We know that the bike world can be a little confusing. They all have two wheels, pedals, and handlebars, so what’s the difference?
Using the correct bike for an activity will determine how easy the ride is or if you’re able to finish the trek at all. You might even end up hurting yourself if you don’t have the right equipment.
So, let’s say you’re an avid BMX bike rider. It’s your favorite thing to do. But one day, your friends invite you to go biking in the mountains with them. Without any time to rent a mountain bike, you throw your BMX in the trunk and hit the road.
How would this work out for you?
Well, the good news is that you could technically get away with it; it just wouldn’t be the incredible experience you might have been hoping for.
Are BMX and Mountain Bikes the same?
No, BMX bikes and mountain bikes are not the same.
The beauty of living in a world with several kinds of bikes is that each bike is meticulously designed to work perfectly in its designated environment. A BMX bike and a mountain bike are built for very different terrains.
The bikes differ in several ways. For example, the frame is built differently. A BMX bike has a very sturdy frame, while a mountain bike is a little more flexible to account for those hilly terrains.
What is a BMX Bike Designed For?
We know that BMX bikes aren’t designed for mountains, so what are they made to do?
BMX bikes are trick bikes. You wouldn’t use a BMX bike to take a relaxing ride through the city or pop to the shops. They are designed to be used for short man-made distances and obstacles.
Think of lots of ramps, big jumps, but smooth and well-maintained surfaces.
Let’s go over the key features of a BMX bike:
On average, BMX tires range from 20 to 24 inches in diameter. The wheels are quite rigid to make turning quickly efficient and precise. Because BMX bikes take some pretty heavy landings, the wheels are laced tightly for impact.
The tires are smooth but very firm. The tread has knobs on the side to help with gripping while cornering.
Unlike other bike models, BMX bikes are only equipped with one gear. You don’t need more than one gear for a BMX bike because you aren’t riding it like you would a ‘normal’ bike.
Suspension is pretty important for the average bike. It absorbs some of the shocks by allowing the wheels to move up and down. You don’t want that suspension with a BMX because the rider needs to control the ascent and descent of the bike.
As previously mentioned, a BMX frame is quite rigid. It’s being thrown in and out of the air, so it needs to be solid enough to take the intense shock waves.
Some BMX bikes don’t even have brakes! They can be ridden with one, two, or zero brakes. Fewer brakes mean a lighter bike with fewer limits.
Usually, BMX bikes have a single rear brake. That’s usually enough to stop when they need to without weighing down the stunts.
What is a Mountain Bike Designed For?
You guessed it… a mountain bike is designed for the mountains! It’s perfect for rocky and hilly terrain with plenty of dips, jagged surfaces, and even a bit of mud and rain.
Unlike a BMX bike, mountain bikes are constructed for long rides on natural surfaces that don’t care that you’re riding an expensive bike. They are built to withstand the wear and tear of Mother Nature.
Here are the key features of a mountain bike:
The biggest advantage of using mountain bike tires is that they work well with less air. The lower pressure allows them to ride over rocks and other jagged bits without popping or making the rider uncomfortable.
Mountain bike wheels range from 26 to 29 inches in diameter, which is much larger than those of a BMX bike.
Mountain bikes can carry up to 24 gears. This may seem like overkill, but when you think of the variety of slopes, stretches, and uphill climbs you come across on a trail, 24 gears are necessary to get through the entire ride without over-exerting yourself or pushing the bike to its limits.
The higher the variety of terrains you want to ride, the more gears you’ll want to have on your mountain bike.
Hardtail mountain bikes will only have front suspension, but most mountain bikes are equipped with back and front suspension. While mountain biking can be quite intense at times, you still want to be comfortable.
Having good suspension on a mountain bike will let you ride along without your body flying in and out of the air every time you encounter a hill.
We’ve established that a BMX bike has a solid and simple frame. On the other hand, a mountain bike has a flexible and bigger frame to accommodate long, bumpy rides. They usually also feature a water bottle holder, lights, and an air pump attachment for on-the-go refills.
You need good brakes on a mountain bike. They are strong enough to withstand thick mud and unexpected puddles. Since you might need to brake when heading down a tall hill, mountain bike brakes are powerful enough to stop in the middle of a speedy descent.
Can you Mountain Bike with a BMX?
Now that we’ve gone through the features of both bikes, it’s hopefully pretty clear that mountain biking with a BMX isn’t the best idea. However, it’s not impossible.
Youtuber Seth Alvo of the channel Seth’s Bike Hacks decided to test out mountain biking with a BMX himself, and needless to say, we’re happy he gave it a go before we did.
Because BMX bikes are made for short sprints, Alvo chose a relatively short but very hilly and rocky trail to test his BMX on. His bike didn’t have breaks and, like other BMX bikes, was fitted with high-pressure tires.
While the BMX did well on hard-surfaced areas, it struggled on the softer terrains that mountain bikes thrive on. The low-pressure and large tires of a mountain bike make riding through sand and soft dirt a piece of cake, but BMX tires can’t get through those same terrains easily.
The lack of brakes also presented Alvo with a challenge. When he found himself gaining too much speed, he had to skid to slow himself down instead of reaching for a trusty brake that mountain bikes are equipped with.
His conclusion? Using a BMX bike for a mountain bike trail is possible, but you might end up hurting yourself. Using the right tool for the job is always the best option, so opt for the mountain bike.
Is a Mountain Bike Faster than a BMX?
Not necessarily. BMX bikes are designed to be quick and nimble, so they gain speed quicker.
However, if you race a BMX bike and a mountain bike on a mountain bike trail, the latter would win. Mountain bikes offer an incomparable amount of control that gives the rider the confidence to power on while still feeling in control.
While a BMX bike can go fast, you may not feel like speeding up through tough terrain if you don’t even have brakes.
What’s the Best Mountain Bike?
We’ve established that you shouldn’t be mountain biking with a BMX. So, what’s the best mountain bike?
Pinnacle Kapur 2
If you’re on a budget, the PInnacle Kapur 2 is a great option that rides nicely. It’s comfortable and efficient when pedaling up steep hills.
It has an aluminum frame and 27.5 inch tires. One review has mentioned that the tires could be a little bigger, but they still think it’s a great bike for a very reasonable price.
Trek Procaliber 9.7
If you’re concerned about going fast, the lightwear Trek Procaliber 9.7 is the one to go for. It’s incredibly speedy and weighs less than 25 pounds.
The bike turns smoothly and rolls over bumps and nicks seamlessly. While the Trek Procaliber 9.7 is certainly a bit pricey, it’s more of an investment than a splurge.
At the End of the Day
You should probably avoid using a BMX as a mountain bike. The bikes are too different to be ridden in the same way. BMX bikes serve a very specific purpose and do so incredibly. Their features don’t translate well in other settings.
If you need confirmation that a BMX isn’t great for mountain biking, be sure to watch Seth Alvo’s video above to see how he managed during his experiment.
Have you ever attempted to mountain bike with a BMX? Was it as treacherous as we think it would be? Would you ever do it again? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!