BMX bikes are built for riding dirt racetracks and doing tricks. This style of bike is a bit like a low rider car with its low seat and a rugged but cool-looking body.
Unfortunately, this style isn’t universal, and there are places a BMX isn’t made for riding. Are BMX bikes good for trails?
BMX bikes are not good for mountain trails because they are set up with a lower seat, smaller wheels, lack of brakes and no gears to shift which make it difficult to navigate steep rocky hills. Climbing and descending will involve a lot more pedaling and will require more energy to keep moving forward.
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Can You Take BMX Bikes On Trails
You can technically take a BMX bike on a regular trail insofar as its wheels will turn on dirt, but it’s not a good plan. If you’re confused because you’ve seen BMX racers on a dirt track, no worries, I’ll explain.
A BMX bike is set up to have a low seat and no gears to shift. This is great for the type of small hills you find on a dirt track.
BMX-style bikes were created in the 1970s in California. The kids there were racing on dirt tracks and playing at being motocross riders.
This style is meant to mimic the motocross champs that those young riders idolized. In short, a BMX is made for racing on smooth, intentionally constructed dirt tracks and hills or for doing small stunts and tricks.
BMX riding is popular with both children and adults these days. However, it was initially meant as a way for adventurous children to play-race and learn stunts on short hills.
Why Are BMX Bikes Good For Trails
A BMX bike is good for BMX trails. Additionally, this is a good style for shorter country trails.
Mountain trails of the type most people think about when they discuss trail riding are very different, but BMX is good for the other two options.
A country trail is likely to be less hilly than a mountain trail. The drops and climbs are similar to a dirt racetrack, where a BMX is most at home.
In fact, some country trails with their short hilly descents are ideal for this bike style. The single break and smaller wheels are not set up correctly for big drops and eating long distances efficiently.
As Quora points out, “A larger diameter wheel (given the same sized axle) has more leverage between the edge and the axle, it, therefore, needs fewer turns for a given distance, and the resistance in the axle is reduced. This makes it “Faster” in the sense that less energy is required to overcome axle friction and maintain a specific speed.”
The physics, as explained here, are why you should limit a BMX to racing, stunts, and shorter trails. Otherwise, you’ll expend a massive amount of energy to cover the same ground and exhaust yourself.
How To Ride A BMX Bike On Trails
BMX trails and country trails that are good for BMX require a different skill set than pedaling a cruiser or even using a mountain bike. Riding trails is as much about instinct and familiarity with your trail as anything.
However, I’ve compiled a list of tips below to help you start trail riding on BMX.
- Some BMX don’t use breaks at all. If this is you, then you need to learn to bleed off speed quickly before you ever hit the trail. Breaks are essential for more demanding, steeper trails.
- Learn how to crash. Though it may seem like the opposite of staying on the trail, crash-landing is a vital skill, and it will help you if you hit a tough patch and can’t keep your wheels under you. Every BMX rider needs this skill.
- Not every BMX rider uses gloves. However, if you want to save your hands’ wear and tear, then I recommend starting with motocross gloves. Since a BMX is meant to mimic motocross, using similar equipment can often help.
- Don’t go nuts on an unfamiliar trail. BMX trails are made and maintained by local riders, and some are much better than others. Always take a more sedate ride through and see what’s in store first. Choose good trails and help maintain them if you are going to use them.
Are BMX Bikes Good For Mountain Biking
BMX bikes are not the best choice for mountain biking. After all, that’s why there are mountain bikes. However, it can be an acceptable alternative for pro cyclists, those with lots of experience and daily practice.
The smaller wheels mean that climbing or even descending will involve a lot more pedaling and work just to keep moving forward.
When you combine that disadvantage with the lack of gears, it becomes an unnecessarily difficult task to use a BMX on a mountain trail or even on a mountain road. Whenever possible, it is best to use the right bike for the job.
A mountain bike has large wheels made to eat roads and trails with less effort, which matters a lot when you consider the difficulty is greater anyway due to the incline.
Using a mountain bike lets you change gears and pedal fewer rotations, inevitably saving wear and tear on both your body and your bike. You will be able to travel further on the mountain bike with far less exhaustion.
Helpful Tips To Know If BMX Bikes Are Good For Trails
BMX bikes are not meant for standard mountain bike trails. However, if you are fortunate enough to have local country trails or BMX trails, then you can undoubtedly take your bike there to ride.
Here are more helpful tips to know if BMX bikes are good for trails.
- Always respect the trails. Don’t leave garbage behind and ensure that you ask the owners if they are on private property.
- Using more energy to cover the same distance with smaller wheels might seem like a good idea for building muscle and stamina, but it’s not. Biking smarter with fewer revolutions on larger wheels is more than enough to develop that power. Meanwhile, the additional strain of using the wrong equipment, in this case, a BMX, to cover a longer distance can damage your joints. It’s better to avoid possible hip, knee, and ankle damage and stick to the short trails.
- Not all dirt is created equal. Just because a trail looks like it’s for BMX, that doesn’t mean it was constructed that way. Moreover, not all BMX trail builders have the same level of skill. If you want reliable BMX trails in your area, you need to learn to build and maintain them.
If your goal is to go everyday mountain trail riding, then you should not choose a BMX bike. Although this style can handle a little dirt and even do well on short trails with small hills, it’s not made for regular trail rides.
Mountain bikes and multi-surface riders like cyclocross are the bikes you want for trails. However, you can still get a lot of good use from a BMX.
They are tough and incredibly durable since BMXs are meant to be trick bikes and race on dirt tracks like a motocross bike.