George Esser, unlike the creators of the earlier NBA and later ABA, set up a non-profit organization with a very inclusive government including a Competition Congress meetings in which opinions of how the body was being administered would be heard. It is perhaps this input and exercise of corporate democracy kept it in touch with the grass roots and from suffering periodical lost of member track operators and internal rebellions, like what happened to the ABA and NBA, in the NBA's case, fatally. Mr. Esser didn't start the NBL for its own sake, but for the sake of his sons Bryan and Greg Esser who were competing in local races at the time before their father knew what BMX was. The elder Esser, being a motorcycle motocross race promoter like Ernie Alexander was on the United States's west coast before him, was dissatisfied with how the sanctionless independent tracks were run and created a bicycle motocross division of his thirty-three year old National Motorcycle League (NML).
The NML's Bicycle Division's first race at Miami Hollywood Speedway Park on January 26, 1974. One of George Esser's sons,the aforementioned Greg Esser, won the 14 & over class (there was no proficiency classes as we know them now, just age divisions). Greg Esser would later become the first official NBL pro Number One racer in 1979. In February 1976 Mr. Esser broke the NBL off from the NML to become its own entity. Starting in Florida in these early days its track affiliations were overwhelmingly concentrated east of the Mississippi River with only a few west of that boundary. However, after the 1981 racing season it commenced joint operations with the troubled National Bicycle Association (NBA) that was shrinking both terms of ridership and track operations. From that point on, the NBA handled race promotions, sponsor relations and marketing of NBL races but ceased sanctioning races in its own right. In return, the NBL absorbed the remaining NBA membership and tracks, particularly those west of the Mississippi, making it a truly nation spanning sanctioning body like the rival ABA.
It is associated now with Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through USA Cycling which it joined in 1997. USA Cycling is the sanctioning body that represents virtually all aspects of Cycling in the United States. It is in turn associated with the UCI which is the sanctioning body that governs international Cycling. The UCI in turn is the governing body that deals with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that holds the Olympic Games. The UCI did have previous affiliations with the NBL through the now defunct NBL sister international organization the International Bicycle Motocross Federation (IBMXF) which the UCI absorbed in 1993 through its amateur Cycling governing body FIAC. In both cases NBL members were able participate in the UCI BMX World Championship that the UCI inherited from the IBMXF. However, it was the NBL joining USA Cycling that was the key to BMX being accepted by the IOC as part of the Olympic Summer games. It was not necessary for the NBL to join USA Cycling for BMX to be part of the Olympic Games, but since it was in the United States that BMX started and most of the best racers are American, it was critical for the USA to have a representative body involved. The NBL was chosen by USA Cycling in part because of its history of being involved with BMX at the international level and it is being a non-profit organization, unlike the ABA. BMX had trouble becoming an Olympic sport in the past, particularly before the 1990s was in part because of the then in place rules against professionals in the Games. However, the professionals (especially the Americans), were the best in the sport and to leave them out of the competition would not be showcasing the best. Much more importantly, this was the realization in other sports which has led to the elimination of the bar against professionals in the Olympic Games in all sports in the 1990s.
The NBL has a fierce independent streak. In 2002 members of the NBL apparently foiled an attempt by USA Cycling Chief Executive Officer Gerard Bisceglia to sell the NBL to the ABA. There has always been a fierce rivalry between the two sanctioning bodies even after USA Cycling acquired the NBL in 1997.
|Founded:||In January 1974 as the bicycle auxiliary to the National Motorcycle League (NML). It was founded as an independent organization on February 1, 1976.|
|Motto(s)/Slogan(s):||"The Sanctioning Body from Coast to Coast"; "The Best in BMX"; "We are BMX"|
|Years of operation:||1974-Present|
|Original Headquarters:||Deerfield Beach, Florida|
|Current Headquarters:||Hilliard, Ohio|
|Original Owner:||George Esser (January 1974-April 1983)|
|Current Owner:||USA Cycling|
|Original President:||George Esser (January 1974-April 1983)|
|Current President:||Richard Bunt|
|Original Vice President:|
|Current Vice President:|
|Original Executive Director:||George Esser|
|Current Executive/Managing Director:||Robert Tedesco (-2008*)|
|Peak claimed number of tracks:||200 (1985)|
|Claimed present number of tracks:||Approx. 150+ (as of November 2007)).
|Peak claimed number of members:||49,000 (1985)|
|Claimed present number of members:||Approximately 30,000+ (November 2007 figure).
|First sanctioned race:||Miami Hollywood Speedway Park on January 26, 1974 in Miami, Florida.|
|First National:||At the North Park track in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1977|
|First Grand National:||1977. By 1978 The NBL had 18 tracks and 4,100 members.|
|Racing season||Virtually year round. Mid September to early September.|
|In house newspaper:||Bicycles Today originally as a tabloid type newspaper. It would later change format (and eventually name) and become a magazine.
|In house magazine:||Bicycles Today, later name changed to BMX Today
|Number of nationals per year:||Approximately 25-30, including Grand National.
