This is BMX
From the moment that the starting gate slams down, you and up to seven other racers blast at full speed toward the first obstacle. BMX racing will give you that rush of adrenaline you’ve been looking for. Big jumps can mean big air. Steep backsides, deep turns, and downhill sections can add up to massive speeds.
To realize the total thrill BMX gives a rider, you need to experience it. With over 300 BMX tracks located all around the country, there is surely a USA BMX facility near you. Once you try BMX racing, we practically guarantee you’ll be hooked for life.
Remember the number 8 because this crash course on how to get started in the sport of BMX racing is as easy as the eight lanes on a BMX starting gate.
Gate 1: Getting Ready
Find a track near you and look up their hours of operation. Your local track is open certain days and times for practice and others for both practice and racing. Because the USA BMX season runs January 1-December 15, and because BMX racing is an individual sport, there’s no better time to start riding and racing than right now. You don’t need to call or sign up before you go to the track. In fact, all you need to get started is your bike, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and any approved bicycle helmet. Whatever you’re riding now will do fine, but be sure to check out THE BIKE and THE GEAR to see just how cool and advanced BMX race bikes, components, and gear have become.
Gate 2: Sign-Ups
Sign-Ups. It’s what BMX racers call that 1-3 hour window before the beginning of a race when you can practice and sign up to race! Your local Track Operator will happily walk you through the process to BECOME A MEMBER. USA BMX memberships are required annually, but if you’re still unsure and just want to give BMX a try, USA BMX offers a free ONE-DAY TRIAL MEMBERSHIP so all you’ll need your first day out is the track’s daily practice and/or race fee and—if you’re a minor—a parent’s signature.
Gate 3: Classifications
USA BMX uses four criteria to determine a racer’s classification for competition—age, gender, proficiency, and wheel size. As BMX racing is a sport for riders of all ages, you will be matched against other riders your own age and proficiency or skill level whenever possible. *
Everyone — boys and girls — begins in the NOVICE class. In other words—beginners. Upon winning 10 races, Novice boys move into the INTERMEDIATE class, while Novice girls move into the GIRL class. While Girl is the highest proficiency level in the sport for amateur girls, Intermediate boys—after 20 more wins—move into the EXPERT class, the highest proficiency level in the sport for amateur boys.
Finally, there are two bike categories, based on wheel size/diameter—20” wheel BMX bikes called class bikes, and 24” wheel BMX bikes called cruiser bikes. The 20” bikes are the required size for all Novice, Intermediate, Girl and Expert competition, while the 24” bikes are the required size for all Cruiser competition. The cruiser classes, like the 20” classes, are age- and gender-based, but they are not divided into the novice, intermediate, or expert proficiency levels.
*At any given USA BMX race, if there are not enough entrants to form a legal class, racers may be matched against racers of different ages and proficiency levels as per USA BMX race rules.
Gate 4: Motos are Posted!
Once every racer in attendance has been entered into the day’s event, your Track Operator will print and post MOTO-SHEETS. These sheets list the order/number of races or “motos,” riders competing in each moto, assigned bike numbers and rider serial numbers, as well as starting gate numbers for each of the three qualifying rounds and the Main Event.
Remember, for the most part you will be racing others that are your same age and proficiency. It takes three riders to form a legal class, and motos are built according to a specific set of rules. The moto sheet will give you the specifics about how your race will be run. Sometimes, you might race in a transfer race, where you will “qualify” for the Main Event. Other times, you might find yourself in a “total points” race, where all riders will race three times. If you have any questions about how your race will be run, head back to the sign-up area and ask an official.
Gate 5: Staging
Now you’ve found a track, come prepared with your bike and bike helmet, become a USA BMX member, gotten signed up to race, taken some practice laps, and read the moto sheets to determine your moto number as well as your gate numbers/lane assignments. You know how many and how riders will transfer from each of your qualifying rounds. Let’s stage ‘em up!
