Are BMX Bikes Easy To Pedal? All You Need To Know

Are BMX Bikes Easy To Pedal? All You Need To Know

If you’ve ever tried riding a BMX bike, you may have noticed how difficult it can be to pedal compared to other bike styles.

As an avid BMX rider myself, I definitely struggled at first with the intense pedaling required on my BMX bike.

But what exactly makes BMX bikes more challenging to pedal than mountain bikes, road bikes, and other cycling options?

In this article, I’ll dig into the key factors that can make pedaling BMX bikes feel like a serious leg workout.

We’ll look at everything from small wheel size to improper bike fit.

I’ll also share some tips on adjusting your BMX gearing and improving pedaling technique to help overcome the difficulty.

Read on to learn why BMX bikes require more pedaling effort and how you can smooth out your ride!

Are BMX Bikes Easy to Pedal?

If you’re wondering “are BMX bikes easy to pedal?“, the short answer is generally no.

While they are tons of fun for tricks, stunts, and off-road riding, BMX bikes are not designed for pedaling efficiency.

The aggressive geometry, small wheels, and gearing choices all contribute to making BMX bikes more challenging to pedal than other cycling styles.

I still vividly remember my first BMX bike ride after years of riding mountain bikes.

I immediately noticed how much quicker my legs fatigued trying to pedal around the skatepark.

Every little incline felt like climbing a mountain!

But there are good reasons behind the increased pedaling difficulty on a BMX.

First, the 20” wheel size requires your legs to spin the pedals much faster to go the same speed as a bike with larger 26” or 29” wheels.

More pedal revolutions mean your legs tire quicker.

The small but thick wheels are great for absorbing impacts on jumps and drops, but not so great for momentum and speed.

Additionally, BMX bikes are designed for short bursts of extreme pedaling, like powering out of the starting gate or gaining speed for a trick.

So they typically have aggressive gear ratios favoring acceleration over cruising speed.

Expect a tough workout pedaling a BMX bike any distance!

Why Is My BMX Bike so Hard to Pedal?

Once you’ve experienced how laborious pedaling a BMX bike can feel, you probably asked yourself “why is my BMX bike so hard to pedal?“.

There are a few key reasons behind their pedaling difficulty:

  • Small Wheel Size – The 20 inch wheels require more pedal reps, wearing you out faster.
  • Gearing – Low gear ratios excel at fast acceleration but require harder pedaling to maintain speed.
  • Weight – BMX bikes are heavier than road or mountain bikes, requiring more effort to pedal.
  • Geometry – The frames are optimized for control vs pedaling efficiency.

If you’re feeling like you’re pedaling through mud on your BMX bike, it’s likely a combination of these factors at play.

But there are ways to adjust your bike and technique to find a better balance of performance and pedaling effort.

Keep reading for tips!

What Makes Pedaling a BMX Bike Difficult?

To understand how to gain pedaling ease on a BMX bike, it helps to dive deeper into what exactly makes them so labor-intensive and challenging to pedal in the first place.

There are a few key technical design elements of BMX bikes that cause the increased pedaling difficulty:

1. Wheel Size

The small 20-inch wheels are the biggest contributor to the feeling of constant pedaling on a BMX bike.

In order to travel the same distance as a bike with larger wheels, your legs have to spin the cranks through more revolutions.

This puts greater strain on your leg muscles and cardio system.

Pedaling a BMX bike is like being stuck in a tall gear all the time!

2. Gear Ratio

Most stock BMX bikes come with fairly low gear ratios, like 25/9 or 33/12 tooth sprocket sizes.

This gives them blazing fast acceleration off the starting line but requires more leg power to maintain momentum.

Contrast this with a mountain bike having gears in the 11-36 tooth range on the rear cassette for better cruising.

3. Short Chainstays

BMX frames have very short chainstays (the frame tubes connecting the bottom bracket and rear axle).

This keeps the rear wheel tucked under the rider for maneuverability in the air.

But it reduces potential pedaling leverage compared to bikes with longer chainstays.

4. Heavy Weight

The sturdy BMX frame and components add extra weight over other bike types.

More weight equals more resistance and pedaling effort to overcome.

Even just a couple extra pounds makes a big difference when accelerating and climbing on a bike.

Keep these BMX design elements in mind as we explore ways to adjust your bike and technique for achieving easier, less tiring pedaling.

A few tweaks can reduce the feeling of your legs spinning in quicksand all ride long!

Is it Easier to Ride a BMX or Mountain Bike?

If you’re debating between a BMX bike or mountain bike, one factor to consider is pedaling difficulty and efficiency.

