Get Pumped! Bicycle Pump Tracks for the Family
By Karen Kefauver
Santa Cruz pump tracks are a magnet for kids and parents alike. It’s an ideal place for parents to hangout and experience a unique type of bicycle playground. Typically constructed from dirt, pump tracks feature round bumps and banked turns that are designed to help a rider maintain momentum using a pumping action instead of pedaling. Any age rider can hop on the track to practice “pumping” and pedaling is totally acceptable. Completing a single loop may take anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute, though kids may spend hours on the circuit. Fortunately, there are plenty of tracks to choose from in Santa Cruz County, including a brand new one: Watsonville opened its first pump track in September, Pinto Pump Track at Pinto Lake County Park.
I’m glad the kids in South County will have a pump track because they’re in for a treat. I had no idea how much fun they are (and a challenge, too) until 2014 when I made my debut at Chanticleer Pump Track, riding my mountain bike with the seat removed and using flat pedals. You don’t need a special kind of bike for a pump track, though fat tires and BMX-style are best because you’re standing the whole time and will have a lower center of gravity.
I turned to Mark Davidson, former president of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, for pump track perspective, because he’s had one in his backyard for seven years. Both he and his wife, Eve Davidson, have enjoyed riding it, though their teenage daughter currently shows little interest. “It’s pure recreation, fun and play,” said Davidson, who winds down on it after work. “The track is designed to promote flow and propel yourself around the track. Pumping is more like transferring your weight using your legs to spring up and down and moving your center of gravity with your legs to create and build forward movement.”
It's Easier Than it Sounds
Santa Cruz resident Jen Robinson and her son, Toby, 5, have visited several local pump tracks and she recommends Chanticleer Pump Track in Live Oak.
“It’s really fun because it has different levels and different courses so you can be different abilities. Toby loved the feeling of going up and down on the terrain and feeling like a real mountain biker.”
Even Toddlers Can Use the Pump Track
“It’s amazing seeing a kid on a strider on a pump track,” said Davidson. “It gives me hope for the future. Those kids have an early positive experience with a bicycle and they see even bigger kids and adults also on their bikes having happy, good times. I think that’s going to be key to sustainable future. People won’t drive cars all the time. Bikes and e-bikes will help reduce traffic jams and promote human health and happiness.”
Karen Kefauver is a freelance journalist, social media coach and mountain biker based in Santa Cruz since 1993. For more bicycling stories, visit: www.karenkefauver.com.
Pump Tracks in Santa Cruz County
All ages and abilities welcome
- Harvey West Pump Track at Harvey West Park: 326 Evergreen Street
- Chanticleer Park Pump Track at Chanticleer Park in Live Oak: Chanticleer Avenue between Mattison Lane & Capitola Road
- West Side Pump Track: 100 Western Drive.
- Scotts Valley Pump Track at Sky Park in Scotts Valley: Mt. Hermon Road & 361 Kings Village Road
- San Lorenzo Park Pump Track: lower meadow near the Water Street Bridge
- Capitola Pump Track in Capitola: McGregor Drive
- Polo Grounds Jump Park: the Polo Grounds County Park in Aptos.
- Pinto Lake Pump Track: Pinto Lake County Park 757 Green Valley Road