The Sport

Start The Track The Bike The Gear

the sport

The Gates

EIGHT!  Remember that number because this crash course on how to get started in the sport of BMX racing is as easy as the 8 lanes on a BMX starting gate.


FIND A TRACK near you and look up their hours of operation … … … … Okay, as you probably saw, your local track is open certain days and times for practice and others for both practice and racing. Because the USA BMX season runs January 1st thru December 15th, and because BMX racing is an individual sport, there’s no better time to start riding and racing than right now. You don’t need to call or sign up before you go to the track. In fact all you need to get started is your bike, long pants and a long sleeve shirt, and any approved bicycle helmet. Whatever you’re riding now will do fine but be sure to check out THE BIKE and THE GEAR to see just how cool and advanced BMX race bikes, components and gear have become.

Gate 2: SIGN-UPS

Sign-Ups. It’s what we BMX racers call that 1-3 hour window before the start of racing when you can practice and, as the words describe, sign up to race! Your local Track Operator will happily walk you through the process to BECOME A MEMBER. USA BMX memberships are required annually but if you’re still unsure and just want to give BMX a try, USA BMX offers a free ONE-DAY TRIAL MEMBERSHIP so all you’ll need your first day out is the track’s daily practice and/or race fee and a parent’s signature if you are a minor.


USA BMX uses 4 criteria to determine a racer’s classification for competition—age, gender, proficiency and wheel size. As BMX racing is a sport for kids of all ages, even big kids with kids of their own, you will be matched against riders your own age and proficiency or skill level whenever possible. *

Everyone—boys and girls—begins in the NOVICE class. In other words—beginners. Upon winning 8 races, Novice boys move into the INTERMEDIATE class, while Novice girls move into the GIRL class. But while Girl is the highest proficiency level in the sport for amateur girls, Intermediate boys—after 25 more wins—move into the EXPERT class; the highest proficiency level in the sport for amateur boys.

Finally, there are two bike categories, based on wheel size/diameter—20” wheel BMX bikes called class bikes, and 24” wheel BMX bikes called cruiser bikes. The 20” bikes are the required size for all Novice, Intermediate, Girl and Expert competition, while the 24” bikes are the required size for all Cruiser competition. But while the cruiser classes, like the 20” classes, are age and gender based, they are not divided into the novice, intermediate or expert proficiency levels.

*At any given USA BMX race, if there are not enough entrants to form a legal class, racers may be matched against racers of different ages and proficiency levels as per USA BMX race rules.

5 & Under Novice
6 Novice
7 Novice
8 Novice
9 Novice
10 Novice
11 Novice
12 Novice
13 Novice
14 Novice
15 Novice
16 Novice
17-18 Novice
19-27 Novice
28 & Over Novice

5 & Under Intermediate
6 Intermediate
7 Intermediate
8 Intermediate
9 Intermediate
10 Intermediate
11 Intermediate
12 Intermediate
13 Intermediate
14 Intermediate
15 Intermediate
16 Intermediate
17-18 Intermediate
19-27 Intermediate
28 & Over Intermediate

5 & Under Expert
6 Expert
7 Expert
8 Expert
9 Expert
10 Expert
11 Expert
12 Expert
13 Expert
14 Expert
15 Expert
16 Expert
17-18 Expert
19-27 Expert
28 & Over Expert

5 & Under Girls
6 Girls
7 Girls
8 Girls
9 Girls
10 Girls
11 Girls
12 Girls
13 Girls
14 Girls
15 Girls
16 Girls
17 & Over Girls
9 & Under Cruiser
10 Cruiser
11 Cruiser
12 Cruiser
13 Cruiser
14 Cruiser
15 Cruiser
16 Cruiser
17-20 Cruiser
21-25 Cruiser
26-30 Cruiser
31-35 Cruiser
36-40 Cruiser
41-45 Cruiser
46-50 Cruiser
51 & Over Cruiser
10 & Under Girl Cruiser
11-13 Girl Cruiser
14-16 Girl Cruiser
17-20 Girl Cruiser
21-25 Girl Cruiser
26-30 Girl Cruiser
31-35 Girl Cruiser
36-40 Girl Cruiser
41 & Over Girl Cruiser
AA Pro
A Pro
Vet Pro
Pro Cruiser
Girl Pro


Once every racer in attendance has been entered into the day’s event, your Track Operator will print and post MOTO-SHEETS. These sheets list the order/number of races or “motos”, riders competing in each moto, assigned bike numbers and USA BMX serial numbers, as well as starting gate numbers for each of the three qualifying rounds and—if less than 8 riders are in your race—the Main Event. “Making it to the main” is what qualifying is all about as the Main is the final and only race of the day that counts towards your finish, awards and ranking.

