BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross. It began as a grassroots craze around improvised tracks with bumps and berms (raised corners) in the 1970’s. The BMX faded in popularity with the advent of mountain bikes. Now it has stormed back to Olympic sports status.
A bike to suit the discipline
The development of BMX has resulted in two disciplines, Track Racing and Freestyle.
Within Freestyle there are four disciplines – Street, Flatland, Dirt Jumping and Ramp & Park.
A quality, standard BMX bike with a single gear and 20 inch wheels is versatile enough for a beginner to have fun and maybe attempt the different styles. Those who want to go on to specialise in a particular branch of BMX should note that each discipline has its own variations in the specification of the bike and components.
Race bikes are much longer than other BMX's to keep them more stable at high speeds and are lighter to help the rider get faster acceleration. They are usually fitted with one brake at the rear and knobbly tyres.
This means finding everyday urban obstacles like kerbs and rails and doing tricks on or over them. This requires a bike that is light enough to perform but strong enough to withstand impact without breaking.
This involves doing tricks on a flat piece of ground such as a car park. This requires short, light bikes that can be spun. They have four fat pegs to stand on and gyros to prevent brake cables from tangling.
Dirt jumping or trail riding often takes place in woodland or over big improvised jumps; this style requires a bike that is heavier than a race bike, but lighter than a street bike.
Ramp and Park
This involves doing tricks and riding around specially designed circuits made of concrete or wood, often as part of a skate park. A street bike would be perfectly suitable.
BMX Bike Basics
Those who already have a BMX bike will probably simply replace parts like-for-like from the original manufacturer. This guide is for people who want to choose parts which will enable them to modify or upgrade their bike to perform better in the above BMX disciplines. Other people are perhaps thinking about custom building a complete BMX bike from selected parts to suit their preferences and ambitions.
To make choosing parts easier, it is convenient to divide a BMX bike into seven separate, logical systems.
Most of these systems have essential sub-components and important accessories.
BMX Bike Systems Explained
Good frames tend to be made from chromoly - as opposed to the heavier and weaker high-tensile steel used in cheaper versions - and there is a general trend towards lighter and stronger frames with each season. Look for 4130 Cromoly or Cro-mo for more strength and less weight.
Aluminium frames are largely in the racing bike category. The top tube length should be chosen for comfort. The most common size for complete bikes is 20.5. This should suit people from 5ft to 6ft in height. Taller people or children should select correspondingly longer or shorter tubes. When choosing for young people allow for growth.
The same principles for choosing frames also apply to forks. For lightness and resistance to bending Cromoly is the preference. There is a choice of 10 inch or 12 inch versions, sometimes tapered to save weight. Forks should come drilled ready to accept pegs. Pegs protect both bike and rider from scraping on the ground. Stunt pegs are usually made from steel for ultimate toughness. Titanium, aluminium and even plastic pegs give extra lightness. They come in 10mm and 14mm sizes and for front and rear wheels.
This is the set of components that allow the rider to drive the bike forwards. It is made up of; the crankset, bottom bracket, sprocket, pedals, chain and rear hub. Although BMX bikes have no gears to change, the relationship between the sprocket (also known as chain wheel) and the rear hub freewheel determines how fast the rider needs to pedal in order to achieve a given speed.
- Cranksets The crank arm connects the pedal to the bottom bracket. It has to be strong enough to withstand a lot of pressure. Look for tubular 3-piece options with spindles which have splines. These keep the cranks from wearing out or coming loose. Remember that cranksets may require a separate purchase of the bottom bracket.
- Sprocket Selecting a bigger sprocket - up to 36 teeth - means it will be harder to pedal, while rings as small as 23 teeth can enable you to set up a micro drive, saving weight and improving ground clearance. To get the right ratio, think about the size of the smaller cog which fits to the rear hub.
- Pedals Alloy pedals last longer whilst plastic pedals are lighter. Varying levels of grip and profile thickness allow the feet to get just the right feel when pressing down. Both kinds come in many colours. More expensive models typically have replaceable pins for longevity.
- Chains transfer pedal input to power at the back wheel. Street or flatland riders who want to tailor their drivetrain can choose coloured half-link versions. Lightweight chains will suit trail or dirt jump riders.
- ·Bottom Brackets (BB) These come in several designs. USA or American ones found on entry-level bikes are the most common, being the largest and having unsealed bearings. Mid BBs and Spanish BBs are smaller and in most cases use sealed bearings which last a lot longer.
A new set of wheels will change the ride characteristics of a bike. Fully built wheels are available individually for either the front or rear, or wheel sets can be bought comprising both. Wheels can also be individually built with rims, spokes and front and back hubs. Racing BMX bike wheels vary from 16inch to 26inch diameter with 20inch being the most popular. The various freestyle BMX bike wheel sizes include 16inch and 18inch diameters for smaller riders with 20inch for most other riders. Tyres can be chosen separately.
