I decided to create a post to address this question because I’ve seen it popping up here and there since a couple of years ago. The answer shouldn’t surprise you.
BMX is still one of the most popular cycling sports in the USA and the world. Although it surely had its finest hour in the 80s, it has managed to build a culture that transcended decades and generations.
In fact, my feeling is that we may be living the rise of a new era for BMX, with still bigger popularity.
Why Is BMX Still Popular?
So you might as well put it the other way around – ‘why is BMX still popular?’
BMX is still popular because it has created its own path. BMX has established its existence alongside skateboarding. Skaters and riders share parks and bowls and lots of BMX riders have a skateboarding background. However, BMX has its own industry and its own group of dedicated people who are true to the sport.
Also, around the mid-80s/early 90s the irruption of mountain bikes threatened the life of BMX. Many riders decided to change dimensions and try new routines and lifestyles. However, BMX survived.
To me, the fact that BMX survived all that competition and new trends, means that it has managed to grow solid roots within our culture.
Check out the Best BMX Helmets (Youth/Adults – Full-Face/Open-Face)
Just like any other cycling activity, it’s great for sharing a family ride. BMX bikes are not only for kids but for all ages. If you think regular BMX bikes are too small for you, you could just get a big frame and big 24″ or 26″ wheels and enjoy a stable ride.
Some people may believe that riding BMX is a kids’ thing, but that’s only prejudice. I’m 38, I use my BMX every day, I commute on it. I don’t feel like people look at me as if I was crazy. And if they do, honestly, I don’t care! Why should I?
BMX, just as many other outdoor activities, is clearly seasonal. Most likely you won’t see people riding in the snow or with really low temperatures. However, you could still ride BMX indoors. There are a lot of indoor tracks and parks.
‘Mat Hoffman Saved BMX’
That’s what many experienced riders say, and for very good reasons. Mat Hoffman was born in Oklahoma, in 1972. He is one of the best vert ramp riders in history. He was so good at it that he had to build a bigger ramp himself in order to challenge himself to new limits.
He’s been an icon and one of the greatest legends of our sport. Hoffman’s legacy extends to these days. He dedicated his entire life to BMX, as a rider, and off the bike. He created new tricks and took the old tricks to new heights, reaching a 26-feet high jump in his homemade ramp.
Off the bike, he contributed to the growth of BMX in every possible way. From producing several BMX related shows, movies, and books to becoming the president of the International BMX Federation.
His achievements as a rider:
- Joined the pro freestyle circuit at the age of 15, becoming the youngest professional rider in history. (Later became one of the richest BMX riders).
- Won the first contest he entered.
- He was the first-ever to do several tricks, such as a flair, backflip, 900, no-handed 540 & 900, double peg grind, etc.
- He won 2 golds, 1 silver, and 3 bronzes in vert at the X-Games between 1995-2001.
Achievements off the bike:
- In 1991 he launched Hoffman Bikes.
- The same year he also launched Hoffman Promotions, known today as Hoffman Sports Association (HSA), which organizes BMX freestyle events worldwide, including the X-Games and all international X-Games qualifiers.
- He created and hosted several TV series for ESPN such as Kids in the Way, HBtv, and Mat’s World.
- In 2002 he joined Activision to produce the ‘Mat Hoffman Pro BMX’ video games series. Also released the Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX2 Tour TV show for ESPN.
- In 2008 he produced and co-hosted with Johnny Knoxville the hit Mat Hoffman’s Evel Knievel Tribute.
- He was involved as a producer in a number of films such as Jackass: The Movie, Jackass Number Two, and Jackass 3D.
- In 2005, he was elected President of the International BMX Freestyle Federation.
- That same year he opened the ‘Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park’, in Oklahoma City, one of the best parks in the country.
- In 2010 ESPN aired The Birth Of Big Air, the documentary on the creation of the big ramp and Mat’s 26-foot high jump.
