Biking by far has been the biggest and best part of my life. I started late at 15 years old, but made up for it with near 24 hour dedication. It has shaped my life, made me a better person and connected me with the world. But I will skip all that personal journey shit and just throw out some tips that I think will help any biker.
Ride what you have/ Get your geometry right –
People get so hung up on getting the best/lightest/nicest parts that they end up spending way too much early on and on parts that don’t work well together or don’t fit their body. 10’’rise with 30’’ width won’t go well with 23’’ shoulder width and 5’ 7’’ height, same goes for a sub 4.5lbs frame for a rider over 180lbs. Go buy a complete, hopefully a really good complete that is fit to your body type (local shop can help you with that), it will still break. Often the forks will bend, the pedals will be shit, and the cassette will grenade itself. Replace these parts as they break and learn proper maintenance and mechanics, parts on your custom $3000 bike will still break but at least with a complete you have a proper geometry and a good base to start modifying the measurements to you and your riding style.
I am 5’11’’ 170lbs I ride;
20.75’ top tube – 21’’ feels a bit long for my shorter arms and 20.5 to close to my knees.
75 ° head tube- Prefect for someone who likes to spin and go fast-ish . 75.5 would be for trying 900’s and spinning a lot, at a sacrifice for stability when going fast, 74 would be very good for trails and a smoother rider not so concentrated on tricks.
13.75-14.25 chainstay- 13.75 seems to be the perfect spot for me, not too hard or too easy to manual and long enough to provide stability. I ride my wheel slammed into the rear dropout so the measurement is right at the 13.75 mark (meaning I have to break the chain to change a flat).
Smaller number means easier to pull up and will spin faster but will limit bunny hop height and stability, longer will make manuals harder but help with speed and high hops.
The other measurements like seat angle, and stand over height, control the look of the bike not so much the feel, bb height may have a difference but is not a measurement I have experimented with.
Bars – This is by far the most adjustable part of your bike, if your frame is close to the right size your bars and stem can dial it into perfect territory and make a big difference in riding style, this is where the main experimentation should happen, try on a few bars at your local shop and find what geometry feels good, start with your bars straight in line with your forks (at a side profile view) then make small adjustments forward or back depending on style and needs. More forward will make front end tricks easier but move center of balance forward, vice versa for bars backward. Bar height can control a lot; like bunny hop height, pull up force, and how far you can pull back or push forwards. I suggest playing around with a lot of different types and adjustments. I ride 9.25 rise in line with forks and it is on the taller end. I was fine with 8.25 rise but now my back is straighter.
Stem-Big bars are popular but you can still run a handle bar with high rise, just remove spacers from under the stem and use a drop style stem or run a top load stem upside down to counter act the rise if it too big for your height or body. A stem can add/remove length from your bike adjusting the front center of balance over the front wheel but 50mm seem to be standard.
Some people mess with crank arm length but I have seen no serious gains from changes to merit it.
Tires- Based on riding style and environment, knobby and skinny for dirt and loose, wide and smooth for park, mix and match front to back or take the middle ground.
Gear Ratio – 25t sprocket with 9t cassette driver is industry standard. Bigger sprocket can help if you need to go really fast but makes it hard to pedal up those hills and you will probably leave your friends behind just riding to the spot.
Everything else is solely up to you and your wanted style; brakes, no brakes, gyro, straight cable, pivotal seat, rail seat, one piece seat , grips, bar ends, four pegs, two pegs, no pegs, metal pedals, plastic pedals, hollow chain, half link chain, normal chain, etc.
But in the end of the day everyone gets too caught up in these things. If you have a bike and it rolls, go ride it, starting with a 20 lbs bike won’t help you but riding a 27lbs one will, when it lasts longer and makes you stronger also down the road when you upgrade to the perfect parts, it will give you an advantage in strength. If you still got a freewheel and reflectors, it can still jump off a curb and will 180 no different. Almost every discipline of biking can be a “equipment” sport. A road biker can spend $10,000 on a TT road bike that makes only a small difference from a vintage 80’s bike. The difference is there, but that is when the rider is in tune, dedicated and experienced. To an amateur the 10,000 bike is not only a waste it is a mistake as the 80’s would teach you a lot more and be useful in growing and finding the right fit. BMX is the same way, use what you have rip it, break it and fix it. Let it grow with you.
