In the past two decades, BMX, or bicycle motocross biking, has experienced a surge in popularity.
With the start of the X Games, and as its recognition as an Olympic sport in 2008, the number of BMX bike participants have increased from 1.96 million to 3.44 million people over the past several years, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
BMX biking involves either competitive racing or freestyle biking.
“It basically comes from guys (who) used to ride motorcycles on tracks out in the desert across jumps and doing turns,” Craig Bark, a former Paly teacher and former BMX biker, said. “A lot of kids who were younger wanted to do that on their bikes, and we were on the streets.”
Accoring to Bark in the early stages of BMX biking, most biking tracks consisted of vacant lots and biking around in the streets.
However, as the sports picked up in popularity, more and more tracks were starting to be built.
“In the mid 70s, [people] started building actual tracks for kids to race on in Southern California, In the mid 70s, they had a race at The Coliseum down in Los Angeles during the middle of an NFL game.”
In the 1970s, off-road motorcycle racing was really popular, and this was a way for kids to do that when they couldn’t get out in the desserts or didn’t have motorcycles. They would try to emulate the motorcycle riders on their bikes.”
Bark’s interest in BMX biking started when a friend invited him to a track, but his interests in bikes and competition in general have always been an important part of his life.
“I got my first motorcycle when I was three,” Bark said. “My dad used to race off-road motorcycles and I used to ride on his gas tank. I’ve always had motorcycles and bikes for as long as I can remember. I think (biking) was just natural. I started riding motorcycles then bikes, and one day my friend in fifth grade said his mom was taking him out to a local track. I had been out to motorcycle racing but I had never been at a bicycle track. I had only been on the streets and in the fields. So my first time I went with him and his mom. My dad had never been so he ended up coming too. And after that it was cool so I started racing.”
What started as casually biking on tracks and in the streets quickly became a profession for Bark when the brand GT Bikes started sponsoring him.
GT would supply his bike and his jersey, and would fly him out from tournament to tournament.
Flying from country to country and competing in national and even world championships, Bark gained worldwide recognition.
Along with BMX biking, there has been a surge in popularity in the related sport of mountain biking.
Mountain biking stems from BMX biking, and has lots of overlapping characteristics.
“When you’re on a BMX, it requires a lot of technical skills like jumping,” senior and mountain biker Miles Schulman said. “Like the ‘bunny hop’ BMXers work a lot on that and the same kind of motion is used in mountain biking. If there’s a rock in the trail it helps to be able to bunny hop over it.”
Schulman first started mountain biking in eighth grade, following his parents’ footsteps who frequently go on bike rides.
According to Schulman, he prefers mountain biking to BMXing because people can mountain bike on any terrain whereas BMX biking requires a certain venue or terrain.
Students and mountain bikers in general typically mountain bike through the Arastradero Preserve, which is more of a beginner trail, or the Santa Cruz mountains, according to Schulman.
“I like mountain biking a lot because it uses the same skill sets that you need when BMXing,” Schulman said. “You can kind of (mountain bike) anywhere, which is kind of the purpose of mountain biking. BMX is more specialized.”