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…

8 thoughts on “BMX…It's not a competition

  1. I couldn’t agree more Ben. Racing makes sense in the olympics for the reason you stated but I can’t see the Park, Trails or Vert disciplines being any good due to the fact that it is entirely subjective. Personally I’d mark one of Chris Doyles super-clicked turndowns over a sketchy looking 360 flipwhip anyday. Just my opinion though. Im sure there are people out there who will disagree.

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  2. I don’t think any judged sport should be in the oylipics. Why should taekwondo even be in it and have 3 weight catogories so there are 6 gold medals for this crappy event.

    bmx racing was ok to watch,

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  3. ‘(But which cycle discipline will have to be removed from the Olympics to make way for street BMX? The UCI does not have a good track record on this sort of decision).’

    track cycling allready lost its 1000meter dash event

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  4. Ben!

    Was it you that I just replied to on the DigitalBMX post about this? I only read your post on here after I’d been on Digital. It’s a pretty interesting subject I think.

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  5. @poll. yep i totally agree with you. hopefully my article made it clearer. Personally I don’t like competitions but I don’t want to force that on everyone else.

    You are right about all performing arts having an element of competition too – even music has awards (which in my opinion is stupid!) but obviously I have no right to tell other people how to enjoy their life, that’s up to them!

    My point is just that I think it might be good to make a seperation for everyone’s sake.

    Rebekah like to watch Strictly Come Dancing (which I avoid whenever possible), and every week there is a whole lot of drama between the public who like one dance, and the judges who like something else. It does my head in.

    If the competitive side of BMX was seperated from the more performance based side then maybe this would keep everyone happy?

    No more moaning about people who “just learn stuff in the foam” or people who pull tricky messily without style. On the other side if there was a fairer scoring system then I imagine this would be good for the riders – if they knew what score each trick would get then it would be a transparent system.

    I am not sure, all I know is that I really like watching people who make riding look easy and fun and I don’t see this around much anymore (maybe I am looking in the wrong places). If something could be done to make it possible for riders like this to show off their skills without having to learn really hard tricks then that would make me (and I think lots of other people) happy.

    On the other hand, maybe it’s the drama between the audience and the judges that makes Strictly Come Dancing so popular. People like having something to moan about!

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  6. comps take the free out of Freestyle and to me trails is the only place you will see people riding for style over tricks look at all the people you look out for in vids or comps i bet 90% have a trails back ground .

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  7. i completely agree, i think this is partly why i prefer skating now as every skater has a reconisable style and i think that people are judged just as much on there style or even more on style than how high you can go and how good your tricks are. for example a really nice steezy pop shuvit would be seen as better than a really stiff rigid 360flip. thanks for the post was good to read 😀

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