BMX Complete Bike Buying Guide (Freestyle)

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12/26/2017 1:00 PM
Edited Date/Time: 1/5/2018 11:00 AM

Back to the Ultimate BMX Buyer's Guide

In this thread we are going to go over all the do's and don'ts when it comes to purchasing a new complete bike.

First and fore most, I wouldn't recommend spending money on a bike unless it includes at least the following essentials;

Full-Chromoly Frame, Forks, & Handlebars
Other options include Hi-Tensil Steel parts which are renound for breaking very easily. It's better to spend the extra $100 or so for the chromoly model than to spend $400+ on a new frame set when the Hi-Tensil gives out. Also be mindful that some frames and forks are half-Chromoly and half-Hi-Tensil, which is just as bad as full-Hi-Tensil.
Frame Specifics
Fork Specifics

Fully-Sealed Hubs
These are rather critical because the hubs on your BMX will require more maintenance than most other parts. Opening up a hub full of loose-ball bearings is not only a hassle, but a sure-fire way to lose essential pieces of the hub. "Semi-Sealed" is NOT the same as Sealed. Sealed bearings are easier to maintain, require less maintenance, and are easy to find replacements for, all while spinning noticeably smoother. Also, aftermarket hub sets are $200+, so they're not something you want to replace shortly after purchasing a bike.

3-Piece or 2-Piece Cranks
Most bikes will come with 3pc cranks, and some may even come with 2pc or 2.5pc. Both options are essentially the same, with a main bottom bracket spindle and tubular Chromoly crank arms. This design is far superior, and easier to work on, than a 1pc crank set. 1pc crank sets are notorious for bending and snapping after short periods of time, and in order to upgrade to a 3pc/2pc from 1pc, you will have to buy a new bottom bracket ($20-30) aswell as the crank set ($75-150+)

Double-Wall Rims
These are mostly essential in the rear wheel since it will likely see the most abuse, but generally a good bike will come with Double-Wall Rims front and back. These are far stiffer & stronger than single wall rims. They are less likely to be dented or flat-spotted, or worse. & for the most part they will keep you from needing to have your wheel trued (straightened) every other week, which is very costly if you can't do it yourself.

These are all things considered to be essential when purchasing a bike, due to a strength-to-cost ratio.
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There are also many cheaper parts on the bike that might not matter as much to a beginner or someone buying a complete on a budget. This is a list of parts and specs that are less important, & are easier and cheaper to upgrade over time or as things break;

Integrated Headtube
You will typically see two kinds of headsets on a BMX. Standard or Integrated. Typically, you will want an integrated headset, as this means that the Frame is equipped with sealed headset bearings. However, if you do have a standard headset (with pressed in bearing cups,) you can buy an STI (Standard-To-Integrated) adapter to run sealed integrated bearings without any loss in strength or function.

Mid or Spanish Bottom Bracket
Quite similar to the headset, bikes will come with one of 3 options for bottom brackets. American, which typically utilizes a threaded spindle, removable bearings cups, and loose-ball bearings. Mid size, which is the most common and uses 2 sealed bearings that press directly into the frame. & lastly, Spanish, which is pretty uncommon, but is essentially the same as a Mid BB.
If you happen to have an unsealed American bottom bracket, you can insert sealed bearings by purchasing and American-To-Mid Bottom Bracket. This will require 2, 2.5, or 3pc cranks and an unthreaded spindle (if you already have 3pc cranks with a threaded spindle, you can purchase just an 8spline spindle.)

48-Spline Cranks
When it comes to 2-3pc cranks, the amount of splines (grooves on the spindle/in the spindle boss) can make a huge difference. The most common used ones are 8-spline, 16-spline, and 48-spline. 48-spline cranks eliminate the need for a pinch bolt which makes them less likely to fail around the spindle boss. They are also typically a bit lighter and more comfortable on the ankles. These are what you'll see on most high end bikes.

Female Axle(s)
Getting a bit more technical with the hubs, Female Axles are significantly stronger than Male Axles per size. It is cheaper and easier to replace female bolts if they snap than to replace a whole axle or hub due to breaking a male axle. They also are much less likely to bend or damage the dropouts from grinds. Typically the ideal set up would be..;
Front Hub - 3/8" female
Rear Hub Pegless - "Shemale" (14mm axle shoulders with 3/8" female bolts,) OR 14mm female
Rear Hub w/ Pegs - 14mm female, OR 14mm male
I would just recommend not riding pegs on a rear 3/8" bolt

7075-T6 Aluminum Alloy Sprocket
Typically you will want a 7075-T6 sprocket as opposed to a 6061-T6 sprocket. The 6061 material has a reputation for bending easily and wearing down quick. 7075 sprockets typically stay straighter and smoother for substantially longer, and you can find some pretty basic ones for cheap. & for general reference, 7075 is typically superior to 6061 when it comes to bike parts.

