Do BMX Bikes Have Brakes: The Complete Guide


I’ve been riding BMX and mountain bikes for far too many years, and one rather perplexing phenomenon is the number of BMX bike riders that ride their bikes without any brakes. 

That leads to the question, do BMX bikes have brakes?

More often than not, BMX bikes are equipped with just a rear brake; nevertheless, others are equipped with front and rear brakes. Many Freestyle BMX riders choose to disable their brakes so they do not interfere with all the tricks and stunts they want to perform.

This is a complex situation, and there are lots of points to get your head around when thinking about BMX bikes and brakes.

In this article, I’m going to clearly outline exactly whether BMX bikes have brakes, the kinds of different brakes they might have, how to stop your BMX without brakes, and everything else to do with brakes and BMXs that you could possibly need to know!

BMX brakes close-up

Do BMX Bikes Have Breaks?

There are a range of different BMX bikes, and they all have one of the following:

  • No brakes
  • Brakes at just the front
  • Brakes at just the back
  • Brakes at both the back and the front

The most popular style of braking is to have brakes at the back.

Many BMX bikers are proud to have no brakes.

Riding a BMX without brakes has become somewhat of a trend over the decades. It has evolved away from becoming a solution to becoming a problem, now more toward the concept of individuals demonstrating their ability to ride effectively while regulating their pace flawlessly without any need for braking power. 

The situation is different in BMX racing. BMX racing bikes are required to include a rear brake as a safety precaution and also as a racing necessity.

Riding without brakes can benefit in some ways, such as when you are performing a barspin or tailwhip trick, where the handlebars and the entire frame of the BMX need to be rotated 360 degrees. If you have a brake wire then that will be getting in your way, and it reduces how often you can do that without resetting.

BMX bikes are of course designed for tricks and high-speed races, and it’s not immediately obvious if they have or even require brakes. 

In reality, as we have discovered, BMX bikes are equipped with brakes most of the time, so we’ll be deeply exploring why they have them and why they sometimes don’t have them.

All BMX bikers must have quick reflexes, nerves of steel, and months’ or even years’ worth of practice to gain expert control on their BMX motorcycles.

Learning how to operate the braking of their bikes – and occasionally the absence of brakes – is crucial when it comes to taking part in racing competitions. 

So, Why Do BMX Bikes Have Brakes?

On the whole, every new BMX bicycle needs to be sold equipped with brakes in either form. In several nations, riding a bicycle without brakes on public highways is strictly prohibited.

BMX riders found on public roadways without brakes can be issued a fine in not just the USA but many parts of the United Kingdom and Europe, as well.

The traffic rules require cyclists to stop in emergencies and if the brakes on their BMX bikes are disabled or disconnected, the rider who is engaged in the accident is responsible. On the other hand, bicycles fitted with brakes can swiftly stop to prevent accidents and mishaps on the road. 

On public roads with crossroads and junctions on the side, whatever discipline they chose, their bike should always be given high importance in both sports and commuting, whether cars are on the same or the other shoulder of the freeway. 

This means that a BMX rider who takes his BMX bicycle on the road or racing track for sport doesn’t have to adhere to traffic regulations. For some riders, the ease of ride without brakes allows them to accomplish tricks and difficult skills more easily, without having to recalibrate their control before trying the next maneuver, so they can unlock brake wires. 

Why Don’t BMX Bikes Have Front Brakes?

Most BMX riders tend to get rid of the front brakes on their bikes for a couple of reasons.

For starters, it provides freedom in terms of increased mobility, plus your BMX gets a little lighter in weight, as well.

This is why, when you look around yourself, you will see many bikes without any front brakes. 

At the end of the day, when you get more confident and skilled on your bike, the front brake can be a hindrance rather than a solution, which is why so many bikers get rid of it. 

How Do Riders Stop Their BMX Bikes Without Brakes?

Naturally, if you want to remove the brakes on your BMX bike, you’ll have to discover alternative ways to stop. There aren’t halting techniques to halt your bike midway that don’t involve the usage of a BMX brake. 

Typically, all you have to do is use your feet. The easiest technique I’ve discovered is to wedge my shoe sole into the back wheel and simultaneously place it on the tip of the frame’s back triangle.

