track, they’re trying out for the Olympics. Playing is important for skill development and if I’m going to grumble a little more. Stop trying to go so fast! No good being a top-fueller in 2020 on these tracks. It ain’t 1983 no more Toto. I'm looking at you 40+ riders!
Get some flat pedals on that race rig and hit the track when you can just sit back and ride without a time constraint of a gate’s session or coaching session. Unstructured play is vital and it’ll spark up your skills. If you’re a parent that rides, go ride with the kids (if you haven’t killed them during lockdown!). If you’re a mature rider like me, organise a ride with your mates. The social aspect of riding is severely underrated and we can use this time to reconnect and have fun on these little bikes. Don’t underestimate the body and mind benefits of riding BMX.
Number 3 - Interval training
Righteo, time to get down to business. You’ve eased back into riding, been out playing on the race or pump track, and experienced shortness of breath akin to summiting Mt Everest! Skill before speed and if you follow these tips in sequence, now you can ramp it up. Structured interval training is something I see missing from rider’s training, and although at its essence, BMX racing is a sprint event, with a major explosive component, you need the gas to do a whole lap. But you don’t need to be doing full laps in every session. With intervals, you can mix the length (both time and track), intensity, frequency (length of break between efforts) and how many efforts you do. And lastly, how often you do these in a week/ fortnight period. Personally, I try for 3x in a 10 day period as these take recovery time. Usually I would factor in race events in a program, but we aren’t doing these right now.
Session Example: I choose a less technical track/section for these and then mix in more technicality as my fitness improves over the weeks. This sort of work will knock you on your butt if you aren’t sharp. Pick a section from the first or second corner that would normally take you 15-20 seconds to complete. Set your phone/app for interval timing
Ride/Warm up - 20 mins. Building speed gradually. Don’t rush! You got to warm up your mind as well as your body. Start with riding all of the track’s sections, then narrow it down to the section that you are about to do your intervals on. Hit this at speed a couple of times to get your “eye” in.
Rest/drink - 5 min.
Work - 35 to 40 mins
Execution - Roll into the “work zone” and accelerate hard. Don’t start from a stand still.
Efforts - 25-30 seconds of work at 100% effort
Rest - 8 mins
Repeat - 5x
Recovery - 10 mins off track rolling
Put simply, interval training’s role is preventing “fade” in the back half of the race. Most of us will be familiar with this effect at the last corner, some of you, at the second corner. After about 6 weeks (at twice a week) of this type of dedicated training efforts and you’ll notice the difference when you punch out a full lap. BMX racing complex to train for due to the technical requirement and training skill under fatigue is what you’re also aiming for in these sessions.
Number 4 - Sprint training
Pretty straightforward, BMX requires an explosive start, but you don’t need a gate to train this component. Better still, do it on the track to make them less boring, plus work in a skill component into the session. Let me explain how.
Pick a berm that has a flat exit that you can throw in 5-6 cranks before the first jump in that straight. Using a start block (or Sprintblock), measure out the distance back from the jump by pedaling 5 or 6 cranks (Left is one, Right is two, Left three, etc) and make sure when you set up, you’ve measured it out so that you hit this jump with you “normal” foot forward. Make sense so far?
No matter if the straight you chose is the 2nd, 3rd or last, the goal is the same. Maximum acceleration effort, then no more pedals as you get down this straight using your pumping, manualing skills to get “spat out” at the end. Two focuses, acceleration, track speed (by working backsides and being smooth)
Ride/Warm up - 20 mins or so. Ride the track, have some fun and throw in some acceleration efforts starting with rolling starts and slowly bringing them back until you do a few from a stop. Workout where you’re sprinting
Work - 40 to 50 mins
Execution - At the spot you've picked, measure back from the first jump in that straight 5 or 6 pedal strokes. Make sure you hit that first jump with your normal "forward" foot.
Efforts - One straight is probably 15 seconds of work at 100% effort (depending on the speed the rider can produce)
Rest - 5 mins
Repeats - 8 to 10
Recovery - 10 mins riding the track. Playing.
Number 5 - Overspeed
Hell yeah, Star Trek stuff right here. A little warp speed! This session will be fun and will help your reactive skills in tight sections by running a rhythm straight at a speed higher than race speed. Typically found on the third straight, rhythm sections can be the make or break of a race. Get untidy here and best case scenario is you lose a couple of places, worst case, you’re upside down looking at everyone blow by you.
The idea here is to run a rhythm straight faster than normal and mix up the combos through the straight, not just run it the same way every single time. Especially if you have access to the one track. We all fall into the track dialing in a section on how we feel comfortable on it, and fast on it. This session is designed to give you the skills that you can transfer to other tracks, and to use in situations where on race day you only have a short time to dial in the track, or recover from screwing up a combo.
Session length - 1 hour+
Loose Structure - BMX is fun, remember?.
Difficulty - You’ll need to be comfortable with the section you’re riding before you start ramping up the speed
Sub-set - Reactive skills. Example, what happens if you drop a front wheel in a manual at full speed? Can you stay soft/loose and absorb the bobble? Or do you stiffen up and get bucked? You can actually train these traits, starting slowly, then working up the speed scale to a point that you can recover quickly from a mistake.
How to run this - You’ve picked the straight, now run through it at race speed, working up to it just by riding the track for 15-20 mins. Run it with your normal combos, then start to really hit it with a few over-speed runs with good rest between the runs. You want to be fresh as we’re working on skills here, not physical conditioning.
Got your eye in? Recovered a few mis-adventures? Now it’s time to mix it up a little and throw in some jump combos if you’re at that level, or change up the manual/pump combos. Here’s the thing, manualling isn’t always the fastest way through a section. Being able to pump a couple of the smaller doubles or single roller at speed is just as important a skill as jumping
Ride with a mate or two and challenge each other, call some combos and build up your speed. Do a few runs with them to really add in some real race replication and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Sharpen up your race skills by placing yourself under a little pressure, but in a fun environment.
There you are, 5 tips to improve your BMX racing as you spend this time not racing but just riding. The key to longevity in BMX is to be always challenging yourself, and just not measuring results in podiums or titles. Improving your skills, hanging out with mates and staying sharp without racing. Catch you at a track soon.