CNC'd or Forged Stem
This is one that I feel gets over-looked a lot. CNC machined & Forged stems are far more durable than Cast stems. A cast stem is substantially cheaper, and will hold up fine for most, but they are more likely to crack than one that was cnc machined or forged.

Heat-Treated Chromoly
This applies to the frame, bars, forks, and cranks. Typically, higher quality stuff will use heat treated tubing, which is considered to be stronger for BMX. There are also post-weld heat-treated parts, these are generally considered to have super strong welds, as they treat the entire part after welding it. Generally speaking, heat treated is going to hold up better than not, and post-weld even more so.

Welded-Seem Rims
While having double-wall rims is essential, it is also important to be mindful of the seem (the joint where the rim connects.) Most lower model completes will come with pinned-seem rims, meaning the rim has pins running through the joint, holding it together. These will be fine for most beginners or not-so-serious riders, but are known to pull apart at the seem when confronted with abuse. You can avoid this problem with welded-seem rims, which are typically laser-welded at the seem for maximum strength.

High PSI Rated Tires
There's so many different tires on the market, it's hard to know what's good and what's not. Generally speaking, high quality tires will have a high PSI rating (90-120PSI) and lower quality, cheaper tires will usually have a lower rating of maybe 65PSI or less. That being said, not all high-PSI tires are durable, and not all low-PSI tires are all that bad. Use your better judgement with this information & keep in mind that all tires need replaced eventually anyways.

Solid-Colored Pedals
More of just a friendly warning, considering pedals are typically ridiculously cheap. Clear plastic pedals are renound for cracking/snapping super easily. The clear plastic compound is a lot more brittle than a solid colored compound.
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Time to Pick Your Bike
Using all this information, you should be ready to pick out your new ride based off of your own personal interest. Things like color schemes, company, and size/specs are what will make your bike your bike.
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Questions?

When should I buy my bike?
I would advise to do your bike shopping around the beginning/end of the year, as you can easily find higher-end models on sale for $100-300 off. Less money, better bike, can't beat it!

Isn't some chromoly better than no chromoly?
Not necessarily. The chromo tubes may be more dent proof or may be lighter, but you're not going to get a very strong weld from welding chromoly to hi-tensil. Plus, what's it matter if the front end is chromoly when the dropouts snap off? grin

Back to the Ultimate BMX Buyer's Guide
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Anyways, that's all that comes to mind right now.
If you feel that I've left out any bits of important info, or have anything to add, please feel free to let me know in the comments below. I will update this thread as much as necessary.

Also, feel free to ask any questions. If I like the question enough, I'll add it to the OP with the answer.
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12/26/2017 1:11 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/26/2017 2:32 PM

I think it would be important to distinguish the difference between
1.forged and cast parts
2.Heat treated vs non heat treated (which you wont see too often on completes but still)
3. Maybe mention removable brake posts
4. Different geometry frames for what type of riding (typically)
5. What color makes you jump the highest lol

Great post! It will be very helpful for new users, very thoughtful!


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12/26/2017 2:31 PM

Bulletpup wrote:

I think it would be important to distinguish the difference between
1.forged and cast parts
2.Heat treated vs non heat ...more

Good calls, I meant to go over Cast vs CNCd stems. Will add those in a little bit!

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12/26/2017 6:10 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/26/2017 6:11 PM

Bulletpup wrote:

I think it would be important to distinguish the difference between
1.forged and cast parts
2.Heat treated vs non heat ...more

For number 5 on your list, Oilslick/Jetfuel makes you jump higher of course!silly

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I don't crash, I do random gravity checks...

12/26/2017 8:07 PM

Isn't some crmo better than no crmo? I know its still not ideal.

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12/26/2017 8:22 PM

Beamex wrote:

Isn't some crmo better than no crmo? I know its still not ideal.

Not necessarily. The chromo tubes may be more dent proof or maybe lighter, but you're not going to get a very strong weld from welding chromoly to hi-tensil. Plus, what's it matter if the front end is chromoly when the dropouts snap off? grin

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Refs : SnM An1mal, GThompson121, Chuck8273, blizzbikes, bmxsteve99, kevin.brock.338, zinum, Brian_Griffin, billyhandyjunior, riverM, tomdon
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12/26/2017 8:56 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/26/2017 8:58 PM

CNC'd aluminum parts are NOT superior to forged aluminum. Forged is stronger. The forging process maintains grain structure of the natural aluminum. The reason CNC'd parts are so expensive is because the machining process takes time & machinery to complete. CNC'd parts ARE superior to cast aluminum parts.

