How to make BMX racing big again

29 07 2011

If you spend any time at all on the BMX racing forums you’ll notice that inevitably, before long,  the subject of “How to grow BMX” will come up.  Another variation of this thread is “Why isn’t racing as popular as it was in the 80s?”

People will argue that you have to one thing or another…from doing presentations at local schools to embracing the whole Supercross track phenomenon.

The trouble is, none of things is doing much to grow the sport.  Yet time after time the same ideas keep getting trotted out.

The solution might be simpler than the collective BMX racing community thinks.

Get a friend hooked on BMX.

Wasn’t it Chris Moeller who said back in the early 90s that the way to make BMX grow was to build up a bike and give it to a friend? (Actually, I’m not 100% sure on this quote but the  research department is out on a patio somewhere right now enjoying a pint so let’s just go with it, ok?)

Matt Shelley got Malcolm hooked on BMX

Matt Shelley, from BMXActionOnline, employs a similar strategy. He chats up folks at the track, all the while with the agenda of getting them out racing.

Check out Matt’s latest success story:

 I met Malcolm at the Fresno Nationals last year. His kid races 13 challenger. We got to talking and he loves bikes, but never considered BMX until he saw us gray beards having so much fun. I dropped some science on him and figured he would do what he will with the advice.

Fast forward to the start of this season… there he is with a craigslist bike, a license, turning hot laps, and getting a ton of encouragement from his son. He admits to having a long way to go (his gates are horrid, natch), but through sheer force of early (and maximum) participation–He is currently leading the state series in 50-54 cruiser!

Nice going Matt (and Malcolm)!

Could it be that easy?

I think so.

I’ve had a few instances myself where friends and friends of friends have approaching me and inquired about getting a bike. Usually it starts with, “I see how much fun you’re having…”

So if you’re concerned about “growing the sport”…talk to your friends about BMX…and build them a bike if you have spare parts lying around.

Spread the word and get your friends out riding. Once you do that, this “growing the sport” business will take care of itself.




9 responses

29 07 2011

great article. i noticed vegas is really embracing the racing scene and now theyre bbuilding a track in my city, Henderson. I am a Henderson parks and recreation volunteer and get to see plans for new trails and parks and was looking last night and notice that Arroyo Grande park is bulding a BMX track. im actually really toked and now gotta rush and get my redline built up sio i can start racing.

29 07 2011

mike- i am seeing more and more vegas teams making trips out west to our races, the scene seems to really be picking up there. and remember turnell henry’s city of bicycles is there too!

30 07 2011

i think it’s weird that bmx race tracks basically never embraced dirt jumping and DIY trails. it kinda says something when some of the most talented 20″ dirt riders don’t show up to races and instead build their own tracks by hand. it has to do with creativity and challenge (not just ‘difficulty’). bmx tracks became boring.

the solution is that a bmx track should not be just one track that everyone argues about and compromises over. it should be a *dirt park*. there should be multiple tracks–at least 3 (one for tiny groms, which is pump track sized etc., then several others with different styles)…. “option lines” don’t cut it…. it has to be a lot more….

i think Ray’s MTB park in Cleveland showed what could be done with tabled/rollable trails-style lines. at Ray’s there are at least 5 different “trails” style lines (built of wood)…each one is self-contained and one-directional. 50 riders do not have to wait around on deck for one rider to finish a run–like at typical bike parks. this is rapid fire sessioning.

right now, i honestly think the MTB/4x/dirt jumper/slopestyle/Downhill/dual slalom scene is pushing innovation more than bmx racing is. there is no reason why bmx race tracks can’t have features built into them. there’s a reason why the movie RAD and Helltrack resonated with a generation. the track was ‘out there’ but it was creative. ABA and NBL became too conservative and too bogged down by rules and ‘family’ oriented fun. nothing wrong with ‘family’, but when you stop being cutting edge in BMX, it’s over.

BTW, to anyone who reads this…. i’m not all talk. i actually started a spot from scratch that has been popular with racers and dirt jumpers alike: i’m not saying it’s perfect–clearly there a tons of radder trails out there….but the point of all this is i’d like to see trails-style creativity back in bmx racing. as well as bmx being inspired by DH/slopestyle/dual slalom (remember when bmx tracks were on hillsides in the 70s!!!!???)

anyway, just tryin to start a dialogue.

31 07 2011

i couldnt agree with you more. i think they need to make some changes to the basic track layout. it has become dull and boring to watch racing these days. i’d rather go up to bootleg canyon and watch the downhill races.

2 08 2011

I would love to see a spot like yours in every looks so fun.

But as far as challenging track design influencing the popularity of racing, I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. Tracks in the 80s during BMX’s ‘heyday’ were not that great (and many were pretty bad by today’s standards) but interest and participation was at an all-time high. Some other factors must have come in to play to influence that level of popularity.

In terms of 4X, I agree BMX racing could definitely incorporate elements of that into today’s tracks. 4X does feel “more BMX than BMX” , when comparing it to today’s modern-day groomed tracks. Like you said, it would give it some of that 70s style vibe, and I think a bit more of a “moto” feel to the goings-on.

The UK seems to have gotten it right, track design-wise. They’re challenging (but not over –the-top Supercross style) and people are actually jumping during races.

And to digress a bit…a short-lived local track that I raced on back in the day had a water jump for older experts to hit. Wouldn’t it be cool if random stuff like that would make it back into tracks again? Even it was just done for regional races, etc.?

31 07 2011

One question….what the hell is up with the shampoo commercial? LoL

1 08 2011

Just like in the commercial…if you tell two friends about BMX, they’ll two friends and so on, and so on. Kind of goofy, I’ll admit, but writing this post reminded me of it for some reason…(Can you tell that I watched a lot of TV as a kid?)

23 03 2016
Ryan Fraser

I got this right away! I liked the old-school reference.

4 08 2011

out here nick valencia puts on the “norcal classic” a race and dirt jump combo to attract the trail riders and others that usually shun the track. 2 basic classes- 30 and under sketchy, and 30 and over super-sketchy… a great day with everyone going hard and big.

when i got back into the game, i always thought tracks could do a lot more layout-wise to generate interest and excitement.

maybe i’m talking out of my hat, but it seems with enough room and planning, you could easily have a layout wide enough to accommodate a “green” side for the groms, a “blue” run in the middle for intermediate skills, and a black diamond side for the experts and up. same start hill and turns, but 3 tracks in one basically.

when i make my millions, i’m building a track with the best of old school and new school tracks. downhills, drop-offs, some flat turns and water hazards, coupled with the better and more frequent new school jumps and a bank turn or 2. run more open wheel classes to get everyone involved, not just those with BMX bikes.

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