Understanding BMX Bikes and Brakes

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Have you ever wondered how BMX riders are able to do all kinds of stunts without ending up having the brake cables get tangled up in the handlebars?

They are able to do these freestyle stunts because they usually remove the U-brakes. Instead of using the brakes, they stop their bikes by placing a foot on the rear wheel to give them the friction needed to slow down and come to a stop.

Many people think that BMX bikes don’t come with brakes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Read on to learn more.

What is a BMX Bike?

Basically, a BMX bike is a bike that is mainly used for off-road racing and stunt riding. BMX stands for “bicycle motocross”, because early BMX bikes were made for those who love motocross and wanted to ride bikes on dirt courses.

Street and freestyle riding are also done with BMX bikes, with many different bikes being able to handle all types of riding.

Today, the term BMX is used to reference a variety of bikes, including the original race bikes, as well as bikes used for many other riding styles, including street, park, dirt, vert, and flatland.

There are several BMX styles, but the bikes, no matter what the brand, are usually pretty similar.

Types of Brakes Used on BMX Bikes

When it comes to any type of bike, it is important to have high quality brakes. Just because many BMX riders remove the U-brakes from their bikes, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t supposed to have them on there in the first place. The most common types of brakes available for various types of bikes are rim brakes and disc brakes.

Disc Brakes

You will often see disc brakes on mountain bikes, because it can be necessary to do some hard braking. There are mechanical and hydraulic disk brakes for mountain bikes, but you don’t often see them on BMX bikes.

Both types of disc brakes look pretty much the same, except there is a difference in how the pads push against the rim. With mechanical brakes, when the brake lever is pressed, a wire gets pulled through a plastic tube. With hydraulic brakes, hydraulic fluid is used.

BMX Bikes and Brakes

Rim Brakes

Most BMX bikes, as well as kids’ bikes, come with rim brakes. This type of braking system loops over the edge of the tire, holding the pads in place.

Rim brakes typically come with U-brakes or V-brakes, and there is little difference between the two, mainly that they differ depending on the types of bikes they are on.

Most BMX bikes will come with U-brakes, because they have a very simple design and aren’t likely to get in the rider’s way. Since most BMX riders don’t use brakes most of the time, U-brakes are generally preferred.

How do rim brakes work? They slow the bike down when the pads push against the rim. The friction slows the wheel, and the bike will come to a stop. There is a wire linking the brakes to the handlebars, which gets pulled with the brake lever is pulled.

Riders who do keep the brakes on their bikes often tend to prefer rim brakes, for several reasons. First, they are lightweight and simple in design.

They are also the least expensive of all the braking systems. But, they are known for their problems, including getting clogged with debris, and if the wheel is bent, the brakes won’t work well.

What are Detangler and Gyro Braking Systems?

As previously mentioned, most freestyle bikes come equipped with U-brakes, and many have what is known as a detangler or Gyro braking system. These systems allow riders to have brakes for safety, but the brakes won’t get in their way when they are performing stunts.

A detangler is a system that uses two cables that go around a mechanism that allows riders to spin their handlebars without getting the cables tangled. Detanglers are only used on the rear of the bike, so the front brake lever turns with the caliper.

This can make or break a stunt rider who wants to do barspins, tailwhips, and other stunts. But, it isn’t always necessary to have a detangler, and there are many stunts that can be performed without installing one.

A Gyro allows riders to be able to turn the handlebars 360 degrees around the frames unlimited times, and the cable isn’t going to become tangled.


It is up to you whether or not you will have brakes on your BMX bike. All bikes are required by law to have brakes, so no matter what type you purchase, it will have brakes.

If you don’t want the brakes on there, it is your responsibility to remove them. Keep in mind that you could run into some trouble with the law if you are riding around on the streets with no brakes.

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