Why Pumptracks?

We here at Socialtrack have been working on a pumptrack project for what now feels like forever and it is finally coming to fruition. the more I think about pump tracks the more I think they are an amazing gateway to cycling in all forms and that is a great thing.

What is a pumptrack?

According to Wikipedia

“A pumptrack is a type of off-road terrain for cycle sport consisting of a circuit of banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders “pumping” – creating momentum by up and down body movements. They are relatively simple and cheap to construct and cater to a wide variety of rider skill levels, so are popular in council-owned parks and schools.”

I think some pictures will also help to convey the idea to you.

As you can see the tracks all vary in what they are constructed from and from how big the features are.

They all have the end goal of being fun though.

How do I ride a pumptrack?

The idea is to pump your bike and not pedal. If you need to pedal, you have either done something wrong or there has been a mistake in the design of the pump track.

The best way to work out how to ride the track is to split it into sections.

Rollers on a pumptrack

As you go up the roller you will want to unweight your front wheel. As the wheel crests the lip of the roller, push down with your arms, transferring your weight towards the front of your bike. This is the basic pump and it should be allowing you to generate speed on the downside of the roller. Like all skills, practice makes perfect.

velosolutions pump track

harwell parish pumptrack

velosolutions pumptrack

Berms on a pumptrack

Berms look intimidating, don’t let them be though. The biggest problem most people have is that the focus on their front wheel as they go through a berm, this does not always end well. You should be looking at your exit on your way around the berm. With your head looking in the correct direction your body will follow.

We also do not want to be braking for a berm, we should be exiting the berm with more speed then we went into it with. Remember that your upper body should not really move through the berm, your bike can be everywhere but your body will be wanting to travel in as composed a manner as possible.

These are your two main sections and jumps can be taken the same ways as rollers, until you are confident enough to jump them. By mastering the berms and rollers of a pump track you should be making sure that you have enough speed to clear jumps once you are ready to hit them. You can also manual many of the features in a pump track and I wrote how to do that here.

One of the best ways to learn how to ride a pump track is to watch the locals ride it. Then try and take the lines they take.

How about some videos?

The future of pumptracks

Pump tracks are popping up everywhere, this is because they are a cheap and simple facility for local authorities to build. They are also a much less contentious issue for local authorities than say trying to put in a load of new cycle paths to get people out on bikes. Generally, no one will complain about an area of waste ground being converted to allow people to ride bikes and become healthier citizens.

This is why the UCI backs the creation of pumptracks. You have a place where children can learn to ride and be safe from traffic, more importantly, you do not need an expensive bike to ride a pump track. A simple BMX or hardtail mountain bike is more than enough bike. Lowering the cost of participation is something cycling really needs as it has spent the last few years becoming more and more elitist, with more costs to entry added each year. Bikes are the only sporting good that VAT is charged and this needs to change as well to help lower the cost and get more people leading a healthier lifestyle. The healthier we are the lower the costs are for hospital care.

As more statistical data comes to light we will see more and more local authorities commit to building pumptracks as a way to fulfil various roles in deprived communities, particularly as the UCI says,

“While measuring the social impact of such facilities is difficult, there is evidence showing the health gains they foster. A recent study suggests inverse correlation in children between proximity to a recreation programme or park and likelihood of being overweight as adults. A US study identifies the lack of availability of facilities that enable and promote physical activity as the main cause of higher physical inactivity levels observed among populations of low socioeconomic status and minority backgrounds.”

The future for pump tracks then looks rosy, you can also if you don’t feel the need to wait for your local authority to do something, go find a piece of waste ground and put the first shovel in and build your pump track. It might get knocked down and you might have to repeatedly start work on it again but there is nothing more satisfying than riding something you have built with your own hands.