BMX vs. moto for bike skills?

I’m trying to build riding skills in general. Skill-wise now I’m, well, way below average; decent at XC for someone with not-great skills. I’m thinking about either 1) buying a BMX bike to work most efficiently on basics, or 2) doing some motocross also to build basics.

I realize those are two pretty different things, but both are with the goal of developing better all-round skills on a bike. I’d appreciate any input you have in terms of which route makes more sense to you (or any other route that you thinks makes sense).


Hey John,

I like where you’re going with this. In a perfect world, you could rock some XC, some BMX, some moto, some DH, some Pump Track Nation … but we all have temporal and financial constraints, don’t we?

BMX and moto will do different things for you:

BMX: Fine-tune your bike-handling skills and improve your bike-specific strength. All of your movements will become quicker and more precise. Your XC bike will feel better than ever.

Moto: Improve your high-speed confidence and general resistance to brutality. Mountain bike speeds won’t seem so fast, and you’ll get incredibly strong. But your XC bike will feel sketchier than ever. I think moto serves DH racers better than XC riders.

If your goal is bicycle-handling skills, a BMX is the more focused choice.

While this is certainly not a waste of time …

… this is probably better for bike skills.

Also consider:
If you’re a “decent” XC rider, chances are you won’t be able to handle a BMX bike. You’ll be so conscious of the smallness and stiffness that you won’t be able to focus on enhancing your kung fu.

Get a dirt jump hardtail. They are easy to ride, extremely versatile and conducive to kung fu enhancement.

I have a complete stable of bicycles — plus a Honda CRF450X trail moto — and my P.3 gets ridden the most.

And there’s always …
… learning to ride the bike you have. Unless you’re maxing out your current bike — and who does? — that’s the best bang for your buck.

Rip it!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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17 replies
  1. Chris says:


    I’ve never ridden a moto, but I forced myself to race BMX to improve my skills (which it did). I did have an XC (but with short stem and wide bars), trail and DH bike at the time. Learning to ride a BMX (and flats!) was one of the best things I ever did for my riding. Plus there is no better reality check than being gated by a 12 year old (even if he was a 3 times World Champion at the time).

  2. Derek R. says:

    Lee Likes Clinics!

    I haven’t taken one of Lee’s clinics but I am quite certain that you will become a better rider from it. Judging by the book and this site.

  3. Robyn@VintageRedline says:

    You don’t have to go full BMX gonzo and get a 20″, I really enjoy riding my BMX cruisers- 24″.

    Still quicker, lighter and more responsive than MTB, but not quite the full twitchiness of a 20″. I ride the 24″ for pump tracks, jumping, BMX tracks and skateparks. Fun all the way around, and a great skills builder.

  4. Mike says:

    Yeah I started racing a GT gruiser last year and it has helped my MTB skills no end
    The bike feels really stiff compared to my MTB’s but I’m still more comfortable on a MTB than the cruiser

  5. seasonal says:

    I agree. I bought a 24″ cruiser for this same reason. Don’t get one unless you have a pump track or dirt jumps nearby. If you get a moto, you will only get a fraction of the experience that you will get on a dj hardtail or 24″ cruiser. This is, of course, assuming that you do not have a moto track in your back yard, but you do have bicycle terrain nearby.
    Rock the 24!

  6. MW says:

    I have to second the motion to take a skills course. BMX rocks and moto is in my soul but if you are not building a solid fundamental base, the learning curve could take a long, painful path.

    Take a course and ride, ride, ride your bike until its part of you.

  7. Karmen says:

    My thought is that money and time spent on a skills class brings HUGE rewards. If you want better skills, why not get some instruction and then practice the drills on your current bike and practice with your current bike on the trails.

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    Hare scrambles are so freaking rad!!! But, sadly, not very practical (at least for me).

    Speed + endurance + traffic + varying terrain = braaap!!!

  9. roger says:

    “Moto: Improve your high-speed confidence and general resistance to brutality. ”

    I love this! Everything on a moto is twice as fast, twice as brutal, twice as high and yes, i think it would be best for DH training purposes.

  10. Jason Smith says:

    Hare scrambles are incredibly addictive so I just threw the idea out but yes only applicable to dh

  11. leelikesbikes says:

    “Everything I need to know, I learned in a hare scramble”

    – Be prepared

    – Take care of your gear

    – Be considerate but aggressive

    – PIN IT !!!!!!

  12. Walt says:

    I agree with all of it. Except for the part about getting a dj hardtail. Forget that and get a 24′ bmx. I had two of those dj bikes (Azonic steelhead and a 05 P3) and I hated them both. They’re heavy (unless you want to spend a lot of money to build it light) and not very responsive compared to the bmx. The bmx is way better on the pump track and more fun to jump too. So, unless you need a big, stout bike for specializing in big dirt jumps, forget those bikes. Also motos are way cool. I love my xr650, but sometimes I wish I had a smaller moto like a 250. The only problem with motos is that you might get sucked in to riding motos exclusively instead of bikes.

  13. Keith says:

    Get a 20″ bmx bike and ride it everyday! Once you master a 20″ bike you can ride anything.

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