Get Inspired: CYCLING - BMX

Fast and thrilling, BMX was a huge hit on its Olympic debut at the Beijing Games in 2008.

Over a series of qualifying heats, riders have to navigate a course full of humps, bumps and jumps while trying to outmanoeuvre - and avoid crashing into - their opponents.

The drama is heightened by a winner-takes-all, one-run final.

BMX has come along way from the skate parks and dirt roads it was first popularised on in Britain in the 1980s.

Anyone looking to replicate the competitors' adrenaline-fuelled moves can do so on the Olympic Park: the track is being reopened to the public.

Why is it good for you?

The effort of riding a BMX bike at speed for an hour can burn approximately 610 calories. This not only helps aid weight loss but increases endurance, promotes agility, develops physical coordination and builds muscle strength.

Pedalling a BMX bike strengthens and tones various leg muscles, while lifting the handlebars to perform tricks can increase muscle mass in the biceps and triceps.

Whether practising to compete in races or perform tricks, BMX boosts self-discipline, motivation, self-esteem and confidence.

Training sessions are an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply taking part in the sport.

Get involved

There are currently more than 50 dedicated BMX tracks throughout the UK. Find your local club by using British Cycling's club finder. 

It is essential to wear safety equipment such as a full-face helmet, cycling gloves and elbow and knee pads. It is recommended that trousers and a long sleeved top be worn for added protection.

For people looking to try out the sport,  you can hire BMX bikes, gloves and helmets from tracks throughout the country. Good quality starter bikes can also be purchased at around £200-300.

Club membership often entitles people to receive coaching and equipment hire at reduced rates, plus entry to in-house races.

Training days and taster schemes are run for people of all ages and abilities throughout the year. Visit the British Cycling,   Cycling Ireland,   Scottish Cycling  and Welsh Cycling  websites for more information.

For regional and national events, membership of British Cycling  or Cycling Ireland  is required. There are a number of bands related to how regularly you wish to compete.

Small race fees are also often required to take part in meets.

For parents looking to get their children started in competitive racing, British Cycling are running a number of events for under-16s throughout the United Kingdom this year. Visit the Go-Ride Racing  website for more details.

History

BMX racing can trace its origins back to the early 1970s when children, taking inspiration from the motorcross superstars of the time, started competing on dirt tracks on their pedal bikes in southern California.

Did you know?

The Oscar-nominated 1971 documentary 'On Any Sunday', featuring Steve McQueen, which opens with kids imitating motorcyclists by riding their bikes on a dirt track, is widely credited with popularising the nascent BMX across the USA.

It steadily grew in popularity and by the mid-point of that decade people were racing standard road bikes off-road, around purpose-built tracks throughout the state.

Manufacturers soon latched on to its growing status, and specifically modified BMX bikes began to be mass produced.

George Esser set up BMX's first sanctioning organisation, the National Bicycle League, in 1974. Three years later, the American Bicycle Association was formed to help with governance, with the International BMX Federation following in 1981.

BMX World Championships have been held since 1982 and the sport has featured prominently at the extreme sports event, the X Games.

BMX became the most recent cycling discipline added to the Olympic programme when it was introduced at Beijing 2008.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try BMXing? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.