You might have been a BMX bandit as a kid, but it's unlikely you've got on the saddle of an off-road sport bike since way back then. Y, tho? BMX is seriously fun – and a good workout, too, says pro BMX rider Saya Sakakibara. She chats to WH about why you should get into it...
Can an adult try BMX, or is it too late for us?
"Well the thing about BMX is it’s pretty much for all ages. You see little kids from four years old, all the way up to... I think the oldest person I've seen is about 60. Yeah, so literally it’s for anyone, if you have a bike and a determination to go out and have fun. If you think you might want to give it a go, it’s definitely not too demanding."
OK, so where would I go to try BMX?
"If you don't want to just practice around your home, look up BMX in your area and you’ll find at least a couple of BMX tracks. I mean, it depends where you live but there’s a lot of tracks around NSW and Queensland. It’s really accessible. Most tracks are open as well, there’s no fencing around them - they're open to the public, so it’s so easy to get into. Obviously you can do coaching sessions and stuff like that once you’re a member, but you can definitely just teach yourself, it’s just practice makes perfect."
What exactly does BMX involve?
"BMX tracks consist of dumps, like obstacles. A race involves lots of speed because it’s really important to conquer those obstacles as fast and efficiently as you can so. In a race, lots of tactics are involved as well, because if you’re behind someone you might plan to pass them at like a corner or something. In a race that only lasts for 30 or 40 seconds, there’s definitely a lot of things to think about in a short amount of time."
How is the bike different from a cycling bike?
"A BMX because it only has one gear. So you can’t change gears to go up hills and go down, it’s fixed. And you can’t really sit down on it either so it’s really hard work – it’s really designed for the track and standing up and peddling."
What do you love about BMX?
"I love the individuality of the sport. When I was growing up I used to play a lot of team games for school and stuff, but most of the time I’d get frustrated with other teammates. But with BMX it’s just you, you don’t have to think about other riders or anything. Whatever you put into it, you get out of it. I also love how fast it is. I definitely don’t like long-distance, like things that carry on too long, so BMX is perfect – the races are short but there are so many things that can go into it. Like the action, you’re racing people, and it’s so fast, I love how thrilling it is."
In what ways is BMX good for your fitness?
"It's definitely good for your legs, you’re gonna have to pedal the bike, so it's lots of legwork. In a race, even if it’s only 30 seconds, we’re all going flat-out, so by the end of it you’re puffed. It's crazy how fast it gets your heart rate up. And otherwise, you’ve gotta keep yourself upright, so your core, and your arms – it’s a full-body workout."
How did you get into BMX?
"Well, my brother Kai, he’s three years older than me, and my brother loved riding his bike around. My parents bought me a bike, I loved riding, and it clicked from the moment I hopped on. And I’ve been doing it ever since."
Do you think sport's growing in popularity among women?
"When I was growing up like I only had five or so girls to race against, but now there’s so many of them and it’s still growing. Even the older women, those categories too, I see a lot more of them than I’ve seen since I remember. So it’s really cool to see lots of women getting involved in what’s sometimes perceived as a men’s sport. Which it isn’t, it’s for all ages, both genders, it’s definitely for everyone."