London 2012 Guide to…Cycling – BMX

  • IT IS safe to say that BMX cycling is not for the faint hearted.

Bikes have just one gear and one brake, and their wheels are less than half the size of a road bike. Fear is not in the vocabulary of the bikers’ minds.

It all might sound rather stupid and just a bit of fun. In fact, it probably is, which is what makes this sport so exciting and compelling.

And BMX cycling is one of the Olympic Games’ newest sports, making just its second appearance this summer in London.

  • Any relation to BMW?

Afraid not. BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross (clever eh?!). It’s known as this because the sports is motocross tricks performed on a pedal bicycle.

Motocross is basically a form of motorbike racing on off-road circuits, and it really took off in California in the 1960s.This inspired the sport of BMX which is the same sort of thing, but with a pedal bike which arguably makes it more demanding.

  • BMX in E20

Both the men’s and women’s races take place on a 450m track next to the Velodrome in the Olympic Park.

Groups of eight riders begin on an eight-metre high ramp, and they must negotiate a combination of hairpin bends, jumps and slopes – all at speeds pushing 25mph.

Each rider starts by completing a lap within a set time, in order to be seeded for the following round.

Once riders have made it to the semi-final stage, the top four riders from each progress through to the final.

  • Ones to watch out for

Only six Olympic medals have ever been competed for, so it’s difficult to say.

America claimed three of them in Beijing, but not the golds. They went to France’s Anne-Caroline Chausson and Maris Strombergs of Latvia.

  • In the wars

As mentioned above, BMX racing can be an extremely dangerous sport.

A moment’s loss of concentration or balance can be costly.

Britain’s Shanaze Reade has faced broken metatarsals, elbows and fingers in her career, along with a fractured knee.

And finally…

Look out for: bunny hops. This is the term used to describe the move when bikers raise both wheels off the ground.

Not to be confused with: BMW racing. Easily done.

Useless but informative fact: Only one rider per country is allowed to compete at the Games. No pressure then.

BMX in two words: speed maniacs!

BMX Cycling will be taking place on the BMX track (funnily enough), next to the Olympic Park between Wednesday 8 and Friday 10 August.