The Ultimate BMX buying guide
Just starting out? Here's our guide to buying your first BMX bike...
Buying your first BMX bike can be a tricky little game but our BMX buying guide will get you on the right track. Where do you start? What BMX parts do you need to look out for? And which one of the vast rides on offer is the right one for your first BMX?
Most first timer buyers in the BMX market will opt to buy a complete BMX bike – a bike that’s already fully-built and ready to ride, with all BMX parts included.
Even if you're transferring over from road cycling or mountain biking, a complete is often the best route to go down for starters, though it can be confusing too if you don't know what you're looking for.
So, since we’re always endeavouring to make things easier for our readers, we thought we’d put together an easy-to-digest guide to the basics of buying your first BMX bike, from the styles to the sizes to the weight to the BMX parts. Have a read...
What Kind of BMX Riding Will You Be Doing?
Before you even walk into a bike shop to look at buying your first BMX bike, you need to know exactly what kind of BMX riding you want to get involved in, because that will directly affect your final purchase.
There are various different disciplines within BMX itself, and all of them are built custom to suit specific needs. Here’s a short and sweet run through:
Dirt riding: Dirt bikes feature a thicker tread to park or street bikes to give extra grip and fluency on the dirt.
Other than that, dirt bikes are pretty similar to park/vert and street bikes. It’s worth noting that none of these styles of bike are guaranteed to feature breaks, in order to allow extra manoeuvrability. So, if you’re just getting started and are keen to have some breaks, which you should be, make sure to look extra carefully before buying.
Park/Vert riding: If you’ll be riding in a skate park or on ramps, then this is the bike type for you. These bikes are normally lighter than street or dirt bikes, and with a thinner tread.
Street riding: Street bikes will normally be slightly heavier than standard freestyle bikes so that they can take more of a hit and survive longer in the urban environment.
BMX Racing: Racing BMXs will almost always have breaks, larger sprockets than regular BMX bikes and a higher gear ratio which allows the rider to create more power and speed on the bike.
Flatland riding: Flatland is the waltz of the BMX world and built around balance and control. For this reason, flatland bikes are built geometrically different to the others, for slow speed tricks on smooth terrain.
Picking Your First Complete BMX Bike
Okay. You’re just getting involved in the sport for the first time, you know what kind of riding you’re going to get into, you might even know a thing or two about bikes and a short history of BMX, but you don’t fancy building a custom-ride for your first BMX.
It’s time to look at getting your first complete BMX bike, a good option. Back in the day, there were various drawbacks to buying a complete bike, most of which would come with some poor parts and could lead to some serious BMX fails, but in the past 5-10 years completes have significantly improved, and a whole host of impressive rides are now available straight out the box.
Of course, there’s a whole range of bikes on offer, and these are often divided into different skill categories, the price of which tends to go up with the category:
- Youth: Come in a smaller size than regular bikes, with a smaller wheel size, and are designed for smaller, younger riders buying their first BMX
- Entry Level: If you’re buying your first BMX bike, and have stumbled upon this article as such, then we’d recommend an entry level bike for your purchase – they’re designed as a first proper BMX, with standard 20" wheel size. Even if you’ve done a little bit of riding before, this can still be a great shout for your first big purchase. Great for learning basic BMX tricks.
- Mid Level: This should be what you buy following on from your entry level bike, as mid-level bikes pretty much accommodate everything you’ll need from your ride unless you’ve proved a bit of a natural and need to move on to a pro-bike! These are normally stronger and lighter than entry level and often used as a canvas from which to build a custom frame.
- Pro Bikes: Normally clocking in at over £500, these will be the best bikes on the market. Customisable to the max and can pretty much put up with anything you throw at it... But not for beginners! Don't try and fly like Mat Hoffman before you can roll.
Specifics to Look For When Buying a First Complete BMX Bike
If you’re sticking to our recommendations and going for an entry level first BMX bike, then we’d recommend going down to your nearest BMX shop and having a look around.
What’s important to consider though, is how often you’re going to ride the bike. If you’re only planning to take it down to the skate park on weekends every now and then, a cheaper entry level bike will do you well – remember, most proper BMX shops won’t stock any bike that isn’t good – while if you’re planning to hit it hard every day, a more upmarket, sturdier ride will do you well. Here are a few important points to consider:
- Sizing: The most important thing of all. Get your local bike shop to measure you up so that you get the right frame size for your bike. BMX bikes are measured by the top tube. If you’re under 5ft 7", you’re top tube length should be 20.25", while if you’re over 6ft, you’ll likely be better with a top tube around 21" or over. Get measured up and get this right!
- Weight: Buying a BMX bike that is super lightweight can be pretty expensive, but luckily for you, you don’t need a first BMX bike that’s super lightweight. What you do need is a ride that’s light enough to let you keep control, maintain energy levels and provide a good amount of manoeuvrability. Generally, lighter bikes will have better parts too, as the parts have been made with all of this in mind, so though they may cost a little extra, they’ll last you that much longer.
- A lot of entry and intermediate level bikes use steel tubing for their frame, but if you come across a complete with 4120 cromoly, you’ll have a frame that’s stronger and lighter. This isn’t an absolute essential for a first BMX bike, and is normally more common on more advanced bikes, but it will improve the riding experience.
- Many BMX bikes don’t come with breaks at all, but we’d recommend riding with at least a back break if you’re just getting involved.
- Look for a small sprocket in the front, around 25-30t. Anything much bigger than that and there’s a good chance the bike will be heavy, difficult to trick and outdated.
- Unsealed bearings can become loose and mean your bike could need a lot more work over time to keep it running smooth. If you look for sealed bearings in your front and rear hub, bottom bracket and headset, you’ll be riding clean for much longer.
- Double wall rims, on the outside of the wheel, are a lot more durable than single, and as such will last you a lot longer. Single walls dent easily. Doubles don’t.
- Cranks, the component that connects the pedals to the bike and turns the sprocket, need to be strong enough for your style of riding. Tubular cranks or branded cranks are both great options.
- And this should go without saying, but give the bike a good test drive before you buy it! There’s no better way of telling whether a bike is for you or not than actually giving it a ride. Don’t get distracted by the shiny colours!