Remember, for the most part you will be racing others that are your same age and proficiency. Races are run (almost always) first by age group, then by class—youngest to oldest—starting with the Girls, followed by the Novice, Intermediate and Expert classes for each competing age group. For example, the 8 Girls class or moto would be followed by the 8 Novice moto (boys and girls), which would be followed by the 8 Intermediate moto. If there is no 8 Expert class, the 9 Girls moto would follow and so on. Each moto runs 3 qualifying rounds in order to qualify or “transfer” riders to the Main Event.

Riders transfer to their respective Main Event by winning a qualifying round or finishing the round in a qualifying position which is determined by the overall number of riders in each class and, again, indicated on the moto sheets. A race with 3 riders is the smallest legal class and is called a “points race”. Points races run 2 qualifying rounds and the Main Event with the overall results determined by adding the value of each rider’s finish—1, 2 or 3—from each of the 2 qualifying rounds and the Main. The lower your cumulative score in a points race, the higher you place.

If 4-8 riders are in your race, all but one will qualify to the Main Event. If there are more than 8 riders in a particular class, then only 8 will qualify to the Main Event as the gate has lanes for only… 8! If you are not in a points race and don’t qualify first round, don’t worry—head right back up to the start hill as you still have 2 more rounds to try to make the Main Event.


So, now you’ve found a track, come prepared with your bike and bike helmet, become a USA BMX member and signed-up to race, hopefully taken some practice laps, and read the moto sheets to determine your moto number as well as your gate numbers/lane assignments. And you know how many riders will transfer from each of your qualifying rounds.

Let’s stage ‘em up!

Staging is that area comprising the back of the start hill, the starter’s booth or tower, the starting pad, and the start gate itself. A track official or “stager” will be on hand to help remind you of your lane assignment and guide you into a staging “chute” and then onto the gate when it is your moto’s turn to race. Each of the gates or lanes should be clearly numbered 1–8, with Gate 1 always on the inside lane and Gate 8 always on the outside lane of each track. For tracks with a right-hand first turn, Gate 1 is farthest right. For tracks with a left-hand first turn, Gate 1 is farthest left. The starting gate is hydraulically powered and is synced with both the starter’s vocal CADENCE and 4 starting lights that will flash red, yellow, yellow, green to signal the dropping of the gate. That’s when you go!


“Riders ready? Watch the lights.”
That is the cadence you’ll probably hear from the starter as the gate is about to fall in front of you for the very first time. But before you go all out, first take a moment to scope out the track. Watch a few laps of practice and memorize how some of the good riders are going around. Take mental notes of where they ride in the turns and where they pedal and where they stop pedaling. Keep in mind that, in the beginning, you probably wont be able to jump like they do; that will come in time.
Your first few laps around the track should be slow. Take it easy. By all means, don’t go all-out on your first lap! Take time to familiarize yourself with the course so that you know what jumps are coming up and what it feels like to go over them. It will be totally different once you take the track at faster speeds. As you’ll soon find out, a good start can be the difference between first and eighth, so we’d suggest working on your gates as much as possible. And remember that all-so-true saying, “Practice makes perfect.” So… practice, practice, practice.

Another smart idea for any BMX rider is to take advantage of the many BMX clinics and camps that are available. In addition to the clinics and programs at your local track there are teams and pros that travel from track to track, teaching riders just like you everything they need to know in order to get better at BMX racing. During the summer, there are even BMX race camps that you can attend.


Make your Main Event at any USA BMX race event and finish on the podium—usually top 3—and you’ll win more than a sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished; you’ll win an award in the form of a trophy, prize or USA BMX Saver Stamps. And you’ll also earn something more—points.

In BMX racing, the ultimate achievement isn’t the bike you ride or the uniform you wear, it’s to ride the #1 plate—#1 in your district, your state, your region, your national age group (NAG), or even #1 in the nation! As you can surely imagine, it’s an incredibly tough climb to the top, one that only a handful of BMX racers will eventually make. But for those that do, they began their journey like everyone else—running their USA BMX assigned number. So how do you earn your next plate number? Points. Points that—depending on the level of USA BMX race you’re attending—will go towards your district, state, regional or national year-end rankings and determine your “earned number” for the next USA BMX season!


Every track in your state/province will hold a State/Provincial Race. To become State/Provincial Champion, USA BMX counts your best scores from the SCR’s (or PCR’s). Do well at the State/Provincial Finals, and you could call yourself Champ!

First, you must qualify for the Race of Champions (ROC) by competing in the State/Provincial Championship Series. Then, you must win the ROC (the Friday pre-race at the Grands) to earn this coveted #1 title.

To get this #1 plate, you must first qualify at a Redline Cup Qualifier. Then you’ve got to attend your designated Redline Cup Finals (East, Central or West) and win the Main Event.

The sixth step in the “Stairway to Success” is to earn a low District Number. Becoming “District #1” in your area is a major accomplishment.

If you’re not able to get National #1 Amateur, you might still be able to nab #1 out of all the kids your same age, in the entire nation. NAG plates are awarded to the top 10 riders in each class.

This is the highest ranking in USA BMX, awarded to only eight riders each year.