So far, the only other option to stop your BMX without a brake is to use your toe over your front wheel, but this is considerably riskier and can end in significantly speedier and dangerous stopping, causing the bike to place you on the opposite side of your handlebars.

Freestyle BMX riders cannot reach the high speeds displayed by professional BMX racers but prefer controls and calculated pace for accomplishing their feats and flips. A standard freestyle BMX trick is conducted at velocities of 10-15 km/h; however, a BMX sprint is executed at speeds of approximately 57 km/h. 

Riders riding freestyle BMX bikes without brakes use their feet as a brake by placing them on the back tire to slow down their pace. Although this approach is not suggested for slowing down in heavy traffic on public highways, it is indeed a trend when it comes to freewheeling in a skateboarding or street park setting.

If you want to check out a full demonstration of how to brake without brakes on a BMX, then this youtube video is worth a watch:

What Brakes Do BMX Bikes Have?

The brakes on BMX bikes have the potential to work in a variety of different ways and styles.

The coaster brake, V-brake, and U-brake are by far the most frequent brake styles that you find on a BMX bike.

Most BMX bikes are currently available with U-brakes. An alternate method is to deploy a Detangler, which is a fantastic choice for bikers who want a shot at some fun tricks and stunts.

There are a couple of BMX bikes with caliper brakes installed, although they are pretty much the same as V and U-caliper predecessors. Modern BMX bikes with caliper brakes are relatively unusual these days and very hard to find. 

Most high-grade brakes use aluminum arms, thus, making them robust while reducing weight. You can also find brake pads in a lot of different thicknesses. Softer pads provide better grip but tougher pads often last longer. 

1. Coaster Brakes

Coaster brakes are also known as pedal brakes and usually work by pedaling in a backward direction. This type of brake is mounted into the rear hub of the BMX bike. So, why is it called a “coaster” brake?

It got its name from allowing the bike to move forward without touching the pedals, but the braking mechanism engages instantly when you try to pedal backward.

These kinds of brakes are pretty much outdated and old-fashioned, but some riders with BMX bikes still have them installed and use them from time to time. Nevertheless, coaster brakes have quite a few advantages over other brakes in BMX bikes. 

For instance, less maintenance is required for coaster brakes than just about any other braking framework, and you won’t have to deal with any messy cables and wires getting in the way of your smooth riding. Overall, the BMX ride is pretty smooth and easy and offers an aesthetically neater look with coaster brakes. 

On the other hand, freestyling on BMX bikes is typically hindered by coaster brakes. When you are on the street, adjusting the pedals and splits in the proper place for grinding would be too complex.

Moreover, it is a big ‘negative’ to not be allowed to pedal. You may reverse, but your feet must remain fully immobile which, following certain movements, is extremely hard.

That’s why the coaster brakes are becoming less common in the BMX scene with changing times. Bike tricks and stunts have also become increasingly difficult and hard to perform, especially with coaster brakes making the entire thing much more complex than it needs to be. 

2. V-Brakes

V-brakes are also known as “direct-pull” brakes and are pretty commonly used in racing bikes. The design is dubbed ‘direct-pull’ since the cable and the arms do not have any mechanisms. 

The V-brakes on BMX bikes are located on both sides of the bike frame with rubber pads placed a couple of millimeters across the rim.

Like other BMX bike brakes, V-brakes are activated by cables, and the line routing is carried from the lever of the handlebars all along the frame of the bike. 

V-brakes were developed to draw more cables when pressing the brake lever, therefore, providing a stronger hold on the rim and improved module brake strength for better control on stopping. They offer strong braking power and are lightweight when compared to any other brake on BMX bikes. I guess this is also probably why they are the favorite brakes of most BMX riders. 

Unfortunately, V- brakes are not all that practical for freestyler BMX riders as the design and framework of these brakes exposes the braking mechanisms to misuse more often than U-brakes, and can also clash with the body or clothes of the rider.

3. U-Brakes

The BMX bike braking system that is by far the most popular is the U-brake.

Due to their sturdiness, straightforward structure, and cable management, the U-brakes are common for all Freestyle and Flatlands BMX bikes. 

Due to their unique contour shape, the U-brakes have a major advantage in that they are 90% out of the way of the rider, leading to a seamless ride.

