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BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross, originally derived from motocross (Moto-X) riding. It is a dynamic sprint sport which takes place on purpose-built single-lap tracks, where up to eight riders pedal as fast as they can out of a start-gate, go over various jumps, around berms and then race flat-out to the finish.

The course is usually flat, roughly 4.6 m wide and has large banked corners that help the riders maintain speed.

The sport is very family-oriented and largely participant-driven, with riders ranging in age from 3 to 60, and even older! Professional ranks exist for both men and women, where the ages range from 15 to 40 years.

A BMX “Class” bike is a strong, quick-handling, lightweight version of the standard 20-inch (510 mm)-wheel, single-speed youth bicycle. Variations include a larger 24-inch-wheel “cruiser” class.

BMX racing became a medal sport at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing under the UCI sanctioning body. Various sanctioning bodies have slightly different rules for qualifications of advancement in races between skills levels and age classification.

In a typical day, a racer will race several times with their group to determine the day’s finishing order and awards. The qualifying rounds, called Motos, determine the number of racers in the finals which are called Mains.

The sizes and number of motos at a skill level and age group is determined by the number of racers who register for that race and in that skill level and age group.

Getting started

Who participates in BMX?

Anyone from the age of 3 upwards can ride a BMX. This sport is for boys and girls, thru the 50+ Cruiser Class which is really catching on with the Moms, Dads and Grand Parents!

Equipment needed?

When you start BMX, any bike will do.

For starters, any long pants and long-sleeve shirt will do the trick. You obviously need a helmet, preferably with mouth protection. Shoes should have closed toes, and socks and gloves are recommended.

Crossbars and handlebars must be padded, as well as the frame and gooseneck. In addition, the handlebars must have handgrips. If your bike has a kickstand, a chain guard, reflectors or other gadgets, you’ll want to remove them. Freestyle type bikes with bolt-on or permanent standing devices are not allowed.

As you get more experienced, knee and elbow pads are useful to have.

What next?

Tracks in the Western Cape include Strandfontein, the Velokhaya Oval (Khayelitsha), and Khayamandi (Stellenbosch). There’s also a fun play track in Athlone next to the Vangate Mall. The Kuilsrivier track  and Princessvlei tracks are not always available due to maintenance issues.

How to compete in BMX

Join a BMX club where you will compete against other novice riders. On race day, you will have to register and ride in your correct age group. You will race 3 motos to qualify for the main race, for which medals or trophies are usually given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Your bike must have a number board.

What can be achieved

Club Champion:             Awarded to the rider with the most points for the year.

Provincial colours:          Awarded to the top riders in the province.

National colours:            Protea colours are awarded to riders chosen to compete at World BMX Championships, where you race for a World Number W1 – W8. W1 means you are Number 1 in the World in your age group; World 2 means you’re second in the world up to World 8.

Olympics:                     The ultimate goal. You have to be an Elite* rider

(19 years and over) to qualify for the Olympics. However, if you are 17 – 18 years old you may qualify for Junior Olympics.


Gate Starts

The gate start is one of the most important aspects of BMX racing – it’s 80% of your race. You need to learn to balance your bike on the gate. It takes a little practice; but once you’ve learnt how, you’ll never forget it. To achieve a super-fast gate start, you must be focused, relaxed and comfortable, and ready to explode the moment the gate goes down. Practise pedalling your bike as fast as you can… and then go even faster!

Berm tactics

There are many lines to take in a berm. Being able to sum up the situation in a few split seconds and then take the perfect line is what separates the champions from the wannabes.

There is a right way to ride a berm, and a wrong way. Using another rider as a stopping block is the wrong way – you slow down too much, and 80% of the time you’ll either fall or lose your place. Practise makes perfect… and keep pedalling!


Tracks are approximately 350m long, and each track is different. The more different tracks you can ride, the more experience you can build up.

Bike set-up

Setting up your bike correctly is as important as racing. If your bike is not functioning well, you will not be able to race well. Make sure your brakes are not binding or dragging, that the hubs move freely and that everything is clean and lubricated.


Jumping is an integral part of BMX Racing and can only be taught on the bike. the longer the bike is in the air, the longer the pedaling action is not driving you forward.

Tips from some expert riders

–      When you are riding over the jumps and bumps, if you aren’t actually jumping them, try pushing down on the bars when your front wheel is right past the peak. This will have a pumping effect and actually help you go faster, and keep the bike from flying into the air.

–      Work on your starts. Much of BMX is the start and sprint down the first straight.

–      Your bike should be pointed toward the inside third of the first turn, meaning if you are on the inside line, you are basically straight and if you are on the outside line you are angled in. Your pedals should be level.

–      Pedaling a BMX bike is hardly a leg thing. Use your whole body. Chat to the expert riders at your local track and ask them to show you how to do this. (Track sprinters have a similar way of riding)

–      Get wide bars to increase leverage, giving you more advantage. Small bars are for skateparks and dirtjumping.

–      The last hurdle to winning is corners. Pedal pedal pedal…


No helmet no ride!!

Riders must wear long pants, long sleeve shirt and gloves.

Novices and all riders under nine years old race in flat pedals. Experts are allowed to race in clip pedals.

If a Novice has five wins in a final, the rider will be moved up to the Expert class.

BMX language

APEX The highest point on the berm where the turn is at its sharpest.
BERM A banked corner on the BMX track.
CAMEL A double on top of a tabletop.
CRUISER A BMX Bicycle with 24” wheels.
DNF ‘Did not finish’ – any rider who starts but does not finish the moto; or cuts across the track after a mishap, will be declared as DNF, and will receive last place in the moto.
DNS ‘Did not start’.
DOUBLE Two humps close together.
ELITE A class of highly skilled riders who receive the same recognition as the Expert rider but, in addition, may be awarded prize money.
EXPERT A more experienced and usually more competent rider who is eligible for Provincial Colours, National Numbers and International Selection.
HEAT A moto in a BMX meet where the transfer system is used.
HOLE-SHOT A rider reaches a certain predetermined point on the track ahead of the other competitors.
MOTO A single race or heat in a BMX meeting.
NOVICE A beginner or any rider who has not won five or more finals.
REGISTER The completion of a race entry form. Compulsory for all riders.
RHYTHM SECTION A section of track with continuous rises and dips which cannot be pedalled through.
RIDER A person who registers, and competes in a BMX meet.
ROLLER A single obstacle in the shape of a hump.
SCRUTINIZING Inspection of the rider’s clothing and bicycle prior to racing – this is compulsory to all riders.
STEP-DOWN As above but with a stepped decline.
STEP-UP An obstacle with a stepped rise usually onto a tabletop.
TABLE TOP A heaped obstacle with a flat top.
TRIPLE Three humps close together.

Thank you to Sharlene McGillvray for the information supplied.