Staging is the area comprising the back of the start hill, the starter’s booth or tower, the starting pad, and the start gate itself. A track official or “stager” will be on hand to help remind you of your lane assignment and guide you into a staging “chute” and then onto the gate when it is your moto’s turn to race. Each of the gates or lanes should be clearly numbered 1–8, with Gate 1 always on the inside lane and Gate 8 always on the outside lane of each track. For tracks with a right-hand first turn, Gate 1 is farthest right. For tracks with a left-hand first turn, Gate 1 is farthest left. The starting gate is hydraulically powered and is synced with both the starter’s vocal CADENCE and four starting lights that will flash red, yellow, yellow, green to signal the dropping of the gate. That’s when you go!
Gate 6: Riding & Racing
“Riders ready? Watch the lights.”
That is the cadence you’ll probably hear from the starter as the gate is about to fall in front of you for the very first time. But before you go all out, first take a moment to scope out the track. Watch a few laps of practice and memorize how some of the good riders are going around. Take mental notes of where they ride in the turns and where they pedal and where they stop pedaling. Keep in mind that, in the beginning, you probably wont be able to jump like they do; that will come in time.
Your first few laps around the track should be slow. Take it easy. By all means, don’t go all-out on your first lap! Take time to familiarize yourself with the course so that you know what jumps are coming up and what it feels like to go over them. It will be totally different once you take the track at faster speeds. As you’ll soon find out, a good start can be the difference between first and eighth, so we’d suggest working on your gates as much as possible. And remember that all-so-true saying, “Practice makes perfect.” So… practice, practice, practice.
Another smart idea for any BMX rider is to take advantage of the many BMX clinics and camps that are available. In addition to the clinics and programs at your local track there are teams and pros that travel from track to track, teaching riders just like you everything they need to know in order to get better at BMX racing. During the summer, there are even BMX race camps that you can attend.
Gate 7: Awards & Points
Make your Main Event at any USA BMX race event and finish on the podium—usually top three—and you’ll win more than a sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished; you’ll win an award in the form of a trophy, prize, or USA BMX Saver Stamps. And you’ll also earn something more—points.
In BMX racing, the ultimate achievement isn’t the bike you ride or the uniform you wear. It’s to ride the #1 plate—#1 in your district, your state, your region, your national age group (NAG), or even #1 in the nation! As you can imagine, it’s an incredibly tough climb to the top, one that only a handful of BMX racers will eventually make. But for those that do, they began their journey like everyone else—running their USA BMX assigned number. So how do you earn your next plate number? Points. Points that—depending on the level of USA BMX race you’re attending—will go towards your district, state, regional or national year-end rankings and determine your “earned number” for the next USA BMX season!
Gate 8: Race Series
1) State / Provincial Champions – Every track in your state/province will hold a State/Provincial Race. To become State/Provincial Champion, USA BMX counts your best scores from the SCR’s (or PCR’s). Do well at the State/Provincial Finals, and you could call yourself Champ!
2) Race of Champions – First, you must qualify for the Race of Champions (ROC) by competing in the State/Provincial Championship Series. Then, you must win the ROC (the Friday pre-race at the Grands) to earn this coveted #1 title.
3) Gold Cup Champions – To get this #1 plate, you must first qualify at a Gold Cup Qualifier. Then you’ve got to attend your designated Gold Cup Finals (East, Central or West) and compete Saturday and Sunday with the best in your region for a chance to earn the Gold Cup #1 plate. Gold Cup plates are awarded to the top 3 riders in each class.
4) District Champion – The sixth step in the “Stairway to Success” is to earn a low District Number. Becoming “District #1” in your area is a major accomplishment.
5) National Age Group – If you’re not able to get National #1 Amateur, you might still be able to NAG #1 out of all the kids your same age, in the entire nation. NAG plates are awarded to the top 10 riders in each class.
6) National #1 – This is the highest ranking in USA BMX, awarded to only seven riders each year. #1 plates are awarded in AA Pro, Girl Pro, Vet Pro, Boys, Girls, Boys Cruiser, and Girls Cruiser.