Picking the right bike.

Which kind of 20" BMX do I need?!

Figuring out the right BMX bike for yourself, or especially as a gift for someone in your life, can seem like a daunting task. Hopefully this little walk through will make it seem more approachable, and give you a better general understanding of the types of BMX bikes you have to choose from.

The two main 20" BMX Categories

Freestyle & Race

The first decision you will need to make will depend on whether you are racing at a BMX race track, or trying to do tricks.

- If the answer is definitely racing, awesome! Follow me down to the "Choosing a Race Bike" section of this page!

- If your answer is trying to do tricks, you wanna do a little of both, or you just aren't sure which one you want to do more, then follow me down to the "Choosing a Freestyle Bike" section of this page!


Choosing a Race Bike

The first thing you will need to know when picking out a Race BMX bike is the size. Race BMX bikes Use a size chart kind of like sizing for clothing (small, Medium, Large, etc..). But instead of normal words Race BMX decided to use their own. It goes like this:

Micro // Mini // Junior // Expert // Expert XL // Pro // Pro XL // Pro XXL // Pro XXXL

Now if you aren't familiar with those words don't stress! it's just "small bike to big bike" and we will tell you the main things that change from size to size. Another thing to note about the sizing is most brands will increase the price a bit ($20-$50) every size or every couple sizes.

What's the difference?

The biggest changes in a race bike will happen moving up from Mini/Junior to Expert/Pro. The differences in parts on these bikes can (for the most part) be categorized as Mini or Pro sized parts. Junior and Expert sized bikes can sometimes feature a mix of these two types of parts since they are kind of in-between sizes. Junior size bikes usually have more Mini parts, while Experts size bikes usually have more Pro parts. Here's a table showing the most common differences in Mini and Pro size parts:

Mini size parts Pro size parts
  • Frame headtube are 1" diameter (for 1" forks and stems)
  • Bars are up to 6.5" tall
  • Rims/Tires up to 1-3/8" wide
  • Crank/chainrings are a 5-bolt pattern
  • Seat post is usually 22.2mm in diameter
  • Brake arms are 85mm long
  • Gear ratio (Front gear to back gear) is usually around 41-16
  • Frame headtube 1-1/8" diameter (for 1-1/8" forks and stems)
  • Bars are over 7" tall
  • Rims/Tires over 1.50" wide
  • Crank/chainrings are a 4-bolt pattern
  • Seat post is usually 25.4 or 27.2mm in diameter
  • Brake arms are 108mm long
  • Gear ratio (Front gear to back gear) is usually around 44-16

A few things that will change incrementally as you go up from size to size in bikes are: Frame length // Handlebar height // Stem reach // Crank arm length. I wouldn't stress these as much when getting a complete bike. As long as you buy the right size bike for your height, these parts will be about the right size for you. As you get more into racing you will start to learn what sizes of specific parts work better for you personally. But for starting out, I wouldn't worry to much about them!

What about the prices?

Race BMX bikes tend to sell in a couple price ranges. starting around $300-$500 for entry level bikes, $600-$800 for intermediate level bikes, and $900-$1,000+ for Professional level and completely custom bikes.

Now one thing to mention before we get into the break down of these price groups is (depending on the bike brand, year model, and after market parts included on the bike) there will always be a bike you can find that is somewhere in the middle of these price groups. Whether its a brand trying to hit all the selling points or just a good deal on last years model, there is always an exception to the rule. But this break down can help you understand those exceptions and what makes them a better or worse deal than other bikes.

These price groups are a generalization based off the race bikes we sell here at the shop from various brands.

The $300-$500 Price range. Entry Level

These bikes are great bikes for someone that's just starting out. It will be WAY faster than anything from a department store, and can usually be upgraded over time with some nicer after market parts. I would stay away from anything under around $250 because these bikes will usually either not be race specific at all (department store brand bikes) or the parts on the bike will be so cheap that you cant replace them with quality standard sized race parts, when the cheap ones start to break.

