There are 133 clubs across Australia and more than 15,000 registered riders ranging in age from four to 60-plus. So what makes Bicycle Motocross such a popular weekend pursuit? We asked the sport’s national chairman and BMX tragic Neil Cameron to fill us in on the thrills and spills of a sport that first hit the national consciousness back in the 1980s.
Let’s get technical first, what is BMX?
Well it’s a 400 metre sprint across obstacles. There are eight riders on a gate, the gate drops, they race their way around the track and the first one across the line wins. So it’s a very short sharp race. It takes an eight-year-old kid maybe 50 seconds to do that lap and a 25-year-old pro about 28 seconds.
Just enough time to catch your breath...
The tracks are purpose built and consist of a start hill, a finish line and in between a whole bunch of obstacles and generally three turns – so it's an m-shaped track. BMX is generally raced on a 20 inch bike. Any BMX bike will do. They’re stripped down to have no accessories and when kids get serious about the sport then they buy specialized BMX race bikes which are just lighter and faster than the stock push bike.
Is it something that attracts families?
Absolutely, because what will often happen is that the young boy of the family will want to have a go, then the younger sister decides she’d like to join in, then dad think he’ll become a superhero and have a go and show the kids how it's done.
Are you a rider?
I have pretended to ride but wouldn’t call myself a rider. My three children have ridden most of their lives. My eldest boy started when he was seven, he’s now 31 and is still racing. My second boy’s 28 and still racing and my daughter raced until she was 16.
So, who is your BMX hero?
The number one hero around the place would be Luke Madill, he’s based in Sydney and is now our national coach. He looks after the riders, coach development – everything to do with coaching in this country. Luke’s an Olympian and has won just about everything there is to win. He’s retired from racing now but is still coaching in his late 30s. He’s probably the most respected rider the sport’s had.
What’s the best thing about BMX?
I’d have to say it’s the family oriented side of it. The other side that we find really good is that it’s an individual sport and it teaches kids how to win and lose. It can be a school of hard knocks – you can be going really well all day and then fall off in your last race. So it teaches kids the humility of how to handle life’s tougher little lessons that they’re going to have to learn.
How good (or bad) was BMX Bandits?
Well I wasn’t a BMX Bandit is those days but I know plenty of guys who were, in fact some of them were in that movie. We need more of it. BMX Bandits, Rad – which was another movie of the day back in the 80s – certainly raised the profile of the sport. We’re happy to be called BMX Bandits.