Let’s face it, anything seen as ‘trendy’ can be scary to become involved with for a bike shop. Snap Distribution co-owner Rich Moore discusses the Olympics, why cheap bikes turn potential riders away from cycling and why the rider-owned business is the future…
BMX has been growing pretty consistently over the past five years or more, with the industry built on stronger foundations than it has ever been in the past. Skateparks and plazas have sprung up in every corner of the UK. It wasn’t long ago that a new skatepark opening was big news in the BMX media, whereas now it goes virtually unnoticed.
The industry is underpinned by several solid rider-owned distributors who care about BMX and put back in to the sport by sponsoring riders and events. This drives the long-term growth in BMX and ensures there are always new riders coming through who have people to look up to.
The way the majority of BMXers start is with a complete bike that they either buy themselves or, if they’re young, their parents buy for them. There are some excellent entry and mid-level bikes on the market for riders starting out in BMX, but the challenge is to get them started on one of these rather than a pseudo-BMX from the local non-specialist or supermarket. It’s all too common for someone to be talked in to buying something that doesn’t do the job and gets them laughed out of the skatepark on their first visit. This can put them off BMX for life so it’s essential that first-time buyers are pointed in the right direction by a knowledgeable BMX-focused shop.
Experience shows that once riders are into BMX, they stay in for a long time – immersed in the culture and investing in after-market parts, shoes and clothing. A typical custom bike costs £800 to £1,500 and is often built up over time as parts on a complete bike are upgraded until the point it’s unrecognisable – another reason a good complete should be fully upgradeable from the start, rather than sporting some of the 1-inch quill stems from the 1980s and oversized seat posts common in Argos and Tesco, et al.
Good dealers will stock a decent range of completes from recognised brands across a range of price points and, preferably, parts that riders can upgrade to later. Rider-owned brands that invest back into BMX tend to sell best with leading UK rider-owned brands doing particularly well.
When we refer to BMX we mean ‘freestyle’ which encompasses park, dirt and street riding. What this doesn’t include is racing – the focus of BMX in this summer’s Olympics. Racing is so different to BMX that most shops don’t go near it. This is understandable as the parts are completely different and riders tend to be much more fickle about sizing and weight. Racing is also tiny, but is growing rapidly (albeit from a small base) so shops with a big local race scene are embracing it and doing good business.
We’ll wait and see if the Olympics have a big effect this summer – though I can’t remember participation in Javelin or tug of war increasing massively in the past. Having said that, BMX also has a big part in the Opening Ceremony with auditions recently being held to recruit scores of freestyle riders to backflip in front of a TV audience of billions – no pressure! BMX has come a long way in the last ten years, and long may it continue.