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What is BMX? Reprinted from Hickoksports.com

On July 10, 1969, a group of kids rode their 20-inch Schwinn Stingray bicycles to Palms Park in Santa Monica, California, to race on dirt trails. A park attendant, Ron Mackler, helped them organize their races. They were motocross fans too young to ride motorcycles, so they named their sport "pedal cross."

bmx raceThe following year, youngsters in Long Beach were also imitating motocross riders. One of them was a 13-year-old entrepreneur, Scott Breithaupt, who set up a dirt track in a lot and charged a quarter admission. He got 30 entries for his first race and 150 for the second. Breithaupt then formed an organization, the Bicycle United Motocross Society (BUMS).

The new sport got a major boost from "On Any Sunday," a documentary movie about motocross racing starring Steve McQueen and released in 1971. Two years later, the National Bicycle Association (NBA) was founded by Ernie Alexander to organize and sanction races. Pedal cross had by then been renamed bicycle motocross, or BMX.

bmx racerIn June of 1974, the first BMX magazine, Bicycle Motocross News, began publication in Orange, California. The issue included an interview with Scott Breithaupt. The NBA held its first national competition that year in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Yamaha, which was introducing the first BMX bicycle, known as the "moto bike," sponsored the event with $100,000 for prizes and promotion.

Sports Illustrated covered the races, giving BMX racing even more momentum. Later that year, the National Bicycle League (NBL) was founded by George Esser in Pompano Beach, Florida, as a sanctioning organization, because the NBA focused on California. The NBL soon began lining up tracks throughout the East.

In the meantime, European motocross riders who were in the United States conducting training camps discovered BMX racing and brought the idea back to Europe. A third sanctioning body, the American Bicycle Association, was established in 1977. BMX racing also began in Australia that year. The first Australian national championships were held in 1980.

The sport had spread to other countries, as well. In 1981, George Esser of the NBL met with representatives from Canada, Columbia, Holland, Japan, Panama, and Venezuela to found the International BMX Federation (IBMXF), which sanctioned international races and established a world BMX championship.

With interest growing in other countries through the 1980s, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) became interested in BMX. In 1993, the IBMXF merged into the UCI, which governs international bicycle racing, including Olympic competition. There are now about 50 national governing bodies belonging to the UCI that oversee BMX racing in their countries.

The NBL became a member association of USA Cycling in 1997. The ABA, which has about 60,000 racing members, continues to conduct BMX races.

Most BMX racing is conducted on a dirt track of about 300 to 400 meters, with a series of jumps. Up to eight cyclists compete in each qualifying race to determine eight finalists who will meet in the championship.

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