In general, most mountain bikes will be significantly easier to pedal than a comparably equipped BMX bike.

There are a few reasons behind this:

  • Larger Wheels – The 26′′ or 29′′ wheels on mountain bikes roll over obstacles easier and require fewer pedal revolutions than 20′′ BMX wheels. Less spin for your legs!
  • Better Gear Range – Mountain bikes have a wide range of gears, like 11-36t cassettes, for optimal pedaling cadence in different conditions. BMX bikes are single speed or have limited gears.
  • Upright Geometry – The seating position on mountain bikes is less cramped and hunched over than on a BMX, enabling better pedaling form.
  • Lighter Weight – Mountain bike frames and parts emphasize lightness, while BMX components are beefed up for durability, adding pedaling resistance.
  • Suspension – Front and sometimes rear suspension on mountain bikes smooth out Trail bumps, maintaining pedaling momentum. BMX bikes lack suspension (except for some high-end race bikes).

Of course, BMX bikes have their own advantages for jumping, tricks, the skatepark, or dirt tracks.

But if you want to maximize pedaling ease and efficiency to go faster and farther with less effort, a mountain bike is much better suited to this goal.

That said, there are still ways to upgrade and adjust your riding technique on a BMX to achieve easier pedaling.

Is a BMX Bike Good for Beginners?

If you’re new to cycling, you may be wondering if starting out on a BMX bike is a good idea.

There are pros and cons to consider when choosing a BMX as your first bike.

On the plus side, BMX bikes are extremely durable and can take abuse from crashes and failed tricks.

Their simple, single-speed design also removes the complication of shifting gears.

And BMX handling helps build core bike control skills quickly.

However, the challenging pedaling effort required on a BMX could discourage some beginners, especially on longer rides.

The hunched positioning also may not suit all riding styles and fitness levels.

Ultimately, a BMX can be a great entry point into riding if you’re attracted to their look and capabilities for tricks, skateparks, and dirt jumps. Just be ready for an intense workout pedaling until your fitness improves!

QUICK TIP: Try borrowing or renting a BMX first to see if it agrees with you.

And consider an easier-pedaling bike like a mountain bike or hybrid if you want to start riding longer distances right away.

But for a fun, durable, and skills-building starter bike, BMX models deliver.

Just prepare those legs for a serious workout!

Adjusting Your BMX Gearing for Easier Pedaling

One of the best ways to smooth out pedaling effort on your BMX bike is adjusting the gearing.

Swapping the stock freewheel, chainring, or both can provide a better ratio for cruising speed versus just acceleration.

Here are some gearing tweaks to consider:

Larger Rear Freewheel

Going up 1-3 teeth on the rear sprocket can make a noticeable difference in pedaling ease.

For example, switching from a 25t to 28t freewheel.

This lowers your gear ratio for a better mix of top speed and reducing pedal resistance.

Smaller Chainring Up Front

Likewise, dropping a couple teeth on the front chainring, such as going from a 44t to a 41t ring, will lower your gear ratio.

Smaller chainrings are easier to pedal consistently but compromise raw starting power.

Taller Gear Combos

Another option is swapping to a taller gear set like a 36/13 ratio.

This shifts your bike’s overall gearing towards speed over acceleration. Harder to get going but maintains momentum once up to speed.

Multi-Speed Freewheels

Certain BMX freewheel hub designs allow using a multi-speed cluster like an 18/21t combo.

This essentially gives you two gear ratios in one for better pedaling efficiency.

When tweaking your BMX gearing, aim for a balance that matches your riding style and strengths.

Play around with online gear calculators to experiment before buying new sprockets.

With a few upgrades, you’ll be pedaling around the skatepark with fresh legs all session long!

Final Thought

Riding a BMX bike can feel like a constant leg workout compared to other bikes due to the small wheel size, short gearing, and sturdy build.

But a few strategic gear tweaks paired with improving your pedaling technique can help overcome the notorious pedaling difficulty BMX bikes are known for.

Consider slightly taller gear combinations that trade a bit of snap acceleration for easier rolling momentum.

And become a student of efficient pedaling form to reduce wasted motion and fatigue.

With the right adjustments and practice, you’ll be logging long miles on your BMX bike in no time!

The key is finding the right balance of performance and pedaling ease to match your unique riding needs.

Experiment with the suggestions in this article to unlock the untapped pedaling potential of your BMX bike.

Just because BMX bikes require more effort to pedal doesn’t mean the ride needs to feel like a suffer-fest.

Time to get those legs spinning smoothly!

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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