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12/26/2017 9:01 PM

Mishinn_Control wrote:

CNC'd aluminum parts are NOT superior to forged aluminum. Forged is stronger. The forging process maintains grain structure of ...more

I think hes meaning cast vs forged.

You can cnc cast and forged parts.

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12/26/2017 9:09 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/26/2017 9:19 PM

Here is a pretty simple illustration that visualizes the debate in grain structure (which is very important wink
Photo

You can cnc all parts after whatever process. CNC basically is a process that cleans the parts up visually, it can add strength depending on the shape and it obviously makes the part lighter by way of removing material.

You can easily identify a cnc machined part by sharp lines and usually tool marks are a dead giveaway, too.

Cast parts (unless removed by filing, sanding, tumbling, etc.) Have visible lines from where two parts of a mould split to be able to re-use the mould. There are ways to cast without mould lines but you have to break the cast in order to accomplish that; unless there is another method I have never seen.

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12/26/2017 9:09 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/26/2017 9:11 PM

Mishinn_Control wrote:

CNC'd aluminum parts are NOT superior to forged aluminum. Forged is stronger. The forging process maintains grain structure of ...more

You are right. I wasn't fully aware of the differences between forging and casting.

"Forging uses intense heat and pressure to transform a solid slug of alloy material into the final shape while CNC Machining uses computer software and precise cutting tools to cut or shave a slug down.

Forged aluminium is about 300 percent stronger than cast aluminium, yet less material is needed to produce the same "cast alloy spar", which results in a lighter overall product."
MTBR.com


Great picture, Bullet. That does a really good job of illustrating the differences.

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12/26/2017 9:13 PM

If you change your original post, I'll pull down mine so as not to clog up this, otherwise, clean, useful post. Great job btw

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12/26/2017 9:18 PM

Mishinn_Control wrote:

If you change your original post, I'll pull down mine so as not to clog up this, otherwise, clean, useful post. Great job btw ...more

I edited the post & will continue to due so as y'all help me add info, but feel free to leave your comments up. I know I personally always read the comments in threads when researching what to buy. It's reassuring seeing other people say the same stuff.

& Thanks dood!

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12/27/2017 8:52 AM

Just seen you added to your comment, Bullet. I don't want to get too technical with frame specs in this thread. Trying to keep this thread relavent to strength and costs of parts on complete bikes.

I will add more details about frames in the BMX Frame Buying Guide later on, and will leave that link in the OP of this thread aswell, for those looking to get technical with their shopping.

Thanks a ton for the input though!

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12/27/2017 10:09 AM

Great post, Tim. I wish I had this 6 years ago!

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BMX over 30: Eat clean, Stretch, and Pray.

12/30/2017 3:35 AM

Bump

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Hmmm

1/4/2018 10:11 AM

That's a great post. I used most of this information when I bought my first BMX bike back in November so glad to see that you consolidated it into one post. This type of information helped me be much better informed as I went into forums to ask questions or into shops.

Shopping online is great but then it's harder to get a feel for a bike. Long story short, I came to these forums and read a lot of what you all posted and compared that to other forums (for anyone doing the same thing, I'll just say this article has pretty much everything you need to know without being partisan to a particular brand). Then I created a list of bikes that almost matched that criteria to exceeding it and were probably a whole lot of bike that would be awesome to have but a lot more than a beginner needed. Lastly, when I found the bike I wanted I actually contacted the manufacturer. They are actually pretty responsive.

Really good article if you are looking for what your first bike should have.



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1/6/2018 12:52 PM

Bump

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1/11/2018 8:30 AM
Edited Date/Time: 1/11/2018 8:30 AM

I didn't see it mentioned but was reminded of it in another post & think it should be added... "Chromoly" isn't necessarily the same thing as "4130 Chromoly". & Materials such as Reynolds 853 are regarded by most in the bicycle industry as the absolute strongest steel for bicycles in the business. Maybe that info would be more at home in the aftermarket frame buyers guide & fork buyers guide. But I think it's worth mentioning here so that noobs, or those returning after a long hiatus are well informed as to what they are (potentially) buying with a "chromoly" complete.

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1/11/2018 8:44 AM
Edited Date/Time: 1/11/2018 8:47 AM

Mishinn_Control wrote:

I didn't see it mentioned but was reminded of it in another post & think it should be added... "Chromoly" isn't ...more

As far as I'm aware, those Eastern cranks are the only part in the BMX industry still being manufactured from Reynolds tubing. And I have never heard of a complete bike being constructed from it, so there is no need for it here in this thread anyways.

I think that it's unnecessary information regardless, and it will confuse any younger buyers into thinking their bike should be made from the stuff.

