Bicycle motocross (BMX) is a high-risk cycling sport that involves freestyle or racing competitions and off-road recreational riding. It often involves dangerous stunts and tricks, but even straightforward racing events can lead to serious injuries.
Here are the kinds of body protection BMX riders should wear to keep themselves safe.
The helmet is far and away the most important protective device for all types of cycling. BMX helmets fall under two categories: biking and skating. The biking helmets are primarily for racing events, covering the ears and back of the head and providing a clear field of vision. They also have long visors to block out the sun and cushion head–first impacts.
The skating helmet is a simple half helmet that protects the top and sides of the head. Riders often use this type during freestyle events because it’s lightweight and fits snugly on the head. Serious BMX athletes should have helmets custom-fitted to ensure they stay on and absorb the impact if an accident occurs.
Gloves have several essential functions for BMX athletes. They protect against abrasions, provide extra grip and keep their hands warm in harsh off-road conditions that BMXers often pursue. People use their hands to break falls by instinct, so that layer of extra padding makes a huge difference when riders tumble forward and brace themselves.
The outer part of the gloves should be a durable yet flexible material such as spandex so the fingers can move freely. The palms are usually a leathery fabric called Clarino that allows riders to grip their bike handles with more force. Some gloves don’t have fingertips, while others have special ones to provide extra grip and prevent blisters.
3. Elbow Pads
Elbow pads are beneficial for any BMX event, but they’re most useful in freestyle events because the riders often fall backward during their tricks, forcing them to brace themselves with their glutes and elbows. They come in many varieties, from ultra-slim sleeves with flexible air padding to bulky ones with hard-shell pads covering most of the arm.
Elbows have minimal tissue protection and are extremely vulnerable to injury, so wearing extra padding is crucial to prevent breaks and lacerations. Experiment with the different types of elbow pads and find a pair that works for you.
4. Body Armor
Body armor is primarily used in law enforcement and self-defense situations, but it can also stabilize and shield your torso from serious impacts. It’s not the most breathable gear in the world and might restrict your movement, but the protective benefits outweigh the potential discomforts. The best armor for BMX athletes is a lightweight ceramic material.
However, don’t expect the armor to be a magic forcefield. It can’t protect you from pain and won’t prevent all injuries. Rather, it will turn a potentially fatal impact into a few broken ribs. Most riders are willing to add a few more pounds to make that tradeoff.
5. Knee Pads
Knee pads come in soft- and hard-shell varieties. The hard shells are better for racing, jumping and any other airborne BMX event, but they also need to be flexible and breathable. Chafing can be a problem with knee pads because of the constant movement, so look for sleeves made of Neoprene or another soft material. The hard shell and soft sleeve combo is ideal for BMX athletes.
6. Shin Pads
Shin pads protect riders’ lower legs during spinning tricks like tailwhips and stop other bikes from causing harm during close-quarters races. Some are connected to the knee pads in one huge sleeve, while others are separate devices with a combination of front, side and back pad inserts. It’s always a safe bet to lean toward the options with more protection in extreme sports with high injury risks.
7. Ankle Guards
Ankle guards have special roles in BMX, blocking the damage caused by cranks and pedals and providing extra joint support. Sometimes the rider needs to launch themselves into the air at an unorthodox angle, putting their knees and ankles in awkward positions. The ankle guards help prevent sprains in those precarious moments and enable the rider to complete the jump.
Gear up for Your Next BMX Session
BMX riders put their bodies on the line every time they hop on the bike. They need full protection from head to toe, otherwise they would finish every ride with some sort of injury. These seven devices will guard your body against BMX’s most common mishaps and enable you to have a long and prosperous career.