The starting gate slams down and eight racers propel themselves down a steep starting hill covered in pavers toward a tabletop jump. Ahead of them is 1050 feet of obstacles of all shapes and sizes. There are step ups, doubles, and whoops covered in a smooth stone dust surface. As the riders weave their way through the course, which is shaped like a cursive M, they bump bars and battle it out through three asphalt turns and four straightaways. The entire race takes little more than 30 seconds, every bit of it jam-packed with adrenalin, a cheering crowd, and good old fashioned fun.
This is Richmond BMX and it’s made for everyone.
Located in Gillies Creek Park, Richmond BMX has offered bicycle motocross racing since 1998 for all genders and ages (from five and under to 61 and over). And this weekend, the local track was home to racers from far beyond Richmond as it hosted a State Qualifier on Saturday and a Gold Cup Regional Qualifier on Sunday. Over 400 BMX enthusiasts and their families from across the east coast traveled to Richmond BMX to compete on 20″ and 24″ bikes (the size refers to the dimension of the wheels) in classes such as novice, intermediate, and expert.
This weekend’s turnout is representative of a growing trend in BMX across the country as the sport has experienced an uptick in popularity and participation. Started in the early 1970s, the early days of BMX racing saw children navigating their Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycles on homemade dirt tracks in Southern California. By the mid-70s, however, bicycle manufacturers were catching on and BMX bikes became all the rage. As the sport grew throughout the decade, two nonprofit bicycle motocross sanctioning organizations were founded and by the 80s the first world championships were held. By 2008, BMX had become an Olympic sport thanks to its introduction in Beijing.
Here locally, BMX is riding high with record turnouts at large state races, like the one hosted this weekend, and smaller local races held every Sunday at 2 pm for $10 for liscensed riders. And when races aren’t taking place, the highly organized team behind Richmond BMX operates clinics for beginners on Tuesdays as well as a popular Thursday night practice from 5 p.m. to dusk.
Best of all, the local track here in Richmond is built in a public park, which means it’s open to everyone from sunrise to sunset as long as there are no sanctioned events scheduled. Riders must have a helmet, long pants, and a long sleeve shirt. To make the sport as accessible as possible, Richmond BMX offers loaner bikes and helmets that are free to borrow.
Richmond BMX, which is one 300 of tracks in the United States, was recently redesigned and renovated by world-renowned track builder Tom Ritz, a former professional BMX rider responsible for more than 80 professional tracks (including three Olympic courses). Other tracks here in Virginia include VMP BMX in Petersburg, Hampton BMX, NOVA BMX and Winchester BMX.
To get started in Richmond, simply show up. Track operator, Gary Craig, welcomes new riders and fans on a regular basis to this growing sport, one that’s built for everyone to take flight. For more info, visit www.richmondbmx.com.
4401 Hobbs Lane
Richmond VA 23231