Compiled here is a brief glossary of BMX race terms you’ll likely hear at the track or in conversation.


Class: Rolling on 20-inch wheel bikes

Cruiser: Cruising on 24-inch wheel bikes

Clips: Anything that mechanically secures your foot to the pedal. Toe clips, straps, or clipless shoes with a locking cleat. 13 and older, intermediate or expert. Everyone else on flats.

Flats: A pedal with a flat surface usually with spiky studs to help keep your feet on them.

Gearing: This means how many teeth on the front and rear gears. Say the front is 44 teeth and the rear is 16. It is said as 44/16. Divide the two numbers and get a ratio. This is a very basic ratio and doesn't account for tire size and crank length, but for most BMX the starting point is 2.75 (44/16=2.75) for 20x1.75 tires and about 2.6 for 20x1-1/8 tires. A higher number equals more top speed and less acceleration. Lower numbers equal more acceleration and less top speed.

Gear inches, gain ratio, rollout: These are mathematically derived numbers based on gears, crank length, and tire diameter. Everyone has advice on the best gearing and rollout but each rider is different. Some spin, some mash.


Spin: Fast moving legs. Spinning makes for fast acceleration. This is associated with gearing with smaller ratio numbers.

Mash: Slower cadence but lots of power. Usually a higher gear ratio number.

Think of spinning as a Formula 1 engine spinning at 10,000 RPM. Think of mashing as a Caterpillar diesel spinning at 2500 RPM. Some riders spin, some mash.

Manual: Kids seem to figure this one out on their own. Some are good at it and others just need to pump it instead. It isn't a wheelie. There are better articles on it than this.

Pumping: Pumping is used to maintain or gain speed over bumps and humps. Use your arms, legs, and bodyweight to gain speed. When you're going down a backside, push the bike down. When you're going up the face, pull the bike up. Light-heavy-light-heavy or up-down-up-down.

Case: Coming up short on a jump and it requires quick recovery techniques to prevent a crash. Most times it ends in a crash anyway.

Snap: A way to launch off the gate. It involves throwing weight around to get some extra oomph and is a learned art.


Moto: The racing part. Typically, there are three motos to race per rider group. In auto racing motos would be called ‘heats.’

Obstacle: Anything not flat on the track.

Backside: The downward side of a hill, bump, jump.

Face: The front side. Opposite of backside.

Turn: A turn is a banked corner, also called a berm. They are made of dirt or asphalt most of the time. A typical BMX track has 3 or 4 turns.

Double: Two bumps on one obstacle. Doubles often give you the option of jumping from the first to the second bump, or manualing/pumping through from the first to the second.

Triple: Three bumps on one obstacle.

Gate: Literally a hinged gate. It’s at the starting hill. The gate is where the race starts. There are a few styles of gates, some more elegant than others.

Starting Hill, Start Hill, The Hill: The place where you stage and start. Can’t miss it.

Staging: The area on and near the hill where riders are organized into their motos.

Holeshot, taking the holeshot: The first straight. The rider in 1st that leads the others down the first straight "took the holeshot." In pro level racing taking the holeshot often means winning the race most of the time. In amateur racing taking the wholeshot is great but depending on riding style, quality, and fitness getting the holeshot doesn't always mean winning the race.

Lip: This is the sharpness of the peak on faces and backsides. A peaky lip is good for jumps and a smooth lip is rolled over.

Pro-section: This means a mandatory big jump. Pro-sections are basically two ramps; jump off one, land on the other. In between there is rough grass, alligators, snakes, mud, and lava. Not many tracks have a pro-section, and amateurs don't use the pro section. If an amateur finds themselves forced into a pro-section then they need to pedal like there is a pissed off chimp with a machine gun chasing them and hope to clear it.

Rhythm Section, Rollers: A rhythm section is several rolling bumps (rollers) placed together in a tight grouping. The rhythm part comes from finding the (up-down-up-down light-heavy) rhythm to gain or maintain speed by pumping and/or manualing. Whoops is the motocross term for this feature, so some people might use the term whoops... usually old BMX'ers from the 80's.

Roller: A single low rounded bump.

Step-down: A step down is a double or triple where bumps get lower than the first. Literally like a going downstairs.

Step-up: A step up is a double or triple where the bumps get higher than the first. Like going upstairs.

Tabletop: A tabletop is fun. Like a butte in geography. They are great to learn jumping skills on.

Pits: The area around the track where you sit and watch, fix your bike, find food vendors, talk to your friends, and raging hordes of semi-domesticated feral kids play.