BMX bikes are well known for tricks and stunts, and the riders who use them seem to be fearless. These bikes are ridden aggressively and can take a real beating. The riders who use them never seem to slow down, which may lead many to the question, do BMX bikes have brakes?
BMX bikes do generally have brakes, and by law, they must be sold with brakes. Most BMX have rear brakes only, while some BMX bikes have a full set of front and rear brakes. The most skillful BMX riders use no brakes at all, but these bikes are only typically used in bike parks.
Let us delve into the three ways that you can set up the brakes on a BMX bike, including what types of brakes can be used, how the mechanics of the brakes work, and how to stop your bike if you have no brakes installed.
Do BMX Bikes Have Brakes?
Whether or not a BMX bike has brakes is the personal preference of the rider. The bake set up on this type of bicycle depends on the riding style and skill level of the rider using the bike.
There are three ways of setting up the brakes on a BMX bike: full brakes, rear brakes, and no brakes at all. Pro BMX bikes are usually sold with only one set of rear brakes.
In addition to the three typical BMX brake setups, there are also three types of brakes that are used on modern BMX bikes; V-brakes, U-brakes, and coaster brakes.
If a BMX bike has any brake set up installed, it is always a good idea to install a detangler if the bike did come with a detangler pre-installed. Most detanglers are compatible with V-brake and U-brake systems and are a valuable addition to any BMX.
The purpose of installing a detangler is to prevent the tangling of your BMX bike’s brakes cables allowing the handlebars to do a complete 360° spin.
As tricks started to get more extreme, the brake cables began to get in the way, so the detangler was invented and designed specifically for freestyle BMX riders to allow them more mobility when doing tricks.
Most BMX bikes are equipped with brakes of some form, typically in conjunction with a detangler to prevent the brake lines from getting in the way of certain tricks, but using brakes is entirely up to the rider, which means that not all BMX have brakes, as some riders prefer not to use them.
What Are V-Brakes?
The V-brake, also known as a direct-pull brake, is named so because there are no other components between the brake cable and the arms of the brakes, which allows the brakes to be applied directly to the wheel, which forms an inverted ‘V’ shape.
V-brakes are the preferred brakes for racing BMX bikes because they are the lightest brakes you can get while still being powerful enough to slow down or bring the bike to a complete stop. V-brakes are preferred for racing bicycles because they are very light and robust.
However, the V-brake is not a common choice for freestyle BMX riders because the brake’s mechanisms are more exposed than U-Brakes, which means they are more susceptible to damage.
The fact that V-brakes are more exposed means there is a higher likelihood of the brakes getting in the way of the rider and potentially snagging on the rider’s clothes. For this reason, V-brakes are not typically used on any BMX bikes that are used for tricks or stunts.
What Are U-Brakes?
The large majority of freestyle BMX bikes use U-brake systems. Most freestyle BMX bikes are sold with this type of brake system as standard, and freestyle riders always make sure that their bikes use U-brakes.
This brake system is preferred for freestyle riding because most of the brake system components are out of the way of the rider, allowing more freedom for stunts and tricks.
The design of the U-brake system allows the brake arms to be positioned above the tire in a cross-over orientation which keeps the components out of the way of the rider and allows for easier execution of certain tricks.
The fact that U-brakes are out of the way is a massive advantage to any freestyle rider. U-brakes have several other features that are better for freestyle riders than other brake systems.
One such advantage is that the U-Brake is perfectly compatible with a detangler system, requiring no modifications to be used with a detangler.
U-brake systems can be mounted in various places on the BMX bike frame. Unlike other brake systems, U-brakes may be mounted on either the chainstay or the seat stay of the bike.
Having your brakes situated on the chainstay or on the seat stay will give your bike a clean and sleek look.
What Are Coaster Brakes?
Coaster brakes are so-called because they allow the bike to continue coasting or moving forward after the rider has stopped pedaling, so long as the pedals remain still.
These brakes are sometimes referred to as pedal brakes as they are activated by reversing the direction of the pedals.
Coaster brakes an old-school brake system, but that doesn’t mean that they are obsolete. Some riders still like to use them on their BMX bikes to maintain a sleek aesthetic.
As with anything else, especially BMX brakes, coaster brakes have their pros and cons, so let us take a look at them.
While coaster brakes allow for a sleeker BMX look, this braking system is not the most efficient. There are several considerations to make when using these brakes, but the biggest drawback to coaster brakes is that they may limit the execution of certain freestyle tricks.
Riding A BMX Without Brakes
Riding a BMX without brakes is definitely not for the faint of heart. The rider has to be an expert at bike handling, speed control and be brave enough to execute fast-paced runs without the ability to stop quickly.
If the rider is not able to master speed calculation and bike control, they are likely to cause themselves serious harm and injury and irreparable damage to their BMX bike.
If you do think you have what it takes to ride brakeless, you are going to need to know how to stop your bike.
Stopping a BMX bike without brakes is a challenge, but the mechanics are relatively simple. All the BMX rider needs to do is use the tread of their shoes to stop the bike by pushing the shoe against a wheel, preferably the back wheel.
The rider can also push both feet against the ground, causing enough friction to come to a complete stop. Both methods are effective but can be dangerous and challenging to master.
All BMXs are sold with one rear brake, but a BMX can be ridden with or without brakes. Which braking system the bike uses generally correlates to what the bike is used for.
BMX brakes should only ever be removed if you are professional and know how to control the bike as if it’s an extension of your body.