Many core BMX bike skills can be practised away from the BMX track, and even seasoned bikers can benefit from a 'back to basics' mindset.
Seated wheelies, bunny hops and balancing are just a few techniques that can continually be honed or improved upon, and you don't need a BMX track to do it.
There are some BMX bike skills that you should master before you even go near a BMX track, and team coaches know how essential these skills can be for both safety and performance.
The main thing that separates BMX bike winners from wannabes is confidence on the track and that trust comes from practice, practice, practice.
Mastering the core BMX bike skills is not just a prerequisite for developing more advanced techniques. Often the most experienced riders will go back to BMX basics.
British Cycling has published guidelines on best practices for coaches designed to safeguard both riders and coaches involved in BMX bike sessions. Details available here.
The guidelines were drawn up in consultation with many experts involved in the BMX sport, and the document is regarded as the standard for British Cycling and all cycling coaches.
Here are just a few confidence-building BMX bike skills that translate into performance on the track.
BMX bike racing puts you in the thick of it. From the start gate to the first berm, it's a battle for position and awareness of other riders is crucial to success. Novice riders will put their heads down and try to cut out the distraction of other bikers as they bid to power up into the lead. Experienced BMX riders, however, will remain acutely aware of rivals as they plot to take tactical advantage.
Top riders will always be aware of others and not just for safety reasons. Remaining aware of other riders, particularly those in close pursuit, can save precious time. Riders forced to glance over their shoulders to check on other competitors not only take their eyes off the track ahead but lose momentum in establishing their position. A common fault of novice BMX riders is glancing back and drifting across the track.
Pump races are a great way to build up BMX bike skills. The ability to increase speed without using pedals can give you a crucial advantage in any race. Pumping can be combined with deliberate 'drifting' across the track to develop skills in manoeuvring at speed, a vital element of overtaking.
It's a technique that is especially effective with multiple riders, each overtaking the other to take the lead as they pump around the circuit. Sudden changes in direction and speed as the front rider alternates can radically improve BMX bike skills that will translate into 'live' racetrack performance.
Safety comes first in core BMX bike skills, and learning how to use the brake without creating mayhem should be part of every rider's skill set. Learning to brake safely without losing control of your machine should be one of the first lessons for anyone taking up BMX racing. Riders should learn how to 'feather' the brake, keep the bike on a straight trajectory and avoid a catastrophic skid. Braking techniques include keeping arms and legs flexible, shifting the weight to the rear brake wheel and keeping the eyes pointed in the direction of travel.
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