How to Set Up Your BMX Bike for Racing

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BMX racing is exciting and challenging, but before you roll down the starting gate, you'll want to make sure that your bike is race-ready.

Things You'll Need

  • BMX Bike Brakes
  • BMX Bike Forks
  • BMX Bike Frame
  • BMX Bike Gloves
  • BMX Bike Parts
  • BMX Bike Pegs
  • BMX Bike Helmets
  • BMX Bikes
  • Get a BMX bike that you feel comfortable on and that is in good condition.

  • Do a quick check of the frame, fork and wheels to be sure that nothing is cracked, bent or broken.

  • Remove any axle pegs, reflectors, chain guards and the kickstand.

  • Place pads on the top tube of the frame, the stem, and the crossbar of the handlebar.

  • Position your handlebars so that they are close to vertical or in line with the fork. You may be more comfortable with your bars a little more forward or back, but try not to go in the extreme of either direction.

  • Measure your handlebars to make sure that they are not wider than 28.5 inches. If they are, cut or replace them.

  • Add a number plate to your bike. You can use a paper plate at first and get a plastic one later.

  • Remove old grips if they are torn or the handlebar is showing through.

  • Replace bald or worn-out tires with a new pair of knobbies, and inflate them to the correct air pressure.

  • Tighten all nuts and bolts to their specifications - this includes axle nuts, stem bolts, pedals, cranks, seat and seat-post nuts, brake and headset bolts.

  • Cut your axles if they extend more than 1/4 inch from the axle nuts.

  • Lubricate all moving parts such as brake cables, brake pivot bolts and the chain.

  • Put the correct amount of tension on the chain so that it doesn't fall off when you are racing.

  • Find the right gearing ratio for you - this might take some experimentation. High, or harder, gearing will be hard to start with but will give you more speed with your momentum. Lower, or easier, gearing will give you faster starts, but you might "top-out" once you get going. Start with a 44-tooth sprocket in the front and a 16-tooth freewheel in the rear and adjust from there.

  • Find the correct crank arm length for you - the most popular length is 175 mm. Longer cranks give more leverage but sometimes get in the way in turns and when going over jumps. Shorter cranks are harder to spin and harder to get power to.

  • Adjust your seat to a height that allows good mobility both in front and in back of it.

  • Remember that if your handlebars are too wide or are poking through the ends of the grips, if you don't have pads on your bike, if your axles are too long, if your rear brake is not working or if the bike otherwise looks unsafe, you will not be allowed to race.

  • Ride your bike around the neighborhood before you go to the track so that you can make any adjustments or changes while you are still close to home.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clipless pedals are becoming more popular with BMX racers. If that's not your style, at least get a good pair of platform pedals and sneakers with soft, flat soles.
  • Check out pictures of the pros' bikes to see how theirs are set up.
  • If you are converting a freestyle bike, you may want to remove the front brake and any rear brake detanglers (such as an Odyssey Gyro), and run a straight cable to the rear brake.
  • Wonder why BMX racers use seats even if they never sit down in a race? The seat helps you "feel" where the bike is and gives you more control.
  • Coaster brakes (or foot brakes) don't work well on the BMX track, so keep that in mind when choosing or modifying your bike.
  • If you are unsure about anything on your bike, check with a local bike shop.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • BMX racing is an inherently dangerous activity that can result in serious injury or death. We recommend that you seek proper training and equipment before attempting this activity.

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