BMX Bike vs. Road Bike: What’s the Difference?

Among the range of popular bicycles available today in the market, BMX bikes and road bikes are undoubtedly among the top choices of bike enthusiasts and casual riders. The frames of a BMX and a road bike are noticeably different. One has fat tires, while the other has skinny attributes. The handlebars also differ in shape as well as the suspension.

There’s a cosmic difference between road and BMX bikes than its existing similarities. Yet, these two are the most sought-after bike styles. Some riders ride both bikes, and some participate in cutthroat road racing competitions professionally and ride BMX for recreational purposes. 

This article will discuss the features of both BMX and road bikes, then dive into their differences and similarities to help you decide which type of bike will suit you.

Similarities of BMX and Road Bikes

BMX, a shorter term for “bicycle motocross,” is perhaps among the oldest bicycle styles. These bikes are primarily designed for racing on motocross-style courses that feature small, wide tracks with big double jumps, tabletops, and bermed turns. They commonly carry 20-inch wheels, but you can also have them on 16-inch and 24-inch varieties. 

A BMX’s material is typically built from aluminum or steel, has no suspension, and only one gear and brake to handle. It has strengthened riser handlebars that provide a short cockpit and upright position for the rider. In essence, it offers maneuverability for those in the jumps. 

On the other hand, a road bike, also known as a 10-speed, suits racing due to its speed capability and prowess, powered by its narrow tires to roll fast and far on paved dimensions. Disc-brake types of this bike are also becoming increasingly popular nowadays. 

Many manufacturers now offer women’s specific models with divergent touchpoints, including saddle, handlebars, and crank arm length modifications. And just like BMX bikes, road bikes also have no suspension because of their naturally heavy frame build. Furthermore, it is also available in various materials like BMX, produced in aluminum and steel frames.

Differences between BMX and Road Bikes

BMX bikes commonly come with a 20-inch long tube on their frame. On the flip side, average road bikes usually come with a far longer 45-inch tube, emphasizing the drastic difference between the two in-frame builds.

A BMX bikes’ short tube on the frame is the ideal size for stunt cyclists to swing the bike 360 degrees in mid-air. This also allows them to have a controllable landing without damaging the structure and lessens the risk of falling hard. For road bikes, their build is engineered to take you as far and as fast as your legs can handle, especially on paved surfaces. 

From the term itself, the road bike is designed to be utilized on the road, which includes the city streets, country lanes, mountain passes, cycle paths, and many more. Unlike BMX bikes, road bikes are relatively known for their lightweight and aerodynamic attributes, which ideally suit efficient and fast rides in a straight line and uphill. 

The eye test shows that the frame geometry, components, and handlebar figures are manufactured for speedy rides. On the other hand, BMX bikes are relatively more minor and only ideal for picking up a lot of speed in a total distance between jumps. A BMX bike’s build material is also observed for its specialty to help riders have an easy execution on jumps and tricks.

Another notable distinction between the two is that a BMX bike won’t require riders to have pedaling efficiency. Since BMX bikes only possess a single gear to cut down on weight, it is not your ideal riding companion for long-distance cycling like a road bike is. 

However, a unique asset of a BMX that most bikes, including road bikes, do not have is its feature which allows cyclists to backpedal in reverse. In a nutshell, if you are looking to go extreme and test your limits with mid-air and freestyle pursuit, it would be best to pick a BMX bike. If you’re engaged with outdoor travel and endurance-centered activities, you should choose a road bike.

What Makes a BMX Bike?

Credits to: @henmankk

BMX bikes do not operate similarly to standard road and mountain bicycles. While an average observer could only notice minor differences between most road bicycles, the same narrative cannot be said when spotting many differences between BMX and other bikes. In retrospect, it is also a huge reason which makes a BMX bike one of a kind for stunts and tricks.

As mentioned prior, BMX bikes commonly come with a 20-inch long tube frame, which is significantly shorter and smaller when you compare it to any bike out there. This diminutive frame effectively reduces the bike’s weight in half, making it a perfect bike for picking up a great deal of quickness in the short distance between jumps. Additionally, the BMX’s material would also have a critical role in easing the execution of various stunts.

Most freestyle BMX bike frames are made of an immensely lightweight material known as a chrome steel alloy. The advantage of this material is that apart from its light feature, it is also a premium material for strength and durability. 

The wheels are also very different in comparison to those of standard two-wheelers. It usually varies according to a rider’s purpose to use their BMX bike. It typically has small wheel sizes and knobby tires suited for gripping the dirt from the off-road tracks that they are modeled for. The BMX tires are also utilized in trail biking, which needs a groove pattern to achieve a maximum grip off the road.

Moreover, BMX wheels commonly carry robustly built rims to add to their durable finish. This feature is crucial, especially when the discipline would require plenty of bumps since the rims could potentially split if they are not well-built.

What Are BMX Bikes Good for?