Below I've made a short list of the types of materials/styles of parts usually found on bikes in this price range. These are the "specs" to look out for, that can usually help you differentiate between an entry level bike and a higher end bike, regardless of the brand.

Frame material: Aluminum or Hi-tensile steel.

Fork/handlebar material: Aluminum or Hi-tensile steel.

Crank/bottom bracket type: Square tapered or unsealed 1 piece cranks.

Headset bearings: Unsealed.

Stem Material: Cast aluminum.

Rear wheel hub style: Thread on Freewheel.

Wheel hub bearings: Unsealed

Rims style: Single wall.

Seat/seat post style: Railed or uni-body.

The $600-$800 Price range. Intermediate Level

These bikes are going to be a middle ground between an entry level bike, and a high end or completely custom bike. They are good for someone that's become more serious about racing and is upgrading from an entry level bike, or someone that is getting back into riding after a long hiatus. While you can replace some parts with after market parts on an entry level bike, these intermediate bikes can almost always be fully customized with after market parts. So in some cases it might be the last bike you'll need if you just keep replacing the stock parts with nicer after market ones.

Below I've made a short list of the types of materials/styles of parts usually found on bikes in this price range. These are the "specs" to look out for, that can usually help you differentiate between an entry level bike and a higher end bike, regardless of the brand.

Frame material: Aluminum.

Fork/handlebar material: Aluminum or Chromoly.

Crank/bottom bracket type: Euro BB and 2 or 3 piece cranks.

Headset bearings: Sealed.

Stem Material: Cast or CNC aluminum.

Rear wheel hub style: Cassette hub with cog, usually Shimano compatible.

Wheel hub bearings: Sealed.

Rims style: Double wall.

Seat/seat post style: Pivotal or uni-body.

The $900-$1,000+ Price range. Professional/Custom Level

If you are already super into racing and need a completely dialed, ready to rip bike, than this is the price range you're looking at. These bikes come with all the bells and whistles and this is where you start seeing the coveted word "Carbon" showing up everywhere from forks and frames to wheels. A lot of the parts on these bikes will already be high end after market parts. I'd say if you can spend up to 1,500-2,000 bucks. You will be spending more, but you can get a custom bike fit to exactly the specs you need.

Below I've made a short list of the types of materials/styles of parts usually found on bikes in this price range. These are the "specs" to look out for, that can usually help you differentiate between an entry level bike and a higher end bike, regardless of the brand.

Frame material: Aluminum or Carbon.

Fork/handlebar material: Aluminum or Carbon.

Crank/bottom bracket type: Euro or Pressfit BB and 2 or 3 piece cranks.

Headset bearings: Sealed, and sealed tapered style (Bottom bearing is a larger 1.50" bearing)

Stem Material: CNC aluminum.

Rear wheel hub style: Cassette hub with cog, usually Shimano compatible.

Wheel hub bearings: Sealed

Rims style: Double wall Alloy or Carbon.

Seat/seat post style: Pivotal or uni-body.

So stop reading this, and get to racing!

In conclusion, once you determine the size of race bike you need, you just gotta pick a price range. Then go looking for bikes in your size model, in that range! You can use the list of part specs above to help you figure out if you're looking at good deal or not. And if you're buying used just be careful, and keep an eye out for after market parts that might make the bike a better deal!


Choosing a Freestyle Bike

Unlike race bikes, freestyle bikes are not necessarily sized to fit your body, but more so sized to fit the type of riding you wanna do. Now obviously if your 6'5" you're gonna probably want some taller bars and a longer frame than your homie thats 5'9". But generally it depends more on the type of riding. And even in those types of specific riding, you will find people that prefer bikes that don't fit the norm/trends of that type of riding. That's one of the best parts of freestyle, is it really doesn't matter. BUT with that being said, here are 3 the most common types of riding styles, and the types of bikes COMMONLY associated with them. Starting with the shortest/steepest, up to the longest/slackest.

*If you are looking for a good bike to ride freestyle and do a little bit of racing, or you aren't sure what you wanna do yet, I'd recommend checking out the "Dirt jump style" bike type listed below.*

Street style bikes.

