Cycling BMX Racing

Facts

Discipline of Cycling
Participants 139
NOCs 30
Competitions held 8 (Venues)
Distinct events 3
IF Union Cycliste Internationale

Description

In the late 1960s Californian teenagers wanted to imitate their idols in motocross. Since they were not allowed to ride motorcycles, they used bicycles, but the hilly dirt courses, helmets, and clothing were copied from motocross. The first BMX race was probably the competition organized by 14-year-old Scot Breithaupt on 14 November 1970 in Long Beach, California. Breithaupt was also the founder of the first BMX “governing body,” humorously called the Bicycle United Motocross Society, or BUMS.

The sport quickly spread across the country, and more governing bodies sprung up. The three most important organizations were the National Bicycle Association (NBA), the National Bicycle League (NBL), and the American Bicycle Association (ABA), of which the NBL and ABA remain active into the 2020s.

The new sport also gained attention internationally, and the International Bicycle Motocross Federation (IBMXF) was founded in 1981. The first World Championships were held the next year. Beginning in 1985 the Fédération Internationale Amateur Cyclisme, the amateur division of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), staged its own championships. The IBMXF competitions were initially held to be more prestigious, better attended, and better organized.

From 1991 on, the two federations decided to combine their strengths and stage the World Championships together. Two years later, the IBMXF was integrated into the UCI, and full BMX recognition followed in 1996. The sport’s international acceptance received a major boost when it was admitted onto the Olympic program for Beijing 2008. Since 1995, the UCI has also organized the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, a seasonal competition.

BMX racing has an elevated start, at least 1.5 m above the level of the first straight, so that competitors can build up speed. They start from gates, with a fence falling at the moment of the start, making sure false starts are impossible. Depending on the course layout (e.g., which side the first turn is on), the position within the starting gate can make a big difference. In many competitions, the fastest riders from the previous round have first choice of starting position; in other events the starting positions are determined by lot. The initial straight and first curve are also limited by regulations to allow for a safe competition. The first straightway must be at least 40 m in length, while the first curve must be banked. There are fewer restrictions on the rest of the course. It must contain at least three curves, and the length must be between 300 and 400 m (328-437 yards), measured along the centerline of the circuit. There is no limitation on the number of obstacles (jumps), provided the course is safe.

A typical BMX competition consists of three rounds. First are the so-called motos. These are three rounds of races, in which each of the riders competes. They accumulate points according to their finishing positions, those riders with the fewest points advancing to the qualifiers. These are single-elimination rounds (e.g., semi-finals, quarter-finals, and so on), in which the first four racers proceed to the next round. In the final round, the remaining eight cyclists compete for first place.

An important distinction in BMX races is the type of bicycle used. Two types are allowed: standard and cruiser. The only difference is the size of the wheels; standard BMX bikes have 20-inch (51 cm) wheels, which means they are fairly small compared to regular competition or road bicycles. In order to allow larger adults to compete as well, the cruiser class was developed, in which the bikes have 26-inch wheels (66 cm). In the past, 24-inch bikes were also commonly used, competing in a separate class. Other than the wheel size, there are no significant restrictions on BMX bicycles; a rear brake is required (front brakes are optional) and multiple gears are allowed – even if most compete with a fixed gear.

BMX cycle racing is now governed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which was founded on 14 April 1900 in Paris, with five founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. The UCI was established as an alternative to the International Cycling Association (ICA), which had been set up in 1892. In 1965, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) required the UCI to split into an amateur and a professional organization, the Fédération Internationale Amateur de Cyclisme (FIAC) and Fédération Internationale de Cyclisme Professionnel (FICP), respectively. In 1992 the FIAC and FICP rejoined to form the UCI. As of 2020 the UCI had 193 members.

All-time medal table

Olympic Games

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Colombia COL 2 1 3 6
Latvia LAT 2 0 0 2
United States USA 1 2 2 5
Netherlands NED 1 1 2 4
France FRA 1 1 0 2
Great Britain GBR 1 1 0 2
Australia AUS 0 1 0 1
New Zealand NZL 0 1 0 1
Venezuela VEN 0 0 1 1

Youth Olympic Games

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Russian Federation RUS 1 0 0 1
Switzerland SUI 0 1 0 1
Colombia COL 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Olympic Games

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Mariana Pajón COL 2 1 0 3
Māris Štrombergs LAT 2 0 0 2
Anne-Caroline Chausson FRA 1 0 0 1
Connor Fields USA 1 0 0 1
Niek Kimmann NED 1 0 0 1
Beth Shriever GBR 1 0 0 1
Laëtitia Le Corguillé FRA 0 1 0 1
Sarah Walker NZL 0 1 0 1
Mike Day USA 0 1 0 1
Jelle van Gorkom NED 0 1 0 1
Sam Willoughby AUS 0 1 0 1
Alise Post-Willoughby USA 0 1 0 1
Kye Whyte GBR 0 1 0 1

Youth Olympic Games

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Ilya Beskrovny RUS 1 0 0 1
Varvara Ovchinnikova RUS 1 0 0 1
Kevin Schunck SUI 0 1 0 1
Zoé Claessens SUI 0 1 0 1
Juan Ramírez COL 0 0 1 1
Gabriela Bollé COL 0 0 1 1

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
BMX Men 4
BMX Women 4
Team Mixed Youth 1