Photo: Malcolm Johnson

BMX and Flatland

BMX or Bicycle Motocross refers to both the racing of bicycles in motocross style dirt tracks and the sport of freestyle BMX. Freestyle BMX is the sport of BMX stunt riding and is the focus of the content on this site. Within Freestyle BMX there exists six distinct disciplines; street, vert, dirt, park and flatland.


As the name suggests flatland is performed on smooth flat surfaces such as asphalt parking lots and basketball courts. Tricks are performed by spinning and balancing in a variety of body and bicycle positions. Riders almost always use aluminium pegs to stand on to manipulate the bike into even stranger positions.

Flatland originated from three pioneers; R. L. Osborn, Bob Haro, and Bob Morales. R. L. Osborn was a fan favorite in the mid 80s, being the highest paid BMX flatland professional ever after signing a contract with General Bicycles for around $100,000 US. Bob Haro went on to become founder of Haro Bicycles. Bob Morales was the founder of the once elite American Freestyle Association. The AFA was the dominating league for both professional and amateur flatland and quarter pipe events. While there were several amateur AFA events the Masters series contest, held throughout the US was the biggest pro/am flatland/quarter pipe event of the time.

Flatland’s roots can be dated back to the 50’s. Flatland has gone through many stylistic changes since its beginnings in the late 70s. Riders once wore full protective gear and full face helmets, starred in feature length films such as Rad (film), and performed in large scale events such as NBA halftimes. Following the decline in popularity and subsequent recession in most action sports at the end of the 80s, flatland went “underground”. It resurfaced in the late 90s with the return of media attention in the form of events such as the X Games. Flatland was dropped from the X Games and other large scale events in the early 2000s, forcing the sport/artform to become more independently run and owned. Most flatland companies and events now exist outside of other BMX circles, although there is still, somewhat limited, coverage in mainstream BMX magazines and videos.

With the removal of flatland from events such as the XGames, many independent event organizers have stepped up and taken flatland to the masses through creative, independently organized events such as the Red Bull Circle Balance, Circle Cow, and BMX Masters events in Europe, the Elevation Flatland series and Voodoo Jams in the USA, and smaller “jams” such as the Athens Jam and Hollywood Jams which take place in the US. These independent events and jams are what has helped keep flatland “alive” and thriving over the years.

What is a BMX Bike?

Is the name of a popular bicycle primarily designed to perform in the above disciplines. Cheaper low end bikes are usually made of hi tensile steel. Mid range bikes, a mix of chromoly and or high tensile steel and higher end bikes are almost always made of 4130 chromoly. BMX bike wheel sizes vary with the 20 inch being the most popular size. Sizes vary from 16-20 inches however to accommodate younger and taller riders. The average wheel size of 20 inch allows one to quickly distinguish a BMX to a typical mountain or road bike as a BMX bike is much smaller. This smaller size allows for increased agility for tricks.

Popular BMX Tricks

  • Bunny Hop
  • Barspin
  • 360
  • Tail Whip
  • Manual

Air/Ramp Tricks

  • Bar Spin
  • Basic Jump
  • 180
  • 360
  • Wall Tap
  • Wall Ride
  • Tail Whip
  • X-up
  • Airing a Quarter
  • One Hander
  • Tuck no Hander
  • Abubaca
  • Fufano
  • No Footed Can
  • Superman
  • Flair
  • Can Can
  • Front Flip

