Guide to getting started in BMX Racing

It's a sad fact that the majority of riders who own 20" bikes don't race. There is a lot more to racing than just winning and losing. It offers a family oriented sport that is fun for all ages.

Racing locally is usually pretty cheap. The ABA (American Bicycle Association) and the NBL (National Bicycle Association) both offer very inexpensive trial memberships, so you can see if you like BMX or not before you go full-bore with it. Also, there are no costs for spectators or for parking anywhere in the country, and everyone is welcome.

First and foremost, you obviously need a bike. You don't need an expensive, fancy bike to race. The bike does not play that much of a role in the outcome of BMX races. I've had bikes worth over eleven hundred dollars in the past and I've been beaten by racers on $200 junk piles, and I'm certainly not alone. Sure, having a high-tech, trick bike that is the right size for you can help your performance, but only to a relatively small degree really. Later on, when you get the hang of BMX and have some experience in it, you will probably want a good, dependable bike if you don't already have one. You can get a pretty decent, dependable new bike for around $300 or so. If you are made of money, and are sure you are going to stick with BMX, a good bike that needs little or no upgrading, that will last you through all proficiencies (rookie, novice, expert, pro, etc.) will probably run about $575 or so brand new. Don't think you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike to get into racing! Just about any bike will do starting out. When you get better at BMX you might decide later you need (or just want) a better bike. You can buy used bikes at Flea Markets, pawn shops, bmx tracks, individuals, and some bike shops really cheap. The basic requirements for bikes to race is that all reflectors, the chainguard, the kickstand, and any axle pegs be removed. You will also need pads covering the handlebar crossbar, the stem, and the top tube of your bike. You can get pads as well as bike parts and complete bikes from mail order companies such as Dan's Competition [(812)838-2691], or from your local bike shop. Your handlebars can not be sticking through the end of your grips. You may want to make sure your bike is tuned up good - check your tires for wear and tear, and make sure everything is good and tight. You can run coaster brakes on your bike, but I strongly recommend that you DON'T. It's generally better if you have a freewheel (a part that lets you pedal backwards without the brakes engaging) and use hand brakes that mount on your handlebars. You can use front brakes, but using rear brakes instead is usually better.

You will need a helmet to race, which can normally be borrowed at your local track if you don't have one yet. You can use a full face helmet, but an open face one will work fine as well. You will probably need a mouthguard if you are using an open face helmet (the ABA does not require mouthguards to be worn, but the NBL does). It is also required that you wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants. You can get by with about any long sleeve shirt and jeans for the time being though. You don't need a race jersey or a sponsor to get into BMX racing.

The first step in getting involved in BMX is finding your local track. The easiest way to do this is by calling the NBL toll free at (800)886-BMX1 that's 1-800-886-2691, the ABA at (800)886-1BMX that's 1-800-886-1269. Or, you can just call your local bike shop and ask them. Better still, while you are here surfing the net, you can find out where your local track is by visiting the NBL's track page or the ABA's track directory. You'll find the tracks are very similar to motorcycle racing tracks, except the jumps and the track are much smaller of course. Pretty much all you have to do is show up, get a trial membership, and pay a small entry fee. The track operator will help you out with anything you need, and they'll usually give or sell you a temporary numberplate if you need one. Also, you just need to show up with your parent/guardian if you are under 18. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most BMXers will be glad to help you out. When you first ride the track, take it slow at first - be careful. Watch how the other riders balance at the starting gate and take the jumps and turns. Don't ride over your head. You will get the hang of it eventually; don't worry if you can't clear the jumps or handle the track very well at first - it takes time and practice. Sometimes at local tracks there might not be any racers in your skill level or your age. You may be racing people who have been racing a lot longer than you have, or people who are older than you are. You need to compete in the skill level and age class you are supposed to be in, in order to keep from getting discouraged. Sometimes at small, local tracks this just isn't possible. After you have raced locally for a while, you can race statewide for more competition, and ultimately race nationally. That is where the fun comes in; traveling all over the country, having plenty of competition, seeing friends, and of course, racing BMX. Well, have fun - it's an awesome sport!