Originating in southern California, BMX racing has grown to an international circuit. Tracing back to the early 1970's, the history of BMX bike racing starts with children racing their bicycles on dirt tracks, inspired by the stars of motocross at the time. These children were unaware that they were creating a new sport of their own. The Schwinn Sting-Ray, easily customized for improved handling and performance, was the main bike of choice for this rising form of racing. The 1971 documentary "On Any Sunday" is credited with popularizing and spreading BMX racing across the United States. The film featured an opening sequence of children riding their bicycles on a dirt track, imitating motorcyclists of the day.
At first, the new sport was known as pedal-cross, but eventually the name bicycle motocross (BMX for short) would be the settled term. As the popularity of BMX exploded, boys and girls began to modify their bicycles and could be seen riding and racing through any available dirt lot they could find. What started as imitation lead to innovation and soon the young riders were performing tricks and organized races and tracks began to appear all over. Bicycle manufacturers began creating bicycles designed especially for motocross. By 1977, loosely organized BMX races took place across the nation. This called for the creation of a national sanctioning body, leading to the creation of the American Bicycle Association (ABA).
The ABA would go on to change and shape the future of bicycle motocross. The initial step of the association was to create a system of qualifying participants that would enhance the competitive nature of the sport, while maintaining fairness and affording every rider the chance to be a winner. Before the ABA there was the National Bicycle League, a non-profit bicycle motocross sanctioning organization founded by George E. Esser in 1974.
The need for fairness and the allowing of fortune led to the ABA transfer system. In this system, the winner of each race advances to the next round. From that first step of creating a system, the ABA continued to grow successfully, eventually becoming the largest national sanctioning body for bicycling. Im 1981, the International BMX Federation was founded, and the first championships were held the following year. Since January of 1993, BMX has been merged into the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for sports cycling.
In 2008, American BMX racers won three Olympic medals in Beijing and also won nine BMX World Cup (Supercross) events; more than any other country. With BMX being included as an Olympic sport, the ABA has collaborated with USA cycling and the U.S. Olympic committee, together building an Amateur and Elite track at the Olympic Training Center located in Chula Vista, California. In 2011, the American Bicycle Association bought the remaining assets of the struggling National Bicycle League and integrated all of its tracks and members under one big BMX banner. This is considered to be the biggest change ever within the sport, birthing USA BMX.
What started as southern California children emulating their racing heroes has grown to an international sport. BMX has seen an increase in popularity due to its relative ease and the availability of places to ride and practice/perform bike tricks.