Do BMX bikes have brakes – Despite it being one of the least bought bikes, BMX bikes are probably the most well-known form of a pedal bike.
These little, sturdy bikes were in every ska or punk music video of the 90s, and they have been used as a form of expression by teenagers for many years.
Part of the reason is that, like skateboarding, they were used in more niche, less mainstream sports and gained a real following for their use in dangerous and high-octane stunts.
Their popularity and different look from other bikes have made them easily iconic, yet the way they are ridden and the stunts that are performed on them give the indication that not much in the way of brakes are used.
If that is the case, do BMX bikes have brakes? Most bikes have brakes, so why not BMX bikes?
And if they do, how is it that the riders are able to perform the intricate stunts that are seen with them?
In this article, we will look at the brand of BMX bikes more closely and see exactly what is going on with their brakes, if there are any at all.
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What Are BMX bikes?
Before we cover the brakes of a BMX, we will cover what the bikes actually are. BMX stands for bicycle motocross, and bikes are a type of off-road sportbike.
These bikes or even a type of off-road sportbike wasnâ€™t really around before the 1970s.
During that time, motorcycle motocross was a popular sport, with racers on dirt bikes competing on dirt tracks with obstacles and large stunt jumps in the way.
Children were enamoured by the sport, and it became increasingly popular, especially in California, where the climate and terrain made it easy to create racetracks.
In fact, there was even a video game released in 1984 called â€˜Excite Bikeâ€™ about dirt bike racing, which capitalized on the popularity of the sport.
These children eventually started creating their own dirt tracks, being inspired by their motocross heroes and raced their bikes on them.
There was no specific sporting pedal bike at the time and having one custom-made was out of the price range of most children, however, there were bikes that were easily repaired and customizable, like the Schwinn Stingray.
These bikes were readily available for most people as well, making them the obvious choice for these activities.
In 1971, a motorcycle documentary called â€˜On Any Sundayâ€™ was released and while it was a good documentary about the motocross sport, its opening scene made BMX a popular national sport.
This scene has many kids riding their stingray bikes on off-road tracks, in imitation of their favourite motocross stars.
After this documentary, BMX exploded in popularity and in 1973 the National Bicycle Association was formed in the west and then in 1974 the National Bicycle League was formed in the east of America, both sanctioning bodies for BMX racing.
Finally, the American Bicycle Association was formed in 1977 to create a national sanctioning body for the sport, thus starting its introduction to the world as a widely popular and legitimate sport.
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As for the bikes themselves, they tend to be smaller than regular bikes, but they are almost always made of a tougher material â€“ think steel, carbon, or aluminium.
The wheels also tend to be wider and heavier, with a much higher spoke count than the average bike.
Finally, BMX bikes normally donâ€™t have more than one or two gear settings, whereas most bikes have multiple options for changing gears.
Most of these differences in a BMX compared with a normal bike are to allow the bike to take impacts better, as BMXs are off-road sport and stunt bikes that often go over large jumps or difficult turns.
As such, they need to be able to withstand hits or landings without breaking multiple times in a single race.
If you were to compare them to other pedal bikes, they would be more like a mountain bike than a racing bike, as they are not designed for speed but endurance and effectiveness.
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So, Do They Have Brakes?
Yes, BMX bikes do have brakes. This may surprise some people, as there are many who have definitely seen BMX bikes without brakes.
Donâ€™t worry, you genuinely saw that, those were BMX bikes without brakes, it’s just those bikes have been modified.
See, BMX bikes are designed and customized for specific purposes or riders. The riders of those bikes will make changes frequently to them to ensure they work the way they want them to.
Every BMX comes with at least one brake and this is almost always the back one, but they can have two brakes or no brakes at all. Depending on what you are doing with the bike necessitates what you need on the bike.
For example, a dirt track racer will want a sturdy back brake, actually, they require a sturdy back brake, but a freestyle BMX bike doesnâ€™t really need a break and will have removable brake mounts on the bike, for the option of both having a brake and taking one away.
If you see most BMX bikes, they are on the street being used by teenagers and you will probably see them without brakes.
The customizable design of the bike and the thought that brakes are lame by teenagers effectively means that brakes disappear rather quickly from BMX bikes.
Types of BMX Brakes
Brakes are incredibly important in any vehicle, and BMX bikes are no different, despite what some might say.
Without them, terrible accidents could occur, and youâ€™d be surprised at how easily brake pads are worn through by racers in just a single race.
With that said, we can take a look at the three types of brakes a BMX may have:
- U-brakes â€“ These brakes are the most common for BMX bikers, because they serve their purpose, while not getting in the way of stunts or tricks, with freestylers being especially drawn to this type of brake.
- V-brakes â€“ These brakes are more commonly used for racing or dirt-jumping events. This is because they have greater stopping power than other types of brakes and are lighter in weight.
- Coaster brakes â€“ Coaster brakes rely on pedalling backwards to actually stop the bike. They are an older style of brake but have gained traction in recent years and can be seen at least once in every BMX arena, excluding freestyle BMX.
As you can see, there are a few options for BMX bikers to choose from, and those options even include no brakes whatsoever.
The reason is that BMX is all about how you want to tackle a course.
There are rules, but they are not burdensome, and customization to your personal preferences is at the core of the BMX sport.
Should you wish to use U-brakes for racing, V-brakes or coaster brakes for freestyling, go right ahead. It is your bike and the options available can only be judged and changes made by you.
There are brakes on BMX bikes, and all BMX bikes have the option for brakes.
The difference is that, unlike normal bikes, brakes are not necessarily a requirement and the only person who can decide whether they are or not is the rider or owner of the bike.
Some BMX riders think that it is necessary to have both front and back brakes, some think they only need one, and some none at all.
The very essence of the sport is about making the bike your own, and then using your skill as a cyclist and as a mechanic on your bike to win events.
BMX biking may be a nationally and even internationally recognized sport now, with organizations regulating it and sponsorships, but deep down it is still the same sport from the 70s.
In our hearts, we know we are still just big kids riding our custom-made bicycles off high ramps for kicks, and that to me is glorious.