Another mistake I see is people defining themselves as a “park” rider or “street” rider etc. Seriously go ride everything. I understand everyone has the discipline they like the most and want to be gnarly at, but you will become a much better rider if you ride the street and the park and the dirt jumps and the grass hill and your driveway and in the basement and when it’s cold. Staying in one spot is not what biking is about; change your scenery, explore, find new riders and friends, they are everywhere. If you find yourself always at the park try travelling to another city and check out the amazing culture everywhere else. Street cats can get to the park once in a while and get more guys to ride with when ripping alone gets boring.
My goal has always been “be the best I can” I will ride a 12ft ¼ pipe or a ¼ inch piece of wood because I love riding my bike I don’t care where or on what. I will learn to do a trick whether it is extreme and impressive or just technical and new. I do enjoy park a lot more but one should pick what they like after they have tried it all. Don’t get stuck in a rut. I think the best rider can blast a tailwhip on a half pipe and follow it up with a table over a dirt jump then 360 a stair set and slider a grass bank. If you get bored biking, it means you need to change something, biking doesn’t cater to you. You are the force behind the pedals.
Want to ride forever? Most guys dream of riding every day for the rest of their lives and plan on it. But almost every adult rider that I have seen stop riding is due to injury. If you take care for yourself before you get hurt you will last a lot longer. Wear a helmet, gloves when sweaty or on shitty asphalt, knee pads and shin guards will save your entire summer, ankle restrictors are amazing I have been known to throw on body armour and full face helmets when getting gnarly, but guess what… I’m still getting gnarly even with my medical conditions when most my older healthy friends have stopped. If I find I’m smashing a new part of my body I find a way to protect it, a sock, cardboard and tape have all been used in desperation, if you ride BMX don’t worry about coming off as being “tough” you already are tough. Instead of feeling tough when I knock myself out or spilt open my body, I feel stupid for hurting myself when I could have prevented it with amour instead of sitting at home healing.
It kind goes with preparedness. Brining a backpack is a really good idea even though they can be bulky and take away from the feeling of freedom a BMX bike gives, but some zipties to fix clothing when it rips, just enough water to fight passing out from dehydration, a pocket for your phone, camera, ipod and wallet keep you from making a looped out manual a $1000 mistake when those hang in your pocket. Chain breaker, extra tube and tools will make everyone around you a much happier person. Always some duct tape, even mix it with some paper towel for make shift Band-Aids. Wax for those sweet spots and rough ledges. Some extra pads and gloves in case things get gnarly, I have been stuck without these things and really needing each one, but I have never been disappointed I had all these things and not needed them.
BMX is individual but also a community, trends come and go and most people would say don’t follow any trends, I say follow the ones that are right for you. Don’t change yourself to fit someone else’s image, but you can sure as hell use them as inspiration or for ideas on what you want to become. Like a brakeless 4 peg street rider, throw on 4 pegs just make sure your bike fits your body, ride the streets and be a hellion, you can be a bit destructive and being irresponsible it is what makes shit like biking fun but just because you see guys on the internet getting in fights or smoking tons of weed doesn’t mean that has to be every street rider, and why only be a street rider? Set your own goals not everyone needs to send a double backflip, do it because you want to, have fun with your friends try different styles or different trends I think trends are good they make people explore new things, just don’t be a dick about it, it doesn’t mean you are cool but if it is cool to you then do it, if barspins are in, try some barspins but don’t forget about every other trick you think is fun. I have spent most of my life at a skatepark or late nights on the streets or around a fire digging, I have never done any drugs, smoked weed, I have never drank at the park, or fought kids and spray painted shit, it’s because those were the parts of the role models I followed that I wanted to leave out for myself. I don’t like doing any of that stuff, it was always about the bikes for me, but I understand everyone has their priorities and theirs are different and mine are only right for me, so as long as everyone is a good person I’m happy. Even when everyone seems to be doing those things, I couldn’t care if you ride a scooter or a skateboard or rollerblades, our sport is too small to hate on each other and its pretty simple minded when people can’t see how unique we are, extreme sports athletes just jump off shit with something underneath them, pretty silly, the shape of the object we ride isn’t that big of a deal. So chill the fuck out and stop taking everything so serious, go ride your bike.