Podcast: John David on 2019 USA BMX Rule Changes

December 26, 2018 by · Comments Off 

John David on 2019 USA BMX Rule Changes

Just prior to the Christmas holiday, USA BMX released the 2019 rulebook and schedule of national entry fees. The specific meanings of the changes on-tap for the new year drew a ton of online discussion, with some hair-on-fire doomsayers foretelling a “number plate police state” where riders’ scores are summarily stricken from the record due to an offending background color or too many logos. To say nothing of side plate enforcement at the nationals.

And, of course, the ongoing saga of “clips versus flats” in BMX Racing where the pedal pirates ply their trade, and argue passionately about the particulars of one over the other. We wanted to know just-what the problem is with clips that half the sport wants to ban them–or at the very-least restrict them.

With all this rumor, speculation and personal-opinion pontificating, News is stoked to welcome one of the key players involved in approving these rules, USA BMX COO John David. It’s always-awesome to welcome JD to the Announcers Tower show, where he never fails to lay-out the specifics of our questions.

This was a pre-Christmas taping, which we held til after Santa had securely returned to the North Pole. Not many podcast listeners on the wire while chestnuts are roasting on an open fire, and Jack Frost is nipping at noses. Today, however, is another story, as we see the BMX world is back to its regular-old-self.

Podcast with USA BMX COO, John David on 2019 Rule Changes
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So, without giving too much away, suffice it to say that USA BMX is not out to create a “Number Plate Police State,” nor impose any other overly-onerous admonitions in Anno Domini 2019.

Editor’s Note: At 23:19 in the show, we ask a question (off the topic of 2019 rules), about how number plate letters are assigned to riders at Nationals. Is it in order of “precedence” (National, NAG, and so-on down the line), or are letters assigned in some other way? This question is as a result of News seeing NAG and even National champions at nationals with letters over their #1s–which seems contrary to the spirit of those “earned” numbers.

At 25:05, John said he would get us a clearer answer on how this works, and that-very-day, we received the clarification from Brad Hallin at HQ. We will run that answer as a separate article, so as not to crowd either story.

—Mike Carruth


Download the 2019 USA BMX Rulebook (PDF)

Download the 2019 USA BMX National Schedule (PDF)

Download the 2019 USA BMX National Entry Fee Schedule

Opinion: Should Clips Get Clipped in 2019?

September 21, 2018 by · Comments Off 

Will Clips Get Clipped in 2019

BMXers clipping-in is probably the most passionately-argued and controversial topic our sport has to offer. It has literally ended decades-long friendships, had strangers typing in ALL CAPS in discussion forums and has tossed more than one local track into a tizzy.

“Clips,” for those who are new to the sport, refer to clipless pedals— a type of pedal that mates with a cleat on a special shoe, into a spring-loaded receiver built into the pedal, thus allowing the rider to be physically attached to the bicycle.

Why “Clipless?”

A pedal with toe clips

A pedal with toe clips.

Seems odd that such a technology that enables you to literally clip on to the pedal would be officially called a “clipLESS pedal,” right? That’s because the predecessor to clipless pedals involved the use of “toe clips,” a cage attached to the pedal, into which the rider inserted their foot. The advent of the cleat-and-receiver system (as shown below) did away with toe clips, hence “clipless.”

A BMX racer using a clipless pedal

A BMX racer using Shimano clipless pedals and Shimano clip shoes.

Why is This Such a Thing?

Clips help skilled riders exert more force and control, applying power on both the upstroke and downstroke, and allows riders to focus on other things than slipping a pedal.

For riders without advanced skills, clips can represent a clear and present danger. USA BMX ended clips for Novices with the 2013 season. Before that, we would often see younger Novices, their parents peer-pressured into running clips, cross the finish line, and just tip over and hit the ground, still clipped into their pedals (they did not know how to get out of them yet).

Which begs the question: “How young is too young, and how skilled is skilled-enough to run them?”

As with most things in the “clips versus flats” debate, there are a few sides to consider aligning yourself with:

1). Clips are fine for all Intermediates and Experts.

2). Clips should be banned for all Novices and Intermediates, as well as Experts under a certain age.

3). Clips should be banned for all Novices, Intermediates, AND Experts under a certain age

4). Clips should be banned for all Novices and Intermediates, but all Experts should have freedom of choice on running them if they so choose.

5). Clips are “un-BMX” and should be banned completely.

And there are a few more sub sets of those, which you can probably ascertain on your own.

One Man’s Opinion

For my part, I have signed on to number FOUR (Clips should be banned for all Novices and Intermediates, but all Experts should have freedom of choice on running them if they so choose). Here’s why:

Why ban them at all? As you can see in the above photo, clips are no joke. When you crash, your feet are still attached to the bike, unless you have the skill to get out of them while you’re crashing, or immediately after.

Younger riders usually have their clip springs cranked as tight as possible, so it is near impossible to get out of them–since inexperienced riders also tend to drift out of their clips with regularity.

When you listen to pre-teen Novices talking among themselves, they can’t wait to turn inter so they can run clips. Most don’t even know why, but it’s a tribal, cultural thing that represents a rite of passage into being considered more experience rider. I get that, but maybe it should come a little later in the journey.

Almost every BMX coach you’d talk to would agree that riders should master bike handling on flats first, then go to clips. This gives them a longer runway to do that.

Why allow all Experts to run them?. The dangers of using clips are a matter of rider experience, not age. A six Expert has won enough races to turn Expert and, in doing so, has demonstrated an advanced level of experience. Granted, a younger rider will not realize the full benefits clips provide to older, stronger, riders…but from a safety point of view, most Experts should be able to (and currently do) ride them competently.

Many proponents of an age-based restriction feel that a rider should not run clips until they can jump and manual. Others are simply concerned with a rider’s ability to operate the clips safely. I would argue that the rather-drastic act of banning something should be tied to safety and not to force any one method of rider development.

Some countries ban clips for 12-under, but they don’t have the same depth of ridership that the US has–nor levels of proficiency. Since clips are not banned for 12-under in all of UCI, the World Championships allow clips for all riders–or at least they have.

This means that American riders going to the Worlds will be at a profound disadvantage over riders who race in clips all the time. This, in turn, will cause fewer Americans to go to the Worlds, and that is a loss of prestige for Team USA and a great experience for the young riders.

Why talk about this now?. The 2018 season is drawing to a close, which means 2019 rule changes are upon us. Thursday evening, USA BMX held a webinar/conference call with track operators to discuss rule changes, and other T.O. related topics. Among the items on the list for discussion was a change to the rules on who can and cannot run clips.

USA BMX COO, John David, told NEWS the following about the call:

That part of the call centered around getting T.O. feedback regarding an expansion of the the clip rule. T.O. feedback is critical for rule changes, and every year the clip rule is a topic of discussion, as you can imagine.

Thanks to JD for the quote, and straight scoop on what was happening. Social media was lit up with all different scenarios this morning.

BMX News always wants you, the reader, to be well informed, so you can be part of the discussion on all matters pertaining to our sport. Hopefully, this opinion article gives you some food for thought in forming your opinions on the subject (whether or not you agree with us).

—Mike Carruth