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BMX bikes are mostly intended for pulling off stunts, tricks and jumps. They’re normally ridden off-road on trails, tracks, or in skate parks.
With the above in mind, is it possible to use a BMX bike for commuting?
Maybe a BMX is the only bike you have available to you, or you fancy buying one and wonder if you can take it to work.
This article will tell you how viable BMX commuting is and where the pros and cons lie.
Is It Ok To Use A BMX For Commuting To Work?
The short answer is yes, but a BMX bike probably wouldn’t be the first choice for most bike commuters. It might be the last. On the other hand, you can have a lot of fun if the commute is fairly short.
A BMX bike is designed primarily for performing tricks, and most of the time the rider will be in a standing position. This isn’t a mile-munching bike aimed at road use. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get to work on it!
Seat & Gears
The seat on a BMX is low, and the single gear it usually has is also low, so you won’t travel as fast as you can on a road bike or hybrid, for instance. This is not a bike you want to climb long hills on, mostly because of that low seat and lack of gear options.
Racks & Fenders
The fixtures that you might install on most bikes for commuting won’t be as easy to find for a BMX if you find them at all. Remember this is a bike designed for tricks and “bike motocross”, so it won’t have eyelets for fenders and racks.
In reality, if you need to carry something to work on a BMX, you’ll probably be looking at a backpack. And you might have to accept being sprayed in wet weather.
If you’re commuting by road, brakes of some description are likely to be a legal requirement. In some places, you must have front and rear brakes (e.g., Great Britain). Because they are not intended for traffic, many BMX bikes only have a rear brake.
BMX bikes often have a short chainstay length and steep head tube angle, which can make them a bit over-responsive for road riding.
How To Turn A BMX Into A Daily Commuter Bike
With all of the above-mentioned points to think about, what can you do to make a BMX bike more suitable for your commute? Below, you’ll find a list of things to change.
1. Saddle & Saddle Height
The saddle on a BMX is too low for riding any distance sitting down, so one of the first things you can do is to make it higher. This is likely to mean changing the seat post.
A BMX bike typically has a 25.4mm wide post, so a long post like the 350mm Simida Seat Post will make the bike instantly more rideable for commuting purposes. Of course, you might have a few BMX purists doing double-takes, but it’s your bike!
You need a few inches of post inserted into the seat tube for safety reasons. The Simida and other seat posts have a safety line to tell you how far out the post can safely extend.
If you’re also using your BMX for tricks or off-road cross racing, you’ll want to switch the seatpost back again. You might want a different, more comfy saddle for commuting, too, so you can swap out the post and saddle together.
The Fabric Magic Elite is a comfortable saddle cross-designed for MTB or BMX riding. It’s a seat better suited to distance than many stock BMX saddles.
Read more: The best saddles for bicycle commuting
2.Tires & Treads
Because BMX bikes are often used on dirt tracks, many of their tires will have a pronounced knobby tread. Luckily, a lot of BMX biking is done on smooth surfaces, too, so it’s not hard to find a slick or semi-slick tire.
If you’re commuting on a BMX, there’s a strong chance you’ll be riding on the road for at least some of the way. A tire like the Odyssey Tom Dugan Slick will serve you well for this type of terrain.
Knobby tires, usually ridden at lower pressures, will slow you down when riding on paved surfaces. This is true regardless of bike type. Energy is lost as the extreme tread pattern deforms, and there is more material in contact with the road.
While the vast majority of BMX bikes have 20” diameter tires, some BMX trail models can be found with 22” or 24”. These bikes are intended less for tricks and are better suited to commuting as a result. You can even find the odd 26” BMX bike.
Video: About BMX Tires
3. Brakes – Front & Back?
If you’re contemplating a bike commute on a BMX, ideally you’ll want to stay on the right side of the law. In the U.S. you’ll be okay with just one brake in many places. Most state laws say you must “have brakes fitted which allow you to skid on a dry pavement”.
In the UK, two brakes are required, the main reason being that the front is required for a more effective emergency stop. Of course, front braking should be modulated, or the rider goes over the handlebar.
Other parts of Europe, like Germany, are also hot on the braking capability of road-using bikes. BMX bikes are not usually designed with braking as a priority.
Depending partly on where you live, you might want to install front and rear brakes on a BMX before commuting on it. In most cases, this will mean adding a front brake.
You can use the Odyssey 1999 BMX Brake Set & Lever or a universal kit to add a caliper brake or brakes to your BMX. As usual with bike maintenance, there are handy YouTube videos available to run you through the installation process.
4. BMX Gearing
Because BMX bikes are not built for straight speed, their single gear ratio is on the low side. A typical BMX bike has 55 “gear inches”, which is a figure you can use to compare gearing with other bikes.
Gear inches = number of chainring teeth x number of rear sprocket teeth x diameter in inches of the wheels.
Multiplying gear inches by pi (~3.14) gives you the distance traveled in inches by the bike per pedal revolution. Thus, an average BMX bike wheel travels 172.7 inches per spin of the pedals.
A typical single-speed road bike covers up to 26.66% more ground than a BMX with each turn of the pedals (235.5 inches), based on 65 to 75 gear inches. The top gear of a multi-speed road bike easily exceeds 100 gear inches.
Gear inches affect your cadence. Thus, if you want to travel as fast as a road bike, you have to turn the pedals faster. Beyond a certain point, that starts to look silly, and you’ll “spin out” much sooner than someone pushing a bigger gear.
You can change the gearing pretty easily on a bike, but not so easily that you want to be doing it every few days. If you intend to use a BMX bike for traditional BMX riding, you’re probably better off accepting that low gear or just increasing it a little.
If you want to increase the gear inches of your BMX bike and slow your cadence down, you can install a smaller 13t single-speed sprocket at the rear and have a 44t chainring up front. This will give you gear inches comparable to regular single-speed bikes.
Be aware of chain width when choosing sprockets and chainrings. The above sprocket is compatible with 3/32” chains, as are many 44t chainrings. Your existing chain may be a wider 1/8”. A wider chain should work on the narrower components.
You’ll also need a shorter chain if you’re going to ride a significantly bigger gear. A BMX chain tensioner helps to prevent the chain from slacking and is especially useful on frames with vertical dropouts.
Video: BMX Gearing Explained
5. What About Fenders & Luggage?
A rear cargo rack for a BMX is impossible to find, because the geometry of a BMX is unsuitable for it. For safety reasons, the last thing you’d probably want to do is weigh the bike down with luggage at either end.
If you need to carry a few personal items and work accessories on a BMX bike, you might consider a tidy backpack – something like the Odyssey Switch Pack Frame Bag. On a bike that isn’t known for its stability, hanging stuff in the middle makes more sense.
Fenders are a little less of a problem on BMX bikes, as you don’t necessarily need eyelets to install them. However, you still need holes in the front fork crown and the seat stay bridge to install the Upanbike Fender Set or similar.
Read more: Best bike fenders for commuting
Another possibility is to clamp a lightweight rear fender to your seat post, as is common on MTBs. The tire width of many MTBs and BMX bikes is not dissimilar, even though the diameter is smaller on the latter.
Fenders that you install onto the saddle rails are also available, like the MSW Splash Pad Rear Fender. This minimalistic type of fender does at least protect your back from road spray.
In summary, you can ride a BMX to work and have a lot of fun doing it. Granted, it’s not the best bike for fast road riding or climbing hills, but it’s great for varied routes and intermodal commutes. A BMX is easy to take onto a train.
By making a few changes to an average BMX, you’ll have a viable, enjoyable commuting bike.
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Read more: How to commute to work by bike