BMX bikes are primarily made to cater to high-quality stunts and exciting off-road racing. These bikes carry a small frame, lower wheelbase, shorter overall height, and stiff geometry that suits well for aggressive off-road short rides and stunts.

With BMX bikes practically not made to endure long-distance racing and daily commutes pending an upgrade, they are great for short-distance rides and performing tricks. It thrives well in the streets for the most part, as it comes in a rugged and robust build and manageable weight to pull stunts and easy maneuvers. That said, it is perfect for riders in an urban and suburban street setting.

There are a handful of BMX bikes that you can ride comfortably on the streets. When looking for the best feature, it should have a superb robust frame, 20-inch tires, solid build, and durable brakes to help you control your speed and balance for jumps.

It is worth noting that BMX bikes are very suitable for trails, although the performance still varies on the type of trail you take. Additionally, BMX bikes primarily suit fascinating stunts and short-distance races.

BMX Bikes: The Pros

  1. Fascinating to ride on challenging terrain
  2. Child-friendly due to naturally-small stature
  3. Created for maximum durability
  4. Small and lightweight for a convenient transport
  5. Can be easily carried on various public transports
  6. Perfect for skate/bike park riding
  7. It helps improve your fitness level
  8. Requires less service and repairs of single-speed types with no gears

BMX Bikes: The Cons

  1. Not suitable and ideal for long commutes
  2. Not optimal for saddle riding
  3. One speed only, meaning uphill rides can be difficult
  4. No suspension, which tends the body to absorb more impact

What Makes a Road Bike?

Credits to: @jordanbrierley

A road bike is a bicycle built to ride smoothly and faster on paved surfaces. This type of bike contains drop handlebars, sufficiently narrow slick wheels, and usually puts you in a position where your bum is at a higher level than your hands.

The frames of a road bike vary according to the level of purpose you’ll need. Most affordable road bikes are made from aluminum. If you are willing to spend a little more, carbon fiber is a viable option. Older or more niche models are commonly made from steel, while some boutique frames are titanium. Moreover, even road bikes that contain metal frames could have forks that are partly made or entirely made out of carbon fiber.

Regardless of their material composition, road bikes provide the same essence and impact to support you and allow for the attachment of the other bike components. Moreover, frame sizes will vary accordingly in sizes that match the rider. As it gets larger or smaller, both the frame’s height and length will change to adjust to your legs and upper body.

The majority of the road bike wheels are ‘700c,’ which pertains to a specific diameter. Smaller road bikes or those for kids may opt for a different and more compact size. Budget-friendly, mid-range bicycle wheels contain aluminum alloy rims, while more expensive tires have carbon rims.

Most road bikes do not carry rack attachment points, commonly found on urban, touring, and commuter bicycles. However, it does not imply that you cannot use a road bike to commute. It indicates that you may need to carry your gear using a daypack or messenger pouch instead of a more convenient rack-mounted pannier.

What Are Road Bikes Good for?

Most road bikes available today are optimized for lightweight. It usually comes with lightweight tires with a low spoke count and narrow rims, no suspension, and a frame and fork manufactured from lightweight components, like aluminum and carbon fiber. 

The elements of a road bike drivetrain also tend to be lighter. Hence, this lightweight feature will allow you to ride faster and smoother with more efficiency as it will take less energy to move less weight around. It also means that the lighter the bike is, the more convenient and easy it is to carry and transport.

Another consideration to note is that road bikes are engineered with aerodynamics as one of the priorities. This means that it ultimately puts you in an aggressive aerodynamic riding position when riding a road bike. It also allows you to crouch down as the narrow drop bars will enable you to keep your elbows in, reducing the drag significantly. 

In addition, it also helps you increase your speed and energy efficiency. The tires are also more slender and contain fewer spokes to reduce their drag. It also implies that you won’t have to pedal hard since you won’t need to overcome quite as much wind resistance.

Apart from that, the aerodynamic efficiency of road bikes is also a dynamic combo when you are riding into a headwind, going up and down a hill, or just making an effort to be fast. What’s great about this bicycle is its capability to maintain an average speed while burning less energy.

A road bike’s frame geometry and drop bars will allow you to have a powerful climbing option. These drop bars also provide you with quality leverage to lean the bike back and forth while pedaling. It enables you to move your body weight from one foot to another.

Furthermore, road bikes are an excellent method to help you with your cardio workout. Cycling at speed will allow you to get your heart rate up. Besides, you can manage the intensity of your workout by adjusting your speed or cadence, further enabling you to remain in your ideal heart rate zone.

Road Bikes: The Pros

  1. Lightweight and optimal for higher speeds
  2. Drop bars provide a more powerful energy transfer to elevate your speed and efficiency.
  3. Aerodynamic and capacity to cut through the air efficiently
  4. Relatively thin tires help lessen friction and improve the speed
  5. Highly tolerant components

Road Bikes: The Cons

  1. Not a stable bike option
  2. Not primarily designed for comfort
  3. Tendency to wear your muscle at high speeds due to high gear ratios