At first glance, it could be easy to assume that mountain bikes and BMX bikes are one and the same as they’re both good at going where normal road bikes can’t.
Any who’s ridden one before would know this not to be true though, but there are important ways that a BMX differs from a traditional mountain bike.
So, is a mountain bike or BMX better? This all depends on the rider, their goals, and where and how they like to ride.
A mountain bike is good for climbing, absorbing shock, and riding on different terrains, whereas a BMX is good for taking a thrashing over a short period, riding on smooth surfaces, taking jumps, and going through lightning-fast speed changes.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a new ride and can’t decide between a BMX or mountain bike, wonder no more, as we’re here to help.
We’ve done up a detailed comparison of the two popular bike styles so you can see where a BMX falls short and comes up better than the beloved mountain bike.
What is a BMX?
A BMX is a type of off-road bicycle that is used for racing and performing tricks.
These types of bikes became popular in the 1970s when children used to create their own tracks to ride on, with varying layouts and jumps, usually made of dirt and other materials.
Today, BMX bikes are still ridden around a specific track that features hard, flat surfaces with a series of jumps to maneuver, but there are many variations of tracks that you can enjoy.
Some of the most popular ways to ride a BMX are in the street, flatland, dirt, park, and vert disciplines, each requiring something different from the bike’s performance.
The materials used to make these bikes range from the more affordable steel frames to the expensive Chromoly and high tensile steep options.
The gears can also vary including the traditional 44/16 gearing or new variations like 36/13 and 33/12, depending again on what the rider is after.
Pros and Cons of BMX Bikes
When you’re thinking of trying something new and retiring your mountain bike for a while, you want to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
To help you decide if a BMX is the path to take, check out the pros and cons that these types of bikes offer.
- Lightweight: A BMX frame and wheels are noticeably smaller than a mountain bike and this makes them easier to carry by hand, and transport wherever you want to ride. An average BMX weighs around 25lbs but can weigh as little as 20lbs for a competition-spec bike.
- Easy to maneuver: If you want a bike that you can throw around and move into all different shapes and angles, a BMX is the way to go. These bikes were made to do all manner of tricks so they can be distorted to just about any position you want, and it’s made easy with their unique layout that keeps things like brake cables out of the way.
- Fast speed changes: If want a bike with lightning-fast reflexes, consider getting a BMX. They have fewer gears to change into but when you need to them switch, they can do it with ease. There’s no waiting around and your bike will jump into action as fast as your mind does.
- Cheaper: A standard BMX bike costs around $300 which is far less than a mountain bike of the same quality. There are ways you can upgrade your bike, with premium models costing thousands but you don’t have to spend a lot to get your hands on a brand new one that’s well made and easy to ride.
- Less maintenance: Because there are few parts in a BMX bike and it’s a more compact ride, you’ll spend less time and money on maintenance and repairs. This is a huge bonus for people who want a low-fuss bike and can’t be bothered fiddling with suspension components and other parts.
- Good on hard surfaces: A BMX works great on hard surfaces so you’re able to take it to plenty of places. With a quality bike, you can head to the local skate park, a dedicated dirt BMX track, or even make some jumps in your own backyard to enjoy. This versatility means practicing can be done in loads of places, as long as you’re sticking to strictly BMX moves.
- Minimal suspension: Many BMX bikes aren’t built with any shock absorption features at all, so you’ll feel almost everything that your bike does. While this helps with doing jumps and fancy tricks, it’s no good if you’re trying to ride on a standard bike track or even the road and it’ll be painful, to say the least.
- Uncomfortable: These bikes weren’t designed for long-distance use nor can they handle bumpy terrain, so don’t expect them to feel luxurious. When you sit on a BMX and compare it to almost any other type of bike, you’ll notice right away what we mean. You won’t be able to ride it anywhere other than a BMX track because it’s not very forgiving.
- Can’t do long-distance: If you look at any standard BMX track you’ll see it’s pretty short, and some of them don’t have any distance to them at all, but rather a series of jumps and slopes to do tricks from. This isn’t the best bike if you want to go for a long ride or take it off the track, so upgrading to something that’s suited to farther distances is our recommendation.
