Your guide to all things BMX

Awesome!  You or your child is interested in BMX racing! Before you head to track for your first race, you need to understand BMX race classes.  This article will break it down for you.

Riders compete in a BMX race
Photo Credit: JPennucci Photography | www. BMXActionPhotography.com

BMX racing, or bicycle motocross, is such a great sport for young and older riders.  Once you’ve had a little training and feel comfortable on your BMX bike, you’re ready to start racing.  Before you hit the track, make sure you understand how BMX race classes work. 

Understanding BMX Race Classes 

There are 4 criteria used by USA BMX to determine a rider’s classification for BMX racing competition:

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Proficiency
  4. Wheel size

BMX racing is a sport for kids of all ages, even big kids with kids of their own. As a result, racers will be matched against riders their own age and proficiency or skill level whenever possible.

Riders competing in a BMX race
Photo Credit: JPennucci Photography | www. BMXActionPhotography.com

See Also:


Rider Age

BMX racing age classes are many, but simple.  Riders are divided up based on their age.

There is no age limit for BMX racing. Riders can start as young as possible (many start on Strider bikes).  Mom and Dad can race as well.  What makes BMX racing so unique is that it’s one of the few sports available where kids and their parents can compete together.  

Here’s the link with all the age classes listed.

Adult riders competing in a BMX race
Photo Credit: JPennucci Photography | www. BMXActionPhotography.com

Rider Gender

BOYS: For boys ages 5 and under race together.  From ages 6 through 16 they are separated in single classes. 17 and 18 years old racers have their own class, then 19-27.  Getting older, the classes range and you can click on the link at the bottom of this section to see them.

GIRLS: For the girls, again 5 and under race in a single class.  Then the classes are separated by year from age 6 through 14 year olds.  15 and 16 year olds have their own class, as does 17 – 20.  Again as the riders are older, the classes are grouped like the boys, and you can click the link for more.

Girl riders competing in a BMX race
Photo Credit: JPennucci Photography | www. BMXActionPhotography.com

Boys vs Girls

Simply put, there are separate classes for boys and girls.  Boys will always be put in a boys class – they will never be placed in a girls class.  Although girls have their own class, if there are not enough riders to form a moto, they may be placed into a boys class.  When we discuss points in Part 2, we will explain the advantages if that happens.

Rider Proficiency

BMX riders are divided into several proficiency levels:

  • Novice
  • Intermediate
  • Expert

All BMX riders — male and female — will begin in the NOVICE class. In other words—beginners. Once your racer wins 10 races, the boys move into the INTERMEDIATE class, while Novice girls move into the GIRL class. 

The Girl class is the highest proficiency level in the sport for amateur girls. For boys, after winning 20 or more races in the Intermediate boys class, they move into the highest proficiency level in the sport for amateur boys; the EXPERT class.

3 riders competing in a BMX race
Photo Credit: JPennucci Photography | www. BMXActionPhotography.com

Wheel Size

Finally, in BMX racing there are two bike categories, based on wheel size/diameter — 20” wheel BMX bikes called class bikes, and 24” wheel BMX bikes called cruiser bikes.

The 20” bikes are the required size for all Novice, Intermediate, Girl and Expert competition.  Since we can assume the reason you’re reading an article entitled “How BMX Racing Works” your rider is a novice, we wont get into the cruiser class just yet.

What if there aren’t enough BMX riders in my class?

As mentioned above, boys will always be put in a boys class.  If your racer is a girl, and there is not enough racers in her class on the specific day of the race, she may be grouped with the boys. 

As a matter of fact, at any given BMX race, if there are not enough entrants to form a legal class, racers may be matched against racers of different ages and proficiency levels as per USA BMX race rules.

But don’t panic if your girl is classed with boys, or if your child is moved into a class of higher age or proficiency because when we explain how points work in Part 2, there can actually be at an advantage in doing so.

What age can you start racing BMX?

Also of importance, because BMX racing is for kids of all ages, even toddlers, there is a separate class for them.  BMX toddlers generally use balance bikes

Young BMX rider on a strider bike
Photo Credit: JPennucci Photography | www. BMXActionPhotography.com

These are awesome little BMX bikes that teach your toddler how to use a traditional bike quicker than using training wheels.  Balance bike riders are grouped by age. usually 5, 4, 3, and 2 years of age.

Check this link out for more on balance bikes.

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Looking for more?  Check out all of the BMX Basics content on BMX-Insider.

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