March 2017 Fitness and sport
Taking a big breath, having strength in the arms and legs and wanting to have fun are the requisites of pump track
, one of the most interesting new sports for mountain bike lovers. The name pump track refers to the track made up of bumps, holes and curves, whilst the ‘pump’ part refers to the action carried out by the individual who moves his/her body, and therefore centre of gravity, forwards and backwards whilst driving the mountain bike, as if he/she was pumping. Pump track is very different from regular, strenuous mountain biking because it does not require pedalling, rather it requires strong technical skills and complete control of the body and bike throughout the entire activity. At the same time, this activity carries out an important action on the main muscle groups and cardio-vascular system thanks to an intense aerobic
It is claimed that pump track was originally used by some Australian riders to preparing athletically for the world cup of the speciality ‘Down Hill’ (DH). Following this, it became very popular in the USA and, today, it is becoming common in Europe too. Pump track slopes can be found in bike parks in the summer, in order to promote this sport, whilst in the winter they can be found at exhibitions and trade fairs and so on. The slope is very easy to assemble and dissemble and especially easy to transport, as is exemplified by the ‘Pump Track 4Giump’, which was designed for both indoor and outdoor use.
A pump track circuit has an oval shape and it is usually made out of 6 ramps per side and 2 curves (also known as obstacles). These curves are flat in the centre and steep on the sides which means they can be tackled at any speed. The degree of the curve can range from 60° to 240°, whilst the tracks can be any length or shape. The ramps represent the ‘rhythmic’ part of the track, just like in BMX circuits, and they are also called ‘rollers’ or ‘whoops’. One complete circuit of the track should take approximately 30 seconds at a speed of 5km/h, and it should involve tackling 2 curves and 12 ramps, making a total of 14 obstacles. Thus, in 1 minute the biker has the possibility to tackle 28 obstacles, which translates to 280 in 10 minutes, and this shows even just a short training session allows the biker to repeat the pumping action a great number of times until it becomes automatic.
The beginning of the circuit goes slightly downhill so that the biker can gain some speed, but then the biker is left to get the best out of the curves and ramps that he/she can to speed up even more.
Pump track circuits are open to any type of mountain bike and the risk of injuring oneself or having an accident are very low as long as the basic safety regulations are respected.
In order to set up a pump track circuit, adequate planning is required and a preliminary analysis of the ground must be carried out to check that it would be safe to build a pump track circuit there, and up-keep of this circuit comes at an affordable cost.
The characteristics of a safe pump track circuit
: each circuit must be well integrated into the ground and it is a good idea to check that there are no stones, rocks or branches on the track, or anything that could be an obstacle for the biker.
: it is important to respect the sense of the circuit and make sure that the curves and points where the different tracks converge are very visible so that the biker can break enough or avoid any possible crashes.
: this is the area in the circuit where bikers can stop to make technical corrections and change bike parts, and it is also a very good place to observe competitors.
Entrance and exit
: the starting point must not be too high so that the bikers do not go excessively fast as this could cause them to lose control at the start of the circuit. The exit must be well sign posted and it must lead on to the rest area.
: any mountain bike can be used as long as the bike is in good condition. Gloves and a helmet are compulsory and knee and elbow shields are highly recommended.
Basic technical elements
In pump track, the biker does not pedal, rather he/she accelerates the bike, for example near a ramp, by ‘embracing’ it, which is done by keeping a precise posture and keeping the body perfectly balanced on the bike. Control of the pedals is equally important as this is how the biker supports him/herself when he/she has to push with the legs when going over a ramp. Special attention is given to the moments in which the arms and legs must be perfectly coordinated so as to reach as high a speed as possible when going over a ramp. Curves and obstacles must also be made the most out of to increase speed: the correct body position must be combined with the correct positioning of the bicycle (bike-body combination).
: it is possible to go around the entire circuit using just the strength of the arms alone and a ‘flexion-push’ movement. When going upwards, the biker needs to lighten the bicycle by bending the elbows and arms. When the biker needs to go downwards, the arms must be extended and pushed forward to accelerate.
: when going upwards, the bike needs to be made lighter by bending the legs. When going downwards, the legs should push down on the pedals.
Arm and leg coordination
: when going upwards, the bike must be lightened slightly, starting from the front wheel, by bending the arms, and then weight should be taken off the back wheel by bending the legs. When the biker starts to go downwards he/she needs to put pressure on the bike by pushing down on the front wheel with the arms and the back wheel with the legs to go as fast as possible.
: a curve must be tackled from the middle of the track and the biker has to lean the bike and the body towards it at the same time, and he/she needs to keep as central a trajectory as possible whilst cycling round the curve. The biker should always look the way he/she wants to go and as far ahead as possible.