I'm a dad learning about BMX racing and I want to know what the difference is between a sprocket which the bike shop says as 90 odd clicks, then starts talking about points of engagement. Does the amount of clicks have anything to do with the points of engagement or they totally separate meanings ?

  • 1
    Since you're dadding it up, I suspect the flasher freewheel costs a lot more, weighs less, and is made of titanium. Your kid won't really care. These marginal gains would help differentiate pros who are at the top of their level, but you'll get more results out of participating, practicing, and being at the track together. Talk technique as well as technology, learn to watch the track, pick the best line, video the races and watch it at home later to pick the moment where the race was won or lost. BUT the first question should not be "Did you win?" it should be "Did you have fun?"
    – Criggie
    Jul 24 '16 at 10:19
  • @Criggie I think your comment is completely unrelated to the question and completely uncalled for. The OP did not ask for parenting advice.
    – andy256
    Jul 25 '16 at 3:08
  • @andy256 I agree it is unrelated but absolutely true and worth far more than unobtanium frames or 0 gram tires. Perhaps a little lattitude for the most honest unasked question answered, and a wee bit of nostalgia :)
    – user26705
    Jul 25 '16 at 5:00
  • @andy256 Fair call. I agree its not an answer, but its totally related and is a valid point, which is why its a comment not in the answer. The point is: OP doesn't have to spend ludicrous money on race gear at this level.
    – Criggie
    Jul 25 '16 at 5:01

Sounds to me like they're talking about the pawls inside the freewheel body. The pawls click every time they bounce over a tooth.

Here's a freewheel opened to show two pawls and 20 teeth, which is two points of engagement and 20 clicks per wheel rotation.

At worst case, the pedals could move 20/360 of a full rotation (18 degrees) before the pawls drop, catch, and then the power goes through the wheel. The average will be 10/360 of a revolution before catching (that's 9 degrees of arc of the rear cog.)

enter image description here

In theory if there were 90 clicks, and everything else was the same, power would be transmitted to wheel from chain in 2 degrees on average, or a worst case of 4 degrees.

What's the point? The more sooner the slack is taken up, the sooner the power comes. When the rider's brain says GO the muscles have to move, the mechanicals have to move, then the bike has to accelerate. All parts of this flow have slack or lag or tolerance or reaction time, that adds up and increases the overall delay.

So if someone is making a break, the extra lag between pushing hard on the pedal and getting moving may make a difference between catching the break or not. (that's road speak - not sure if BMX has anything similar. However brain says GO and power takes time to arrive, then that's not going to help)

What's the practical difference? Assuming your bike has a generic "do everything" setup of: * 20" wheels (406-44) * 1.75" tyres * 45 tooth front chainring * 16 tooth rear cog

then the gear ratio is 2.81 meaning the rear wheel will revolve 2.81 times for one full pedal revolution, and the bike will go forward 4.2 metres, and the wheel is doing 80 RPM.

Two totally identical riders, one with a 20 point contact freewheel and the other with a 90 point contact freewheel both apply power at the same instant from coasting at 20 km/hour which is 5.56 metres/second:

  • 18 degrees is 0.0375 rear wheel rotations before the pawls lock
  • 9 degrees is .01875 rear wheel rotations before the pawls lock
  • 4 degrees is .0083333333 rear wheel rotations before the pawls lock
  • 2 degrees is .0041666666 rear wheel rotations before the pawls lock


  • 18 degrees is 11.8 cm of forward movement at 20 km/h
  • 9 degrees is 5.9 cm of forward movement at 20 km/h
  • 4 degrees is 2.6 cm of forward movement at 20 km/h
  • 2 degrees is 1.3 cm of forward movement at 20 km/h

Note: If both riders are pedaling or stopped at the start line, then all this is irrelevant, because the bike will be tensed up, and the pawls will be ready to go, so 0 degrees of slack lost.

  • 2
    Just to clarify, the "number of clicks" is the number of teeth on that outer ring, while by "number of points of engagement" they probably mean the number of spring-loaded pawls on the inner ring. (Though it's possible for a manufacturer to "cheat" and offset the pawls so that they get 2-4 times as many clicks as there are teeth, at the expense of a less robust unit.) Jul 24 '16 at 11:49
  • @DanielRHicks Yes sorry totally correct, I'll fix that. My underlying point is that these expensive marginal gains are nothing compared to doing it together. Its about the time, not the cost.
    – Criggie
    Jul 25 '16 at 1:25
  • 1
    And this is a deadly accurate answer. Long story short is that this is an area the bike companies milked for all they could and it makes little discernible difference to an amateur and a lot of difference to the pocket book.
    – user26705
    Jul 25 '16 at 5:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.