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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.”

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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”.

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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?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Who Was the Biggest Winner at the Sea Otter?

Downhill, Cross Country, Mountain Cross, Dual Slalom: all the results from those events are now Sea Otter fish wrap.

But the big Sea Otter news on everyone’s mind was who won the weekend’s biggest value purse: Singletrack Jungle’s Inaugural Annual, by Special Invitation Only, Bike Sumo.

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Bike Sumo
All photos by Phil Strong

The Bike Sumo winner pocketed a round-trip, all expenses paid, for two trip to ride the trails of the world class eco/adventure ocean front resort that I am helping to design and build in beautiful, lush, “No Artificial Ingredients Added” Costa Rica! I think the winner of the three hour rain slogged cross country race won 500 bucks and a water bottle.

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Second place for the Bike Sumo was a waffle iron. Also for two people, it was equipped with dual skillets, integral grease drains and featured an automatic timer shut off.

How does a Bike Sumo work you might have asked yourself a few sentences back?

We handed out Special Invitations to hundreds of random VIPs who were sauntering aimlessly through the expo site, and then we hoped it wouldn’t rain.

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On the appointed hour, under blue Saturday skies, at our Singletrack Jungle booth, the keg of beer arrived. Shortly thereafter, so did the crowds. Around the sumo ring thronged a hopeful circle 20 deep, their invitations in one hand, Sierra Nevada in the other. Before the mob became too unruly, Our Master of Ceremony, King Kahuna Phillip Novotny pulled from the ceremonial fishbowl 16 names, who were instantly trans-substantiated into Sumo Bikers!

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The first Rule of Bike Sumo is always broken. That rule is, “Tell no one about Bike Sumo”. It’s a dumb rule. So we all break it. But, there are only three more rules and they are all pretty simple. Keep your hands on the bars, your feet on the pedals, and knock the other guy out of the ring. You sort of awkwardly ride into each other and try to maintain your balance and self dignity, as the crowd cheers and jeers as though they could do any better.

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It’s a lot of fun.

The drummers were banging their skins. Phillip was vamping on his double megaphones. The appointed at last minute because she was pretty scorekeeper stood at the ready with a dry erase marker and a bewildered look. And on borrowed beat-up BMX bikes from Wally’s in SLO, entered the ring Gale Dahlager from Sport Legs looking strong and smooth and advanced a couple rounds. Fox Shox’s Alayna Caldwell was out after two very controversial calls by the hyperglycemic referee. A ringer from Gravy Wheels escaped a few tight spots. As did a bearded, heavily tattoo’ed guy riding as a platonic champion for the bike industry’s most bombshell mover and shaker, Kelly Turcott.

Finally we were down to two.

Randy, Sumo’ing under the nom de plume, “Bike Betty” a small bike company in Longmont, CO, emerged victorious having fought a drawn out tactical battle against an environmental engineer with ripped calves whose name escaped me shortly after he slumped out of the ring in abject shame.

At least he had a waffle iron under his arm.