Photo by Francesca Biacchessi
BMX tourism home
Bicycle Motor Cross (BMX) riders appreciate Barcelona’s urban architecture, but not in the same way the typical tourist or resident does. The city’s aesthetic often creates smoothly paved, ramp-like courses, which are perfect for the small-framed, low-rider stunt bikes. BMX riders view the city’s eye-pleasing architecture as a giant playground, and the Mediterranean climate means they are able to play on their bikes on the city streets all year round. This formula is giving Barcelona a reputation as the BMX street riding capital of the world, and attracting BMX enthusiasts from around the globe.
BMX is a relatively new sport, invented in California during the early Seventies and brought to Europe later that decade. However, since the sport’s introduction into the Union Cycliste International (International Cycling Union) in 1993, BMX’s popularity has grown immensely.
“I know lots and lots of people that come over to Spain to take a riding vacation,” said Robert Sans, 22, a sponsored rider from Barcelona-based BMX speciality store 360BS La Clau. “From Germans to Americans, and even people from as far away as Japan, I’ve come across all nationalities in the BMX scene here. Barcelona is the capital of the world for street riding, BMX free-ride, skateboarding and even inline skates.”
Sans, himself, is a BMX rider who came here from elsewhere. He was born in Lleida, to a Catalan father and an English mother, and he spent many years living in England. It was only recently that he decided to wholeheartedly pursue a professional career in BMX, based in Barcelona. “I have been riding in and around the city for years,” he said, noting that he began practising the sport when he was 15.
“It started when I went to a contest in Igualada, in 2004, when my friends and I decided to road trip Spain on our bikes. People looked after us really well, so we made it a habit to come to Spain at least once a year. I have been travelling to and from to appear in contests and take part in demos ever since. I came to live and ride in Spain when I realised that earning money wasn’t a good enough reason to live in England.”
Sans’ has earned sponsorships from Nike 6.0, Juan Ruiz Tattoos and Volume Bikes, among others. Along with another sponsored team-mate, 29-year-old Barcelona-native Manel Ibars, the two are a small part of the growing Barcelona BMX scene, which was relatively dormant until recent years.
“I think BMX is just gaining more support in general, and why Barcelona is so popular is partly for the climate, but also since the city is so attractive,” said Ibars. “It makes for nice photos and videos for riders who are coming from far away, and I think that’s another reason why it has become a destination of choice.”
Yet, despite becoming a common sight on Barcelona’s streets in recent years, BMX is still not as popular here as in France or England, and it produces fewer professional riders. “The sport still needs more support to grow more in Barcelona,” said Ibars.