Here’s a quick but complete guide about the BMX racing rules and regulations. Getting to know the formalities and details of the competitions provides a better understanding of the sport and makes you better enjoy the action. This guide is based on the official UCI BMX Racing rules and regulations.
The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) is cycling’s international governing body. It organizes and regulates the most important international events, such as the BMX World Championships, BMX Supercross World Cups, and the Olympic Games. Regional, Continental and National championships are also ruled by the UCI.
There are two main category levels within BMX: amateur and professional. Amateur riders compete at ‘Challenge’ and ‘Master’ category levels, whereas pros compete at the ‘Championship’ category level. Amateur competitions are regulated by the national federations where the event is held, even if it includes a ‘Championship’ level competition. However, these events should be conducted under the rules of the UCI, and only certain articles (just a handful of them) can be modified or adapted by the national federations.
The riders are classified by their age, gender, bike style and competition level as follows:
There are two types of bikes that can be used in BMX events. They are classified by their wheel size:
- 20″ (standard).
- 24″ (‘cruiser’). Only allowed to compete at Challenge events.
Levels Of Categories
As seen above, there are three different levels in BMX events:
- Championship (17 years old and over).
a. Men Elite (19 and over).
b. Women Elite (19 and over).
c. Men Juniors (17 and 18).
d. Women Juniors (17 and 18).
a. Boys (5 and 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16). (3 categories).
b. Girls (5-7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16). (10 categories).
c. Men (17-24,25-29,30-34, 35 and over). (4 categories).
d. Women (17-24, 25 and Over). (2 categories).
- Challenge Cruiser (24″ wheels)
a. Boys (12 and under, 13 and 14, 15 and 16). (11 categories).
b. Girls (12 and under, 13-16). (2 categories).
c. Men (17-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50 and over). (7 categories).
d. Women (17-29, 30-39, 40, and over). (3 categories).
- Master (30 years old and over – only category).
The rider’s license indicates their category, and that’s the only category they can take part in.
BMX Competitions: BMX Time Trial
As mentioned above, time trial competitions are separate from the races and can only be held at Challenge level events. In the time trial, the participant rides alone. The time it takes the rider to reach the finish line will serve as their qualification time.
A BMX Time Trial competition is composed of two phases:
- The Time Trial Qualification. The best times advance to the Superfinal.
- The Time Trial Superfinal. It defines the winner and the Final Classification.
A time trial is also used in some events to determine the riders’ seedings in racing competitions. This is known as the ‘Seeding run’ for the races.
BMX Competitions: BMX Race
A BMX Race is composed of three phases.
- The Motos. It consists of a number of ‘motos’ or heats composed of at most 8 riders. Each moto consists of 3 rounds or runs. Riders accumulate points according to their results in each round (1st place – 1 point). The best riders (with less accumulated points) from each moto advance to the next phase. The number of motos, riders in each moto, and riders that advance to the next phase are determined by the number of riders that entered the competition.
In Championship level events, the seeding for the motos is determined by the UCI rankings.
- The Qualifiers. This is the elimination phase. Depending on the number of participants, it can start in 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, or semi-finals. The top four riders from each round qualify for the next one.
The fastest rider in each round has the first choice of the gate in the next one, including the final.
- The Final. The final always consists of a single heat, one race. 8 riders fight for the winner spot.
Unlike the other Championship level events, in the Olympic Games the format of the competition is as follows:
- Time trial: A time trial decides the seeding of the 32 (men) and 16 (women) riders into the qualifier phase: quarterfinals (men) and semi-finals (women), which are ruled by the motos points system above.
- Quarterfinals: 4 heats of 8 riders and 3 runs each. The best 4 riders from each heat qualify for the semi-finals.
- Semi-finals: 2 heats of 8 riders and 3 runs each. The best 4 riders from each heat qualify for the final.
- Final. 8 riders. The top 3 riders clinch the gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Seeding The Motos
There are four methods for the seeding of events on the UCI international BMX Calendar:
- The latest UCI BMX rankings.
- The results of a separate BMX Time Trial held before the BMX Race.
- Random seeding.
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll focus on the first two, as they are the ones used in Supercross World Cup* and World Championships (rankings), and in the Olympic Games (time trial).
*In the Supercross World Cup the latest Supercross World Cup ranking is used instead of the UCI rankings.