- Rims are the outside part of the wheel and come in standard single or double wall options, double being stronger and lasting longer.
- Front hub Look for sealed bearings for durability. Unsealed bearings will be fine for newcomers while they are learning.
- Rear hub There are two types. The Regular or freewheel hub with anything from 13 to 16 teeth or the more reliable Cassette type which use anything from 8 teeth upwards and are built into the hub itself. These are lighter in weight and give more clearance when doing grinding tricks. Traditionally more expensive, cassettes are becoming more affordable.
- Spokes Most street and park bikes have 36 spokes. More competitive riders use 48 spokes for extra strength. Race bikes usually have 36 spokes. Wheels for children can be built with 18 or 28 spokes.
- Tyres Although usually wider on the front than the rear, some street bikes now feature equal sized tyres to provide more grip and cushioning at the back. As BMX bikes become lighter, while retaining their toughness, there is a trend to bring folding tyre options to the sport.
- Handlebars Almost always referred to as bars, these should be chosen with the same material as the frame and forks. Also look out for heads treated and/or multi-butted tubing for better weight to strength ratio. If possible try different widths and heights as this can make a big difference to your ride.
- Grips Having the right pair of bar grips - with the right level of comfort and girth - can vastly improve the feel of the bike; bar ends protect you from any potential sharp edges at the side of the handlebars.
- Stems clamp the bar in place on the forks and are available in a variety of textures and colours to provide individuality. All stems are comparable in strength.
- Headsets contain the bearings that allow handlebars to be turned for smooth steering. There are two kinds. ‘Threadless’ (sometimes called Ahead) are found on entry level bikes and have external cups. The newer ‘Integrated’ style allows the bearings to sit directly against the frame for greater strength whilst saving weight.
The choice is between the traditional railed version and a newer pivotal style which uses a single bolt to give adjustability at the same time as saving weight. Plastic pivotal seats will again save some weight. A minimalist option is an integrated seat and post combination.
These vary in design according to whether the seat is the railed version. Pivotal types allow a wide range of adjustability while keeping the design clean and simple. Aluminium clamps to keep the seat post in place have anodised finishes and also chromoly for the most toughness.
There is considerable debate in BMX circles as to whether bikes for street and flatland riding should have any brakes at all. People new to BMX should at least have a rear brake.
- Brake Levers should provide the right response whether to modulate speed for a stunt or pull up hard.
- Brake Pads There is a vast choice of different lengths, different colours and different compositions for different weather and ground conditions.
- Gyros Doing stunts involving twists can get also the brake cables in a twist and inhibit the movement. The gyro is a device that keeps cables straight and braking effective whatever the manoeuvre.
The Value of buying Used Replacement Parts
Buying used replacement parts for bikes is the best way to get good value. Sometimes they are nearly new; sometimes they have never been used. Nevertheless, market forces prevent the seller from asking anywhere near the original price. This provides a great opportunity to buy premium brands like Shimano and Campagnolo for less than shops charge for new parts of inferior provenance and quality. It is also more sustainable to buy used parts.
Start by searching extensively for pre-owned parts on eBay and get to know market price levels. Having made a short list, read through the product descriptions thoroughly to tell whether the parts meet your needs. Look carefully at the photos, check they are of the original product and not just a stock photo from the manufacturer’s website. If you are not satisfied with some of the details then do not hesitate to Ask the Seller to get clarification. You may also want to request further photographs if you want to see parts of the product more clearly or from an angle not shown in the listing.
Try to ascertain the reasons for selling. Many cyclists sell because they want to upgrade. This means that it is possible to get relatively new wheels in a good condition at very competitive prices. If you are not clear about the history of the parts, especially major components such as forks, frames and wheels; you should ask the seller. If they have been taken off a bike belonging to the seller, was it kept indoors or outdoors and what kind of mileage has it done?
How to Buy Used BMX Parts on eBay
Now that you've worked out which used BMX parts you want, find them quickly on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Tyres & Wheels, Handlebars & Stems, Headsets , Saddles & Seatposts, Frames and Drive. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click Cycling.
The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Bikes, Bike Parts, Clothing, Footwear & Helmets, Cycling Accessories, Trophies and Other Cycling. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.
Use the Used Parts Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by type brand, model and condition. (New or used)
Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find used BMX parts, type the keywords "BMX parts used" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.
If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.
Buy Used BMX Parts with Confidence
Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.
Know your item
Read the details in the item listing carefully.
Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.
If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.
Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.
Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.
Know your seller
Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.
- What is the seller’s Feedback rating?
- How many transactions have they completed?
- How many positive responses do they have?
- What do buyers say in their Feedback?
- Are they positive about the seller?
Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.
- Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
- What are their terms and conditions?
In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.
The essence of BMX is individuality. Everyone likes to have their bike set up in a different way. No one should worry if their selection of parts results in a set up that is different. They should rejoice. With enough skill and judicious choice of parts, riders can use their bikes for a variety of disciplines - racing, street, jumping or just taking things as they come.