As stated above these are often the shortest and steepest bikes. they are Ideal for grinding, spinning, and over all, riding things that aren't meant to be ridden. This is the closest BMX gets to skateboarding in my opinion. Since they are often the shortest bikes, they are most able to ride smaller obstacles and street spots that would be much harder to maneuver on a bigger bike.

Here are the types of things to look for, if you are looking for a street style bike. *Most of this information can be found for a bike on the brands website, or googling for an old listing of it.*

Frame Geometry: Toptube length 20"-21" // Standover height 9"-11" // Backend(chainstays) 12"-13" // Headtube angle 75°-76.5°(larger the number, steeper the angle).

Fork Offset: 30mm and steeper (smaller the number, steeper the angle).

Handlebars: 2 piece or 4 piece. usually 1-2° of upsweep. Rise usually varies on size of rider and preference.

Wheels: 2-4 pegs // freecoasters hubs usually, but cassette hubs are still fairly common. // Fat 2.40+ wide tires

Sprockets: 25t-28t. Guarded sprockets are common.

Pedals: plastic

Seat: fat, usually raised up to, or past height of stem (sitting down and pedaling while riding street is nice).

Brakes: Brakeless usually, But straight cable brakes are becoming more common.

 

Park style bikes.

These bikes are typically in the middle as far as size. They aren't as short and twitchy as a street bike, because they need to be more stable in the air when hitting ramps, but they aren't as long and slack as a dirt jumping bike, because they still need to be responsive enough for technical tricks like tail-whips, flips and bar-spins. They also tend to have the brightest/flashiest colors. Such as Oil slick and chrome.

Here are the types of things to look for, if you are looking for a park style bike. *Most of this information can be found for a bike on the brands website, or googling for an old listing of it.*

Frame Geometry: Toptube length 2.5"-21.25" // Standover height 8.5"-10" // Backend(chainstays) 12.75"-13.5" // Headtube angle 74.5°-75.5°(larger the number, steeper the angle).

Fork Offset: 26mm-32mm (smaller the number, steeper the angle).

Handlebars: 2 piece or 4 piece. usually 2-4° of upsweep. Rise usually varies on size of rider and preference.

Wheels: 0-4 pegs // Usually come with cassette hubs, but some will use freecoasters. // 2.10-2.40 wide tires

Sprockets: 25t-28t.

Pedals: plastic or metal.

Seat: fat or slim, slammed or raised.

Brakes: Gyros are very common.

 

(Trail) Dirt Jump style bikes.

These are the longest and most slack out of the 3 main types. They are the most stable freestyle bike for going super fast, and super high on jumps. Because of this, they are the most like race bikes. And can even be used as race bike if you want! They might be a little heavier, and have a slightly different gearing, But they can still get the job done and rip up a skatepark the next day if you feel like it. Because of that crossover and versatility I'd say these bikes are the best all around BMX bikes. They can do a little of everything. They are also a good bike to start with if you aren't sure what kinda riding you'll like most.

Here are the types of things to look for, if you are looking for a dirt jump style bike. *Most of this information can be found for a bike on the brands website, or googling for an old listing of it.*

Frame Geometry: Toptube length 20.75"-21.5" // Standover height 8"-9" // Backend(chainstays) 13.25"-14" // Headtube angle 73.5°-74.5°(larger the number, steeper the angle).

Fork Offset: 32mm and up. (smaller the number, steeper the angle).

Handlebars: 2 piece. usually 3-4° of upsweep. Rise usually varies on size of rider and preference.

Wheels: No pegs // cassette hubs only. // 2.10-2.40 wide Knobbier tires.

Sprockets: 28t-36t.

Pedals: Metal.

Seat: Slim, usually lowered or slammed to keep it out of the way when flying through the air.

Brakes: Straight Cables usually. Gryos occasionally, and brakeless if you got a death wish.

 

What about the prices?

Freestyle BMX bikes tend to sell in a couple price ranges. starting around $300-$500 for entry level bikes, $600-$800 for intermediate level bikes, and $900-$1,000+ for Professional level and completely custom bikes.

