The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was instrumental in making new, niche sports, mainstream. The inclusion of several new events meant more eyeballs and more discussions around them. One of which was the BMX freestyle event, in which nine cyclists from eight countries participated. An urban cycling subculture that began life in the US in the 1970s, became an Olympic sport this year.
BMX is the popular abbreviation for Bicycle Motocross, a sport where riders perform stunts and tricks on special BMX bikes. The bikes used are typically smaller than the regular cycles that we use; this is because riders almost never sit down on the bikes while riding them. To be a BMX cyclist is to be nimble and quick, which obviously means riders have to be careful and in good physical condition.
“I started riding BMX almost 10 years ago because it seemed like something adventurous. A little risky, a little fun. It was an action sport which was different from the regular cricket-football,” says Prateek Bhasin, 28 from Chandigarh. A self-taught rider, Prateek used YouTube to pick up skills and now sells bikes, bike parts and accessories.
Chandigarh has a tiny, but growing community of BMX riders, currently numbering a little less than 20. It is still far from being a thriving community but riders are trying to spread awareness of the sport through events and meet ups. In Mumbai too, BMX meet ups are common, with 4 teams in the city. But events are still limited across the country, believes Sanjay Rajpurohit.
“BMX has been around for longer than skateboarding. But it has not grown as much. Maybe it is the cost factor. Skateboards are cheaper than a BMX bike, which come from anything upwards of ₹35,000. BMX riders use the same ramps though. So if there any skatepark in the city, it helps in the growth of the BMX community as well,” points out Sanjay, who, in association with with 100 Skatepark Construction Company, built a first skatepark in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, in 2019.
Most BMX riders in India are not professional BMX athletes, but everyday professionals who indulge in their passion on the side. Despite this, they train diligently all year. Is it just the adrenaline rush? Or can BMX even be a good workout?
If it is calorie burning that you are looking for, then yes, BMX can provide quite a good calorie burn. For example, a BMX rider, weighing about 70kg, can burn 300 calories per hour. With the adrenaline rush that BMX riding can give to riders, it can also aid your heart health. Blood circulation also improves, much like it does if you’re a regular cyclist.
BMX bikes are not the most comfortable cycles to ride. As a result, to maintain your balance you need to, at the very least, keep your posture correct. This is not just crucial for the health of your spine but also can prevent lower back issues. Since a lot of the rides involve tricks, one also has to be fairly flexible and mobile to perform the maneuvers well. BMX riding can be a great workout as well as an adventure sport. But just like any other activity, make sure to warm up, wear proper safety gear and start slow.