This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of 20″ and 22″ BMX bikes.
The Advantages of 20” BMX Bikes
- Agility + Maneuverability
20″ BMXs have smaller wheels which facilitate the execution of technical stunts. Hence why the vast majority of freestyle riders continue to rely on 20″ models.
In addition, 20″ models make it easier to get through tight spots which may be required at certain locations.
The smaller the wheel is, the easier it is to reach high RPM. As a result, 20″ bikes have greater acceleration. This property is highly beneficial when riding street because very often the spots are tight and do not provide a lot of room for pedaling before a trick.
- Stronger wheels
When all parameters (materials, quality, architecture…etc.) are equal, a smaller wheel will be stronger than a bigger one.
In practice, however, the strength difference between high-end 20″ and 22″ wheels is undetectable. If a certain fall or trick can damage a good 22″ wheel, it will do the same to a 20″ one.
Thus, this property matters only if you absolutely need to have the strongest wheels possible.
All things being equal, 20″ wheels require less rim and tire material and can therefore be ever so slightly lighter. That said, lightness is not terribly important in the world of BMX.
The Disadvantages of 20” BMX
Wheel size has a direct influence on a bike’s speed. If two bicycles have identical gearing, then the bike with the bigger wheels is faster. Here’s how that works.
Imagine two bikes (20″ and 22″) with a 25-teeth chainring and a 13-teeth rear cog. The gear ratio would be 25:13= 1.9:1
This means that each full spin of the front chainring will trigger 1.9 rotations of the rear cog and consequently the rear wheel.
However, the 22″ bike will move further because the wheels have a greater circumference. Of course, this will happen only when in both cases, the rider is spinning the pedals at the same RPM (rotations of the cranks per minute).
If the 20″ bike is pedaled at a notably greater RPM, it will move further than the 22″ model.
- Less Stable
The smaller size of 20″ bikes makes them slightly less stable.
The Advantages of 22″ BMXs
The larger 22″ wheels have a higher speed potential and continue to roll for longer once up to speed thanks to the larger circumference and extra weight.
Another quality that contributes to extra speed is the ability of the wheels to roll over obstacles. The bigger the wheel is, the easier it is to overcome road irregularities. Consequently, 22″ wheels can provide more speed when rolling on less-than-ideal terrain.
- More comfortable
22″ wheels have a greater cushioning/suspension effect and thus provide a smoother and more pleasant ride.
Additionally, the frames and forks of 22″ BMXs have to be longer to accommodate the larger wheels. For that reason, many tall riders prefer to ride 22″ frames.
This isn’t the case for everybody, however. Plenty of men over 6′ continue to exploit standard 20″ BMXs.
- More stable
22″ BMX bikes have a longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axle). The longer the wheelbase is, the more stable the bike becomes. Of course, the larger wheels increase the bike’s stability too.
The Disadvantages of 22″ BMXs
- Fewer models
20″ BMX models are a classic and enjoy a greater market share than 22″. Thus, if you want to have the highest number of choices, 20″ models are the way to go.
22″ BMX bikes are bigger and thus more difficult to maneuver and throw around. For that reason, they are rarely chosen by children and smaller adults.
In addition, the extra size makes the execution of extremely technical tricks more difficult, albeit not impossible.
When To Choose 20″
20″ BMXs are a logical choice when:
- The rider is shorter and doesn’t need the extra frame length.
- The rider wants a BMX that will make the execution of technical stunts as easy as possible.
- The rider wants to have more choices when it comes to frames and wheels.
When To Choose 22″
22″ models are a good choice when:
- The rider is tall and feels compressed on a 20″ BMX.
- The rider wants a BMX that feels as close as possible to a 20″ model while being faster and more comfortable to ride.
- The rider wants to cover some off-road terrain with less effort.