The first time I visited a BMX contest, I could hardly believe what my eyes saw. It appeared as though the riders were breaking the law of gravity. How could someone pedal backward and still be moving in the forward direction? I was surprised, so I had to research to find the answer to my question.
A BMX bike can pedal backward, but this will not change its direction because it doesn’t have a reverse gear. It only has one gear which is designed to move forward. However, riders need to roll their bikes backward to perform tricks like the “fakie.” So, a BMX bike has rear cassette hubs, making achieving this action possible. These hubs give riders more control over their bike when pedaling backward and forward to perform those unique tricks.
How Do BMX Bikes Pedal Backward?
Movement on a bike is produced when you pedal, which turns the crank. This action enables the crank to engage the sprocket, thereby setting the chain in motion. As the chain rotates, it engages the rear hub, which turns the rear wheel forward through the force applied to the crank by the rider pedaling.
So, the rear hub is responsible for transferring power from the pedals to rotate the wheel. When you pedal forward, the properties in the hub will attach to its surface, creating a forward movement. Still, when you pedal backward, these properties separate, preventing you from moving backward.
Types of BMX Hubs
A rear hub is a vital feature of BMX bikes, and it is divided into three types:
A cassette hub is popular amongst mountain and road bikes. It features a cog installed at the hub’s outer shell. A cassette hub uses this cog to move the rear wheel forward or backward through the crank and chain movement.
One of the ways to know that your BMX bike has a cassette hub is that the bike and pedals will always move in the same direction. For example, when you move backward, your pedal will also go in that direction. A cassette hub is known for its simplicity and durability. Riders adore it because it gives them more control over their bike, which makes it easier to perform tricks.
A coaster hub is popular on beginner-friendly BMX bikes. It works as a backpedal brake when you stop pedaling the bike. A coaster hub has a driving system that enables it to move the bike forward when you pedal and engage the brake when you backpedal.
Free coaster Hub
This hub allows you to roll back without the cranks moving. You can identify a free coaster hub because it is very fat inside, unlike the cassette, which appears very small. A free coaster hub has a mechanism that allows the bike to move back and forth when you pedal.
Riders love this hub because it is not prone to early damage since it doesn’t engage the cranks while moving. A free coaster hub is present mainly on advanced BMX bikes because it enables riders to do tricks like fakie without having to pedal backward. However, the downside of this hub is that it has a slack which means that you will have to put in more energy on the clutch to generate enough force for pedaling.
How to Maintain Your BMX Hubs
The hub system will slow down as time goes on because it is always in action. So, you need to often take it for servicing. However, there are things you can do before going for a maintenance service. They include:
- You can start by removing the rear wheel and the cassette, followed by the end cap.
- Next is to remove the axle. Always be cautious because you can lose the properties of the pawl system. To avoid this problem, you should place them accordingly on a piece of cloth. This will help you know which parts come first and where to put them.
- Apply some cleanser on a brush to clean the hub’s interior components. Do not apply it directly, especially if it is a spray. It is better to spray it on a cloth and then use it to wipe the hub.
- If you find it hard to remove some stains, use your cloth to cover the tip of a screwdriver or any other metal and then use it to clean the stains.
- Clean up the stains on the pawl as well as the springs.
- At this point, everything should be neat. So, start fitting the components back to where they belong. You can begin by fixing the springs and the pawls, followed by the axle. Don’t forget to add a lubricant before fixing the pawls.
- Once you are done with the lubricant, fit the axle into its position and the wheel back.
These are the steps to clean up your hub. However, these steps require focus to avoid losing some components of the pawl system. So, it is better to visit a nearby shop for proper hub maintenance service if you feel you cannot handle such a task.
When Did Bikers Start to Pedal Backward?
BMXing started in the 1970s when kids saw a way to imitate motocross riders. They started racing against each other on dirt tracks like motocross riders. Soon after, bikers began exploring different ways of riding BMX bikes, which led to the birth of freestyle and street riding. These three styles of BMXing grew in popularity as time passed, but each had different elements that suited its riding style.
A race BMX bike needs to be lightweight and fast since it is mainly used for competition, while freestyle and street bikes have nothing to do with speed. They need to be capable of handling the impact of jumps and tricks. So, manufacturers started developing bikes with stronger wheels and smaller gears to enable BMX bikes to withstand stunts.
As time passed, freestyle and street riders started pushing BMXing to the next level. They began to try stunts and jumps similar to skateboarding tricks. They sought a way to avoid getting interrupted while performing technical tricks, so they removed their brakes to achieve this.
Gradually, they started to master more tricks; spins, grinds, and other tricks were combined to create more complex stuff. They began to perform stunts that saw them jumping over obstacles and up against walls by pedaling backward.
Is it Bad to Pedal your Bike Backward?
There are different reasons why this action is not suitable for your bike, including the following:
- It causes your bike’s chain and gear to wear out for no reason.
- It can easily cause you to fall because it doesn’t provide the force to balance your bike.
- It can spoil your bike chain if the gear is not placed well.
- It can cause knee pains when you do it for a long time.
Do I Need to Learn How to Pedal Backward?
This depends on your riding style. Backpedaling is only necessary for riders who are into tricks and stunts. It is an essential skill when jumping over obstacles or riding against the wall. However, if you are one of those riders who are only interested in cruising or using BMX bikes for exercise, backpedaling is not an essential skill for you.
What Is Fakie?
A fakie is a technique that sees a rider move their bike backward while facing forward. This trick is scary because the rider will be completely blind to what is behind them. However, it is possible because most BMX bikes have a rear cassette hub, which allows them to perform this action in a controlled manner. A fakie is famous among flatland riders because it is one of the means for pulling off a walltop which involves riders bouncing onto a wall and then kicking off.
At last, BMX bikes can pedal backward, but that doesn’t mean you should do it often. You have to know how to ride a BMX bike properly before using this process for tricks like the fakie; otherwise, you will end up hurting yourself.