How to start BMX racing. A complete guide.

Author: Bruce   Date Posted:30 August 2019 


BMX Racing – Get me on the track!

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?

Intro: You’ve probably landed here because a 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, check the map. You can locate a track on the map below and there’s a link for the club’s Facebook page. This is 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 the map 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. A proper race track looks like this (image) 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. (image)

 

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 BMX Australia and any rider wanting to participate in official club training or racing requires a BMX licence. This process may change in 2021 with the amalgamation of Australia’s peak cycling bodies, but this info is current for now. You can go direct online and complete your licence application here. Our tip is to go with a 4-month license straight up, either as a Sprocket (7 years and under), Mini Wheeler (balance bikes) or Open license for any rider 8 years and up. You license will cost approx. $40-50 for a 4-month period and you can renew it every 4 months, or once you’re into it, renew annually.

The other 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:

  1. Brakes: You have to run a rear brake. The rules prohibit front brakes in race events.
  2. Pegs, stands, bells and reflectors etc must also be removed. No tassels unfortunately.  
  3. You bike must be in good working order. Your local club 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:

(images for each) links to cats here as well

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. Or if you are in Brisbane, or close, come into the shop as we carry all complete sizes.

Here is another handy guide to bike size (referred to as frame size on this chart) that will help you decide, but nothing will beat jumping on a bike to make sure before you purchase.

 

 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

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.

Image

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.