How Do BMX Brakes Work? (Solved!)


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There are lots of options when it comes to BMX brakes and how they work.

There are four types of BMX bikes according to their brakes: bikes with no brakes, only front brakes, only rear brakes, and bikes with both front and rear brakes. 

Also there are a range of different braking mechanisms. BMX bikes come in a variety of different brake styles like U-break and V-break.

In this article, I’ll talk about the many and varied ways that BMX brakes work, and give you some pointers so you can decide what might be right for your BMX bike.

How Do BMX Brakes Work?

How Do BMX Brakes Work?

Depending on the rider’s preference and style, BMX bikes can be installed with any of the following:

  1. Two brakes
  2. One brake
  3. No brakes at all

According to the law, all the bikes have to be sold with two brakes but most of the riders who choose BMX bikes tend to remove either one or both of their brakes according to their function.

Most BMX riders tend to remove the front brake to minimize the weight of the bike and ensure that the rider can easily maneuver it during racing, jumping, or their stunts.

Although removing both the brakes from your bike can be extremely dangerous, there are some added benefits to doing so.

Riding a BMX bike without a brake can assist the rider in performing stunts like a barspin or tailwhip without the brake threads getting in the way; since these tricks involve the handlebar rotating at 360degrees. 

The BMX Flatland riders often remove both of their brakes while BMX racers remove only the front brake of their bikes.

Other types of bikers choose to remove both brakes as well but having at least one brake in your bike can be beneficial to control your speed and to make sure you don’t overshoot on a jump. 

There are two types of bike brakes present in a BMX bike that have a similar purpose but a different design that caters to different types of BMX bikes. They are:

V-Brakes

V-brakes in a BMX bike are cable-actuated and tend to loop over the existing rim of the bike. These brakes have rubber pads that are positioned at every few MMS on either side of the bike rim.

When a rider pulls the lever, the v-brakes are activated which pulls the cable more strongly and provides a firmer grip on the rim.

This ensures a better experience with stopping the bike, without causing any damage to the bike tires with additional friction from the riding surface. 

U-Brakes

U-brakes are the most common kind of brake system in a BMX bike and are specially designed for Freestyle BMX bikes and Flatland BMX bikes.

These brakes are durable, simple, and have a smart cable design with a gyro which allows the riders to rotate their handlebars to 360degrees without having the cables interfere. 

The U-brakes with their Gyro headset are only designed to be installed in the rear brakes of the BMX bikes. It ingeniously guides the brake cables to split into two, which avoids the problem of tangling during stunts. 

Over the years, people have tried to come up with ways to include brakes into the bikes and continue performing difficult stunts.

One of the ways to do that Is to install a gyro or a rotor. 

What is a Rotor/Gyro and How Does It Work?

The Rotor, also known as a gyro or a detangler, is an invention for the BMX bikes, especially for the Freeland bikes, which allows the rider to execute tricks and feats that involve rotating the handlebars 360degrees, without the brake cables tangling.

The detangler is used only for the rear brakes while the front ones can be looped in through the hollow stem which is known as Potts mod bolt. (Source

The rotor has an important extra accessory that is inserted between the head tube and the stem of the bike.

This new accessory divides the single brake cables into dual cables that are threaded in from both sides of the bike, which divides the braking system into two parts.

This permits the user to rotate the handlebar at 360 degrees to execute stunts without twisting the brake cables. 

When a rotor is installed in the headset area which splits the cable into two parts. The upper cable comes from the lever on the handlebar, splits into two, and goes on either side of the bike where they get attached to the top plate of the head tube.

The lower cable attaches to the bottom plate and merges with the upper cable on the top tube of the bike frame. 

So when you pull the brakes, both the plates get contracted which pulls the lower cables, unchaining the braking sequence.

This is how the rotor comes into play in a freestanding BMX bike. 

How to Ride BMX Bikes Without Any Brakes?

Although the rotors/ detanglers do a decent job at controlling the brake cables, some riders still prefer riding without any brakes.

A usual freestyle BMX stunt is executed at a speed of around10-15km/hr, whereas the BMX runs at a speed of 57 km/hr. 

It is recommended for all BMX bike owners to at least keep the rear brakes installed for emergencies. Because to stop a BMX bike without the use of brakes, you must become an expert in controlling your bike and calculating the speed at which you race.

One way that freestyle bikers stop their bikes without brakes is by using their feet.

You can either place your feet on the ground to generate enough friction to stop or you can use your foot as a brake by placing it on top of your rear tire to decrease your speed.

Although this method works, it has been proven to cause many accidents. 

