was the NBA; our sports first official sanctioning body for this newly formed sport called Bicycle Motocross. The year was 1973, and Indian Dunes MX race promoter Ernie Alexander (who was inducted in to the BMX Hall of Fame in 1996) was bit hard by the BMX bug in 1973 and kicked off the first BMX national series and Summer Tour. The NBA was the first to organize multiple tracks, create a rulebook, and began tracking points for riders in order to hand out No.1 plates at the end of the season. In 1975, the NBA held its first “national” event - in Phoenix, AZ. But like so many American business ventures, it didn’t take very long for others to conclude that they could do things better and improve on the NBA’s format, and by 1976, the sanction wars would begin.
It all started with a single track - Chandler BMX, in Arizona. Operator Merl Mennenga teamed up with Texan BMX promoter Gene Roden to form the American Bicycle Association. Both were running tracks under the SoCal sanction IBMX; but were disgruntled after continued promises never being met. While most of the BMX world ran under the 3-moto total points system, the ABA introduced the transfer system of qualifying riders to the main event in an effort to allow more riders the opportunity to advance in the motos and spread rider moral.
The ABA National series kicked off in 1978, with their first event - the Winternationals, being held in Azusa, California.
Much like Ernie and the NBA were doing on the West Coast, a similar East Coast MX race promoter named George Esser was doing the same thing simultaneously in Florida. A sanctioning body for motorcycle races was called the NML (National Motorcycle League), and in two years’ time he branched off his BMX races under a brand new sanction - called the NBL.
By 1976, this new, cool sport called BMX racing was really taking off - spreading from state to state like a contagious (yet good) plague. The NBL’s founding father would go on to be instrumental in uniting a variety of different countries to form the IBMXF, and hold the sport’s first true World Championships. The IBMXF would later become a part of the UCi; and played a key early role in getting BMX ready for Olympic acceptance. Since their beginnings, the NBL was operated as a non-profit, and ran under the 3-moto Total Points system.
As we said, there have been many governing bodies throughout the history of BMX. In parts of Florida, there once was the NPSA - the National Pedal Sport Association. It folded in 1988 and was bought by the ABA, in order to get their name started in the NBL-heavy state of Florida. SoCal had iBMX and the BMXL, while the San Diego area was governed by BMXA. Up in NorCal, the UBR (United Bicycle Racers) was formed out of King’s BMX track in Modesto, and was up against their Stockton rival NorCal BMX. BackEast, there was the worldly WWBMXA and NEBA (New England Bicycle Association). Even the original; NBA, went through various ownership changes before finally calling it quits in 1981. And then there was that time when five ABA employees formed a mutiny to start their own BMX sanction; called the USBA. In the BMX World, that was like the Civil War! For two years, ABA and USBA fought against each other, until ultimately ABA won the battle and bought them out.
The last “new” sanction to attempt a tilt at the tides of BMX sanctioning bodies was the Texas-based ICA in the 1992. If we recall, they only lasted long enough to pull off two national events before calling it quits. Since then, for the past two decades, Americans have only had two choices for racing BMX - ABA and/or NBL.
The date June 17th, 2011 will forever be remembered as “V-Day” for BMX racers. For that is the day that our sport became one sanction; with liberty and justice for all. Victory for all. No one can deny that both the ABA and NBL have been in serious competition with each other over the years. While each sanction had its unique qualifying system, style of tracks and different racing atmospheres, the United States has always been forced to decide between one or the other. Much depended on where you lived. But not any more. Like so many professional sports leagues, the two have now finally joined USA BMX will operate out of the current ABA headquarters in Gilbert, Arizona. Now with over 375 sanctioned tracks around the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, USA BMX will serve as the sole sanctioning body for these tracks and its 70,000 members. USA BMX will coordinate the national, regional, state, and local scheduling for all tracks as well as manage the 2012 U.S. Olympic BMX Trials (in conjunction with the United States Olympic Committee and USA Cycling).
“This is an exciting time for our sport and an exciting time for the ABA,” said Chairman of the Board, Bernie Anderson. “We have had a talented and dedicated staff that have served our sport well through the years and the unification of the sanctioning bodies is a tribute to their perseverance and hard work.” Bernie entered into the sport as a track operator in 1978 and became ABA Chairman of the Board in 1986.
“BMX has seen many changes through the years,” stated USA BMX CEO, BA Anderson. “The unification of BMX racing will allow us to focus on the continued growth and development of our sport while better managing our resources.”
“We have been working towards one sanctioning body for many years,” said former ABA president Clayton John. “I am happy that the foundation Bernie and I worked on during my 27 years has come to fruition; this is a great time for BMX racing.” Clayton John served as the President of the ABA from 1981 through 2008.
“Words cannot describe my excitement for the future of BMX. The rich heritage of both organizations and the combined knowledge are going to catapult the sport to new heights, while also allowing local level racing to prevail,” stated John David, COO of USA BMX.
“While we will work to preserve the history and uniqueness of each organization; now is a time for advancing and growing our sport," concluded Anderson. “The staff and I are excited about the changes and look forward to the new challenges and exciting future of BMX racing.”
Indeed, it is a great time for our sport. BMX Racing will benefit as any and all effort to promote and grow the sport will help everyone. United We Race. There is now one single BMX sanction in the United States; devoted to making this sport bigger and better than it has ever been. From now on, when folks talk about BMX Racing - it’s not going to be a battle of whether you race NBL or ABA, whether you are NorCal or SoCal, East or West...
from here on out, we are all USA BMX.