We came across the Singletracks article “Pump Tracks for Everyone! The Gateway Drug to Mountain Biking”, where writer Jeff Barber discovers a pump track built in his hometown. Barber’s article is the inspiration for this post, and how pumptracks are inspiring new generations of mountain bike riders.
Pumptracks as a ‘Gateway Drug’ To Mountain Biking
Barber describes how, while on ‘lockdown’ during the pandemic, he finds dozens of riders on a hand-made track built up at a local park. His 7-year old son becomes ‘addicted’ to the pumptrack, insisting on riding the park for hours every evening.
And now we are returning the favor: pumptracks are ‘paying it back’ to the mountain bike community by increasing access to mountain-bike style riding in urban areas and boosting interest in mountain bike sports.
Let’s just call these things coming full circle - or better, ‘full cycle’. 😆
A Track For Training and Testing
We can thank the mountain biking community for the invention of the pumptrack.
The first pumptrack built is attributed to professional mountain biker Steve Wentz, in Boulder, CO USA, in 2004. Made of dirt, pumptracks were originally built for mountain bike and BMX riders, for training and testing equipment. An on-site pumptrack was easier for riders to access than trekking to a trail on public lands.
Mountain biking typically involves riding on ‘single track’ trails and dirt roads. The sport has grown to include downhill courses, even indoor mountain bike parks. Pumptracks have always been popular among mountain bikers, while attracting new riders to the sport.
Increasing Access to Mountain Biking
Pumptracks installed in local communities yield nearly instant results, drawing crowds to your venue. A study in Colögne demonstrated hundreds of riders a day showing up just days after the installation, with constant use during the three-month study period.
Pumptracks are a low-risk introduction to mountain bike style riding. Any mountain bike trail presents risks of the unknown. New riders may be afraid of falling, of getting lost, uncertain how to go over unknown obstacles, if they have the right equipment, or are fit enough for the distance.
Pumptracks are compact and low consequence. The track is short, though riders can do endless loops. It’s easy for new riders to observe others, learn new skills and practice them over and over again. Riders rapidly develop their riding skills.
Barber pumps out his enthusiasm for the accessibility of pumptracks:
“Don’t get me wrong, singletrack is great. It’s why I love mountain biking. But not every community has the space to site miles of trails. A pump track, on the other hand, takes up about as much space as a single tennis court. One of the things that has me so stoked for our little pop-up pump track is that it’s located in a popular city park where it gets a ton of visibility. It’s like having a billboard for mountain biking along the interstate.”
- Jeff Barber, Singletracks.com
Boosting MTB Skills Through Frequency and Repetition
Just like the early pumptracks, today’s pumptracks are helping mountain bikers quickly boost their skills. A conveniently located pumptrack, packed with features in a small space, provides the rider with constant movement and training.
“I’ve seen my own son’s bike skills jump by leaps and bounds in just a couple of weeks of riding the local course. I guess it’s not surprising he’s improved so much given that he can ride dozens of loops back to back and practice a hundred wheel lifts and just as many corners in under an hour.”
- Jeff Barber, SingleTracks.com
How To Boost Mountain Biking With A Local Pumptrack
If you are wondering whether it's worth putting a pumptrack in your community, consider the impact it will have on kids of all ages, and how it will help boost broader cycling activity in your community.
Barber comments that, while interscholastic programs are effective in engaging teenagers and their parents in mountain biking, “pump tracks cast an even wider net,” providing a resource for two-year-olds on balance bikes, teens advancing their jumping skills, and adult riders progressing cornering techniques.
Riders can then use these skills when they go to ride the trails.
Without question, putting a pumptrack in your city will help boost the local cycling industry.
“For those of us who are invested in growing the sport of mountain biking — or even more broadly, recreational cycling — putting a pump track in every community would certainly yield dividends for years to come.”
- Jeff Barber, SingleTracks.com
And sure, you can build a dirt pumptrack in your backyard. Or, look at how to get a modular pumptrack installed in your community park - one that can be enjoyed by hundreds of riders a day, inclusive with other cyclesport riders like skateboards and scooters.
Let’s keep the full-cycle relationship of mountain bikes and pumptracks turning wheels.