‘Whether it’s a spin in the back garden, splashing through puddles in the
park or tearing around a local pump track: cycling is an essential part of
From 11-14 July it’s the BMX Junior-Elite European Championships.
We thought we would leave it to the ultra talented Ross Cullen to talk you through the differences between a BMX bike and a normal bike. Plus what riders need to do to compete in a BMX race.
Ross is a double youth world champion. He was also chosen as the flag bearer for the Youth Olympic Games in 2018. He trains with the Preston Pirates.
Hi Ross, you’re a double Youth World Champion in BMX, how did you get started with this sport?
I spotted my local track at the age of six and decided to go down to try it the following week. I fell in love straight away and it carried on from then. It went from renting bikes from the track, to racing my first club race, getting my first race bike and then it went from national level to European and World level. I still love riding my BMX, it is what keeps me motivated!
How is a BMX bike different from a normal kids’ mountain or road bike?
A BMX Race bike is a single speed bike so it only has one gear and it only has a rear brake. It has 20 inch wheels (or a cruiser has 24 inch wheels) and they are light weight! My current BMX is a carbon frame and fork set which makes the frame extremely stiff.
What special clothing do you need to wear to compete in BMX?
I wear a full-face Helmet and I also prefer to wear goggles with my helmet too. I wear a range of pads under my race pants and jersey including body armour, knee pads, hip pads and elbow pads. I also have to wear gloves for hand protection. I wear clip shoes which have cleats on the bottom that connect to my clip pedals so my feet are connected to the pedals. This allows me to put down more power when pedalling.
Do all the bikes set off at once or are there staggered start times?
There are 8 people in each race and they all line up on one start gate. The gate has a calling sequence and it drops at a random time with the lights turning green and beeps to let you know when it’s going to fall. Everyone starts off the same gate at the same time.
What does a typical BMX racing track look like?
A typical BMX track has 4 straights, 3 corners and a start hill. Although a BMX track doesn’t have to have this layout it is common. A BMX Super cross track (World Championship and Olympic standard track) has two different sides, an amateur side starting with a 5 meter start hill and a pro side which starts with an 8m hill. The pro side will normally have bigger jumps on it and it could even have a berm jump (over the amateur corner and into a corner of their own).
Does a race still go ahead if there’s loads of rain and mud?!
Yes BMX Racing will continue if it’s raining and if it is muddy unless it’s too dangerous to race, for example if the tracks flooded. But normally yes it will go ahead in most weather conditions, I once remember riding in snow at a race in Bradford when I was a kid!
Do you enjoy other sports as well?
I enjoy other types of cycling too, I love going out on my mountain bike or my road bike for a bit of fun every now and again. When I was 6/7 years old I played football as well as BMX.
What was it like to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony Youth Olympic Games last year?
Being the Flag Bearer at the Youth Olympic Games was an honour. I absolutely loved every second of it, It felt so special to walk across the stage in front of thousands of people holding the GB flag high above my head. It is a memory I will treasure forever.
How were you chosen for that role?
I was nominated before the Youth Olympics along with other athletes competing at the Games. After spending a few days in the village and getting to know each other the athletes voted for who they wanted to be the Flag Bearer for the Opening Ceremony. It was so cool to be nominated by my fellow athletes.
What’s your next big competition?
I’ve got the European Championships coming up mid July in Latvia followed by the World Championships in Belgium at the end of July.
What is your ambition in BMX?
I want to go to an Olympic Games and win a gold medal. I also want to be an inspiration for the next generation of BMXers and be able to share my knowledge after my BMX career.
How should kids get started with BMX?
If you want to get into BMX, check the British Cycling website to see where your nearest track is or simply just google it. Most tracks rent bikes and equipment so you can try BMX!
Are there plenty of places to safely work on skills and jumps?
There are many safe ways to practice skills at a BMX track. Each track will have different types of jumps that need a different variety of skill sets. Slowly progressing is the best way, starting nice and slow and building the technique and speed up slowly.
What equipment will kids need to wear to do jumps/skills?
If you’re riding a bike you should ALWAYS wear a helmet for protection. Always wear gloves and long pants/tops with pads under preferably. As BMX can be a dangerous sport you want to minimise the chance of injury as small as possible so wearing lots of pads and protection is always good!
How can you get started with BMX?
Go to www.britishcycling.co.uk, click on ‘Dirt’ then ‘BMX’ and you will find lots of information on it. There’s also a ‘Youths and Juniors’ section that tells you all of the BMX events that are taking place across the country.
BMX not your thing?
Go to www.britishcycling.co.uk and there are lots of other options.
Never been on a bike before and don’t know where to start? There is a new Ready, Set Ride guide which takes you from Preparing to Ride, to Balance to Pedalling. There is also a Ready Set Ride app.
Know how to ride a bike but not sure how to take it further? Go to the Young people and Go-Ride section.
This programme now has over 350 under 18 cycling clubs in the UK signed up to it. You can find your nearest club with the club finder.
Own a mountain bike?
Don’t own a bike or can’t get your bike to a safe place to ride it? The National Trust has set up a family bike borrowing scheme. For £3 you can borrow bikes at loads of their National Trust properties and balance bikes are free. You can also borrow helmets, child seats and trailers. This is a great way to get your confidence up on a bike and to have fun cycling as a family as there’s tonnes of space and safe, car free cycling routes.
Want to ride your bike through your traffic free city?
Across the country, British Cycling has set up Free Cycling Festivals. For one day, certain cities will be car free for you to cycle safely through and enjoy the sites. There’s also food stalls and special events in each venue. If you go to ‘Let’s Ride’ on www.britishcycling.org.uk and click on Cycling Festival, each city’s page will tell you more and how you can register.
Some festivals have been and gone but you can sign up in the following cities:
Newcastle 7 July
Sheffield 14 July
Southampton 21 July
Liverpool 28 July
Glasgow 4 August
Leicester 25 August
Leeds 1 September
Coventry 8 September
Manchester 15 September
Edinburgh 22 September
Send us some photos of you and your friends and family getting involved in cycling to firstname.lastname@example.org
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