Why Ride Brakeless BMX? (No Brake BMX Bikes)

BMX bikes are always a great way to have fun on two wheels. They are small bikes that are perfect for throwing around in skateparks, on dirt jumps, on pump tracks, or on the streets. They don’t just have to be for tricks and jumps, however, as they are also a fun method of just getting around.

However, it has become increasingly common to see no-brake BMX bikes. Why do people choose to ride brakeless? Is it practical? What are the pros and cons of riding a BMX without brakes?

Do All BMX Bikes Have No Brakes?

In fact, most BMX bikes do have brakes. In most countries it is actually illegal to sell bikes without at least one brake, so even if you buy a BMX to assemble yourself, the chances are that there will be mounts for at least one brake. Most of them come with a rear brake, as that is most practical.

One notable exception to this is S&M Bikes, which do, in fact, make frames without mounts for brakes, or with removable brake mounts.

It is also illegal in most countries to ride a bike without brakes. This is only applicable to riding in public areas that are governed by these rules. If you are only riding your bike on dirt jumps on private land, or skate parks, then the chances are that these laws will not apply.

Therefore, most bikes do, actually, have brakes, meaning that riding without brakes is a choice for the rider, as long as they are fully aware of local laws.

No Brake Bmx Bikes

Why Do People Ride BMX Bikes Without Brakes?

Riding a bike without brakes is not easy. It takes quite a bit of getting used to and a fair amount of ability. 

Riding without brakes needs the rider to be able to think ahead so that they will be able to stop. So, with that in mind, why do people choose to ride without brakes?

For some people, it has simply come down to popularity. Riding BMX bikes without brakes has become more fashionable and some people ride brakeless just because they see others – including pros – doing so.

However, there are practical reasons for riding without brakes as well.

For one thing, it makes performing tricks easier. If you are trying to perform bar spins, turn the bike, or perform tailwhips, a brake cable can be an unnecessary distraction. It gets in the way and could even cause an accident. 

Removing brakes also makes it easier to grab the handlebars after performing a trick. The brake levers can get in the way.

For some riders, a brake can feel like “cheating” when performing tricks. A brake can help to level the bike out, and if riders rely on that when performing tricks it can hamper their progression. 

Some riders also think that if you progress to a level where you do not need a brake then it is just simpler not to have one. If you have enough control not to need a brake then why spend the money on parts and maintenance?

How Do You Stop A BMX Without Brakes?

Of course, if you are not going to use brakes then you are going to have to find a different way to stop your bike.

A lot of people who make the transition to riding bikes without brakes use one of their shoes as a way to stop their bike. Not putting it on the ground, as this will not be as effective, but rather, placing it on the back wheel. This essentially does a similar job to what the brake pads do when they grip the rim of the bike. Of course, it isn’t ideal for the longevity of your footwear!

Another way, which takes slightly more skill, involves sliding the bike sideways, similar to stopping on skis or a skateboard.

Brake Vs Brakeless BMX

Both riding with brakes and without brakes have their supporters. It largely comes down to personal preference, as well as ability, what you will be using the bike for, and location.

Location is a factor that is important to take into account. If you live in a hilly area, then riding without brakes might not be the most practical choice. 

Likewise, if you use your bike primarily for getting around, or commuting, then the bike should be seen more as a means of transportation, and ease of tricks – ie, one of the main reasons for getting rid of brakes – will not be such an important factor.

Riders who are not as experienced or as confident should keep their brakes on their bike. If you do not have the skill to stop quickly or the confidence in your ability to do so, then keep your brakes on. 

Riding without brakes can also make it harder to progress, as it does make riding and stopping much more difficult.

Some people also see riding without brakes as simply a trend and think that riders who chose to ride without brakes are doing it simply because it is currently “fashionable” rather than out of any practical reasons.

If you are riding your BMX bike mainly at skateparks or on dirt jumps then it makes more sense to get rid of brakes. Riders who will predominantly be doing tricks might see brakes as superfluous or might even prefer the challenge of riding without them. Brakes can make it easier to line up tricks or get your speed just right for jumps, but for tricks like barspins or tailwhips they can get in the way.

Generally, riding without brakes should only be attempted by very experienced and skilled riders. It is not safe to ride without brakes if you cannot stop confidently.

Lastly, it is important to remember the legality of riding without brakes. It is illegal to ride a bike on streets without brakes due to the fact that there is no reliable way to actually stop the bike. This is why bikes have to be sold with brakes.

Conclusion (No Brake Bmx Bikes Good or Bad)

In conclusion, while there are benefits to riding a BMX without brakes, doing so is not a decision that should be taken lightly.

If you want to ride without brakes, make an honest appraisal of your own skill level and decide if it is appropriate for you to ride without brakes.

It is also important to consider the type of riding you intend on doing and the legality of riding without brakes. 

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Peter Ballin

Pedro is the primary writer on the site. He’s raced downhill and enduro at a high level, spannered at mountain bike world cups, and also written a book called Mountain Bike Maintenance. He’s appeared in both print & online major media publications across the Uk, France, and Japan (and even appeared on French Television). He’s made his living from bikes in various forms, from mountain bike guiding in France and Spain, Trail building in New Zealand and Canada, and working as a bike mechanic in the French Alps for many years. Pedro loves a good adventure and is often settling random challenges like riding down Mount Fuji, swimming across Lake Geneva, and hitchhiking across America.