Flatland Tricks

  • Bunny Hop
  • Manual
  • Fakie
  • Scuffiing
  • Pogo
  • Hang Five
  • Funky Chicken
  • Foot Jam Endo
  • Fire Hydrant
  • Decade
  • Curb Endo
  • Boomerang
  • Miami Hopper: The rider stands on the pedals and grasps the seat tip in right hand, and the front brake lever in left hand. The rider quickly applies the front brake and simultaneously rotates the handlebars 90 degrees counterclockwise towards the seat and pulls up sharply on the seat. This will cause the rear of the bike to rise up and seemingly flip over the front. If landed correctly, the front wheel will lay parallel to the ground and the right handlebar grip will be balancing on the ground leaving the rider perched above the rear wheel. From this position, the rider can make various poses, kick the bike out to the side and lay it down, or lean back sharply and reverse the trick and ride away. *note* the hands and handlebar directions would be reversed if the bike was set up with the front brake lever on the right hand side. (Uncommon set up)
  • Cherry Picker: The rider places a foot on the rear tire behind the bottom bracket and swings their other leg over the head tube and rests the other foot on the seat tube. Then either using the handlebars for stability or clamping the legs tightly, the rider bounces up and down causing the entire bike to hop on the rear wheel.
  • Rolaid: Rolling Decade. Brakeless. The Decade and Rolaid can be done in multiples.
  • Backside Walkaround: The rider lifts the front wheel up while standing on the rear axle pegs. Using the outside leg, the rider brings that leg in a crossing pattern in between the bike and riders’ body. The rider then swings the leg around and over the head tube and places that foot on the seat tube. In a very precarious position, the rider then brings around the other leg from behind and over the head tube ending on the other side of the bike in an almost backwards position. *note* Can be done one-handed, with only the right hand on the grip and the other hand thrown out similar to a bull rider.
  • Hang Five: Placing one foot on one of the front pegs and pulling the frame up until seat meets contact and a balance point is established; a rolling Endo. The foot not on the peg is used as a counterbalance.
  • Hang Ten: Similar to the Hang Five, but with both feet on the front pegs.
  • Hang Nothing: Similar to the Hang Five, but without either foot on the peg. Both feet are used as a counterbalance.
  • Elbow Glide: Placing one foot on one of the front pegs with one side of the body and the opposite elbow tucked with the seat to control the balance point.
  • Hitchhiker: Tilting the bike completely forward on the front wheel while rolling, standing both feet on the front pegs; holding the bike in front of you, by the underside of the backwheel or holding an axle peg.
  • Backpacker: Related to the Hitchhiker, but with the body positioned forward with the bike behind the body.
  • Cow maneuver or Smith Decade: Placing the frame up and tucking a rotation on the pegs backwards into the pedals first performed by Gerry Smith; this trick has many variants and can be performed without brakes (Chase Gouin).
  • Surfer: Placing one foot on the seat and the other foot on the handlebars’ crossbar while rolling; popular in some videos and commercials.
  • Scurfer: Same as the Surfer, but with only one foot on the handlebars’ crossbar.
  • Death Truck: Rolling a back Peg Wheelie and pulling the body over the handlebars; one of the most feared tricks in flatland not because of its difficulty, but because of the potential tangled bail.
  • Bar Ride: Standing up while both feet are on the grips of the bars or the crossbar and using only the torso and hands for a balance point while rolling.
  • Backwards Rubber Ride: Similar to a bar ride in execution, but with the rider standing on the handlebars facing the rear of the bike and rolling backwards.
  • Bar Hop: While standing up on the pedals, the rider jumps up and over the handlebar crossbar while tucking their knees into the chest. Upon landing your buttocks on the crossbar, one can scuff the front wheel and continue to roll or climb back over the handlebars.
  • Backyard: A scuffing trick performed by a foot push and control on the tires, while facing away from the frame on the back pegs.
  • Gerator (also “lardyard”): Similar to the backyard, but holding on to one handlegrip while scuffing and more off the side and back while scuffing in a circle.
  • Megaspin: Spinning on the back tire in a circular motion.
  • Front Yard: Front yards are one of the basis tricks for front wheel scuffing. They are pretty easy to learn, and then you can take them one handed and no-handed. Rolling very slowly, step over the bars with scuffing foot and rest it on the front tire. Your other leg/foot on the pedal. When ready, apply the brakes and put your foot firmly on the front tire getting ready to scuff. Move your other foot off the pedal and onto the front corresponding peg. The braking and moving your other foot need to happen at the same time while you push a little bit forward on the bars to get the backend to come a little off the ground. Now start you scuffing pattern giving the tire a little kick forward, then hitting the brake and repeating, trying to keep your arms firm and hold the position locked out. When satisfied, give the tire a kick but and let the backend fall to the ground, step back to the pedal and pick your other leg back over the bars. Congrats!
  • Pogos: Stand on the back pegs and do and endo, then pick up the front wheel and hop.
  • Lawn Mower/Can-Can Lawn Mower: Do an Endo, as the back wheel hit the ground, turn the handlebars towards you and kick the seat down with the right foot. The Can-Can Lawn Mower is when you kick the leg out to the side instead of putting it on the seat.
  • Flail: Do a Rolling Boomerang, halfway through, put the right foot on the front peg and the left foot on the back peg, then flip the bar and pivot your body around.
  • Squeaker: Put the left foot on the front peg and the other foot on the pedal, grab the front brake, and put the foot on the tire. When your foot comes off the tire, grab the front brake.
  • Pinky Squeak: A Tailwhip with a kick, can be done in multiples.
  • Tomahawk/Framestand Tomahawk: Lift the leg over the bar, grab the brake, spin around, then grab the seat and start squeaking back. Do a Tomahawk, grab the brake and put the foot on the frame.
  • Stick B (also “Dump Truck”): Do an endo, turn the handlebar put the left hand on the peg, take the other hand off the grip and put it on the peg and start scuffing. Good Job!
  • Steamboat: Steamroller with the leg over the bar, can be linked with Steamroller

