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A lot of people want to take their riding to the next level, but BMX is hard. Someone left a comment on one of my Youtube videos last week, and they said "Do you have any tips to be a better BMX rider?" So, I spent a few days thinking about it and ultimately decided that you could become a better rider by Stretching, setting goals, and traveling.
If you make a conscious effort to work on these three things you will notice a huge impact on your riding. Tricks will be easier, injuries won't happen as often, and your eyes will be opened to all kinds of new styles. Now doesn't that sound nice?
Pro BMX riders take time before riding and stretch out their muscles. When you give your muscles that much-needed attention, they will love you.
You might be wondering, "How does stretching affect your riding?" And the truth is, of ALL the benefits that come with stretching, 90% of them can directly impact your performance on a bike, along with your ability to prevent injury.
Stretching is something new to me, that didn't start until my first year at Woodward. We made it a habit to wake up our muscles before hopping on the bike. I started to notice that the extension on tricks got better, and my crashes stopped resulting in a game-changing injury. I recommend stretching for everyone. Even if it is a quick 15-minute stretch.
Here is a list of light warm up stretches I do before a session.
Setting goals is crucial to progressing at anything. Imagine this, you are taking a trip to a new city to check out the new skatepark. However, you don't have a map and all the phones are dead. You might be able to get there. But will it be easy?
Riding without a goal or a solid plan is like traveling without a sense of direction. You might get where you need to be. It just won't be easy, and it won't be fun.
I mention this a lot, but I used to make a word document that was broken up into three sections. This document would guide me and help me take it to the next level. Feel free to copy me if this is something that might help you out.
The "fine-tune" section is for tricks that look like a sloppy joe. I can land them but they are really messy. I'd pick these tricks and do them 5-10 times before the session.
Let's say I can turn down, but they are basic and unclicked. Upon arriving to the skatepark, I'll do 10 turndowns at different spots in the skatepark, with a conscious focus on getting that extension better.
Try to only have a max of 3 tricks in this section. Once you get better at one you can move it off the list and add something else.
This section is where dreams come true. Pick out 3-5 tricks that you dream of landing. Then spend the time putting in the work. By putting them in the list, you are keeping yourself reminded of where you want to go.
Remember that learning new tricks takes a lot of time and effort. It took me about two solid years of trying whips before I finally landed one. But imagine what would have happened if I quit trying after a few months.
Being aware of what you want is the best way to keep progressing.
Cardio sucks. I remember in high school we had P.E. and only a handful of us could run a solid mile without stopping. (I went to a nerdy school) However, I always thought that being able to do this, would help me on the bike. And well.. it did. Especially if riding contests is a goal of yours. Cardio is so important.
I challenge you to try something. Go to the park and get out your phone. Then, set a 45-second timer, drop in and keep riding and trying tricks until the time is up. Congrats! 🏆 you just did your first contest run. Are you exhausted?
The moral of the story is that you need to be in shape if you ever want to put out a successful contest run.
My way of doing cardio at the park was to time runs and push my limits. Sometimes with a 1:30 run instead of 45. So before I'd leave every day, it became a little contest and I was up next. (even if I was riding alone)
If done right, this little document will have good information to guide you down the path of being a better BMX rider. Setting goals on what you want to work on, and then holding yourself accountable is a great way to become a better rider, and If you don't take away anything else from this post, take away the goal setting.
My first experience traveling was when I was 15 or 16. My grandpa took me on a trip all the way from New Mexico to Missouri. I think the first time we tried this trip I broke my hand in Tulsa Oklahoma. However, the following year we made it, and it really was a life-changing experience. Here's why.
Going to a new skatepark introduced me to new obstacles and new setups. For example, my local park didn't have a box jump or a spine. So going to a park with either of these was strangely helpful. It allowed me to practice and learn on something like that which helped make me a more rounded rider.
Some people are lucky and have a local park with everything. But some are not that lucky. So for the unlucky few, grabbing your keys and hopping in your car will make you a better rider who can ride ANYTHING.
A crazy thing that I noticed while riding different parks is that each park, or "clique" has a different set of tricks. So by bouncing around and riding with different people you will subject yourself to unique riding and tricks that you might have never seen before.
I can literally think of 20 examples of this, but the best one is from my trip to the U.K. There was a trick (I'm not sure what it's called) but you do a fat moto whip and do like a one-handed x-up while grabbing your seat behind your legs. It was something so common over there but a trick I had never seen in the USA.
Think about some common tricks that all of your buddies do, and then observe how a rider from out of town rides. Some of the best advice I have for you is getting out of your comfortable area and put yourself around new riders. You'll learn so much more.
Tips for tall riders: I'm a tall guy, and it often causes me more issues than I'd like to admit. If you're tall, you need to take some extra steps to save your back and make sure you are riding at your best. I wrote a post about it here: (Tips for tall bmx riders)
How-to Bunnyhop: The bunnyhop is the first trick that you will need to learn on your way to being a pro BMX rider. I have a really in-depth video here if you want to learn more.