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Aptos, CA pump track

“Pump tracks” are essentially mountain bike trails for the (larger) backyard — or increasingly, community parks. Designed for achieving a certain flow (vs. speed-speed-giant jump-recover), there are generally multiple routes designed in layered figure 8s, with banked curves and occasional manageable jumps. Most people ride mountain bikes with shocks, but BMX bikes are there too.

Riding a pump track is kind of like riding a roller coaster track. They are really, really fun to ride. And they are gaining popularity now in city parks.

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Aptos pump track in action

Part of the reason they are is that they don’t look super dangerous. Pump track builder Alex Reveles says “Pump tracks are great because you look at it and you WANT to ride it – it’s not so scary.”

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Alex Reveles of Dirt Magic Creations

Alex grew up riding bikes in Santa Cruz County. Over the years he worked on trails and started building tracks. He helped redesign and build the Aptos, California pump track, a great community bike park. The last two years he’s been on Cameron McCaul’s Red Bull Rampage build team — maybe the most extreme competition of combined track building and serious slopestyle downhill.

IMG_2328Recently Alex formalized his team and his work into a new company, Dirt Magic Creations.  It’s probably good timing, as more and more communities are figuring out how fun these are, and campaigning to cities and organizing build days to get parks made (some examples: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Pleasanton, California). I asked Alex what goes into shaping this dirt into fun tracks. It’s pretty simple technology, as far as builds go. The magic seems to be in designing the routes.

Alex described his process:

“First I might draw at least the outer lines on paper and get a rough layout to get an idea of dirt you need for each feature. [Sometimes you need to bring dirt in.] It’s nice to have a small bobcat to get lots of dirt moved around & get main piles going. Then you shape with shovels and rake. Get the dirt to a certain moisture so it packs. The sun makes it hard, and so does riding it. I start with the outer lines and set where the corners will be, and then fill in the middle as we go.

Inspired by veteran builder Randy Spangler, Alex thinks it’s important to get creative and experiment by adding features to the track that make it unique. Adding jumps and lines, and creating adjacent elements like table tops.

Looking around the internet, though, it’s clear that building a pump track is something almost anyone with a little elbow grease can do. There are tons of examples of people building just with shovels, for their kids or their friends, in their backyards.

This is a nice video from another pump track build I found online. It gives a good overview of a very DIY process:

A cute “anyone can do this” one from a backyard course for little kids:

Here’s a very quick taste of a recent course Alex built:

And just for kicks, another video from a crazy ramp build Alex did with pro rider Cameron McCaul:

Working on a pump track in your neighborhood or city? Share your builds and your stories! And definitely leave a note here if you’re interested in making one in Oakland, California.

Sabrina Merlo

Sabrina is the Maker Faire Program Director. She works on stage content for the flagship fairs (Bay Area & New York), and also runs Maker Faire’s licensing program for locally and independently produced “Mini” Maker Faires. She also co-creates the East Bay Mini Maker Faire in her town, Oakland, CA.


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