Everyone remembers those cool kids riding around the neighbourhood in baggy clothes on bikes that were too small for them. The history of BMX is so much more though!
BMX stands for ‘Bicycle Motocross’ and has some pretty extreme origins. BMX started as a sport and was all about speed and manoeuvrability. These bikes were much smaller and lighter than their road and mountain biking counterparts. They were initially designed for dirt although they became very popular for freestyle use which was in a more urban environment.
The design was intuitively set up with 20-inch wheels, much smaller than other bikes at the time, and the rest of the body built according to similar scaled measurements. All the other aspects of the bike were designed to be as simple as possible so the rider could focus on the track or course. For the most part, they had a signal brake or no brake, meaning you would need to pedal backwards to brake. This also allowed for the handlebars to move around freely with no brake cables to cause obstruction.
The motocross version flew on to the scene in the 60s and became very popular. A short dirt track with a number of jumps and turns made for exciting viewing. It was then noticed that these bikes were perfectly suited to performing tricks and in the 70s freestyle followed. BMXs started appearing in skate parks and empty swimming pools all over the States after building a bit of a cult following.
Bob Haro would be a part of starting the first BMX trick team in 1979. The sport ceased to be seen as an auxiliary to motocross and took on a life of its own – it would later become a permanent fixture in the Summer X-Games launched in 1995. At some point, the corporates pulled out which forced the riders into the spotlight as they had to start their own brands. This could have easily forced BMX into the periphery but the popular following helped it thrive.