Gaining Momentum

Photo Courtesy of American Ramp Company

Many marvel at the fact that you don’t even have to pedal to make it around the track. In fact, it defies logic as well as the name—the pump track.

“They just keep going and never stop,” said Tim Whitley, Public Works Director for the city of Malakoff, Texas. “It’s not like they have to push themselves. They just cruise. I didn’t know they would pick up momentum like that.”

The 20-foot-wide U-shaped concrete pump track was recently installed as the second phase of a skatepark project. The first phase was the brainchild of Estella Lyon, a resident of the nearby town of Mabank who was looking for a way to honor her son, Jake, an avid skater who passed away at the age of 18.

“We were on vacation in Wyoming and one of the attractions was a skatepark,” she recalls. “Jake skated outdoors, and I used to drive him and his friends to an indoor park, but they didn’t have any outdoor skateparks around here.”

According to the Jersey Off Road Bike Association, “A pump track is a continuous loop of dirt berms and “rollers” (smooth dirt mounds) that you ride without pedaling. The name “pump track” comes from the pumping motion used by the rider’s upper and lower body as they ride around the track. The idea of a pump track is to use this pumping motion to maintain your speed around the track without pedaling. It’s a great workout and lots of fun!”

Lyon adds she had no idea the park would be so popular until after it was built.

“They have birthday parties there, and it’s not just kids, it’s entire families hanging out there,” she points out.

Lyon adds one of the most important things a city can do for a successful pump track is to seek input from the pint-sized patrons who will use it.

“It gives small kids even with scooters something more challenging to practice on,” she notes.

She also recommends interviewing different companies to determine which one is the best fit for an individual project.

“For us, American Ramp was that company. They did an excellent job. They came up with things I wouldn’t have, she remarks before pointing out, “Well, I’m not a skater.”

Whitley says from a maintenance standpoint, the construction of the pump track was well planned, thanks to the advice of employees.

“They [the city] weren’t going to concrete the inside,” he explains. “I’m glad they did from a maintenance standpoint. I don’t know how we’d get a mower in there.”

He adds the concrete used to make the mounds and berms is touted to be “a whole lot more stable because it’s poured in a controlled environment.” He explains the pieces are poured and cured indoors before they are brought on site for installation.

Here’s a look at a few other projects the company has had a hand in as well as some advice for those who may be considering installing a pump track:

Alex Posada

Director of Recreation & Parks

Santa Maria, Calif.

Posada says city officials started looking at installing a pump track when bikers began riding on the skate ramps, creating a safety issue for skaters. The pump track fit neatly into a small space available next to the skate park. Since its installation, Posada says there have been no issues related to the ramps and they are well used by the public. He advises having local ordinances ready for regulating use of the ramps prior to installation.

Steve Martin

Director of Recreation & Community Events

Town of Holyrood, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Martin says the pump track is the busiest piece of equipment at the park. For this reason, he recommends performing weekly inspections on any pump track.

“We have a checklist that we go through each week to make sure all bolts are tight and the structure is safe to ride on,” he says.

The “Lumberjack Series” track in Holyrood is made from a marine-grade lumber and is topped with an ultra-grip composite surface, which keeps the track safe—regardless of the weather.

Martin also notes it is important to consider the estimated numbers that will be using the park.

“You want to make sure you make your pump track long enough to withstand the numbers that will be using it,” he points out.

Martin adds he is proud that kids no longer have to travel 30 minutes or more to participate in the sport they love so much. Even better than the opportunity for the children—he says—is the convenience for parents!