This is certainly beneficial for every kind of freestyle. U-brakes are very easy to use since they go nicely together with detangles, as well, which makes them very practical and the ideal choice for freestyling on BMX bikes.

Typically, the design of a U-brake includes C-shaped arms that intersect and arch over the tire, thus, the right-hand side of the cable operates the left brake pad, and vice versa.

These arms are usually placed below the chain base. This offers the rear portion of the bike a pleasantly sleek appearance and makes wire routing considerably smoother. 

Through intelligent cable routing, what is known as a Gyro headset, BMX riders may spin and tailwhip 180 and 360-degree with U-brakes.

This design is normally used just for the rear brake of the bike. It operates via a cylindrical stem screw to the steering tube, sending the brake line through the stem and afterward, through the frame on the brakes. This effectively prevents the problem of tangling.

4. Gyro / Rotor / Detangler

The Gyro, also known as the rotor or Detangler, is a braking mechanism created especially for the freestyle BMX.

It contains an extra essential accessory placed between the head tube and the stem. This new component splits the brake system into two halves and permits for a full barspin without tangling any wires. 

The simple and trendy barspin and the tailwhip are two of BMX’s most commonly performed freestyle techniques. They may be performed separately or in combination with other techniques.

These stunts demand that the handlebar turns 360 degrees, therefore, the cable might just get twisted up around the bar, which limits the spin with a standard brake system, hence, the Gyro brake system was created. 

The rotor interferes with the cable path, but the fundamental braking system stays the same: the lever that draws the cord activates the ‘scissor system,’ which draws the brake arms and pushes the pads to the rim to produce resistance that reduces the speed of the bike. 

So, basically what the rotor does is that when you pull the lever, it leads to compressing of the braking region between both plates. The lower wires connecting to the base plate are then pulled and the braking sequence that terminates on the rim is unchained.

Rear wheel of a BMX bike

Should I Take the Brakes Off My BMX?

If you are a newbie, I would suggest that you do not remove your BMX brakes until you are fully informed about what you are doing and have practiced on your BMX as much as possible. 

Brakes will give you plenty of flexibility and control, and this will help with whatever tricks you want to perform initially. Once you succeed in performing these debut stunts, you will have the inspiration to do tougher tricks.

It would take you somewhat more time to realize these changes if you start riding a BMX bike without brakes, especially as a novice, and there is a huge possibility of you getting injured, as well. 

If you take the brakes off, you and your pals are more likely to be at significant risk to those around you when you’re riding down the street, due to a lack of control. If you are riding in a park, doing dirt jumps, trails, or downhill tricks, then I suggest that you don’t remove your brakes at the moment, because it might save not just your life but also the lives of those who are around you when you are riding. 

At the end of the day, every person has their own preference when it comes to whether or not they want to have brakes on their BMX bike. If you are comfortable enough to ride without brakes and don’t feel their need at all, you can remove them but just be very mindful about the laws regarding braking, depending on where you live. 

Removing your brakes might be the only option you have to ride your BMX on the off chance that you can’t afford a Detangler right now. Once you take them off and you still don’t feel completely confident riding without them, it’s completely alright and you can always put the brakes back on your bike to ensure your safety. 

In contrast, getting rid of the brakes on your BMX has a lot of pros, on the other hand. Not only will your bike weigh a lot less comparatively, but it will also have a much neater and sleeker look, in general. In addition to this, you will also be saving yourself from having to keep up with a lot of unnecessary maintenance. 

Removing brakes from your BMX also removes a possible weapon. To be completely frank, I’ve gotten hurt by my own lever and brakes innumerable times now. While I do have the brakes installed on my BMX, I have to admit that a BMX bike without brakes just looks much trendier and sleek, overall. 

Just be careful with the first few rides until you’re accustomed to riding your BMX without brakes and your speed is automatically regulated. It may take some time, but trust me when I say that you will love the feeling! 

The Bottom Line

So, there you have it – your complete guide on brakes on BMX bikes. Whether or not you decide to keep the brakes on your bike is completely up to you. Just do whatever you’re most comfortable with and don’t forget to maintain your brakes’ lifespan by lubricating the cables, cleaning up the rims, and checking the barrel adjusters and wheels as much as you can. 

Have fun riding! 

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site. You can find out more about him at bicycle2work.com/about-martin-williams/

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