Freestyle BMX and the art of spiraling out

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Updated on 16/05/2024
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Swimming pools, bunny hops and Steven Spielberg: welcome to the world of BMX! In our "24 Sports Chrono" series, we tell you everything you need to know about Olympic and Paralympic Games disciplines. On your marks, get set! Go!

2 minutes to shine

Let's be clear: BMX bikes have very little in common with the bikes you see on Parisian bike paths. How so? They're smaller, the saddle is almost useless and the handlebars can swivel 360°. Not exactly ideal for cycling along the quays from Parc de Bercy to Place de la Concorde (although entirely possible).
Speaking of Place de la Concorde, it's where the Olympic event will held this year. A temporary BMX park is to be installed there, complete with urban furniture.
Under the eyes of a panel of judges, riders have two 60-second attempts to perform impressive tricks using various obstacles (ramps, walls, bowls, half-pipes, etc.). They are graded on complexity and quality of execution of tricks.
Skills required to be a Freestyle BMX champion: rigor, arm strength, bike control, precision of execution and a bit of bravery.
Liking the 24 Sports Chrono series?
The "24 Sports Chrono" is a weekly feature published during the lead up to the Games. Missed the previous episode? Catch up here with wrestling.

Two wheels and a dream

Who said bikes weren't supposed to fly? Not BMX Freestyle riders, that's for sure. With their ever crazier tricks, bikers have been competing in ingenuity to defy the laws of gravity for decades.
BMX Freestyle first appeared in California in the 1980's as a derivative of BMX Racing, which was first invented in the 1960s (also in California). At the time, all young motocross fans wanted to do was replicate their heros in their backyard… but on bikes, not motorcycles.
The freestyle version of BMX was born when kids took their bikes to skate-parks or dried up swimming pools. Little did they know they'd just invented a future Olympic sport.
What does BMX actually stand for?
BMX stands for "Bicycle Motocross". But where does the "X" fit in? Well the letter "X" can also be pronounced "cross".

Who's representing France?

Although qualification hasn't been decided yet, there's a good chance of seeing Anthony Jeanjean (reigning French champion and triple European champion) on the men's team and Laury Perez (reigning French champion and bronze medalist at the 2023 European championships) on the women's team.
Cyclist in action on an inclined wooden track in Concorde Park.
When and where?
The men's and women's events will take place from July 30th to 31th, 2024 on the Concorde site (8th arrondissement).

Do you speak BMX ?

How do you do fellow kids? To get to grips with BMX jargon, it's best to have a good command of English. Here are a few words you need to know:
Pegs: these metal tubes stick out from each wheel, on both sides and allow the bike to glide along a ramp or ledge. They also give extra trick opportunities to riders.
Rotor: a rotor allows the rider to swivel the bike's handlebars 360°. The mechanism is actually quite complex and is only found only on BMX bikes, so don't try it on your Vélib'.
Bunny hop: a basic trick that simply means lift the bike up in the air, like a hop.
Front/back flip: asomersault performed on the bike.
Wheelie: riding on only one wheel while cycling.

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What about BMX Racing?
Freestyle is not the only BMX event at the Paris Games. BMX Racing competitions will take place on August 1st and 2nd at the BMX stadium in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Yvelines).

Why take up BMX?

Because athletes are always on the move (the saddle is only used to have a break). It's perfect for building up your calf muscles.
BMX biking is also strongly linked to pop-culture having been made world-famous by Steve, Spielberg's E.T. in 1982. In fact, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the blockbuster, the bike manufacturer Kuwahara, decided to reissue the famous bike.
BMX is also quite spectacular, as demonstrated here by Charlotte Worthington's performance (Great Britain) at the Tokyo 2021 Games:

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Where can I practice BMX in Paris?

You're in luck, Paris has plenty of spots dedicated to BMX and skateboarding. Here's a small selection.
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