- Won’t ride up hills: Unlike your friendly mountain bike which is adept at riding up just about any angle of incline, a BMX isn’t so good. You’ll be able to get up a mound or ramp designed for doing a trick but it won’t be able to keep this up for very long. If you plan on tackling tracks with hills or riding around the neighborhood and you have any sort of incline to tackle, a BMX isn’t going to work.
- Somewhat limiting: A BMX should only be purchased if you plan on doing BMX riding. It can do tricks and jumps well but its skills aren’t transferable to any other type of riding. If you want a more versatile bike and aren’t necessarily into doing tricks, choosing something like a road bike or mountain bike is better suited.
How Do They Compare to Mountain Bikes?
There are more differences than similarities when it comes to a mountain bike vs BMX, which might come as a surprise.
If you’re still juggling up between the two, the easiest way to decide is by looking at how they stack up against each other and see how different a BMX is really is.
The frame of these bikes is what sets them apart most noticeably. The frame helps determine what their best use is and so a BMX frame is tougher, whereas an MTB frame is flexible.
BMX bikes go through a lot with the jumps and ramps they ride on, and the frames are small to cater to this. MTB frames are made to absorb shock and ride on tough terrain, and for the best performance, they should suit the size of the rider.
A BMX bike is made to do fancy tricks that include moving around the handlebars, so you can’t have a traditional brake cable in the way.
On these bikes, the brake cable is usually on the rear wheel which squeezes the tire and slows the bike down.
An MTB must be equipped to stop easily during a decline down a hill, so they usually have disc brakes that are more powerful for this purpose.
BMX bikes go through many harsh jumps and tricks, so their tires have to be durable and reinforced to handle this.
They’re usually smaller in size around 20 or 24 inches to suit the size of the bike as well Mountain bikes have larger wheels that range between 26 and 29 inches, depending on the rider’s height.
These larger wheels help on the trail and its rough conditions as do the grooves on them that give you a better grip.
If you were to ride one of these bikes after another on a smooth surface, you’d note how the MTB is a lot smoother. This is thanks to the suspension and build of the bike that makes it better suited to tough terrain.
A BMX has no shock absorption and it’s noticeable when you’re riding it, but this means it’s perfect for the
When a BMX Is Better
With all of the facts about pros, cons, similarities, and differences, you still might be unsure about which way to go.
While there’s no harm in having both types of bikes at your disposal if you can afford it, you might only be able to choose one.
A BMX will be best if this is the type of riding you’re into and if you want to stick to dirt jumps and skate parks.
You won’t want a BMX if you plan on going for long rides on winding tracks and doing lots of climbing, as it won’t be comfortable or efficient enough for this type of use.
A mountain bike is the way to go if you’re interested in riding the trails, taking steep climbs, and maneuvering your way down.
These bikes are built with responsive suspension which means a more comfortable ride, but they won’t do as well if you want to practice jumps at the local skate park or ride on the cement.
For everyone else, you might be better suited to a versatile type of bike that can handle some minor rough terrain and also flat surfaces.
You won’t be able to take it on a BMX track to do jumps or go mountain biking, but if you don’t have these specific needs for a ride then you can save a lot of money by choosing something simple.
The Right Bike For You
When you’re looking for a change from your beloved mountain bike and think the BMX has what you’re after, there’s no harm in giving it a go.
For those lucky enough to own two bikes, training in both types of riding can give you useful skills you can apply to both, so consider adding a BMX to your lineup if you’re able to.
BMX and mountain bikes are two of the most popular types of rides for people who prefer to do things with a sense of adventure.
If you’re still unsure which bike is best for you, we’ve answered some more questions that can make the distinction clearer, so read on to see get a push in the right direction.
Can You Ride a BMX Like a Normal Bike?
BMX bikes aren’t designed to be used like a road bike and they won’t be as comfortable when riding for long periods.
If you plan on commuting to work or riding longer distances, you’re better off using a road bike as they’re built for these types of paved surfaces and have more comfortable features.
Is a BMX Or A Mountain Bike Faster?
Neither BMX nor mountain bikes were made to ride on paved roads, so testing speed can be challenging.
However, because a mountain bike has higher gears it’s generally capable of going faster in the right settings than a BMX, which was designed for short sprints around a designated BMX track.