~All About BMX~
Somewhere in California during the early 70's, a bunch of kids on modified 20" Schwinn Stingray bicycles went out to a vacant lot and created a brand new sport of their very own.
Those kids were probably not even the first. The same scene of youthful energy and American resourcefulness was quite probably going on in Nebraska and/or New Jersey. But it was the California gathering of nameless pioneers who were recorded on film by Bruce Brown's cameras. The resulting motorcycle film, ON ANY SUNDAY, would spread the word like a wildfire.
There was no stopping it now. A new sport created by kids for kids was born. Bicycle Motocross was the name it was given. That name was quickly shortened to BMX. It grabbed the attention of thousands of kids in one short summer. Boys and girls on their modified bicycles were seen jamming through the dirt emulating their motorcycle motocross heroes.
Imitation lead to innovation and quickly the kids were performing tricks and "getting air" that made their motorcycle heroes green with envy. The next step was organized racing. By 1977, pockets of loosely organized BMX races dotted the nation from coast to coast. It was time for a national sanctioning body and from out of this need, the AMERICAN BICYCLE ASSOCIATION was created.
The AMERICAN BICYCLE ASSOCIATION not only filled that need, it completely changed and continues to shape the future of the sport it serves. The first step was to create a system of qualifying participants that was not only fair, but one which enhanced the competitive nature of the very sport itself and still afforded each and every rider the chance to be a winner. This need for fairness and allowing for the fortunes of luck led the way to the transfer system, in which the winner of each moto advances to the next round - be it quarter, semi or main event.
That first step led to a long and continuing list of firsts that spell out the very success of the ABA. From supplying the first and world's largest national sanctioning body, first national tour, first Pro purse, first Cruiser class competition, first sanction to call fouls as they occur, first starting light system, first automatic gate system, first voice command, first duel announcing, first computerized membership and points system, first computerized sign-ups, first computerized system for local tracks, first interactive website to service it's members, first and most prestigious National Amateur Championship to cover all ages and the list goes on…
ABA BMX racing is a sport of youthful achievement and the American family. While the young boy or girl BMX racer develops skills at an individual pace, they are learning about winning, losing and trying again. The racer's family learns that time spent together is support of the racer and the individual achievements is quality time.
It is the duty of the ABA to establish the rules of racing that provide fair competition and fun family entertainment for all of it's 60,000 plus members. This is a job to which the American Bicycle Association and all of it's employees are 100% dedicated.
So you want to race your BMX bicycle, eh?
You've come to the right place.
Racing BMX is easy to get started and the ABA has made it inexpensive to begin. The first two things you need are:
A track location
Although we can't help you much with getting a bicycle, we can tell you where BMX tracks are located all around the country. Visit our online TRACK DIRECTORY to find the location closest to you.
When calling your nearest ABA track, you'll probably want to ask five things:
How do I get to your track?
What time are your sign-ups and practice?
What time do you begin racing?
How much will it cost to begin racing?
How big are your first place trophies?
Once you know where to go racing and you have your 20-inch BMX bike, there is a simple checklist to go down in order to make sure your bike is ABA safe & race ready.:
Make sure all bolts are tight - especially your axle bolts and stem bolts.
All reflectors must be removed for safety purposes.
If your bike has a kickstand, it must be taken off.
Your bike needs the three required pads - a) covering the crossbar of your handlebars b) covering the handlebar stem (or gooseneck) and c) on the top tube of your frame.
You'll also need a number plate. Most ABA tracks will supply you with a plate when you sign up. If not, a simple pie plate will do just fine.
Next, there's the checklist of what you will need to wear in order to race. When you first start out racing BMX, think cheap. You don't need a fancy uniform - jeans and a long sleeve shirt will do.
Long sleeve shirt.
A helmet. Most ABA tracks have "loaner helmets for beginners to use. A lot of times, a good, inexpensive helmet can be found at garage sales or in the pit area of your local BMX track.
Any tennis shoe is sufficient.
Now you and your bike are race ready, let's go to the track!
When you arrive at the BMX track, naturally you'll want to check out the course.
There will be a dirt track (average length 1,000+ feet), with banked turns and jumps of all shapes and sizes. Actually, the first thing you need to do is find the sign-up / registration building. It is there that you'll need to fill out an ABA application and sign up to race. First-time racers are able to purchase a temporary membership for $25, which is good for 30 days. A "Temp" provides you with ABA's secondary insurance and enables you to go out on the track. Entry fees vary from track to track, ranging anywhere from 3 to 10 dollars.
Click here for an application to the ABA
Before you get up on the starting gate, it is suggested that first you closely watch the riders go around the track. Pay attention to their body motion over jumps (using arms and legs as shock absorbers) and note where riders are pedaling and when they are coasting. Take it slow on your first few laps. Remember, you are brand new to this and those fast, expert racers started off just like you. Take time to learn the track - know which obstacles are coming up and how to take it smoothly. Often, the difference in the beginner class is who is smoothest around the course rather than quickest.
THE STARTING GATE
Since BMX is a "short sprint" sport (with most races lasting 35 to 45 seconds), the start of a race is usually the most important. When you first begin racing, you'll most likely do what is called a one-footed start. Which is having one foot on your pedal and the other foot acting as a "kickstand," resting on the ground to keep you balanced. The majority of riders start with their right foot "forward" (on the pedals). Much like skateboarders or surfers, racers who line up in the gate with a left foot forward are called "goofy footed." Find out which feels most comfortable - there is no right or wrong way.
Soon, you will want to learn how to do the normal "two-footed start." Some riders can pick this up on their first day at the races and some beginners take weeks to learn how. You can practice the two-footed start anywhere - find a wall and ride up to it, with your front wheel touching. Apply a little bit of pressure on your forward pedal - just enough to keep your front wheel solid against the surface of the imaginary starting gate. Stand in an upright position, relax, and use both of your arms to balance the bike.
Once you've got the feel of balancing your bike on the gate, then you'll need to learn how to "snap" out of the gate. This is the motion of thrusting your hips into your handlebars and cranking down on your forward pedal as the gate is falling. The best way to learn this is watching the local pros and experts at your track, and constantly practice.
Obviously, the more you race and ride your bike, the better you will get. That old saying "Practice makes perfect" stands true in the world of BMX racing. Very often, BMX racers will have a local jumping zone in the nearby dirt field that they use to practice in. And many of the ABA sanctioned BMX tracks hold a special "practice night."
Throughout the year, there are many top pros in the sport of BMX who travel around the country putting on beginner clinics. Attending a clinic is one of the best ways to learn how to get better in BMX.