While any bike can be used on a pumptrack, some are better suited to handle the twists and turns of this unique biking experience.
In this post, you'll learn what type of bikes will give you optimal performance on a pumptrack, how to equip your bike for a pumptrack, and some riding tips to help you get started on the pumptrack.
What Type of Bike Should I Get for a Pumptrack?
Pumptracks are a circuit of rollers and banked turns, that when ridden correctly, don't require pedaling or pushing, but instead a pumping action to gain momentum. Because of the differences from a traditional bike ride, many people wonder what type of bike they need to use to get the most out of the experience.
Pumptracks are considered similar to dirt jumping and BMX tracks as they both possess smooth riding surfaces, berms, jumps, and rhythm sections. Ideally, you will want to use a BMX racing bike or dirt jump bike:
- Dirt jump bikes have super short chainstays, rigid frames and low seats.
- BMX racing bikes are lighter weight and have smaller wheels.
Both bikes are designed to be fast and nimble on a smooth and compact surface, like a pumptrack.
Dirt jump bikes and BMX bikes aren't the only bikes you can use on a pumptrack, though. Actually, you can pretty much use any sort of bike (or wheeled equipment) to ride a pumptrack as long as it is correctly fitted to your body and there is enough space between the seat and your body to enable the bike to easily move under you.
Setting up Your Bike for the Pumptrack
When setting up your bike for the pumptrack (regardless of which type you use), here are some things you'll want to consider:
- Add air to your tires. If you have a trail bike, your air pressure is probably somewhere around the 30 psi range. We recommend pushing your psi to 40, which will make the bike handle better on smooth riding surfaces and roll faster.
- Adjust your seat. Drop it low as it goes to create as much space as possible between your body and your bike.
You can also make quick and inexpensive upgrades to your current bike to make it pumptrack ready:
- Tires. Upgrade your tires to something with smooth tread, which is designed to roll smoothly on roads, light trails, and of course, pumptracks.
- Pedals. If you are doing it right, you won’t be doing much pedaling on a pumptrack. Instead, your pedals are more like something to stand on rather than something to propel the bike forward. For that reason, solid, flat pedals, with good grip, are an excellent modification for the pumptrack.
What Other Gear Do You Need for a Pumptrack?
While pumptracks are generally safe, we always recommend wearing a helmet anytime you ride a bicycle.
If you happen to be new to pumptrack riding, or if your youngster plans to hit the track, we recommend grabbing some gloves and pads to protect knees and elbows. Not only will they save your skin in the case of a mishap, but they will also make you feel more comfortable and confidant when you are starting out.
As for clothing, it's important to be comfortable during your ride, so dress as you normally would for a bike ride or other outdoor physical activity. Though dressing in something as simple as jeans and a t-shirt is OK, but if you plan to get sweaty, breathable sportswear might be more comfortable.
For shoes, you can buy cycling shoes that are specifically designed for flat pedals. They are solidly constructed with flat soles made from tacky rubber to grip the pedals, which are ideal for the pumptrack. Skateboard footwear is easily second best. In fact, some pro bike riders prefer skate shoes over bike shoes.
If neither are in your shoe-drobe, and you don't want to buy something new, look at your shoes for the following characteristics:
- Covered toes. Sandals, flip-flops and other beachwear are out.
- Flat bottom. No high heals, funky ridges or knobbly-treaded hiking boots. The last thing you want is the pedal getting snagged on part of your shoe when you're trying to regain balance. The smoother and more uniform the tread pattern, the better.
- Solid rubber sole. Avoid foams, leather and other soft materials. You want a good supportive sole that will stick to the pedal and distribute your weight across your whole foot.
- Laces and straps. No one wants their shoe to come off while riding. Or worse, your feet moving around inside your shoes giving you blisters while you're trying to workout. Pick shoes that you can lace up snugly, so you can focus on riding without thinking about your feet.
As with all disciplines of cycling, clipless cycling shoes should only be used in conjunction with clipless pedals. Generally speaking clipless shoes are unnecessary and disadvantageous for pumptracks, however, if you normally ride with clips, and think you'll be more comfortable, go for it!
Getting Started on a Pumptrack
To start riding a pumptrack, you'll first want to pay attention to the track and get as much feedback from fellow riders or observers as possible. The faster you learn about the track, the more enjoyable your rides will be.
You should also read and respect the rules of the track, like the start and finish point, and the riding direction.
If you are used to riding your bike on trails, or even roads, you'll want to ride your bike the way you would normally ride it:
- Feet on the pedals;
- Good forward momentum;
- And, steady balance.
Keeping that in mind will keep your ride through the pumptrack efficient and consistent.
Other tips for a first-time pumptrack rider:
- Start slow, and build speed as you become more comfortable riding around the track.
- Make sure you carry a little speed when entering into a pumptrack. This will help you keep momentum and balance over the first few bumps as you find your rhythm.
- Ride in a controlled manner, within your limits, to avoid putting yourself, or any fellow riders at risk of injury. What is nice about riding a pumptrack is that you can speed up as you build your skills and want to challenge yourself.
- Use your arms to pull up and push down when on the bumps. This will help you get used to the wave-like motion needed to keep your momentum going throughout the track.
- You'll want to incorporate your legs as much as possible. This is where most of your power will come from. As your rear wheel crests the top of a bump, shift your weight back and push down with your legs.
Are There Benefits in Riding a Pumptrack?
Once you start riding a pumptrack, you'll see increased benefits that will help you take on more difficult mountain biking trails. Riding pumptracks will help build your bike handling skill and learn how to deal with momentum. You'll also start seeing mountain biking trails differently. The obstacles you would typically encounter on a mountain bike trail can be used to gain momentum and increase your speed on the trail - similar to what you would be doing on a pumptrack.
Repetition and practice is the name of the game when it comes to building your skills, so we encourage you to incorporate riding pumptracks into your cycling routine as much as you can. Pumptracks give you the chance to strengthen your muscle memory, specifically with bike handling skills.
Will I Get a Good Workout Riding Pumptracks?
Absolutely! Pumptrack riding is a great way to work up a sweat, and it's been compared to doing cycling interval workouts without actually doing the interval training workouts. Plus, you'll get to bike through some twists, turns and berms while you're at it.
Don't have a pumptrack nearby? No worries! We got you covered. Rent or buy a pumptrack for your community!