Condensed Answer: A BMX can be effectively used as a learning bike. Since BMX bikes are fairly small, they’re a decent option for children and shorter adults. That said, BMX bikes have some downsides that could complicate the learning process.
The Advantages of Learning How To Ride a Bike on a BMX
BMX bikes originated as bicycles used by children to imitate motocross riders on the dirt track. Consequently, the tires are small (20″) and so are the frames.
Those characteristics make BMX bikes a good choice for children and shorter adults to train on. Of course, if the kid is quite young (e.g., 5 years old), they can’t ride a standard BMX and will need a smaller version or a different bike.
Full-size bikes could appear scary to an individual who can’t ride a bike. The small wheels and compact form of BMX bikes make them less intimidating than standard road bikes and MTBs that use 28″ and 29″ wheels.
BMX bikes are designed for tricks and made of strong Chromoly steel. A quality unit could take a lot of abuse without complaining too much. Thus, the bike will not break if it falls or is thrown during the learning process.
It’s also worth mentioning that BMX bikes are very basic and come without derailleurs that could easily be bent when the bike falls sideways.
BMX bikes are fairly simple and have a single speed. Consequently, the rider doesn’t have to think about shifting gears. This is good when learning because keeping balance is hard enough already.
Having to play with shifters and worry about derailleurs makes the learning process unnecessarily complicated for a beginner.
BMX bikes are designed to make the lifting of the front wheel easier. This is achieved via a specific frame geometry (short chainstays…etc.) and tall handlebars. As a result, the back angle of the rider is more vertical to the ground.
This is beneficial when learning how to ride a bike because the position is easy to assume, does not require a lot of flexibility and allows the rider to monitor the surroundings with ease.
The Downsides of Using a BMX To Learn How To Ride a Bike
- Low Seat
BMX bikes are designed for stunts and thus have a short seat post which will not allow most adults to pedal comfortably while seating on the saddle.
This is a problem because it’s much easier to learn how to ride a bike when you can pedal from a seated position.
There are two main reasons for that. First, the nose of the saddle makes it easier to keep balance. If the seat is too low, however, the contact between the thighs and the saddle isn’t optimal.
Second, pedaling seated when the seat is super low makes it impossible to fully extend the knee joint. As a result, the pedal stroke becomes “non-refined” and hits the rider’s balance even more.
One way to circumvent this issue would be to get an extra long seat post that will elevate the seat sufficiently. If you’re on the taller side, however, you may be unable to find a seat post of sufficient length.
- Poor Commuter Bikes
One of the strongest motivations to learn how to ride a bike is to use it as a commuter in the future.
BMX bikes are just fine for going to the shop next door, but if you need a fully capable commuter that offers speed, convenience and comfort, a BMX is not the right choice.
Therefore, if you don’t have a bike right now and want to go to work by pedaling, it’s highly recommended to stay away from BMXs. This applies mostly to adults and taller youngsters. A BMX would make a fine commuter for a kid that doesn’t have to cover a long distance.
- No Brakes
BMX bikes designed for stunts come with a rear brake or no brakes at all. This is done to allow easier execution of tricks such as bar spins.
Learning how to ride a bicycle without brakes is not recommended. The absence of brakes increases the chance of an accident and reduces the rider’s confidence.
Also, the rear brake is not as effective as the front one because the rear wheel loses traction while braking. Hence why most braking happens at the front. That said, a rear brake will be sufficient if the rider limits their riding to flat locations with little obstacles (e.g., deserted parking lots).
- Twitchier Handling at Slow Speeds
Smaller wheels turn more easily than larger ones due to the smaller mass and contact patch. As a result, bikes with smaller wheels tend to have twitchier handling at slow speeds.
Summary: What You Need To Know
A BMX can be an ideal bicycle for beginners because:
- It’s a simple single-speed bike with as few elements as possible.
- It has an upright geometry that provides maximum vision without stressing the rider’s back.
- Its small tires and compact frame make it less intimidating than larger bikes.
- It’s robust and can take a lot of falls.
That said, there are some downsides to this method, namely:
- BMX bikes are small and will not allow adults and taller children to pedal in a seated position with sufficient knee extension. An extra long seat post could fix this issue.
- Purchasing a BMX to learn how to ride a bike with no intention to actually use the bike as intended makes little sense. A standard commuter that fits you is a more logical choice.
- A BMX bike may have no brakes or only a rear one. In the first case, the unit is not viable for beginners.