Many people don’t realize that BMX bikes come in many different designs and flavors. It is a bit of a toss up, but for years Redline has been my best BMX bike. The company continues to survive in a difficult market and produce quality products that stand the test of time. The Redline Pro Line would be my go to bike for anyone getting involved in BMX racing.
From full on race bikes to dirt jumping the genres vary considerably. To wade through all of the differences, we will break down the best BMX bikes as well as great values based on specific usages. So you might be asking, what are the differences amongst the bikes?
The differences come in 2 main aspects- design and components. While you could cross over and use one design for a different genre, you will quickly find that the bike can be out of its element. Lastly, the components differ wildly amongst the different genres, to the point that some dirt jumping bikes have no brakes at all, where a traditional freestyle bike may have old school u-brake cantilevers as a preference.
Best BMX Bike for Dirt Jumping
There are a few things that distinguish a Dirt Jumping bike, like the Eastern Traildigger over a park or freestyle bike. Most dirt jump bikes will have only a rear brake, if one at all, run a knobby style tire and probably will not have axle pegs.
Eastern makes a better quality bike at a reasonable price. Featuring chromoly frames, with decent wheels, they set up well of the average rider looking for this type of bike. One good feature in this price range is a higher quality 3 piece crankset. Cheap one piece cranks are a sure tip-off of the quality of a bike.
The other great aspect of the Traildigger is that the drivetrain is already microdrive. Basic gearing on a bmx bike is normally a 44 x 16 or fairly similar. When riding park, or dirt jumping, a huge chainring is not a good thing. Not only does the bike accelerate slower, but the chainring also gets bent on jumps and park features. Microdrive helps get the drivetrain out of the way.
Best BMX Bike for Park/Freestyle
Generally speaking, park and freestyle root from the same type of riding. There are some differences between the bikes that we will explain as we go. Effectively, a park type bike is set up to be ridden in a skate or bike park, with ramps, and other features for tricks. Freestyle could be used in a park, but may differ on the setup, having brakes, and perhaps how axle pegs are installed.
How is the setup different?
There is much debate on park and freestyle bikes. Some of it are rider preference, such as axle or grinding pegs. Some riders find that they can only grind on one side, so they remove the pegs off the alternate side. Freestyle now seems more removed and is almost like what was flatland, where there was no obstacles, ramps or anything, just you and your bike. Park differs and relies heavily on jumps, spines, pipes, grinding rails and a variety of things like that.
One key element in this segment is a rotor/gyro. A rotor is a device that prevents brake cables from tangling when the bars are spun. Bar spins are a major variant of park and freestyle tricks, so having the right equipment helps out significantly.
Fit is a BMX brand that is more on the side of park and dirt jumping than outright BMX racing. The Fit Prk Bagz is a tough bike that can easily be upgraded with your favorite parts.
You will see that it comes equipped with the right things to get started, but has great wheels, and overall geometry. Add pegs if you want, grind washers, or anything else to help protect the vulnerable parts like spokes.
Best BMX Bike for Traditional Race
This is where things get crazy, not only on the track, but what constitutes a race bike. Not to be scary, but this is all about weight. When you are racing, it is about accelerating out of the gate as fast as possible to beat everyone into the first turn. Excess weight only slows you down. Losing that weight costs money!
Top end BMX race bikes are usually high end 7005 or scandium aluminum frames and carbon fiber. A good example of a carbon frame is the Redline Flight Carbon Pro. Made from carbon, the frame is stiff and lightweight, everything you need to get a great start out of the gate.
What you will notice is this is just the frame, no parts. Most race bikes are built piece by piece. You are selecting things that are your personal favorites, or sized to your body type.
If you are looking for a bike to get started on, and maybe do a BMX racing league or similar racing with the ABA, take a look at the GT Speed Series. These are great starter bikes, and have the things you need to be safe and learn.
Best BMX Cruiser
Adults love BMX cruisers. Be it a full race model, or just something comfortable that is aggressive and stylish. Check out something like a Soul Beach Cruisers BMX styled cruiser.
Lets get small. Not all BMX bikes need to run 20″ or larger wheels. While 20″ is what BMX bikes are all based on, there are many variants of the designs.
Again, Fit Bike Company does an excellent job creating a mini version of a great BMX bike. Check out the Fit Misfit 16″.
Even as an adult or a bigger kid, a 16″ bike is so much fun. It might seem too small for a 12 year old, but there are advantages. A small bike allows you to overpower the bike. When you are learning to jump, or do tricks, a small bike can be managed easier. Then you graduate up to a full size, and the techniques are similar.
Oh, and riding wheelies is so easy on a 16″!
There are whole articles about budget minded BMX bikes. Remember, when you buy inexpensively, the wheels are always the weak point of the bike. The rear wheel on a BMX bike takes all of the abuse, and poor quality ones will flat spot and have other issues quicker. Quality of manufacture is an equal issue.
So an example of a budget bike is the Framed Impact 20″ BMX bike. It is a reasonable bike for the money.
You will see it has a weird drivetrain, with larger sprockets, one piece cranks, and 1.75″ tires. For true BMX it needs upgrades. Could you get started with it? Sure, it will work.
The world of BMX is huge. At industry trade events, BMX makes up 25% of the industry. Last year, BMX was one of the few segments that had continued growth of sales and riders entering the sport.
Make sure that you are choosing the right bike for the type of riding that you will do. I have seen kids at the track riding freestyle bikes. They were having fun, but the bike weighs 10 pounds more than a race BMX bike does. When you are a kid, it is hard to overcome things like that.
The final consideration on any of these bikes is the price. Depending on the genre, there is a threshold where bikes above the line are built and equipped like any top of the line model. Below the threshold and the bike will perform amply, but there might be things lacking in quality such as wheels. Wheel durability is the number 1 issue on every BMX bike.
I would easily purchase any Redlineproduct for my kids or myself for a pure BMX race purpose. There are tons of great freestyle and dirt jumping bikes. Anything from Fit and Eastern seems to be a great value and built right. Most importantly, be safe and have fun!