BMX…It's not a competition

This article prompted me to write down something which has been going round in my head ever since I saw Ruben Alcantara riding a competition a year or so ago. I realised that while Ruben wasn’t doing anything that hard (compared with everyone else I mean, not compared to me!) I enjoyed watching him a lot more than anyone else.

I think there is a growing concern amongst some riders that BMX Freestyle is becoming too competitive – it seems to be simply a matter of who can do the most rotations, or whip the most time. This has always been one of the most controvertial questions in BMX – tricks or style? Riders have been trying to find the right balance since the inception of Freestyle BMX, and this has led to different ways of presenting it.

Part of riding is sharing your skills with others who can enjoy watching and learning from each other. We have competitions, jams, demonstrations and videos, which are all different ways of trying to make riding accessible to people.

Personally I don’t much like competitions – it’s the scoring that gets me down. Scoring is such a subjective and personal thing. This isn’t only true in BMX but in any which is measured subjectivly.

This is what concerns me about Freestyle BMX being in the olympics. Races are different. In a race there is a clear winner. That is true for most olymics sports – who can throw the furthest, who can jump the highest etc. However they aren’t all like this. Gymnastics is much more subjective. There’s a lot of technique in there, but it’s still a personal things. This has meant that in order to make a fair scoring system, there has to be a whole list of rules about what is good and what isn’t.

Imagine if BMX became like that. “No that x-up gets marks taken off, the front wheel hit your toe”. “No that table top is not up to scratch, your knee was in contact with the top tube”.

Some people might think this is a good thing. Some people like rigidity and rules, and that is totally fine, but I don’t. For me BMX Freestyle is not a sport and it’s not a competition. However pompus it sounds, it’s a form of personal expression, a form of performance art, like music, dancing, sculpture and (in my opinion gymnastics).

I think BMX Freestyle should be split in two: Sport BMX and Performance BMX (those names might not be very good!) Then the people who want to do triple 1080 flip-whips can be happy and go and win gold medals at the olympics, and I can go and watch Ruben and people who make riding a bike look fun without worrying about what score he should get.

I’d be interested to know other people’s opinions…