Also, I'm mostly convinced it's just a gimmick. Standard(?) frames were always made from Reynolds tubing up until recently, when Reynolds quit making BMX frame tube sets, and I've seen just as many Standards break as regular 4130 frames..

To say that something is "stronger" is a pretty vague claim.. What does "stronger" mean? I don't know much about Reynolds tubing, but that could easily mean many different things;
Stronger, more bend/dent-proof tubes.. But are also more prone to cracking
Stronger welds.. But more flimsy crank arms

You could say that Titanium is "stronger" than Chromoly aswell, since it's more resistant to bending/twisting. But at the end of the day, we all know which material is going to crack/snap first when used for bmx purposes..

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1/11/2018 8:54 AM
Edited Date/Time: 1/11/2018 9:04 AM

Mishinn_Control wrote:

I didn't see it mentioned but was reminded of it in another post & think it should be added... "Chromoly" isn't ...more

HardBMX_Tim wrote:

As far as I'm aware, those Eastern cranks are the only part in the BMX industry still being manufactured from Reynolds tubing. ...more

TLDR; We need more info about Reynolds tubing vs. BMX riding, and more parts actually constructed from the stuff for that info to be worth mentioning.

It's all open for discussion though. I'll add anything to these posts so long as we know it's accurate information. At the moment I just feel like mentioning Reynolds tubing on here would be nothing more than free advertising for the Eastern cranks lol

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1/11/2018 9:09 AM

HardBMX_Tim wrote:

TLDR; We need more info about Reynolds tubing vs. BMX riding, and more parts actually constructed from the stuff for that info ...more

That is true as I don't know what, if any, manufacturers are using Reynolds tubing in frames or forks, etc...; I know some are using "true temper" & Sanko but not sure about the Reynolds. I know it's big in road & mountain bike applications when they use steel.

HEre's a link to some steel tubing info just for your reading pleasure, should you be interested.

https://www.strongframes.com/tubing-information/

As for the rest, I still think it would be doing new riders a service to mention that Chromoly and 4130 Chromoly are different animals & can be/is used to sell items & to me is a little sneaky.

i.e.:



Photo

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1/11/2018 9:28 AM

Mishinn_Control wrote:

That is true as I don't know what, if any, manufacturers are using Reynolds tubing in frames or forks, etc...; I know some are ...more

Reynolds, True Temper, and Sanko are all just names of the companies who manufacture the tubes. Majority of BMX frames, forks, bars, and cranks that claim to be Chromoly are 4130 Chromoly, regardless of who manufactured the tube sets. That being said, some companies claim to have more pure 4130 chromoly than others, so that's when they begin advertising the companies names, it's all gimmicks for the most part..

Now as for the Eastern Cranks, they claim to be made from the "853"(or whatever) compound, which is obviously not 4130. And I'm actually not sure that it's even chromoly? I believe its an entirely different alloy.

There is different kinds of chromoly, but as far as I'm aware, the numbers should be relatively close. For example, a lot of pegs and hubguards are made from 4140 or 4150 chromoly, since it's a harder, "stronger" material that also slides better. However, it wouldn't be an appropriate chromoly to build a BMX frame with, hence why only 4130 gets used.

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1/11/2018 10:15 AM
Edited Date/Time: 1/11/2018 10:19 AM

HardBMX_Tim wrote:

TLDR; We need more info about Reynolds tubing vs. BMX riding, and more parts actually constructed from the stuff for that info ...more

Mishinn_Control wrote:

That is true as I don't know what, if any, manufacturers are using Reynolds tubing in frames or forks, etc...; I know some are ...more

HardBMX_Tim wrote:

Reynolds, True Temper, and Sanko are all just names of the companies who manufacture the tubes. Majority of BMX frames, forks, ...more

Yeah, I get that there are varying "Chromoly" alloys. & yeah, some are better for their applications as you mentioned for the pegs.

I did find this peculiar, however. This is what's listed on Eastern's site under "info":

Q: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN 4130 CHROMOLY, REGULAR CHROMOLY (CROMO) AND 1020 STEEL?
A:
1020 Steel - slightly heavier frame due to slightly thicker tubing. High-strength drawn / extruded tubing made of recycled steel.
Regular Chromoly - Lighter than 1020 steel but about the same strength. Standard strength welded tubing made of recycled steel + extra metals for added strength. The tubing can be made thinner because of the added strength. The frame comes out
4130 Chromoly - Lighter and stronger than regular chromoly (cromo) and 1020 steel. Made of high-strength drawn / extruded tubing made from highest quality and strength virgin ore.


Stuff like that is the reason I don't trust what companies say when they leave out things like "4130" in their cr-mo when they list 4130 elsewhere

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