Short Chainstay VS. Long Chainstay on a BMX Bike - Which one is right for you?

The back end of a BMX bike really varies depending on the bike you choose. They can range anywhere from 12.7" to 13.8". With each 1/10th of an inch having a slight affect on how your bike will handle. In general terms, a short chainstay length gives you a really responsive bike that is easy to spin. A long chainstay length will give you a really controlled feeling bike. It is best to choose based on your style of riding and BMX goals. Let me explain.

Short Chainstay

Anything under 13" is considered a short chainstay. More technical riders will be riding a short chainstay on their BMX because of the quick spins and snappy feeling that it provides. Back in the day, BMX frames would have a chainstay of 14"+ but due to the evolution of crazy tricks on flat, people because more interested in optimizing their technical tricks.

Pro's of a short chainstay

  • Spins will feel easy
  • Fast cornering in bowls
  • Good for technical street/park riding
  • Manuals are easy to get in to
  • Shorter wheel base

Con's of a short chainstay

  • Manuals will loop out easy
  • Airing high is hard
  • Going fast will feel unstable
  • Feet can hit the back peg when pedaling

Who should ride a short chainstay?

A short chainstay is best for a rider who likes to be really technical when riding street or park. This will help you maneuver the bike like the pros. Garrett Reynolds is a great example of a rider who does technical street with a short chainstay. While Logan Martin is a great example of a rider who uses a short chainstay for technical park riding.

Long Chainstay

A chainstay over 13" is considered a long chainstay. Riding with a long chainstay will give you a more stable and controlled bike. Especially at high speeds. With a longer chainstay and therefore a longer wheelbase, the bike can hold up at high speeds without feeling uncomfortable. You will see riders like Corey Walsh and Chase Hawk riding a long stable chainstay.

Pro's of a Long Chainstay

  • Very stable
  • Feels good at high speeds
  • Manuals are easy to control
  • Airing quarters is easier

Con's of a Long Chainstay

  • Spins are harder
  • Feels kinda "bulky" when doing tricks
  • Manuals are harder to get into initially

Who should ride a Long Chainstay

A long chainstay is a good choice for a rider who likes to go high and fast. It is super important to have a stable feeling bike when you are ripping around at high speeds. Riders like Kris Fox, and Gary young are riding a longer chainstay. Most dirt specific riders will be on a longer chainstay too since it will give them more control when riding big dirt jumps.


All in all, it is way more important for you to get a bmx bike and start shredding. After riding for a while and learning what you love/hate about riding you can buy aftermarket parts that will better suit your style. I see so many people get caught up in analasis paralasis, instead of making a decision.

Build the foundation skills and then get more technical later.