The Bunny Hop, Basic Jump, Manual and Fakie are all fundamental BMX skills. These are the basis of most other tricks in BMX and most riders work on improving these skills throughout their whole career.

The 180 and 360 allow the beginner to transitioning into rotational tricks. Start with doing 180s out of your favourite fly out and transition to doing 360s.

Flatland is a freestyle BMX riding style performed on smooth flat surfaces that do not include any ramps, jumps, or grindrails. It is sometimes described as a form of artistic cycling with a blend of breakdancing. Despite the conceptions of Flatland practitioners, the sport has little in common with Zen meditation.

Flatland occupies a position somewhat removed from the rest of freestyle BMX. They are often very dedicated, and will spend several hours a day perfecting their techniques.

Flatland also differs from the others in that the terrain used is nothing but a smooth, flat surface. Tricks are performed by spinning and balancing on the bike in a variety of unexpected positions. Riders almost always use either knurled/grip taped aluminum or plastic pegs to stand on to manipulate the bike into even more imaginative positions.

Although the flatland bicycle is similar to most other BMX bicycles, flatland is often performed with specially designed frames with geometry (head tube angle, top tube length, etc.) suited to the needs of flatlanders. Front and rear bolt-on pegs, a hollow compression bolt on the forks for the front brake cable, and a rear brake cable detangler or Gyro to allow the bars to rotate endlessly without tangling the brake cables. Also invented specifically for flatland riding is the rear hub mechanism known as a freecoaster, which allows the rear wheel to roll backwards without engaging the hub and making the cranks rotate backwards as they would on a normal freewheel or cassette style hub. Other technical bicycle setup specifics can include zero offset forks, narrow handlebars, very high pressure tires (100psi and higher), and a very small front sprocket (18-28 teeth).

In competition, talent and skill are judged by the ability to maintain coordination, and balance while performing a variety of difficult and elegant moves. There are usually several categories for judging purposes which can include:

number of touches: the number of times a trick is not completed and/or the number of touches of the foot to the ground

number of tricks completed in the allotted time

difficulty of the tricks, which can be very subjective, as flatland techniques have in many ways become as refined as those in figure skating or breakdancing

originality of the tricks performed, which again can be somewhat subjective

style and flow, or how smoothly and/or stylishly moves are performed during the contest run

Showmanship; the ability to present your routine to the crowd. Hugo Gonzales and Dave Vanderspek, while not the top pros were known for their elaborate showmanship and antics.

Flatland is an involving, time-consuming discipline in which the rider learns different balance/counterbalance points and center-of-gravity in motion techniques through repetition and trial-and-error. Some tricks can be learned in hours, while others may take years to master.

Various riders emphasize different aspects of the discipline: the artistic nature of flatland and the originality of tricks, the number and difficulty of tricks, or the simple enjoyment of the activity. Only contest riders need to be concerned with the competitive side of the discipline, as there are many riders who prefer doing shows, taking parts in videos, or simply riding with their friends and enjoying themselves.

Riders usually pedal a few times for speed, and then perform various stunts often involving difficult and/or awkward stances on pegs, mounted to the axles of their front or back wheels. Pegs are aluminum or plastic tubes, which are bolted onto both sides of the front and back axles. When flatland riding first began, most riders would do one trick and then return to the pedals. However, by combining different body and bicycle positions into “combos” and “linking” them together, riders began to do several tricks in a row without stopping between each move. Flatland riding is now usually a combination of many different kinds of moves, often linked together non-stop as the rider goes through as many as 10-12 consecutive moves, and position/direction changes, before returning to the pedals.

Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art