BMX racing is not for the faint-hearted and can almost be regarded as an extreme sport.
- Former BMX champions are running women-only workshops for new riders
- Mother Sonia Trevor now joins her sons on the BMX racing track
- BMX freestyle will make its debut at this year’s Tokyo Olympics
You could be forgiven for thinking women in their 40s are not the sport’s key demographic among amateur riders, but for 46-year-old Raina Beesley, nothing beats the adrenalin rush of competing.
“I loved it as soon as I got on the track — I had to go back,” she said.
She was five years old when BMX racing first caught her eye. That was in 1979.
More than 30 years later, after taking a break from the sport, the former BMX champion brought her godson to the track to try it out.
“He actually got me back into it, so I’m back into it now with these older girls.”
She is talking about women like Raylene Pruett, another former BMX champion.
The 48-year-old first tried BMX racing in the 1980s, a sport that took her all over Australia and to Japan to compete.
Pruett also took time off the track to have children, but it has since become a favourite pastime for her entire family.
“My son wanted to go to the track and started dragging me down, so I got back into it,” she said.
‘It’s like doing squats, but at high speed’
BMX racing was established as a sport in America in 1969, but the first official organised and advertised BMX race in Australia was in 1977.
Informal and grassroots events were taking place long before this, but the Australian National Championships began in 1980.
Marking the sharp rise of the sport at the time, and its attraction to young women, the 1983 Australian movie BMX Bandits featured a very young Nicole Kidman in her screen debut who learnt how to ride a BMX bike for the role.
In real life, some of the women still competing today were among the original female racers.
Of course, the bike technology has come along since then.
“We were heavily involved in building a lot of the tracks in the early ’80s,” Pruett said.
For female riders, sharing their passion is also a big part of the sport.
Beesley and Pruett are part of a group of female coaches in Queensland running women-only workshops for up-and-coming riders.
“A lot of mums out here, their kids race, so the whole family’s out here,” Pruett said.
Sonia Trevor, 40, is one of them — she has three children aged between five and 13.
“I started riding as soon as my youngest stopped breastfeeding, so that I could ride with my other kids,” she said.
Like any sport, training to compete in BMX racing requires commitment.
“We’ll do a gate session on a Monday, we’ll do training on a Tuesday and then we’ll help train the kids on a Wednesday,” Ms Trevor said.
She joked that many of her female friends had noted her dedication to the sport and called her crazy.
But she said they also saw “how much fun we have as a family”.
While many of these women are competitors, there is also a sense of camaraderie.
Rebecca Seckold, 43, has been racing BMX for six years and said she regarded the fellow athletes on the starting line as her “BMX family”.
“A lot of people look and say, ‘Aren’t you too old to ride a bike?’ No — never too old,” she said.
BMX freestyle will make its debut in the Tokyo Olympics later this year, but BMX racing has been an Olympic sport since 2008.
The women expect this year’s Olympics will bring the sport to a new audience and more participants will follow suit.