Last weekend I popped out for some eggs on the Saturday morning and I stumbled upon a bunch of 80s BMXs lined up outside one of my local pubs. Obviously I had to stop to check it out. Turns out it was an event called Rad Sunday which had a huge collection of old school BMXs as well as VW Beetles and Campervans later on that morning. All culminating in a tour along the Southend-on-Sea seafront that afternoon.

The collection of BMXs when I was there was amazing. Beautiful bikes. If I’d known about it in advance I would have stayed longer, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for it next year. I did, however, get to quickly talk to one of the guys and ask a few questions. His bike had been signed by the legendary Matt Hoffman amongst others. There was a great range of bikes, all obviously looked after with loving care. Check out some of the photos here.

BMX display

BMX display

BMX display

BMX display

BMX display

BMX display

I got to sit on one of the bikes and had a good look around all the others. To say it rekindled something in me was an understatement. I immediately felt the excitement that I had riding BMXs in my youth. I loved my BMX back in the day. I loved the whole culture of BMXs and watched TV shows about the BMX stars and read magazines. I could never really do tricks though and I was never hugely knowledgeable about the different brands, but I just loved to ride. I remember the most common bike amongst my peers used to be the Raleigh Burner I think? (picture below sourced from BMXMuseum.com)

Raleigh Burner

And the one I always wanted was the Raleigh Vektar. It was the closest thing to Street Hawk that you could get.

Raleigh Vektar

I think my main BMX was a Diamond Back but I can’t even remember to be honest. I just remember the feeling of sheer freedom when I rode it. I used to ride round the block on my own and do little jumps over the tree roots that had pushed the pavement up into makeshift ramps. Pedalling fast past the gates that had dogs that would bark at me as I flew by. And I remember going out with friends and finding quiet roads on steep hills and freewheeling down them at what felt like 100mph. They were just so comfy and so much fun. Sadly I’ve never really enjoyed riding a bike since. I don’t like racers/street bikes (although I love the film American Flyers) and I don’t really like mountain bikes. I’ve just never gotten to grips with the whole gear system and I don’t like how much you have to hunch over on those bikes. BMXs were just so comfortable in comparison. I haven’t ridden a bike in fun for years but I was thinking recently about how my children will be riding soon. My oldest is 5 next week and he recently had his stabilisers taken off and has been getting lessons. I’ll want to go cycling with him very soon and I will need a bike. I have no excitement at all about getting a mountain bike. And now, particularly after stumbling across this BMX display, I am really excited about the possibility of getting on a BMX again.

But then the age thing hit me. Am I too old? I turned 40 this year. Is there an upper age limit for BMXs?! Those guys at the BMX display looked like they were all mid 40s but they’re diehard BMXers so maybe they can get away with it? And I don’t like saying it but I’ve heard several people (both in media and real life) recently slagging off adults who ride BMXs, saying it looks like they’re riding kids bikes, and clinging onto the glory days of their youth, blah blah blah. Now, normally I don’t let stuff like that get in the way of me doing what I want to do. Each to their own I say. Let people do what they want if it keeps them happy. But it’s just a shame that some people have to criticise and be negative. I still do several things that used to be deemed just for the kids, including playing video games and reading comics, although to be honest both video games and comics are often aimed at adults now, but BMX still has a bit of a stigma that it’s just for kids, which is a shame. As I’m hitting my 40s I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me any more. I’m happily married with kids and that’s all that counts. I only care about what my family think of me. But I was still curious about how many other people felt the same way about adults riding BMXs because I didn’t want to have people mocking me when I was out riding a BMX with my family, as that might embarrass them. So out of curiosity I did a quick Twitter poll (because obviously Twitter is the measuring rod of gospel truth on the internet).

It’s not entirely conclusive. I would have hoped the first answer would have been at least in the 80s, but when you combine it with the ‘with children’ answer it does come to 76%. Not too bad. And I’m personally not going to be doing loads of stunts and tricks etc. I basically just want to ride along the seafront with my wife and kids, cruising along and having fun. I won’t be using it for commuting or even going on the roads at all really.

But even if it is socially acceptable I did still have the question about size. I’m bigger now than I was back in the 80s of course, and BMXs are generally quite small. I do want to avoid looking like a man on a child’s toy, but I don’t really know how big BMXs get. If they’re too big they might look weird or might end up just like a mountain bike. So I’ve been doing my research and I’m enjoying falling down the BMX rabbit hole right now. I love this stage of an obsession, when I’m just filling my brain with stuff about a subject I’m passionate about.

Firstly, I’m not quite sure if size is just based on wheel size or also frame size. These are the sort of questions I need to ask. I do fancy having a go on an old school 20” or maybe a slightly bigger BMX just to remember what it feels like. But I’m not sure that is the best kind for me for going on 3 mile cruises along the seafront with the kids. I have, however discovered larger BMXs and hybrid bikes. Check out some of these really cool larger BMX bikes, and this great forum post, where I got the photos, from someone in a similar position. Both of these bikes happen to be from SE Bikes.

SE Big Ripper

SE OM Flyer

It’s going to be hard to pick a bike just by browsing the web though. I think I need to get out to bike shops and actually sit on these things before I know what feels right. I want to strike that balance of a bike that really feels like a BMX but is large enough for my adult frame. I just hope bike shops have all these more niche bikes in store that I can try. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for bikes I can look into.

So I’m still researching, and I’ve got a year or two’s time to do this so there’s no major rush, but I’m going to enjoy the process leading up to getting my new BMX. And even if it is larger and maybe even slightly hybrid I do want to be able to refer to it as a BMX. It has to have BMX at its heart. Because at the end of the day, the BMX of my youth brought me so much joy, so why shouldn’t I relive that today with my own children. You’re as young as you feel. And BMXs make me feel about 12.