BMX bikes offer a unique riding experience that’s every bit as rewarding as it is raw. Add to this the no-nonsense simplicity of the bikes themselves and the culture of BMX as a sport and it’s not hard to see why BMX still has such an appeal.
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We’ve spent the last few weeks trying out a selection of BMX bikes that are ideal for the newcomer. Capping our budget at £400 / $500 / AU$700, we’ve chosen five different bikes from various different brands. Each model has been ridden by our resident BMX tester Jonny Ashelford.
Those familiar with BMX won’t be surprised to learn that all of the bikes we’ve featured use steel frames, 20in wheels and singlespeed drivetrains. All of the bikes feature three-piece cranks that rotate on mid-style bottom brackets, and none of the bikes use chain tugs or tensioners.
Bikes that are sold with pedals or stunt pegs will have been photographed with them in place, and those that aren’t will not feature them. The bikes are all sold with two brakes, but most riders will opt to use only the rear.
The bikes we have chosen are fairly versatile in that they’ve been built to tackle everything from skate parks to street riding or dirt jumps.
Haro Boulevard (2016)
- Price: £340 / €400 / US$380 / AU$499
- Weight: 11.13kg / 24.53lbs
Haro’s heritage in BMX is hard to equal, having produced bikes since 1983.
The Boulevard with its retro graphics and tan wall tyres certainly has the look of an understated classic, and it rides like one as well. Being the lightest of this selection, we found it immediately comfortable to hop on and ride.
Its Hi-Tensile frame and fork won’t win you any hands at Top Trumps, but the 20.5in top tube has been chosen specifically to complement the beginner rider. We found that the rear brake cable wouldn’t clear a full rotation of the handlebars however, so those looking to barspin will probably have to swap out the cable.
Unfortunately the internals of the rear hub on our test bike weren’t happy after a relatively short test period, although it's nothing that your local bike shop shouldn’t be able to address in its first service. Another minor niggle was the axle nuts, which were too large to use with our stunt pegs of choice.
- Price: £350 / €430 / $N/A / AU$599
- Weight: 11.96kg / 26.36lbs
The Nova was the bike that our tester immediately felt the most comfortable on. It was also the only bike that came with pegs as standard and the sorted geometry used on this hi-ten steel frame allows for easy manuals and hops
The Nova also comes dripping in components from WeThePeople’s sister company Salt and runs a 2.35” tyre on the front with a 2.2” on the rear. This will certainly save your hands on some of those early, heavy landings, while the narrower back tyre will keep you rolling fast on the manuals.
We did manage to bend the original sprocket after a couple of hits on an over-waxed ledge, but these are easy to replace without removing the crank, so aside from the long walk home it wasn’t a massive issue.
GT BK Team
- Price: £370 / €490 / $420 / AU$N/A
- Weight: 12.58kg / 27.73lbs
The BK is the signature bike of Brian Kachinsky, a member of GT’s recently revamped Freestyle BMX team.
BK is known for his massive street moves and lines, and these seem to have made their way into the bike’s DNA, and while the Team is the heaviest in the test we felt it was also the most confidence inspiring.
That extra weight does take some stopping though and unfortunately the BK has the worst brakes on test, especially in the wet. We’d expect a brake pad upgrade would improve things.
We really love the finish on the BK Team, the clear gloss lacquer and transit map graphics are really clean and simple, but the brown tyres and grips won’t be to everyone’s taste. There’s also a comfy saddle with shoulders wide enough to pinch when you’re learning bar spins.
The 2.3in GT Pool tyres also do a good job of taking the sting out of harsher landings.
Premium Solo (2016)
- Price: £350 / €435 / US$440 / AU$499
- Weight: 11.45kg / 25.24lbs
The Premium Solo is another option for buyers at this pricepoint. The frame includes a cro-mo downtube (where cheaper hi-ten steel is the norm at this price).
The Premium also has weight on its side, or rather a lack of it, being the second lightest bike on test. The ride was comparable to that of the Haro, yet it didn’t work quite as well.
The rest of the spec is up there with the other bikes too but we felt this model was let down by cheap plasticky tyres that lacked grip. Somehow it just lacked the sparkle of some of the other bikes on test. Of all the bikes on test this was the one we were least keen on.
Saracen Amplitude Wave
- Price: £279.99 / €N/A / $N/A / AU$N/A
- Weight: 12.3kg / 27.1lbs
Saracen’s Amplitude BMX range takes a difference approach to most. They’re long, low and made for going fast on trails and in skate parks.
The model, the Wave, is the cheapest in the range and the cheapest overall in our test. You wouldn’t know it though, thanks to the superb finish and good looks.
With by far the longest chainstays on test, the hi-ten Wave is pretty tricky to get into manuals or spins, but once you get it to a pump track or dirt jumps it feels more alive.
The Wave certainly feels lower on the front than the rest and if that’s not to your liking then a handlebar upgrade should be a relatively cheap and painless experience.
Another couple of spec issues we had were the comparably thin grips and narrow tyres, which left us with sore hands and feeling a bit beaten up after every ride. Again, these are minor faults, and as this is the cheapest of the bunch it leaves you with more moolah to make changes.
Overall, it’s a decent package for the cash and well worthy of upgrading.