<em>by Dave Robinson</em>
Santa Cruz is famous in the surfing community not only for it’s quality surf and talented pros but also for its fierce localism. Our surf spots seem to spawn not only talent but, too often, also hostility.
Santa Cruz is also breeding a new generation of stars, those that thrive on the world-class trails and bike parks around the county. In stark contrast to our surf spots, this is an environment where you will be embraced as a newbie and welcomed into the fold. And our youthful ambassadors and future stars of the sport are turning laps right now on a small dirt oval alongside Highway 1 on the Westside.
If you’ve driven north on highway one in the last two years and looked across at the old Wrigley Gum factory you’ve probably noticed a new chain link fence enclosing a tiny park littered with small dirt lumps and small kids. This inauspicious location is the Westside Pump Park, the newest City of Santa Cruz Park. It is also the incubator for the latest generation of super-talented bike riders in Santa Cruz County, following in the footsteps of the Aptos Post Office Jumps superstars.
If you’ve read any of <a href=“/search/node/dave%20robinson”>my other posts</a> or are familiar with the trail-building efforts of <a href=“http://www.mbosc.org/“>Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz</a>, then you already understand the mechanics and purpose of a pump park. It is a really efficient use of space that helps one develop bike-handling skills by encouraging the efficient use of your body to propel a bicycle around a loop without pedaling. If you’ve spent time at any of the three public pump tracks in the area you’ll notice they are most popular with kids under 20, with heaps under 10 and some as young as 18 months. You’re probably also amazed at the skill and stamina of anyone who rides there often.
Our pump track class record is 205 laps in a three hour session, by a 12-year old no less! More inspiring, though, is the camaraderie that you observe in this environment.
This could be because of a couple of different reasons. The design of the track causes riders to gather on the same dirt mound and so encourages discussion, everything from technique and gear to some of life’s bigger challenges. Pump tracks are easy to ride so they encourage participation by a wide range of ages and abilities. Pump tracks encourage sharing because an average lap only takes 30 to 60 seconds, so it is easy to get your lap in and then watch the next rider while you catch your breath.
Read more over at Hilltromper.