Given that BMX bikes are lightweight and almost indestructible, it’s tempting to hit the mountains with one. But can you use a BMX bike for mountain biking?
Though you can go mountain biking with a BMX, I least recommend it. Essentially, that’s because BMX bikes lack suspension to absorb bumps and only have one gear, which means you’ve to pedal hard, and that can be exhausting.
Additionally, their smaller wheels, compact frames, and fixed saddle position also make mountain biking uncomfortable and tiring.
I’m not totally against mountain biking with a BMX, but you should know that it’s neither easy nor comfortable. I’ll shed more light on that to help you understand my argument.
I’ll also describe the difference between BMX bikes and MTBS to help you know when to get one over the other. Plus, I’ll recommend the best BMX and MTBs, depending on the need.
Can You Use A BMX Bike For Mountain Biking?
Like I hinted earlier, yes, you can use a BMX for mountain biking, but you shouldn’t consider it. That’s unless you want to challenge yourself more, even if it means sacrificing comfort and enduring all the exhaustion.
Now, here are the reasons why BMX bikes are not the best for mountain biking.
1. BMX Bikes Lack Suspension
You need a bike with shock absorption to conquer hills. Sadly, that’s not a BMX.
BMX bikes do not come with suspension; thus, the name rigid.
For them, you’ve to anticipate bumps to reposition your body, not to feel the heavy hit. But being human, you are likely to fault somewhere, which means a very uncomfortable mountain biking experience.
2. BMX Bikes Are Only Single-Speed
BMX bikes are mostly single-geared, which means you have to pedal a lot. So, if you decide to pedal uphill, you are likely to get tired much faster.
Even worse, you could suffer muscle cramps in the middle your cycling trip. That’s unlike mountain bikes, which come multi-geared to allow you to shift quickly and conquer hills.
3. A BMX Compact Frame Doesn’t Favor Mountain Biking
BMX frames are generally smaller and mostly come in one size to accommodate both kids and adults.
The problem with a compact frame is that it doesn’t offer you much flexibility when cycling uphill, more so when you are taller. So, you are likely to strain your bike a lot when trying to go uphill.
4. A BMX Bike’s Small Wheels Don’t Favor Mountain Biking
BMX bikes generally come with 20-inch or 24-inch wheels. Compared to MTBs, these wheels are smaller, making them only suitable for smoother surfaces.
Their tires are also less knobby, which means they don’t guarantee the best traction on mountainous terrain.
5. BMX Bikes Have a Fixed Saddle Position
Remember, BMX seats are rarely used as you mostly stand racing, jumping, and doing the tricks. As a result, these seats have a one-fixed position.
So, if you decide to sit, which is recommendable when going uphill, you’ll have to keep your body straight and stiff, thus uncomfortable on long-distance.
So, What’s A BMX Bike For?
Now that we’ve seen that a BMX bike is not the best for mountain biking, what is it for? Why spend money on a BMX?
Ideally, BMX bikes are best for stunts and jumps (what we call freestyling) and racing.
That brings us to these two types of BMX bicycles:
- Freestyle BMX bikes – Freestyle BMX bikes are optimized for strength and maneuverability, thus suitable for jumping and doing tricks. A perfect example is the Mongoose Legion Freestyle BMX Bike.
- Race BMX – Race BMX bikes are optimized for speed, thus perfect for street racing. They are generally lighter than freestyle options, and one example is the Mongoose Title Elite Pro BMX.
What Is The Difference Between A BMX And A Mountain Bike?
Since we are talking about mountain biking, we’ve to bring the mountain bike into the picture.
Here’s how MTBs and BMX bikes compare:
a) Bike Frame
BMX frames are generally smaller, and they mostly come one size.
Even though they are robustly built to take on aggressive use, their frames are not the most comfortable. You tend to struggle when cycling uphill, and so you are likely to get exhausted quickly.
In contrast, MTB frames are larger and come in different sizes for you to find your perfect fit. Their geometry generally makes mountain biking more comfortable.
b) Wheel Size and Tire Type
BMX bikes come with 20-inch or 24-inch wheels, which are considerably smaller than those of MTBs. Standard adult MTB wheels start from 26 inches.
The fact that BMX wheels are smaller means they are more suited to smoother surfaces. In contrast, an MTB’s larger wheels can take on long rough stretches.
MTB wheels also feature large knobbier tires that guarantee optimal grip on a variety of terrains.
Sadly, the tires of a BMX don’t offer you that. They are only grippy on smoother terrains.
c) Shock Suspension
Unlike MTBs, BMX bikes don’t come with suspension. So, you’ve to anticipate bumps and position your body accordingly.
MTBs, on the other hand, have shock suspension (apart from rigid MTBs). The suspension allows you to have a less bumpy experience when mountain biking.
d) Brake Type
BMX bikes come with v-brakes that you find on the rear wheel, while mountain bikes mostly come with disc brakes.
While V-brakes are greater under perfect conditions, they are not powerful enough on steep hills and wet conditions, as it’s the case with disc brakes.
Disc brakes can also withstand high temperature/extreme heat, which is sadly not the case with v-brakes.
Mountain bikes come with a wide gear range to allow you to shift quickly, regardless of the terrain. The gears give you the necessary momentum to go up and down a road.
