Pump up the track 

Newest bike trend more than going in circles

Unofficially there are as many as five pump tracks in the Whistler area right now, but the only official track is the one built by the Resort Municipality of Whistler on a patch of ground beside the dirt jumps and mountain bike skills park.

Randy Symons, parks and trails maintenance supervisor for the municipality, says the pump track was built by popular demand. He is amazed how busy it has become, and how young the riders are that are using it.

"Each year there's a budget that goes into that bike (skills) park, we throw in some labour and machine time and a whole mess of volunteers keep it shipshape," he said. "We've been talking about the pump track for a while now. It's one of those things that's easy to do, it's just dirt, it doesn't take up much space. Each year there's a different flavour of mountain biking going on, and this year with the other jump tracks in town it made sense.

"People really like it, and it's excellent for little kids. I went by there today and watched a bunch of little jelly beans go around and around the track. For some of them it was pretty close to their first time on a bike, so it's quite hilarious."

Pemberton is also celebrating a new pump track, across the road from the new community centre. Lon Martin and Pemberton Councillor Alan Leblanc helped spearhead the project, which has been a huge hit.

Johnny Inglis of Pemberton Bike Co. says its renewed interest in BMX and hardtail bikes, but mostly he's been busy fixing kids bikes that want to ride the track.

"It's been really good for the kids, the biggest impact has been with kids aged 5, 6 and 7 that are in there all day long," he said. "It's really positive, the parents are psyched, the kids are psyched, and it's refreshing that there's something new to do in town.

"There's talk off making it bigger in the next few years, and maybe adding a second loops, and maybe building some dirt jumps. There's definitely a lot more interest in doing that kind of thing now we have the pump track."

A pump track is usually a dirt loop located on flat ground that features rolling hills and berm corners, although a few wooden setups are making the rounds of the province. Also called rhythm tracks, the object is to get around the course on a BMX or mountain bike without pedaling, building speed through the course by pumping your handlebars, hips and legs. The tracks teach balance, proper cornering, using your arms and upper body to control your bike, and how to keep your flow through the terrain.

While it may seem like a beginner concept, a lot of top pros racing downhill, four-cross and dual slalom use pump tracks to build muscles and hone their skills. In Crankworx last season, the top athletes in the dual slalom called the course one of the best pump tracks they've ever ridden.

Duncan Munro is guiding WORCA's Dirt Camps for a third year this summer, and likes to take his more advanced riders to pump tracks.

"It really teaches the kids how to carry momentum through corners and carry their speed, so (pump tracks) are good," he said. "We don't bring every group in there... but it's a good way for kids to practice skills and feel the flow of mountain biking."

As well as a new pump track, Symons's crews are also working on new singletrack in Lost Lake Park, including new sections of trail over Molly Hogan. The area is quickly becoming one of the most popular in Whistler, according to trail counters. One count on the Zappa trails from mid-August to November of 2008 logged almost 7,500 walkers, runners and riders.

As well, Whistler is adding a missing piece to the Sea to Sky Trail, connecting Brandywine to Cal-cheak via the Whistler Bungee Bridge.

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