BMX can be broken down a few different ways..
Selfishly, The first way I'm gonna breakdown this topic is the way I see BMX. Then I'll try my best to explain it from a few other perspectives that aren't my own. Hopefully, between all those points of view, you'll start get an idea of what this BMX thing even is.
BMX according to me (Donovan).
I think for most people BMX falls somewhere on the spectrum of either sport, or artistic expression. For me personally it's probably about 90% artistic expression, and 10% sport. And I think that percentage also changes depending on what discipline of BMX you Identify with most. Below I will break down those disciplines more, but first I'm gonna continue my own personal overview of what BMX is to me.
I discovered BMX Street riding during my most angsty and rebellious years as a teenager. I had no prior knowledge of it, and it offered an escape from home, church, school, and soccer. All things I was trying hard to distance myself from at the time. For those reasons, I saw and related street riding to the opposite of terms like; safety, organization, sports, acceptable, or conventional. It was always about doing my own thing with a few close friends. And I became obsessed with this little world I was creating with them. Growing up in a smaller town like Salem, Virginia, it felt like we were the only ones on the planet that had BMX. And we had it all to ourselves. It turned the whole town into a personal playground. Riding made a mundane office building exciting, and gave us reasons to explore places that we'd never have had a reason to see.
It's because of that type of exposure to BMX, at that age, that I think of BMX mostly as an artist expression of self, and not really as a sport or organized community. I say mostly, because as I've gotten older and have become more involved with BMX as a larger community and industry, I do see and acknowledge the more professional and organized side of BMX. But still, whenever I go ride street with a couple homies, it's not about any aspects of sport, industry, or global community. It's about self expression, and being with those few friends. And if we happen to film something that ends up on the Powers BMX social media, that's just a side effect.
BMX TRAIL RIDING
Trail riding has always been the most aesthetically pleasing discipline of BMX to me. While I don't ride trails myself, It's an aspect of BMX that I wish I was more involved with, and it would be my first choice if I could never ride street again.
The BMX Trail rider is in a league all their own. They sculpt and maintain dirt jumps in wooded areas. Usually without permission, and usually with only basic tools. They are usually created by a small tight knit group of friends. Unlike a skatepark you can't usually find them on google, and you can't just show up and ride. The phrase "No dig, No ride" didn't come from some grumpy old dude in the woods. It exists because these hidden, hand crafted, dirt sculptures aren't easy to make/ maintain for one person. They require the love and work of a whole crew.
All the potential hardships and inconveniences that come with being a trail rider are what make it such a special discipline. It's born out of a love for the outdoors, creation, riding, and persistence. If I had to guess where most trail riders lie on the BMX spectrum of serious sport to artistic expression, I'd say they are the closest to 100% artistic expression out of all the disciplines. Which is kinda funny to me because it's not so distant, older cousin is the BMX racer, which is much more in the serious sport category.
Trail riding seems to be often under represented on the internet when looking for BMX content. That is usually on purpose though. Since a large number of BMX trails are built and maintained on private or public land without permission, they try to keep a low profile. This creates a sort of "If you know, you know" secrecy among the BMX community. This helps keep trails safe by making it harder for people that aren't truly connected to the BMX community to find them.
BMX Racing is the discipline I know the least about because I never had the opportunity to do it where I grew up. With that said, I have learned a lot about it, and met a lot of people involved with it since I've moved to Richmond. So I will give describing it my best attempt.
BMX Racing is considered the oldest of the 4 most prevalent disciplines in BMX, and is the discipline that is the most organized and similar to traditional sports. So id say it's almost 100% on the sport side of things. It is also the most Family oriented in my opinion. For a lot of families it can be an experience that helps strengthen and build their relationships. How many other sports can you participate in WITH your kids instead of only being on the sidelines? The whole family can race in their appropriate age group and skill range.
Another great aspect of racing is the bike control you develop from it. You get comfortable going fast and jumping under the pressure of a race. Which can be a huge benefit in transitioning into any other bike related discipline, BMX or not.
As I mentioned above in the "Trail Riding" section I consider the BMX racer as a sort of older cousin to the Trail rider. I say that because while BMX racing is the oldest of the 4 disciplines, Trail riding has never been far behind. A lot of Trail riders start on the race track and then start jumping dirt jumps for fun when they aren't racing. The two often go hand in hand.
BMX PARK RIDING
Park riding is the riding done inside either a park designed for BMX, or more oftenly a skatepark since they are much more common.
BMXer's that ride predominantly park are often the most focused on learning tricks. Park riding also tends to have more contests, compared to Dirt or street riding, making it a more competitve discipline. Because of this I'd say park riding usually falls somewhere around 70% sport, 30% artistic expression for a lot of people.
But that's really just for people the ride almost exclusively park. I say that, because park is the one discipline it seems that everyone dabbles in. A lot of BMX racers have park bikes for the skatepark, and a lot of Street and dirt riders go to a skatepark for fun from time to time, or even as a meet up spot.
That being said though, If you're at the skatepark, You can usually tell the difference between a serious park rider and someone thats just stopping by for a session, by their outfit and bike set up. Park riders usually have on the most padding (helmet, shin pads, knee pads etc..). They will usually have a Gyro brake set up, and for some reason they also tend to have more flashy bikes. And they will probably be doing a lot more spins, flips, and whips than the other guys.
BMX STREET RIDING
BMX Street riding is riding architecture that isn't meant for bikes. It's the most closely related to skateboarding out of the 4 disciplines, and also my personal favorite.
I put street riding at the bottom of this list because I went over it a bit in the beginning of the article. But also I saved it for the end because I saved the best for last.. Kidding! Kinda! lol.
Street riding for most people seems to fall somewhere in the 85% artistic expression 15% sport category. For me it's a little more on the artistic side but there is definitely a sporty side to street riding thats more focused on tricks and getting sponsored.
Not only is street riding the closest to skateboarding in lifestyle and terrain, Even the bikes are the closest to skateboards compared to other bikes. Street riders tend to have the most small and twitchy bikes of all the disciplines, which makes riding smaller more technical things like rails, curbs, and ledges easier.
Hopefully this small breakdown of BMX disciplines has helped you understand the world of BMX a little more clearly. I had a pretty good time writing it personally.
If you're in the market for a BMX bike, Or need some parts for your bike, you're in the right Place! POWERSBMX.COM has all the BMX stuff you'll ever need. And we'd love to get you rolling. Shop around now or give us a call!