If you’ve ever tried riding a BMX bike sitting down you know how awkward it can be. The seats are so low there may as well be no seat at all. Though this may seem odd, there is a method to the madness.
BMX bike seats are low because these bikes are designed for stunts and to be ridden standing up. Riding out of the saddle gives the cyclist more speed and power during a race. Having the seat low also keeps it out of the way so the rider can perform tricks without worrying about the seatpost interfering.
Now let’s do a deeper dive into the 5 main reasons that BMX bike seats are so low.
5 Reasons BMX Bike Seats are Low
When riding a BMX bike the goal is speed, not distance. BMX races typically last about 40 seconds. If you are trying to go as fast as you can for 40 seconds, there is no time for sitting. You want to get as much power and speed out of your bike as you can, and the way to do that is by pedaling out of the saddle.
Being out of the saddle lets the cyclist apply a lot more force to the pedals. You can use your body weight and leg muscles to push down harder on the pedals, which increases your speed significantly. This allows you to gain momentum as quickly as possible.
This technique does not work very well for long-distance racing. Your muscles would tire quickly during an all-out effort that lasts for more than a minute or so. That is why these bikes are perfect for short races. Standing allows for brief periods of maximum intensity, which is all you need.
Many BMX riders claim to gain better power for pumping when the seat is lower in the frame. Pumping is a technique where rather than pedaling, a rider pushes down on the front of the bike when cresting the top of a hill to maximize speed on the backside of the hill. Used in conjunction with strategic pedaling, pumping can help you maintain speed during a race.
Pumping just can’t be done while sitting down. When standing and pushing the bike forward, your body naturally moves backward over the rear of the bike. The saddle needs to be out of the way at this moment for you to gain the momentum that you need.
Having the seat out of the way is important for a BMX racer to be able to perform a lot of the great stunts that people love. Having the seat at a normal height could interfere with the performance of tricks like bunny hops, tail whips and supermans, and cause cyclists to crash while performing these tricks.
When performing tricks, you want to have as much freedom of movement around the bike as possible. If the seat was set at a standard road or mountain bike height, there would be no room left for these acrobatic movements.
You may be thinking, if the seats are set low to be out of the way, why not just remove them altogether? Well, the low seat is also an asset when performing ‘no-hander’ tricks. For example, when performing ‘barspins’ you grip the seat with your legs in order to make sure the bike stays underneath you.
The seat is positioned low enough that it does not interfere with some stunts, while remaining a valuable point of contact for others.
The seat also serves as protection from any injury that could occur if a rider landed directly on the seatpost. Landing hard on a hollow metal tube could have serious consequences.
When you jump and land on a BMX bike, your legs will absorb the impact. Because BMX bikes don’t have suspension, your legs need to absorb most of the shock when you’re landing. BMX riders require as much room as possible to squat down after a landing, and a low seat makes this possible.
If the seat was higher, your legs wouldn’t be able to bend enough and you may find yourself landing butt-first on your seat after a huge jump…not ideal.
As well as being useful for tricks, the seat, while low, does allow you to sit down and recover after a trick or race. It gives you the chance to take a break from all of the epic stunts and powerful pedaling.
Although the low seat is good for stunts and taking short breaks, is it practical to sit down and ride a BMX bike like a road or mountain bike?
Can You Sit on a BMX Bike?
Riding a BMX bike sitting down is definitely something you can do. But it’s not necessarily something you’re supposed to do.
Are You SUPPOSED TO Sit on a BMX Bike?
You’ll never really be riding far enough on a BMX bike that you will need to sit. The bike is mainly designed for hitting jumps, performing tricks, and incredibly fast, short-distance riding. If the bike was made for sitting it would be more comfortable to sit on!
So most BMX riders do not sit.
Really, the only time to sit is when you’re waiting for a race to begin, resting, or doing some casual riding through the park.
If you want to, it is possible to use a BMX bike to commute. Though using these bikes for long rides is not very practical. They are fine to ride for a couple of miles, but any further than that can be challenging.
If riding your BMX bike for longer distances is something you’re interested in, then it would be a good idea to add a bit of cushioning. Switching to a seat with extra cushion will make for a much more comfortable ride.
But it still won’t be as comfortable as riding with a higher seat. This brings us to our next question.
Can You Raise BMX Bike Seats?
Yes, you can raise a BMX bike seat. But they only extend so far. You’re not going to be able to get a BMX bike seat as high as on a regular bike, but you can get a few extra inches out of it.
People more often than not keep their seats low to give themselves extra room when riding. But having your seat higher can be beneficial for no-handed tricks and for doing turn downs. It allows a bit of extra clearance to get your leg through during the trick. If you’re a taller rider, raising the seat a few inches may make it easier for you to pinch the seat between your legs during those no-handers.
As a rider, you have to experiment with the height of your seat and find what works best for you.
But if you are planning on raising your seat as far as it will go, be careful. BMX seats can be raised but they are still not designed to be very high. If your seatpost is marked with a “Maximum Height” symbol and you raise it higher than this, you could risk bending or damaging the post or frame.
How to Raise a BMX Bike Seat
Raising a BMX bike seat is a very simple process:
- Use an Allen key to loosen the seat clamp at the top of the seatpost
- Once the clamp is loose you can adjust the seat height
- After you get your seat to the height you want, retighten the seat clamp
Here is a video that demonstrates the process step by step:
Now that we understand why a BMX seat is so low, let’s look at the bike frame in more detail.
Why Are BMX Bike Frames so Short?
1. Easier to Jump With
The smaller the bike, the bigger the jump.
Imagine trying to hit a big jump with a big, heavy bike weighing you down. A small, light bike is going to be much easier to get into the air.
This extra height off jumps gives a cyclist more time to perform tricks before landing.
2. Withstands Hard Impacts
A small frame does a better job at withstanding impact when landing.
BMX bikes usually have 20-inch wheels and only one gear. This small, simple design makes the frame more resistant to impact on large jumps or features. A simpler, more robust design means less to get damaged during the landing.
Being able to withstand heavy landings is very important when performing extreme stunts, especially if you’re a beginner rider. The bike is going to have to be able to withstand a lot of abuse while you’re learning to stick those landings.
3. Easier to Perform Stunts
A small bike is much better for performing stunts.
A BMX bike has to be designed a certain way for riders to be able to perform tricks. A small bike is easier to control in the air, while a larger bike the size of a road or mountain bike would be much more difficult to maneuver.
The lightweight design of a BMX bike makes it so that the rider can spin and throw the bike around with ease.
4. Easier to Get Up to Speed
Smaller, more light-weight bikes go faster.
A smaller frame reduces the weight of the bike and makes it easier to get up to speed. This is one of the reasons why BMX racers are able to accelerate so quickly. The lighter your bike, the faster you can make it go.
5. Originally Made For Kids
If you’ve ever looked at a BMX bike and thought it looked like it was made for kids, you were right. BMX bikes were originally designed for kids ages 6-17.
Gradually adults started using them and designed an entire sport based around them. The target audience changed but the bikes never did…though a BMX bike still remains a great first bike for your kids!