|Span:||National, in its early years with most tracks east of the Mississippi River.|
*In an interview conducted by former BMX racer Greg Hill at the online BMX discussion website bmxactiononline.com Bob Tedesco revealed his intention of stepping down as Managing Director of the National Bicycle League at the end of 2008 after 33 years involvement with BMX and the NBL, beginning as a track operater and then Northern Regional Commissioner in 1977, his first national post with the NBL.
|Proficiency levels Amateur 20" class:||Rookie: 5 & Under to 17 & over in one year steps, Boys and girls.|
Novice: 5 & Under to 16 in one year steps then 17-18, 19-25, 26-34, 35-40, 41 & over. Boys and Men only
Expert: Same as Novice except 5 &6 year olds compete together and no one younger than 5 competes in expert.
|Amateur Cruiser:||8 & Under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-24 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50 & Over. Boys & Men only|
|Girls 20" Amateur (age classifications only):||Rookie, (boys and girls) See above.|
Girls class (amateur):
5-7 then from 8 to 17 & over in one year steps.
|Girls Cruiser:||12 & under, 13-14, 15-16, 17-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45 & Over.|
|Open:||7& under, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15, 16 & over Open wheel* (boys and girls)|
16 & over girls.
|Professional 20" classes:||Masters (30 & over pros), Super X (formerly "B" Pro, Superclass, "A" Pro) 16 & over, Junior men (17-18), Elite Men (AA Pro) 19 & over, Men only.|
Junior Women (17-18), Elite Women (19 & over), Elite Open, 16 & over women "Big A" only).
|Professional Cruiser Class:||Men Elite Cruiser. (defunct)|
Women Elite Cruiser. (defunct)
|Qualifying system:||Moto system a.k.a Cumulative System a.k.a Olympic System.|
Elite ("AA") Pro Nat.#1
Pro Nat.#1 (Elite) Cruiser||
* "A" Pro Nat.#1 ||
"A" Pro Cruiser Nat.#1 |
Pro Nat. #1 Masters||
Amateur & Elite Pro Nat.#1 Women||
Am Nat.#1 Girls Cruiser|
**Until the 1980 season the #1 plate holder was considered #1 over all amateur or professional. The NBL did have a pro class in 1977, 1978 & 1979 but the title of National Number One Professional was not created until the 1980 season when the pros and the 16 Experts were separated and the pros earning separate points (in the form of purse money won) from the amateurs. Prior to 1980 the pros, due to the comparatively small number of them, competed with the 16 Experts and were able to earn amateur titles.
***Title Did Not Exist The class did exist under the title of "B" pro (which was created at the beginning of the 1981 season), but it was not until 1990 when the name was changed to "Superclass" and it became a pro/am division were the racers of that class given an opportunity to win a separate year end overall National #1 plate title separate from the pure Pro and the pure amateur classes. Amateurs competed for prizes and Pros could compete for a limited amount purses. Also beginning in the 1990 season "Pro Cruiser" was renamed "Super Cruiser" and "A" Pro "All Pro". In 1996 Super Cruiser was renamed "Pro Cruiser" once again and "All" Pro reverted back to "Pro Class" This was to harmonize NBL nomenclature with UCI/IBMXF labels. Because of this the NBL would change the name of its pro Classes many times during the 1990s, They even began calling there senior pro class "AA" and the junior pros "A" just like the ABA beginning in the year 2000. The senior male pro class is now officially known as Elite Men and the junior men were "A" pro. The single level pro females are called Elite Women. Beginning with the 2006 season the NBL ceased offering an independent year end title for both the "A" pro class and the Pro Cruisers. In the case of Pro Cruiser it was an end of a long era with the Pro Cruiser No.1 title going back to 1981 when Brent Patterson first won the class.
†(AM)=Amateur. From 1981 to 1984 the girl's National No.1 title was amateur. Between 1985 and 1987 a Women's pro class was established but that division was discontinued between 1988 and 1996 due to lack of participants on a consistent basis. Thus the National No.1 women titles were again amateur. From 1997 to the present the title designation is professional once again.
This is a championship race that was inaugurated in December 1985 in which NBL racers who qualified for their state championships were invited to race this special event held just before the NBL Christmas National. It has been traditionally run during the last week of the year in December in Columbus, Ohio. Unlike the American Bicycle Association (ABA)'s Redline Cup (formerly known as the Gold Cup) which was a championship series for individual glory of the local non sponsored racer, the NBL's President's Cup is geared that the racers from each state is encouraged to represent their state in the form of teams. The state with the greatest representation in the main events win and that state would get the bulk of prize money put up by the national governing body of the NBL. It would doled out to the wining states NBL governing commission. For instance if Ohio happens to have the larges numbers of members in the mains, 12 racers as opposed to Alabama's nine or New York's 10, then Ohio would win and its state NBL's commission would get the prize money. In addition to the competition between the states, there are team competitions between bicycle shops and factories in their own divisions.
Also unlike the ABA's Gold Cup no professionals are allowed to compete, only amateurs in the Expert, Girls, and Cruiser classes participating.