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UCI

A Short History of BMX
Bicycle moto cross (bmx) started in the late 1960s in California, around the time that motocross became a popular sport in the USA.

The motorised version of the sport was the inspiration for the human powered competition. Children and teenagers with the desire but not the means to participate in motocross sated their appetite by racing bicycles on self-built tracks. These young adventurers completed the imitation by dressing themselves up in motocross gear. The sport was given the name 'bmx' and the conception was complete.

Bmx racing offered exciting action at a low cost, close to home. It is easy to see why the sport was an instant hit. In California the sport was more popular than anywhere else. During the early 1970s a sanctioning body for bmx was founded in the U.S.A. This is considered as the official start of bmx racing. As that decade progressed, the sport was introduced on other continents too, among them Europe in 1978.

In April 1981, the International BMX Federation was founded, and the first world championships were held in 1982. Bmx rapidly developed as a unique sporting entity, and after several years clearly had more in common with cycling than motorcycling codes. Thus, since January 1993 bmx has been fully integrated into the Union Cycliste Internationale.

BMX Q&A


Q:Where are the main growth centres for bmx?

A:The main BMX areas in the world were and are the U.S.A., Europe and Australia, whilst South America has also been doing pretty well over the past years. Currently, BMX is really booming again in the U.S.A. Since 1997, BMX bike sales in the U.S.A. are the biggest of all bike sales in the U.S. (even bigger than mountain bike sales!). There is also evidence of a regrowth of BMX in Australia and Europe.

Q: What is the current worldwide political situation with bmx?

A: Bmx has been integrated with many national cycling federations. Currently, there are 43 national federations with official bmx activities recognized by the UCI. About ten independent bmx federations have still to integrate. All bmx integration must be completed at the latest by December 31, 1998.

Q: How does a bmx world cup event operate?

A: 5. Bmx world cup events are meant to make good promotion of and get more recognition for the sport. They are set up in a compact, spectator friendly format. The racing classes at world cup events include only two categories: Elite and Junior. World Cup tracks demand considerable technical skills and include various spectacular jumps.

Q: How many heats are there before the final round?

A: The number of heats at a bmx race, and thus also at a world cup race, depends on the number of competitors in a class you start with. The Elite Men's class is the biggest. At the world championships this class can include more than 150 riders.

Every race starts with motos, which are 3 qualifying rounds. Each heat of riders, including a maximum of 8 riders, races each other 3 times. The best 4 from each heat over those 3 initial rounds transfer to the next round of racing. The following rounds of racing could be 1/16 finals, 1/8 finals, 1/4 finals, semi-finals or main final, but the exact format depends on the number of riders in a class.

The format for a meeting is set according to the following schedules:

  • 9 - 16 riders in a class: motos and main;
  • 17 - 32 riders in a class: motos, semi-finals, main;
  • 33 - 64 riders in a class: motos, 1/4 finals, semi-finals, main;
  • 65-128 riders in a class: motos, 1/8 finals, 1/4 finals, semi-finals, main;
  • 129-256 riders in a class: motos, 1/16 finals, 1/8 finals, 1/4 finals, semi-finals, main.
The minimum number of riders to constitute a class is 9, otherwise the class is combined with the next class above.

From the 1/16 finals and on, best 4 riders from each heat transfer to the next round of racing, eventually resulting in an 8 rider main final.

The only exception is a class with 9 riders, which gives a 5 rider and a 4 rider heat. Best 4 of the 5 rider heat and best 3 of the 4 rider heat transfer to the 7 rider main.

Q: So how many riders per heat?

A: I've already told you that, but since you're getting fussy, I'll explain it in a different way. The maximum number of riders per heat, and thus the maximum number of riders on the BMX track at the same time, is 8. The minimum number per heat is 5, with the only exception a 4 rider heat in a 9 rider class. Getting confused? Well look at the above again. Now, if I can continue, a special system has been developed which describes exactly for 9-256 riders in a class, the way the riders will be spread over the heats, but if you want to see this transfer system, you will have to consult the BMX Rule Book.

Q: How long does the race last?

A: Normally, but depending on the length and technical difficulty of the track, a bmx race lasts 30-40 seconds.

Q: And how long does the whole race meeting last?

A: A world cup event can be done in three hours of pure racing, but if demonstrations etc. are included, the race meeting lasts from approx. 11.00 a.m. - 04.00 p.m. Racing in the championship classes on the Sunday at the world's lasts from approx. 11.30 a.m. - 04.30 p.m..

Q: Why are all bmx events held indoors?

A: They aren't! Most bmx events are held outdoors on permanent tracks. Only a limited number of races are held indoors. Organizing indoor BMX events is rather expensive, and the problem is to bring in the dirt and build a BMX track in a very short time, without having the possibility to try out the track thoroughly and refine the jumps and turns.

Q: What is a good sized audience at a bmx world cup event?

A: Currently, a good sized audience at a BMX World Cup event is 2-3,000 people. This is because there is a limited number of participants. At the world's and at the European championships there are more participants, who bring helpers with them. Then easily an audience of 6-7,000 spectators is present. It is still hard to attract a lot of the general public, you know, outsiders to a bmx event. Some organizers manage to do so by means of a good advertising campaign, but a lot of factors can affect local interest. We are working on increasing the recognition of the sport, and that should help bring larger crowds to bmx race meetings.

Q: Strong participant sport, eh? So how many bmx riders are registered worldwide?

A: Through UCI affiliated federations there are over 60,000 bmx riders worldwide with a racing licence. There is a particular situation in the USA., where, besides the 35,000 bmx riders affiliated through USA Cycling, there are another 40,000 BMX riders who race under the auspices of the ABA (American Bicycle Association). The ABA is a commercial organization, not affiliated to UCI, which was also the owner of NORBA in the past.

Q: How long is a bmx course?

A: Do you mean a bmx track? A bmx track is 300-400 metres long.

Q: What are the main skills involved?

A: A good bmx rider must have explosive power, excellent motor co-ordination, high technical skills and a good tactical brain. It should be considered as one of the-if not the-most technical cycling codes.

Q: what is the age range of Elite competitors?

A: Looking at the UCI rankings, the youngest Elite men are 19, while the oldest male Elite rider in the rankings at the moment is 39. This is bmx legend, Harry Leary, from the U.S.A.. In the women's rankings, the youngest Elite women are also 19, whilst the oldest woman in the rankings is 33, Janet Park from the USA.

Q: How many classes of racing are there in world cup and world championships competition?

A: The classes at a World Cup event are Elite Men (19 and over), Elite Women (19 and over), Junior Men (17-18) and Junior Women (17-18). These classes al race on the traditional 20 " BMX bike (20" wheel size).

The World Championship classes are Elite Men (19 and over), Elite Women (19 and over), Junior Men (17-18), Junior Women (17-18), Elite Cruiser (19 and over) and Junior Cruiser (17-18).

The Cruiser classes use (Cruiser) bikes with 24" wheels and are open to men and women. In practice, mainly men race Cruiser bikes. Quite possibly, in the future Elite and Junior Cruiser will not be championship classes any more.

Q: What if I want to find out more?

A: Go to the rule book, or send an e-mail to bmx@uci.ch.