Today we're at Virginia Key park to answer a question—one we kind of already know the answer to; Can you ride a BMX bike on mountain bike trails?
I mean, you probably could. They’re great for jumping over stuff and nearly indestructible. But then again, you could probably go hiking in tap dancing shoes.
BMX bikes come in many shapes and sizes, but at your local skatepark you’d find something like this. The tires are high pressure, the seat is super low, and the brakes are...well there are none. We’re also missing the pegs but I don’t think that's a factor here.
For our test course I chose a loop at Virginia Key Park called Purple Haze. All of the trails here are named after rock songs, and just like the song, Purple Haze takes only about 3 minutes. You’ll see why that’s important. I also like this loop because it has a little bit of everything, from loose sand, to roots, to chunky rocks and wooden obstacles. There are also some well packed berms which I’m sure the BMX will work great on. There are no prolonged climbs or descents, nor would I want there to be. BMX gearing is made for short sprints, to set up for gaps and jumps.
As you can see, my mountain bike makes quick work of all these features. Pedaling through the sand and dirt is effortless on big cushy tires. On bigger bumps and drops, the suspension helps keep the bike grounded. Even if I get going too fast, hydraulic disc brakes are at my fingertips. The experience on a mountain bike is fun, comfortable, and fast.
But we didn’t come here to use the right tool for the job, this is Seth’s Bike Hacks you’re watching. Time to take the 20 inch for a spin, balls out no brakes.
Right off the bat, I could feel the bike bouncing and shifting around on the pebbles and sand, but on the berms and wooden features it was a blast. The BMX was so snappy and nimble that it outperformed the mountain bike that was following me. That ended really fast when I hit this little section of mushy dirty. Sand, gravel, and rough terrain is crippling on a BMX. On inclines, I was able to pedal hard and use my momentum, but there's no way I could have done any real climbing on this bike.
I was very surprised at how well the BMX handled the rock garden, but then again it was down a small hill. If it were level or uphill I wouldn’t have had the gearing or clearance for pedaling. For the roughest of features, momentum is the only way to get through on a BMX.
As I worked my way through the trail, I became totally exhausted. In places where a mountain bike would just coast through, I was pedaling with all my might. On a BMX you’re always out of the saddle mashing as hard as you can.
Bombing this little twisty section was scary. I just barely made it around this turn without tumbling into the bushes. After one more chattery section I was nearing the end of the loop. The BMX had made it through the course. But believe me when I say you can’t do this for very long.
After catching my breath, I thought it would be a good idea to take another lap. Filled with confidence, I was going faster than I did the first time around. That could have been much worse.
I made it through this twisty section the first time, but on round two my luck changed. Even if the bike had brakes, I’m not sure how well the tires would have gripped the surface while stopping. No matter how you slice it, washing out or losing control is a really big possibility on a BMX. I’ll be feeling that one for about a week.
The whole reason I did this test is that people actually do ask about this. If all you have is a BMX and you’re curious about mountain biking, you might want to wait until you can do it on a mountain bike. Either that, or find some dirt trails that are made with BMX in mind. Mountain biking on a BMX has a really bad fun to danger ratio, so I just can’t recommend it. Thanks for riding with me today and I’ll see you next time.