Now one thing to mention before we get into the break down of these price groups is (depending on the bike brand, year model, and after market parts included on the bike) there will always be a bike you can find that is somewhere in the middle of these price groups. Whether its a brand trying to hit all the selling points or just a good deal on last years model, there is always an exception to the rule. But this break down can help you understand those exceptions and what makes them a better or worse deal than other bikes.

These price groups are a generalization based off the race bikes we sell here at the shop from various brands.

The $300-$500 Price range. Entry Level

These bikes are great bikes for someone that's just starting out. They also tend to be right in the middle of the sizing mentioned about since this will probably be a kids first bike, and they usually wont know what kinda bike they will like most. It will be WAY more durable than anything from a department store, and can usually be upgraded over time with a few nicer after market parts. I would stay away from anything under around $250 because the parts on the bike will be so cheap that you cant replace them with quality standard sized BMX parts, when the cheap ones start to break.

Below I've made a short list of the types of materials/styles of parts usually found on bikes in this price range. These are the "specs" to look out for, that can usually help you differentiate between an entry level bike and a higher end bike, regardless of the brand.

Frame material: Hi-tensile steel or Partially Chromoly and steel.

Fork/handlebar material: Hi-tensile steel.

Crank/bottom bracket type: Usually unsealed with a 1 piece, or cheap 3 piece crank.

Headset bearings: Unsealed.

Stem Material: Cast aluminum.

Rear wheel hub style: unsealed cassette.

Rims style: Single wall.

Seat/seat post style: Cheap Railed or uni-body.

The $600-$800 Price range. Intermediate Level

These bikes are going to be a middle ground between an entry level bike, and a high end or completely custom bike. They are good for someone that's become more serious about riding and is upgrading from an entry level bike, or someone that is getting back into riding after a long hiatus. While you can replace some parts with after market parts on an entry level bike, these intermediate bikes can almost always be fully customized with after market parts. So in some cases it might be the last bike you'll need if you just keep replacing the stock parts with nicer after market ones.

Below I've made a short list of the types of materials/styles of parts usually found on bikes in this price range. These are the "specs" to look out for, that can usually help you differentiate between an entry level bike and a higher end bike, regardless of the brand.

Frame material: Mostly Chromoly, or all chromoly.

Fork/handlebar material: Stock chromoly or steel.

Crank/bottom bracket type: Stock 3 piece cranks.

Headset bearings: Sealed.

Stem Material: Cast or CNC aluminum.

Rear wheel hub style: Sealed stock Cassette hub.

Rims style: Double wall.

Seat/seat post style: Pivotal or uni-body.

The $900-$1,000+ Price range. Professional/Custom Level

If you are already super into riding and know exactly what kind of specs you want in a bike, and need that bike to be super durable, than this is the price range you're looking at. These bikes come with all the bells and whistles. A lot of the parts on these bikes will already be high end after market parts and always feature fully chromoly frame, fork, and bars. I'd say if you can spend up to 1,500-2,000 bucks. You will be spending more, but you can get a custom bike fit to exactly the specs you need.

Below I've made a short list of the types of materials/styles of parts usually found on bikes in this price range. These are the "specs" to look out for, that can usually help you differentiate between an entry level bike and a higher end bike, regardless of the brand.

Frame material: Full Chromoly.

Fork/handlebar material: Chromoly, usually after market.

Crank/bottom bracket type: Nice 3 piece cranks.

Headset bearings: Sealed.

Stem Material: CNC aluminum.

Rear wheel hub style: Nice sealed cassette or freecoaster hub.

Rims style: Double wall.

Seat/seat post style: Pivotal.

So stop reading this, and get to riding!

In conclusion, once you determine the style of freestyle bike you need, you just gotta pick a price range. Then go looking for that style of bike, in that range! You can use the list of part specs above to help you figure out if you're looking at good deal or not. And if you're buying used just be careful, and keep an eye out for after market parts that might make the bike a better deal!