A quality helmet the most vital piece of BMX protective gear you can have. It protects you – and your head – from dangerous collisions with the ground, other riders, your bike, rocks and so forth.
How do you know if a BMX helmet is certified? The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has created a minimum standard for helmets before they can be sold; more rigorous certification is designated with an ASTM label. For BMX racing, you’ll need a full face BMX helmet, which includes a chin bar and extended coverage areas. So, at a minimum, look for a CPSC certification sticker on the inside of the helmet, and do consider a helmet with the additional ASTM certification, if you really plan to go gonzo on the bike.
It shouldn't be "if you crash" but "when you crash," since everybody riding BMX wipes out and wipes out a lot. It's just a part of the sport. So you want to wear a good pair of gloves, since when you crash, it's your hands that tend to break your fall. You want to protect your hands from cuts and bruises sustained by an impact with dirt, rocks and hard unforgiving pavement with a pair of quality BMX gloves.
What to look for: good quality gloves are both tough and still flexible. Fingers should allow for the ability to touch and feel your handlebars and brakes. Pads on the palm and back of the hand and fingers will offer extra protection; mesh built strategically into the gloves can help keep you cool.
Although scraped and bruised elbows and knees are nowhere as serious as a head injury, you’ll want to protect yourself against these injuries so that you can enjoy your new sport to the fullest. BMX pads become even more important if you begin riding more aggressively. To save money, you can sometimes buy BMX pads in a combo set.
What to look for: knee pads should be easy to take off and put on. You want a fit that won't pinch you in any riding position. Knee pads should have a hard plastic outer shell on the front of the knee, and soft cushioning foam on the inside. Look for durable construction, quality materials and rugged, reinforced stitching.
Once you reach the point where your riding becomes more aggressive, it’s time to consider BMX body armor. This type of BMX protective gear looks like catcher's gear and protects both the upper body (chest protector and wrist braces) and lower body (shin guards). There are several companies that manufacture BMX protective gear – but the most important factor is that you wear your quality gear every time you ride.
Along with Dave Fiedler, content for this article was contributed by Jim Bartlett, the president of XSportsProtective, a leading online retailer of BMX protective gear such as Troy Lee Designs, ProTec, SixSixOne and Bell BMX helmets; BMX pads; BMX wrist braces; and much more.