BMX, in contrast, only come single-geared, making it impossible to shift and take on the hills and descents. The one gear that you get on a BMX is enough to sprint, jump, and freestyle.
f) Seat Position
Though both bikes allow you to sit pretty straight when cycling, BMX seats have a one-fixed position that makes them uncomfortable uphill.
You’ve to maintain a vertical seat position on a BMX, which you cannot change.
While some MTBs, also come with a fixed seat, a majority now have dropper posts, which allow you to change the seat position quickly. As a result, it becomes easy to ascend and descend.
Is A BMX Bike Better Than A Mountain Bike? Verdict
Choosing between a BMX and a mountain bike depends on cycling needs and personal preference.
Generally, a BMX bike is best for:
- Stunts, tricks, and jumps
- Short runs
- Dirt jumping
- Park riding
- Short distance commuting, especially by school going kids
With the above in mind, here some of the best BMX bikes on Amazon:
- Mongoose Legion Freestyle BMX Bike – Best Freestyle BMX
- Mongoose Title Elite Pro BMX – Best Race BMX
- Schwinn Sting Pro and Predator BMX – Best Cruising BMX
As for mountain bikes, they are generally best for:
- Mountain biking
- Trail adventures
- Off-road cycling
- Off-road commuting
- Long-distance cycling
1. Can You Ride A Mountain Bike On A BMX Track?
Mountain bikes are not the best substitute for BMX. Though you can ride them on BMX tracks, don’t expect to do stunts and jumps or race as you do with a BMX.
If you want to jump, perform stunts or race with a bike, get a BMX and not an MTB.
2. Are BMX Bikes Good For Mountain Biking?
BMX bikes are not the best for mountain biking. That’s because they’ve smaller wheels and frames and lack suspension. Also, they only have one gear, making it hard for you to shift, and their seat has a one-fixed position, thus less comfortable.
3. Can You Use BMX Pedals On A Mountain Bike?
Provided that the BMX pedals and the mountain bike’s crank have a 9/16” matching thread, you can install them (the pedals) on the MTB.
But if the BMX pedals feature a half-inch thread, consider replacing the axle or fit an adapter first before fitting them.
4. Can You Use A BMX For Commuting?
BMX bikes are not designed for commuting. Their seats are less comfortable, and they’ve only one gear, which means you’ve to invest lots of effort in the pedaling.
However, if you want to commute over short distances on smoother terrain, you can use a BMX.
- Can You Put BMX Handlebars On A Mountain Bike?
- Can You Raise Bike Handlebars?
- Are BMX Bikes Good for Exercise?
In Summary, Can You Use A BMX Bike For Mountain Biking?
The short answer is yes. But from the reasons I’ve discussed, a BMX should be your last option for mountain biking.
If you want to go mountain biking, you better go for a bike designed for that, and that’s a mountain bike.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is BMX the same as mountain biking?
When it comes to the world of cycling, BMX and mountain biking are distinct disciplines, each coming with their own bike designs and riding styles. Think of it this way, BMX bikes are the sprinters of the cycling world – they’re optimized for quick bursts of speed and performing stunts, which is why you often see them dazzling audiences at skate parks and in urban environments. Their compact and lightweight frames make them great for jumps and tricks, but these elements unfortunately rule them out for long, leisurely rides.
On the other hand, mountain bikes are the long-distance runners and off-road adventurers of the biking family. They're larger and heavier, designed to tackle rough terrains and trails with ease, thanks to their sturdy frames, wide tires, and often, suspension systems. Riding a mountain bike is all about endurance and exploring off the beaten path. It's not unheard of to embark on long mountain biking trips that can span several days and take you through some truly breathtaking scenery.
As someone who’s ridden both types of bikes, I can tell you first-hand the difference in riding feel between a BMX and mountain bike is pretty significant.
Can you use a mountain bike on a BMX track?
Traditionally, BMX tracks have been the territory of BMX bikes. However, that’s not to say other bikes can’t join the fun! If you’re thinking about taking your mountain bike for a spin on a pump track, go ahead. Mountain bikes, particularly regular ones, can handle a round of laps.
However, you might find your mountain bike doesn't quite have the same zip or maneuverability as a BMX on these tracks. This is primarily due to the mountain bike’s larger wheels, off-road tires, suspension, and high saddles – characteristics that may be seen as obstacles on a pump track.
Cross-country and trail mountain bikes might struggle a bit, but they can still handle some laps on the pump track. When I first started hitting pump tracks, I was riding a trail MTB. It wasn't as nimble as a BMX, but it was good fun and still helped me improve my balance and bike handling skills.
Can you take a mountain bike to a BMX park?
While BMX parks are often seen as sacred grounds for BMX bikes, they are by no means exclusives. Mountain bikes are more than welcome, and you’ll often see riders bringing their own MTBs to the park. The goal should be comfort and familiarity, especially for younger riders – the last thing we want is to make kids feel intimidated or out of place. Trust me, as a long time cyclist, I can say confidently that kids can find riding a bmx on a track daunting, so it’s important they feel comfortable on the bike they’re using.
So if your child's trusty bike is a mountain bike, bring it along. You don't want the bike to be the reason they feel out of place. They might not be pulling off the same stunts as the BMX riders, but they'll still have a whale of a time.