BMX Bikes And Brakes

BMX bikes are known for their lightweight structure, upright handlebars, and thick, sturdy tires that enable the user to easily maneuver the bike for their stunts.

The frame of these bikes is made with lightweight materials like aluminum and carbon.

They are light, sturdy, and versatile and can be used for commuting, racing, stunt-work, and on challenging terrains.

The lighter the frame, the more expensive the bikes are. Inexpensive and low-end BMX bikes are made of steel while the high-end bikes are made of Chromoly, aluminum, or carbon.

The body of the bikes is made according to the intended use of the biker. While the low-end bikes are made of steel which is a heavier material, the professional BMX bikes are made of 4130 Chromoly or 3rd generation Chromoly.

The wheels on these bikes are small with a width of around 20 inches with thick knobby tires which are resilient against almost all types of terrains. 

Most BMX bikes come equipped with only a rear brake, while some are fitted with both front and rear. For safety reasons, the BMX racing bikes have a rear brake, meanwhile, all the brakes are removed from the BMX bikes by freestyle BMX riders to enable them to perform their tricks and stunts smoothly. 

Brakes on BMX bike
There are a wide range of options for brakes on BMX bikes

Types of BMX Bikes And Brakes

Different compositions of bikes are designed for the different BMX events.

However, nowadays the BMX bikes are designed for all types of uses unless they are professional racing BMX bikes which are customized for every individual according to their taste. (Source)

BMX Racing Bikes

BMX bikes were originally inspired to replicate dirt trucks that were used to race on dirt tracks. The entire BMX racing event involves multiple bikers racing around in a circuit that has an artificially designed terrain with jumps, bumps, and turns. 

The body of the BMX racing bikes is made of alloy, aluminum, or carbon, to decrease their weight and increase mobility, speed, and acceleration.

Moreover, these bikes are fitted with a rear brake only, which ensures the safety of the riders and allows them to adjust their speed according to the racing track and their preference. 

However, like most professional bikes, the BMX racing bikes are size-specific and have to be tailored according to the height, weight, and size of the rider.

The close tailoring or customization of the BMX racing bikes enables the riders to perform the best, which is a basic requirement of the riders during professional BMX racing events. 

BMX Freestyle Bikes

BMX freestyle biking is one of the most known BMX events, which made an appearance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. This style of BMX event involves the riders using a skating rink or ramps to perform stunts and various other difficult tricks. 

The BMX freestyle bikes are known to be sturdy, fast, and lightweight.

These bikes are made with a durable material like Chromoly which helps absorb the shocks without rattling the bike.

It also helps the riders cope with the heavy impact that takes place during their stunts. The sturdy frames and thick 20” wheels allow the riders to maneuver it easily without any accidents or injuries. 

The freestyle bikes are equipped with both front and rear brakes along with a rotor (also known as a detangler) which allows the riders to twist their handlebars completely without tangling or damaging the brake cables. 

BMX Dirt/Jump Bikes

BMX dirt racing is an informal event that takes place on dirt tracks or ramps that are constructed, designed, and retained by hand.

The bikes used for these types of trails are very similar to BMX freestyle bikes except for the tires. The riders that opt for dirt bikes get the benefit of gripper tires and heavier wheels to cope with the compacted dirt ramps. 

Jump bikes or dirt bikes are the hybrid of a mountain bike and a BMX freestyle and have suspensions that help with the cushioning of hard hits and heavy impacts.

They are also equipped with front and rear brakes that help the user control their speed while racing.

Moreover, the handlebars on these bikes are wider than normal which makes it easier to navigate the bike while racing. 

BMX Flatland Bikes

BMX Flatland Bikes are designed specially to perform tricks and stunts while on the smooth ground rather than on a complicated dirt track or at a skating rink.

It is one of the most graceful forms of biking, which has also been compared to dancing. 

The BMX bikes are made of a lightweight, sturdy and durable frame that can withstand the pressure of the stunts.

This style of bike riding involves a lot of balance and control and therefore, the bikes are customized according to the user’s size, weight, and height.

The BMX Flatland bikes usually come with no brakes to allow the rider to perform their tricks and stunts, and to navigate the bike through it all without breaking the brake lever. 

Final Thoughts

BMX bikes are one of the most innovative evolutions of a bike that have been witnessed over the years. They are versatile, sturdy, lightweight, and easy to maneuver by both beginners and professionals.

These bikes come fitted with two brakes: front and rear and can work a variety of different terrains. The brake systems on these bikes have been designed efficiently by adding a piece that guarantees safety along with fun. 

If you are looking to invest in a BMX bike for yourself, it is important for you to do in-depth research on the types of bikes and their braking systems.

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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