As expected, BMX bikes are hot sellers right now. This leading New Zealand bicycle retailer says their BMX racing and freestyle bikes are in demand thanks to the enormous amount of publicity generated during the Tokyo Olympics. BMX in both disciplines is one of the fastest-growing sports on the planet, and the viewing figures for the respective events at the Olympics reflect its new wave of popularity.
It’s no surprise TV viewers all over the world were glued to the coverage. The BMX racing was as fast and furious as expected, on a brutal track that saw as many spills as thrills. But it was the BMX Freestyle that really captured the attention of spectators thanks to the closeness of the competition and the very nature of the sport itself. For many watching at home, this was their first glimpse of BMX Freestyle and if you were one of them, here’s a closer look at this show-stealing sport.
The UCI, cycling’s governing body, describes BMX Freestyle as “a spectacular discipline where the riders perform routines which consist of sequences of executing tricks.” That’s a neat way of describing Freestyle and covering the many ways it’s done. On flat ground, in the streets, on dirt jumps, a halfpipe and on constructed ramps, BMX Freestyle can be performed wherever there’s enough space.
In competition events, as we’ve just witnessed in Tokyo, riders are judged on the quality of their performance based on difficulty, originality and style. It’s real risk-reward stuff with simple moves standing no chance against daring and complex routines – if they’re done successfully, that is. The main disciplines of BMX Freestyle include:
- Park: Park competitions see riders execute a sequence of tricks on different obstacles contained within a specially designed park. Obstacles typically include spines, walls, and box jumps, and this was the discipline of BMX Freestyle that featured at the Tokyo Olympics.
- Vert: As you’ve probably guessed, this is the abbreviation of vertical. This discipline consists of tricks on a U-shaped ramp that stands about four metres high. The sides of the ramp are vertical at the top and the best riders in the world are capable of jumping up to 4.5 metres higher than the ramp itself – that’s a long way up. Vert is a demanding discipline that takes years of practice and plenty of bravery.
- Flat: Not quite as dangerous as Vert, but still demanding in its own way. In the flat discipline, the rider performs a series of tricks on flat ground, often balancing on one wheel. This activity can be described as break dancing on BMX bikes.
- Street: This is BMX Freestyle in its purest form and where many riders start out. They use obstacles found in the street to perform their manoeuvres e.g. walls, ledges, banks and railings.
- Earth: Riders perform tricks on mounds of earth that are designed and shaped to catch maximum air. There are several metres separating take-off and landing, so the jumps are as demanding as they are spectacular. Riders are judged on the completion of several tricks during the jumps, coupled with their degree of difficulty.
While BMX, both Freestyle and racing, is not yet considered a mainstream Olympic sport, its popularity with participants and spectators alike means it will remain one of the “must watch” events at subsequent games. It really has, in every sense of the phrase, reached new heights.