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Monday, April 24, 2006

It's Not Mountain Biking, it's "Pumping"

It seems every time you turn around there’s a new and more specialized way to ride a bike. First, there was the big scandal in the stodgy Road Bike scene when Mountain Biking was born. Shortly thereafter someone decided that there was a distinction between Cross Country and Downhill. In an uncertain order there were, Trials, Slalom, Short-track, Dirt Jumping, Mountain Cross, Street Riding, Single Speeding, Free-Riding, Hucking, Chucking, and one of the most obscure and misunderstood… Trail Riding.

One day when I figure out exactly what it is, I’ll talk about Trail Riding.

And now, I have discovered a new kind of riding. It’s called “Pumping”. You have to have a special “Pump Track” to “Pump.”

marla streb
Nathan Rennie

Last week I witnessed Pump Riding first hand, this weird and sublime mountain bike variation, on what looked like a wimpy BMX course. It was in the backyard of the infamous all-rounder Mark Weir (WTB), one of our sport’s most charismatic trendsetters. Mark’s paid his dues with sweat and swagger, and now he’s brazenly showing the world champions how to run their pro careers.

Anyway, it looks like Mark’s figured out how to make a mountain out of a suburban molehill. He, with the help of a guy named Beavis, has built one of these newfangled pump tracks in his backyard. This past Friday, a work day for normal people, Weir held a Pump-fest, and riders from all over showed up.

The course was back yard flat…maybe thirty feet long, 20’ wide, inside and outside lines, berms, lips and of course myriad bumpy sections. If you’re good, this little course requires no pedaling. Thus, the “pump”.

marla streb

Pumping seems to involve the mysterious laws of perpetual motion. The track isn’t on a slope, yet the rider goes faster and faster on each lap. I could get into the physics, but you can just look it up on the internet if you’re really curious. All I really know is that pedaling on this pump track is frowned upon.

The goal is to generate a bunch of speed by working these little mounds in a certain way…a lot of Body English on the rhythm sections… and then you can get fancy by taking different lines and perhaps doubling and tripling the little mounds in a way you think may be impressive to the crowd.

Each lap takes about 5 seconds, and after a few laps, the spectators’ necks start aching like they’re watching a tennis match. It’s basically a subjective sport, but I heard you can also quantify the laps with a stopwatch. Another variation is a game of Horse, which they played and Brian Lopes (GT) evidently won. A Pump Pursuit was about to be put in play when I snuck out of there.

Way too hard to explain, but I think this Pumping has the potential to become a trend, maybe even world championship event. Can backyard Pump Track Pursuit be the future of cycling?


BUBBAJ said...

Kind of limiting being confined to a backyard track. no?

2:54 PM  
Capt. Jack Sparrow said...

Whoa. Here we go. Now we'll need pump-specific bikes.

Thanks for reporting from the field!

11:58 AM  
ed said...

Hey Marla,

Did you see the men's SBX final. The guy on the slow board (wrong wax?), who didn't even get the hole shot, wins gold. How did he make that mid-course pass for gold?

Yes, pumping is already a world championship event.

8:55 PM  
Dicky said...

I've been "training" on a pump track in the off season. It is just too much fun, although I am not sure it is doing anything for my endurance. I am getting quite proficient at overcooking turns and eating sh!t.

3:57 AM  
Squirrel said...

Hey Marla are ya mommy yet?? Don't forget about me tattoo flicker, I want your ink on there:) Pump tracks...... Very cool my wife and I are thinking of building one in our back yard....we have lots of room 30wx100d,yrds. and it flows downhill, might be hard pumping back up:)


10:24 AM  
gwadzilla said...

pump courses, indoor mountain bike terrain parks, whatever they call that north shore stuff

it is all great
I want some of it here in washington dc
the pump track would take up the least amount of space
but... what would get the most use

I fear that the 29er wound not be the bike of choice on a pump course
guess they would want to make a 29er specific

and as squirrel asked...
are you a mommy yet?

7:54 PM  
Isabelle said...

It's good that you're practicing pumping, now go pump out that puppy!

8:39 AM  

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