Getting Started in BMX
Thanks for checking in with Rapid City BMX and looking to Get Started in BMX racing. To be honest, it’s rather simple and affordable - all you need is a bike, determination, and a local USA BMX track...
Here are some guidelines and helpful hints to assist you at getting started...
- While any type and size of bicycle will do, we recommended that you start with one that has no more than a 20'' wheel diameter - as that is the allowable limit in the Novice (or beginner) class. Many of our youngest riders even start off on bikes with smaller tires... whatever you currently have and are riding around the neighborhood will be perfect for getting started.
- Rapid City BMX is one of the many fantastic USA BMX tracks in the region including South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota. As someone who may be new to the great sport of BMX racing, feel free email us to get any questions answered.
Once you know where to go racing or practicing there is a simple checklist to go down in order to make sure your bike is USA BMX safe and race ready:
- Make sure all bolts are tight - especially your axle bolts and stem bolts.
- All reflectors must be removed for safety purposes.
- If your bike has a kickstand or pegs, they must be taken off.
- You'll also need a number plate. You will be provided a number plate with your membership purchase.
- We can also help you at the track if you don’t have tools or are not familiar with bikes. Just ask at registration or grab one of our track officials for help.
What do you will need to wear at the track in order to race:
- Helmets: All riders must wear a helmet while in the track area. USA BMX highly recommends a full-face helmet or a helmet that covers the ears. Helmets must have sufficient padding and be of good quality. We do have some helmets at the track that we loan for beginners to use. Remember - racing is a contact sport.
- Pants: It is recommended that riders wear long pants. Loose fitting short pants made of tear-resistant material are permitted when used in combination with knee/shin pads. No exposed skin may be showing from above the knee to the ankle. All combinations of knee/shin pads are subject to the approval of the Track Director.
- Shirts: Long sleeved shirts are recommended. At the discretion of the Track Director, short sleeved shirts and sufficient elbow padding is allowable.
- Shoes: All riders must wear enclosed shoes, which cover all toes, and are sufficient to protect the rider’s feet. Clipped in shoes to your pedals are only allowed for Intermediate or above riders, Novices are not allowed to use clipped shoes.
- Gloves: Recommended but not necessary
- A lot of times, a good, inexpensive helmets and riding gear can be found at garage sales or in the pit area of your local BMX track.
WHAT TO EXPECT
When you arrive at the BMX track, naturally you'll want to check out the course. There will be a dirt track (average length 1,000+ feet), with banked turns and jumps of all shapes and sizes. Actually, the first thing you need to do is find the sign-up / registration building. It is there that you'll need to fill out a USA BMX application and sign up to race or practice. First-time racers are able to purchase a full annual membership for $60. You can also opt to try the One Day Temporary membership for a $1.00. A "Temp" provides you with USA BMX's secondary insurance and enables you to go out on the track. Entry fees are $8.00 to race.
Before you get up on the starting gate, it is suggested that first you closely watch the riders go around the track. Pay attention to their body motion over jumps (using arms and legs as shock absorbers) and note where riders are pedaling and when they are coasting. Take it slow on your first few laps. Remember, you are brand new to this and those fast, expert racers started off just like you. Take time to learn the track - know which obstacles are coming up and how to take it smoothly. Often, the difference in the beginner class is who is smoothest around the course rather than quickest.
THE STARTING GATE
Since BMX is a "short sprint" sport (with most races lasting 35 to 45 seconds), the start of a race is usually the most important. When you first begin racing, you'll most likely do what is called a one-footed start. Which is having one foot on your pedal and the other foot acting as a "kickstand," resting on the ground to keep you balanced. The majority of riders start with their dominant foot "forward" (on the pedal). Find out which feels most comfortable - there is no right or wrong way.
Soon, you will want to learn how to do the normal "two-footed start." Some riders can pick this up on their first day at the races and some beginners take weeks to learn how. You can practice the two-footed start anywhere - find a wall and ride up to it, with your front wheel touching. Apply a little bit of pressure on your forward pedal - just enough to keep your front wheel solid against the surface of the imaginary starting gate. Stand in an upright position, relax, and use both of your arms to balance the bike.
Once you've got the feel of balancing your bike on the gate, then you'll need to learn how to "snap" out of the gate. This is the motion of thrusting your hips into your handlebars and cranking down on your forward pedal as the gate is falling. The best way to learn this is watching the local pros and experts at your track, and constantly practice.
Parent involvement at the start of racing;
- The only riders that may be assisted at the starting gate are those 5 years old and younger. This assistance shall only include the rear wheel being placed between the assistant’s legs. No hands may be used to prop the rider up and any pushing off will result in the rider’s disqualification.
- Parents of any rider 6-8 years of age may accompany their rider through the staging area. However, these parents are NOT ALLOWED to assist their rider at or on the starting gate.
- Parents of riders 9 years of age and older may accompany their rider through the chutes but must exit the staging area upon exiting the chutes. These same parents may not be at or on the starting gate.
Obviously, the more you race and ride your bike, the better you will get. That old saying "practice makes perfect" stands true in the world of BMX racing. Very often, BMX racers will have a local jumping zone in the nearby dirt field that they use to practice in. Most USA BMX sanctioned BMX tracks hold regular practice nights. Rapid City BMX holds a practice night once a week on Sundays at 6:00 pm for registered members - check out our calendar for a complete schedule of our races and practices.
- Girls: Girls may register as a Girl or a Novice. If registered as a girl, she will race only girls if the minimum numbers of racers are in attendance. Otherwise, the riders (Girls and any female Novices) will move into Intermediate of the same age. If registered as a Novice, the girl will race with boys and other girls with Novice membership. She will advance to Girls when she has won ten 1st place wins. A novice girl may also voluntarily advance to Girl classification at any time.
- Novice: All new racers regardless of age. Novices will advance to Intermediate level when the rider has taken ten 1st place wins or 3 title wins (National, Grands, Gold Cup Final Sat or Sun, or Race of Champions). Wins carry over from year to year.
- Intermediate: Upon attaining twenty (20) class wins (any type of race) or five (5) title wins (National, Grands, Gold Cup Final Sat or Sun, or Race of Champions), an Intermediate will advance to Expert. Intermediates may voluntarily advance to Expert. Open and cruiser wins do not count for advancement.
- Expert: Top level. Can advance to Pro at age 16.
- Advancement: It is the responsibility of the rider/parents to keep track of wins and to move him/her up when he/she reaches the allotted number of wins. Riding out of class will result in the forfeiture of points and possible suspension. Do not wait until you receive your new card, it will follow in a few weeks.