BMX racing is an extremely exciting sport open to riders of all ages, making it great fun for all the family. Up to eight riders race, Moto-Cross-style, around a 300-400m track, with jumps, bump and berms (banked corners). The excitement and popularity of BMX racing have caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee and BMX is now an Olympic sport.
Got a bike?
There are two different types of BMX race bike: the 20 inch (your everyday BMX bike with 20 inch wheels) and the 24 inch cruiser (a slightly bigger bike with 24 inch wheels). You don’t need a top of the line race machine to start with, you just need one that can get you around the track and meet the basic requirements (more of which later). Mountain Bike variations are also acceptable but not very suitable to the tight terrain.
Who races BMX bikes?
Riders come from all areas and backgrounds, starting from four years of age and running up to forty plus. They race against riders of their own age or ability group. Families involved are usually interested in bikes, competitive sport and the physical and mental benefits of being active. It is common for the whole family to be involved with the parents acting as coaches, mechanics, chefs and cheer-leaders. This family angle turns race days into real Events!
Is your bike OK?
Before you go out there on the track your bike needs to meet some basic requirements. You will need to remove any pegs or chain guards. Your brakes should work well and your tyres should have good tread on them. If the ends of your grips are torn, you will have to use bar end caps or replace them. You will need a number plate to race with; the club may have some spare ones for you to use.
Get some safety gear
Now that you know where to go to race your bike, all you need for racing is a helmet (sorry – not one designed for road use or Dirt Jumping!), a long sleeved shirt, long trousers or jeans and gloves. Rubber soled skateboard or tennis style shoes are recommended and although elbow pads, knee pads and shoulder pads are not essential, they are always a good idea! If you have an open face style helmet, a mouth guard is recommended. Most clubs have helmets that you can borrow when you first start riding.
Getting signed up to race
When you get to the track the first thing to do is to find where to register. Usually it’s inside a small building or trailer/container. Here you can sign up to race and also become a member of the club and Irish Cycling Federation If you are under the age of 16, you will need parental consent.
You’re on your way so read on…….
After you’ve completed the forms and signed up to race, there are a number of things you should do before you get on your bike. If you have not checked out the track by now, you should do this next. If practice is going on, it is a good idea to watch the other riders and see how they deal with the track and the jumps. This way you’ll not get caught out when it is your turn.
A race is contested by up to 8 riders, with the first over the finish line winning. A race meeting usually consists of a series of “Motos” or qualifying races, from which the most successful riders in each category will progress to a series of ride-offs, culminating in a Final to produce an overall winner. At big events, races start in quick succession, with the riders from one Moto hardly completing their race before the next race is charging out of the start gate. This non-stop action and the sheer number of riders make BMX a compelling spectacle and a great day out for riders and spectators alike.
It’s time to Go Racing. This is the moment you have been waiting for. It would be impossible to tell you not to be nervous – Pros who have raced for years still get nervous every time they line up on the gate, but that nervous feeling is part of what keeps people coming back to race BMX over and over again. Make sure you are ready at the back of the start hill for your race in plenty of time, around ten races before yours if it is a big meeting. Do not be frightened to ask the other riders what to do – it will be a good way for you to get to know them. The start is the most important part of any race. When the start gate drops, ‘snap’ (i.e. a quick start) is essential. However, skill is just as important as power and the best riders combine both qualities.