Obviously, it’s not a scientific fact that Mat Hoffman saved BMX, but it’s a very good bet. Nobody knows what BMX would be like today if it wasn’t for him. From a perspective, it’s clear that Hoffman took BMX to a new level. He was a visionary and a creator that raised the bar for the rest of the riders. With his innovative riding style and mindset, Hoffman definitely set new boundaries for the sport and inspired many generations.
So, In fact, popularity has been on the rise for BMX in the past few decades, with the USA BMX association organizing State and National Championships and the Gold Cup. Hundreds of events across the country throughout the year.
Also, towards the end of the last century, extreme sports began to gain relevance, inspiring the creation of extreme sports events, which gave BMX a massive injection of visibility.
BMX At The X-Games
The international sports network ESPN decided to take all those extreme sports and create an annual competition in one single venue. The first edition was in 1995. Since then, BMX has been taking part in dirt, park, flatland, downhill, vert, and the mega ramp they call ‘Big Air’.
BMX At The FISE
In 1997, only a couple of years after the X-Games inaugural edition, the Festival International des Sports Extrêmes (that’s French, it doesn’t require translation, right?) was born. It’s an international series of events that involve extreme sports. Several competitions are held throughout the year around the globe. BMX takes part in Park and Flatland.
Here’s more about BMX as an extreme sport.
UCI BMX Competitions
In addition, the UCI (the international cycling governing body) organizes the World Championships, both Freestyle and Supercross World Cups, the Youth Olympic Games, the Olympic Games, and the Pump Track World Championships (besides Continental, Regional and National championships worldwide being held under UCI regulations).
UCI BMX World Championships
The UCI BMX World Championships is one of the most important BMX racing events in the world. The first World Championship was held in 1982. However, the first ‘official’ World Championship organized by the UCI took place in 1996. It’s being held annually in July/August in a different venue each year. It crownes four world champions in the categories Elite Men, Elite Women, Junior Men, and Junior Women.
Here’s more info about the BMX World Championships.
UCI BMX Freestyle World Championship
The UCI BMX Freestyle World Championship is part of the Urban Cycling World Championship (along with mountain bike and trials), an event that takes place every year in Chengdu, China, since 2017. It crownes four world champions in the categories Park Men, Park Women, Flatland Men, and Flatland Women.
UCI BMX Supercross World Cup
The UCI BMX Supercross World Cup is a series of racing events, held in different venues around the globe since 2003. There are a total of 10 rounds per year, 2 in each venue. The riders win points in each round based on their placements. At the end of the last event of the year, the rider who accumulates the most points wins the championship.
UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup
The UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup is a tournament with many spots in the calendar thought the year, in different venues, just as with Racing. It involves Park and Flatland. The rider that accumulates the most points in all rounds wins the World Cup.
UCI Pump Track World Championships
The UCI Pump Track World Championship is a series of global events that gather mountain bike and BMX riders in a single track competition. The first world championship was held in 2018 in Arkansas organized and sponsored by Red Bull. The UCI saw the hit and immediately incorporated it to organize in 2019 the first official UCI Red Bull Pump Track World Championship that took place in Bern, Switzerland.
Not sure what a pump track is? Click here!
BMX at the Youth Olympic Games
The Youth Olympic Games is the youth version of the Olympics Games, involving athletes between 14-18 years old. 3 editions of the YOG have been held so far (Singapore 2010, Nanjing 2014, and Buenos Aires 2018) and BMX took part in all of them.
BMX at the Olympic Games
BMX racing has been included in the Summer Olympic Games not long ago, in Beijing 2008, and took part also in London 2012 and Rio 2016. The exciting news is that next year, in Tokyo 2020 (+1), we’ll also have freestyle!
Here’s much more BMX In The Olympic Games!
Photo credits: [Featured image: By Ricardo Abengoza Hernandez / Flickr / Creative Commons license] [Image #1: By Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr / Creative Commons license] [Image #2: By Jim Pennucci / Flickr / Creative Commons license]