Flats??? Simple really, flat pedals, or pedals with a flat surface. Not smooth of course, but with metal pins that really grip the soles of your shoes. The pins also do a lovely job of obliterating your shins if your foot slips (wear shin pads!)

Riders won't have the same smooth pedaling ability on flats as they will using clips but the difference is only really noticeable at Elite level. Being able to put your foot down quickly can outweigh the perceived power advantage. Always worth a beginner starting out on flat pedals until they've mastered the skills of the sport.

Race plate background/number colour rules

Male 20" expert classes - Yellow background, black numbers

Female 20" expert classes - Blue background, white numbers

Championship Men & Women - Black background, white numbers

Elite Men - White background, black numbers

All Cruisers - Red background, white numbers


If in doubt, ask!

Plates show a rider's number, which is either their national series ranking from the previous year or the last three digits of their race licence number if they didn't gain a rank the previous season. In BMX, plates are more prestigious than trophies because they're on your bike for the year. Champions get to run the coveted 1 on their plates. For those that make a Euro or World Champs final, their finishing number is run with an E or W respectively for example E3 or W5. 

Plates themselves are either plastic with a sticker that can be replaced each season, or printed plastic. Most riders like to keep their plates as souvenirs.


Race Plates are an important and prestigious part of our sportbut the rules can be confusing!


Standard gearing on a 20" race bike is a 44 tooth front ring and 16 tooth rear sprocket, known as 44-16. If we put those numbers in the formula it works like this: 44/16 = 2.75, 2.75 x 20 = 55.

We call this a 55 inch (55") gear as this is the diametre the front wheel would be on that imaginary penny farthing. Right, now where it gets useful is if a rider decides he wants a harder gear. Harder means tougher to pedal, but you will go faster, also known as a higher gear. Increasing the teeth on the front ring, or decreasing the teeth on the rear sprocket will make a gear harder.

To see if it'd be better to go with a 45t front ring or a 15t rear sprocket, the rider uses the formula;

45/16 = 2.8125, 2.8125 x 20 = 56.25 Inches

44/15 = 2.933, 2.933 x 20 = 58.66

58 is a MONSTER gear, so would be too hard. The rider settles on a 45t chainring...

OK, this is where it gets strange. The formula of dividing the number of teeth on the front ring by the number of teeth on the rear sprocket and then multiplying the result by the wheel diametre gives us a number that corresponds to the size of a wheel on a penny farthing.

Yeah, you read that right. A penny farthing.

Why? well, they were direct drive, or 1:1 gear ratio, so to go faster, a bigger wheel was required. The only thing that matters to us BMX racers in this formula is the number we get, because it allows us to compar different combinations of chainrings and sprockets on paper rather than trial and error.

If we run through some examples it'll make sense. Promise.


2 There's only one gear, but people are always changing it....

This can be a very confusing aspect of racing. The front chainring and rear sprocket can be swapped for ones with more or less teeth. This will make it harder or easier to pedal depending on what changes are made. The bits of the bike we're looking at are known as the drivetrain because they're what drives the bike forward.

There's a formula for comparing how gears will feel, bear with us because it's quirky all on its own...

1There's a seat on a BMX but you don't sit down to pedal.

You can try it but it's pretty much impossible. The seat gets used when riders are waiting on the gate and of course, when they're chatting to other riders!

bmx racing has its fair share of elements that will leave you scratching your head