BMX - or bicycle motocross - started to gain popularity in the early 1970s in California. The half-century since has generated a massive culture and multiple competitive disciplines — and with it, different bikes.
With everything from the bikes used for Olympic racing, to dirt jumps, vert, flatland and more, picking the right BMX is just as difficult as deciding between a short travel 29er and a long travel 27.5in trail bike.
Whether you're looking to relive your fantasies of being a BMX Bandit, hoping to head out to the dirt jumps or your local skate park, or even just a bike, a shiny new BMX might be a fantastic addition to your stable.
Read on for Bike Perfect's rundown of the best BMX bikes, or if you're new to the club, you can skip to everything you need to know before you buy.
The best BMX bikes available today
WeThePeople released the Battleship in 2019, and it's back for 2021 with a few notable upgrades. The frame is designed for technical street riding with 13" chainstays and a 15mm offset fork topped with an ECLAT Strangerlier handlebar.
Rolling on Bondi 38mm rims and WeThePeople Helix hubs, the frame is built with a three-piece crank and sees a freecoaster hub. WeThePeople measures its sizing by the top tube and offers the Battleship in three sizes and right or left-hand drive.
With a high tensile steel frame, the Stolen Casino XL features a long top tube and plenty of standover clearance for taller riders.
It's available in three sizes, with the XS coming with smaller 18in wheels and tires, but has room for 20in should you want to upgrade later on. Stolen has partnered with components brand Fiction to offer a build kit that will stand up to just as much abuse as the frame itself. The U-brake at the back can be a bit lacking in power, but it's hidden below the seat stay and out of harm's way.
BMX racing is all about the holeshot. To earn the leading spot into the corner you'll be pushing enough watts to power a small city and will need a bike that's stiff enough to transmit every bit of energy into the back wheel. GT doesn't have a lot to say about its speed series bikes, other than they are robust enough to help you achieve this exact goal.
The lightweight aluminum frame is heavily hydroformed and features a long wheelbase for max stability on the ground and in the air. It's available with 20in and 24in wheels. The bike sees a two-piece crank, and the bike also sees a rear ProMax hydraulic disc brake.
Despite holding the spot as the most affordable bike in GT's Range, the Air fights well above its weight class. Made with a Hi-Ten Steel frame and fork, the frame geometry mirrors the bikes GT makes as pro models for its best park riders.
At this price point, it's not surprising to see loose ball bearings in lieu of sealed cartridge bearings used throughout; however, the crank is a three-piece set, meaning the chainrings can be easily swapped. At the back, a U brake is mounted inside the rear triangle to keep your speed in check.
The Bike Life movement is a new generation of street riders who started in Harlem, Philadelphia, and Oakland who are taking back the streets. They are known to spend more time on one wheel than two. Their movement transcends race and economic status and brings groups as big as 1500 to cruise through the streets in style.
The SE Bike Blocks Flyer is one of the latest bikes to come out of this movement. Based around a 6061 Aluminum frame, it rolls on 26in wheels with a 68mm BB and SE wave dropout. The wheels have double rim walls and sealed bearings inside the hubs, and the bike comes with a full pad set, SE Bikes Life number plate, wheelie pegs and a Blocks Flyer seat.
Sunday's Blueprint is priced for new riders but is built around a pro-level geometry to help support them in learning the fundamentals and building confidence. The frame is made using hi-tensile steel and comes with a two-piece CroMo fork for a bike that can withstand plenty of slams at the skatepark.
Sunday provides most of the components including the three-piece crank, except for the Odyssey Springfield U-Brakes. These are designed to offer superior power to help keep you under control whether you are riding vert or flatland.
The Stolen Agent 16 ideal for the grom who isn't quite big enough for 20in wheels but doesn't think that's any reason to hold back. The 25-9t gear combo provides a ratio light enough for little legs to push but tall enough to help them get enough speed to clear a double.
The super-wide (for a BMX) 2.3in tires and the 7.25in bars provide heaps of leverage and control so your little shredder can push their skills, and the steel frame will survive big crashes.
The Kink Gap is an ideal bike for beginners or somebody who wants a well-rounded bike at a decent price. The bike's lower bottom bracket and higher standover height add stability, making this an ideal learner's bike.
It features a steel frame and 20in wheels. A three-piece crank is also a plus, and it uses 25/9t gearing. Most of the components come in-house from Kink, including the cranks and handlebars. One downside is that it could use stronger rims.
The Maul is a bike for the rider who is just at home on the dirt jumps as they are hitting street spots. The build quality is solid so riders can get rowdy. The price is decent too.
The full Chromoly steel frame comes with a 30mm offset fork which is also made from Chromoly steel. That's in addition to a three-piece crank, so you can swap out sprockets depending on the gearing that you want. Another great spec is the wide, low-pressure compatible tires from Shadow, which measure in at 2.35in.
WeThePeople says the geometry on the CRS "has been tailored to allow for greater progression for the younger generation." They've shortened the chainstays, cranks, and fork to make this bike perfect for learning new tricks and progressing your riding.
It's meant to ride on anything from dirt to street or skateparks, and the build kit is suited well to swapping out components as you progress through the BMX ranks. The bike features 25/9t gearing, 2.35in tires, a three-piece crankset and now gets sealed bearings in the front hub for ultra-smooth riding.
Best BMX bikes: what you need to know
1. What kind of bike?
BMX bikes can be designed to excel at a specific discipline of BMX riding by tweaking the ride characteristics through geometry and components.
Dirt, park and street bikes are quite similar, utilizing the steel frames designed to take a beating; however, the geometry and components will vary slightly to excel in their given riding venue.
BMX race bikes are all about speed with the frames made from lighter materials like aluminum and carbon, and the sizing will be extremely specific and aggressive — make sure to check the geometry chart twice.
Retro bikes are your BMX bandit-inspired rides that have bright colors, mag-style wheels, and foam frame pads.
For the most part, a BMX bike will have 20in wheels, however, kids' and freestyle bikes may roll on 16in or 18in wheels for increased maneuverability, while bikes explicitly designed for dirt jumps may use 24in wheels for superior stability and speed.
If you're looking for a BMX bike with the express purpose of hitting jumps, you may want to err on the side of bigger wheels. This is because the bottom bracket on BMX frames for 20in wheels (and below) have a positive BB drop figure, meaning the bottom bracket is actually above the axles, so the cranks don't hit the ground as you pedal. Unfortunately, this can make the bike feel 'tippy', especially at speed.
The frame sizing is based around a combination of your height and inseam; however, there is no semblance of a standardized sizing across brands. Before you click purchase, make sure to check each brand’s sizing chart, because they are all different.