In these cases, the distribution of the riders in the heats should be done preventing the best riders to compete against each other, as detailed in the table below with this example of 32 riders (like in the Olympic Games):
|Heat 1||Heat 2||Heat 3||Heat 4|
The riders within each heat are allowed to choose their starting position in the gate according to their ranking/time trial result. The composition of the rounds should be done according to the table below.
|Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
For example, if the highest-ranked rider in a heat (rider 1, 2, 3, or 4 from the seeding table) wanted to have position 1 in Round 3, then he’d have to choose position 7 in Round 1 and position 6 in Round 2.
It’s the final classification at the end of each BMX race that determines the final results. This classification is used to attribute UCI BMX Ranking points and prize money.
Riders’ classification will be determined by the rank (qualifiers) or points (motos) obtained in the last completed round of each phase.
In case of a tie, the tie-braker will be the time/position of the previous heat.
Invalid Results Marks (IRMs)
These correspond to those cases in which a rider does not complete a race.
- Did Not Finish (DNF). A rider that starts the race/heat/run but for some reason doesn’t finish it. They receive a score equivalent to the number of riders that started the race.
- Relegation (REL). A rider who starts the race and that for some reason is relegated by the commissaires’ panel. They receive a score equivalent to the number of riders that started the race plus 2.
- Did Not Start. A rider that for some reason doesn’t start the race. They receive a score equivalent to the number of riders that started the race plus 2.
A rider gets to finish the race when their front wheel ‘touches the vertical plane rising from the starting edge of the finish line’. Frequently, a ‘photo finish’ needs to be implemented to determine the winner.
Bike Position On The Start Gate
The front wheel of the bike must be placed against the gate, grounded, and must remain still during the ‘starter’s call’ (the electronic system that announces the start of the race).
The Track Flags
The track officials can use colored flags in order to communicate with each other and the riders.
- Green Flag. It indicates that the track is ok to start the race.
- Yellow Flag. It indicates that the track is not yet in condition.
- Red Flag. It indicates that the race should stop immediately. Only the president of the commissaires’ panel may use it.
The bike and its parts must meet the general specifications detailed below in order to be approved for official races. Commissaires at any time during the competition may check the bikes to confirm compliance. The specifications are:
- Frame. The frame shouldn’t have any cracks and must be resistant to the abuse of a race. Accessories are forbidden.
- Wheels. Axles shouldn’t protrude more than 5 mm beyond the hub nuts.
Wheels shouldn’t exceed 57 cm/22.5″ in diameter with the tires inflated.
Cruiser category: Wheels shouldn’t be less than 57 cm/22.5″ and more than 66.05 cm/26″ in diameter with the tires inflated.
- Handlebars. The maximum width should be 73.7 cm (29″).
The maximum rise should be 30.5 cm (12″)
Grips are mandatory and should fully cover the ends of the bar.
- Steering Head. The forks must turn smoothly without play.
The stem shouldn’t protrude above the headset lock-nut more than 5 cm.
- Brakes. All bikes must have at least a rear brake, operated by hand. The rear brake cable must be secured to the frame. The lever blade must have a rounded end. All cables must be covered.
- Seat. It must be made of a material resistant to penetration of the seat post.
- Cranks, Pedals, and Gears. Cranks can be of any length as long as the bike has enough ground clearance. They should spin smoothly and without play.
Pedals should be securely attached to the cranks. Straps and clips on the pedals are forbidden.
Clothing And Safety Equiment
Same as with the bike, the clothing and safety equipment of the riders must meet certain specifications and can be checked by the commissaires. If the commissaires detect any infringement, the rider won’t be allowed to get into the track until he/she solves the issue.
- Helmets. They must be full face and should have a visor with a minimum length of 10 cm. Helmets must have their straps securely fastened. The helmet should be worn until the finish line, otherwise, the rider’s score will be Did Not Finish (DNF).
- Back, elbow, knee, shoulder, and cervical protectors are recommended by the UCI, but aren’t mandatory.
- Jersey. Must be a loose-fitting long-sleeved shirt specifically made for BMX, motocross, or mountain bike downhill. Only a zip up to 10 cm long in the collar is permitted. The jersey must be tucked into the pants.
At international events, riders must wear a national team jersey.
- Pants. Riders can use long pants or short pants combined with knee and rider type shin guards. Pants must be specifically made for BMX, motocross, or mountain bike downhill. They must also be loose-fitting.
- Gloves. Full-finger gloves are mandatory.
- Accessories. Cameras securely attached are allowed.
Identification of Riders
The number plate must be made of plastic.
The riders are allowed to choose their number for International Elite level competitions. They will use that number for that entire Olympic Quadrennial. Elite World Champions and Olympic Champions are allowed to use this number for their entire career.
