Five Affordable Upgrades For Your BMX Racing Bike.
I’m going to take you through five affordable upgrades to make your BMX racing bike safer, lighter, more reliable, and potentially faster. Many BMXers start on entry level or second hand bikes, either way there’s plenty of room for making improvements on your bike before you need to spend the big bucks on a complete upgrade to the latest and greatest.
There are mixed messages as to what you need to have a safe and reliable bike for BMX racing. To some, if you can pedal it you can race it, and that’s ok. To others, they need to have the latest technology regardless of price, we’re talking carbon, disc brake, clip pedals, carbon cranks and so on. We’ve all met people from both parties. To me personally I like to keep it realistic, I race BMX for fun, fitness and for a social outlet, I’m not trying to shave micro seconds off my times and I’m not trying to qualify for the Olympics. Affordable, durable and reliable are high priorities for me.
Over my 40 years of BMX racing I’ve observed a lot of small bike upgrades that can really make a big difference. Let’s go through them in no particular order.
A good set of grips are vital. It’s worth spending a little extra on a good set of quality lock on grips, they hang on to your bars nice and tight regardless of the conditions, where traditional single ply grips tend to slip when they get wet.
You’ll need to be able to get a good grip, so the grips should be the right size for the rider, we’re not just talking width, but the diameter or the thickness, of the grip which is often overlooked. (See our Got Grip article for more about sizing up grips for smaller hands.)
A good quality set of grips like lock-ons from industry leader ODI will cost more, but are made from high quality durable materials, they will out last the cheaper Asian knock offs so are good value for money.
There isn’t much profile on modern BMX racing tires as it is, but you can get good wear from today’s tires as long as you keep the skidding at a minimum. If your tires are looking worn then it’s probably time to upgrade them. There’s nothing worse than losing traction when tires are probably the most affordable upgrade.
If you want faster tires look at foldable tire options, they are generally lighter than the wire beaded options and they are made to handle higher air pressure which leads to lower rolling resistance. It’s also worth looking to the future and considering tubeless ready tires if they fit your bike. They are all compatible with standard tubes, so you can still get a lot of the benefits from the new tires without the messy set up of tubeless if you’re not ready for it.
Standard V-brakes can work as well as any other brakes if they are set up correctly. You can remove your inner cable from the outer and run grease along the inner cable, or you can replace it with an entirely new cable and grease that before installing. Look at a linear cable for better performance.
Brake pads will often wear and will need replacing, it’s always worth spending good money on a good compound rather than skimp out. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
If you can’t dial in the set up yourself, take your bike to your local bike shop.
A smooth drive train can make a massive difference to a bike, always keep your chain clean and well lubricated and keep the sprockets clean too. If the sprockets show signs of wear you should consider replacing them.
If a chain stretches too much, rusts, or starts to jam up they are affordable enough that you should just replace them.
You might be told otherwise from your peers but you don’t need clip pedals to win and you definitely don’t need them to enjoy BMX racing. What you do need is pedals that won’t let you down. So grip is important, don’t cheap out. Look for seal bearings, cromo axle, replaceable metal pins and a larger platform to reduce slipping and pedal roll under foot.
It is possible to squeeze more performance out of your current bike without breaking the bank. (But don’t ignore any rattles, creaks or groans coming from your bike, they will most likely need your attention first.) If you need help or suggestions don’t be shy, ask your friends, or your local store for suggestions. Just remember to keep it all in perspective, work out what YOU want to get out of BMX racing. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars upgrading your bike to make your BMX racing bike safer, lighter, more reliable, and potentially faster.
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