I discovered bicycle motocross, or BMX, in the mid '70s when my buddy Max and I came upon a few kids sculpting piles of dirt in an empty lot. Intrigued, we stopped to watch one of the braver souls wheel his bike around, take a run at the biggest mound, and soar through the air. We sprinted to my house, raided the garage for shovels, then headed back for our first trail-building session and some lessons in the art of air time. That day kindled a lifelong passion in me for all things cycling.
From Tour de France sprint sensation Peter Sagan to 13-time gravity world champion Anne-Caroline Chausson, many of the world's best cyclists have found their way to the sport through BMX. It develops a phenomenal number of skills: explosive power, leg speed, aggressiveness, bumping and pack riding, line choice, cornering, jumping, bunny-hopping and more. (Want to ramp up your riding power? Try these Strength Moves That Build Explosive Power.)
While it's easy to see how these abilities translate to mountain biking, they can also help you stay safe on the road. On a winter ride a few years ago, I'd just started a short, steep descent when a car came to a dead stop in front of me while trying to make a U-turn. With nowhere to go, I slammed on my brakes and began the inevitable sideways slide. In a split second I made the decision to let off the brakes, steer toward the curb, and bunny-hop onto someone's lawn, while managing to avoid a tree, brick planter and chain-link fence. I didn't learn those moves on the road. That was all BMX.
The skills on this page will improve your bike handling and make training more fun. Grab a mountain or BMX bike and practice on grass, progressing from one move to the next after you feel confident performing each successive skill. When you're ready to hit the track, visit usabmx.com to find a park near you.
Banked Turn: Helps You Corner on the road and maintain speed on banked trails
Difficulty: 1 out of 4
Start with your feet and cranks level, body weight over the seat or slightly behind it. As you approach the turn, maintain speed and decide which line to take. Looking toward the exit, turn your head in the direction you want to go, then follow by leaning your bike and body into the turn. When the gravitational force lets up, start pedaling out of the turn. Ideally you will exit faster than you entered.(101 Best Cycling Tips, Ever)
Jump: Helps You Impress your friends
Difficulty: 2 out of 4*
Take the bunny hop a step further by adding a jump to generate more lift. As you approach the lip of a jump on a BMX track or trail, press down with your arms and legs as you would for a bunny hop, eyeing the landing. Extend your legs as you take off while continuing to focus on your destination. Relax and enjoy the flight. As you land, allow your body to compress slightly.
*Difficulty varies with jump height
Bunny Hop: Helps You Fly over potholes, railroad tracks, and other obstacles
Difficulty: 2 out of 4)
Stand on the pedals with your feet level, knees bent, body weight over the seat, hands relaxed, and eyes looking straight ahead. Initiate the hop by compressing the bike downward with your arms and legs. Then explosively extend your ankles, knees, and hips to generate upward movement, pulling up slightly on the bar at the end. Stay off the brakes as you let the bike gently return to the ground.
Manual: Helps You Maintain speed on undulating terrain
Difficulty: 4 out of 4
Start in the same position as you would for a bunny hop (see above). With your knees bent, shift your body weight so your hips are behind the saddle and pull the bar toward you. The farther back you lean, the easier it will be to lift the front wheel. While you roll along, flex and extend your legs as needed to maintain your balance point.
Ready to ride? Search for a cycling event.