Requests of numbers are taken by ranking priority. However, World and Olympic champions have priority over the rest. The numbers available go from 9 to 199. 1 to 8 will be assigned to the World Championships finalists. These finalists may use these numbers until the next world championships.
The following actions during the race are considered infringements. If commissaires determine that the infringement could have been avoided, they can penalize it.
- Deliberate interference.
- Deliberate force off the track.
- Track re-entrance. Riders must re-enter the track at the nearest safe point. Riders shouldn’t interfere with the race or try to take a shortcut.
- Contact. BMX is a contact sport, thus, the contact between the riders is normal. However, commissaires will penalize those contacts that they consider intentional.
- Obstruction on the final straight. The leader can choose his/her line on the track and corners. However, he/she should not interfere with the lines of others in the final straight.
- Team riding. Riders can’t help other competitors to obtain a higher finishing position.
The commissaires’ panel may apply the following penalties.
- Official warning. The first warning has no consequences. The second warning for the same or other reason will result in the rider’s disqualification (DSQ) from the event.
- Relegation (REL). As described earlier.
- Disqualification (DSQ). The disqualified riders won’t show up on the results summary of the competition and won’t receive any ranking points.
Features of high-level competitions BMX tracks:
- Length. Between 300 and 400 meters.
- Width. minimum of 10 m at the hill and not less than 5 m at any other point
- Surface materials. It must be compact, commonly with dirt straights and asphalt starting hill and corners.
- Starting hill. At least 10 m wide. Elevated at least 1.5 m (preferably 2.5 m) above the first straight. The inclination from the gate to level grade must be at least 12 m long.
- Starting gate. It should be at least 7.3 m wide.
It should have a height of at least 50 cm with an angle not greater than 90 degrees (with the slope of the ramp) when in the vertical position.
A “voice box” (electronic voice system that announces the start of the race) is mandatory at all UCI sanctioned events.
- Initial Straight. It should have a minimum of 40 m in length. Its first obstacle shouldn’t be closer than 35 m from the gate nor closer than 20 m from the first turn.
- First turn. It can go in any direction and should be banked to a degree that allows safe entry and exit. It should be a minimum of 6 m wide.
- Turns and obstacles. The track should have a minimum of 3 turns, of a minimum of 5 m wide each. The minimum distance between two obstacles in the first straight should be of 10 m.
- Race track markings. The boundaries of the track should be marked with white lines.
- Fencing. In order to protect the riders and the spectator, a fence should be installed in the perimeter of the track, not closer than 2 m from it.
The Riders accumulate points according to the results obtained in the events they enter. The UCI contemplates the points obtained up to the same day of the previous year as the parameter to deduct or add points to the ranking of each rider.
There are 4 different UCI rankings, one for each of the following categories:
- Men Elite (19 and over).
- Women Elite (19 and over).
- Men Juniors (17 and 18).
- Women Juniors (17 and 18).
Riders gain points for the UCI rankings by participating in events of different classes. These events are:
- (OG) Olympic Games.
- (CM) World Championships.
- (CDM) UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.
- (CC) Continental Championships.
- (HC) International competitions – Hors Class.
- (JR) Regional Games.
- (C1) International competitions.
- (CN) National Championships.
The points for each competition are allocated according to the tables below:
Juniors (men and women)
Elite (men and women)
Ranking By Nations
There’s also a ranking by nations for both Elite and Junior categories. It’s calculated by summing the points of the best three riders for men and the best two riders for women from each nation. This ranking determines the number of qualified riders per nation for the next world championships.
The ranking by nation also determines the qualification quota for the Olympic Games.
A BMX Team is formed by 2 to 10 riders competing at Championships level. They are contracted and/or sponsored by an individual or company and take part in the UCI international BMX calendar. The name of the team must be that of the sponsoring individual or company.
For detailed info about BMX racing events, entry fees and prize money check ‘How Much do Pro BMX Riders Make‘.
- For a similar guide of BMX Freestyle rules and regulations, click here.
- For a broader notion of the sport, check This Is BMX.
- For more info about the BMX World Championships, check The BMX World Championships.
References: For a complete version of the official UCI BMX racing rules used as a reference in this article, click here.
Photo credits: [Featured image: by Peter Huys / Flickr / Creative Commons License][Photo #1: by Peter Huys / Flickr / Creative Commons License][Photo #2: by Peter Huys / Flickr / Creative Commons License][Photo #3: by Fabrizio / Flickr / Creative Commons License]