How to build a pump track

Here’s a story I did for Decline magazine back in June. It includes detailed plans for the pump track at The Fix in Boulder, CO.

Team Yeti’s Ross “The Crusher” Milan gets his pump on while Brian Lopes takes notes for future 4X encounters.

For detailed info on building your own track, check out the hot ebook, Welcome to Pump Track Nation

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Pump track mania is sweeping the globe. Mountain bikers everywhere are building endless loops of rollers and berms, and the riders are getting smoother, fitter and faster.

These mini tracks teach you to maintain speed — no, gain speed — over bumps and through tight corners. Almost anyone can ride a pump track. Beginners fumble, jumble and stumble, while experts manual, jump and rip. On pump tracks the speed, fear and risk are low, but the effort, fun and improvement are high.

Legend has it that Mick Hannah trained extensively on a pump track before he demolished the 2004 Sea Otter Classic. Knowing the fastest Aussies pump on a regular basis, pro downhiller Steve Wentz built a track at The Fix in Boulder, Colo. last fall. At first, his L-shaped loop was barely rideable, but within a week the lines were grooved and the riders were grooving.

When I posted a story and videos on this site, pump track reports poured in. The kids in Whistler, BC started building them. The guys at Riding High in Taichung, Taiwan built one. And Ray Petro of Ray’s MTB, the indoor bike park in Cincinnatti, made an awesome one out of wood. Pump tracks are superfun, and they’re good for you, so you might as well build one of your own.

Pick a spot. You can have plenty of fun in as little as 40 x 20 feet. Yes, that’s the size of your basement. More space means wider turns, bigger rollers and greater speeds. Flat land is best, but you can always rail some downhill berms then pump back uphill on a roller staircase. Oof.

Lay it out. Start with the turns. Make them tight enough to pump but not so tight you struggle to make them. A radius of about 75 inches works well. The 38-inch turn at The Fix creates champions but robs speed. Make sure your berms have constant arcs, and build them gradually from flat to vertical. When you get the hang of your track, you’ll be pulling almost three Gs and leaning 70 degrees.

Learn how to build your own pump track

Fill in the spaces. Build rollers or doubles between your turns. Avoid flat spots. Every square inch on your track should tilt upward, downward or sideways. No time for coasting!

Riding your pump track

Ariel Lindsley: Maverick American’s XCer, marathoner, Super-D’er and pumper.

Choose your weapon. Dirt jump hardtails and stiff dual suspension slalom bikes work well. A 24-inch cruiser with foot pegs and no brakes might be ideal.

Smoothness first, speed second. Charge into your pump track like a maniac, and you’ll injure a bystander. Start super slow, sucking up the front sides and pumping the backsides, and watch the speed build on its own.

Attack the berms. Dive into them like the sideways holes they are. Pump them for speed and get out of there!

Race! Mountain crossers should do three-lap time trials. Downhillers should keep it flowing for 10 laps. XC racers can keep rolling until the other guys kick them out. For head-to-butt fun, start two riders on opposite ends and let them pursue each other. The guy who gets caught loses. Switch directions. Rest. Repeat.

I hope this is helpful. In the near future I’ll show you the best ways to build rollers and berms. In the mean time, start designing!

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For detailed info on building your own track, check out the hot ebook, Welcome to Pump Track Nation

This page has videos showing early sessions on The Fix’s pump track:

44 replies
  1. Ozy Nige says:

    These are so cool and the best thing is kids of all ages can use them. Lee do you mind me using your material in lobying my local city counsel to tranform a jump spot into a pump track. The jumps are realy crap the counsel have just dumped truck loads of crushed limestone on a corner of the local oval. Most of the jumps I have to sprint 100metres just to make the gap! no kids have don it yet and I crige at the prospect of one trying. I think they had the idea of making them so big kids wont do it so no liability problems (they didn’t count on me moving into the area) and they cannot be acused of doing nothing.
    Anyway the area is perfict for a pump track the raw materials are their just need permission to change things. Ya never know all going well I might be able to get Sam Hill to come down and train here when hes home.
    Cheers Nige

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Nige.

    Sure, show this stuff to the city, and tell them how perfect pump tracks are for public spaces — tricky but safe, good for beginers yet challenging for experts …

  3. Mugger says:

    Started work on my pump track, not as big as that because I wanted to start small then work up. Cheers for the inspiration, i know you’ve inspired me and some mates to make one.

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Right on! It’s better to build small and good than big and crappy. Design it so you can expand. Be patient and make sure you pack everything really well. The more work you put in, the smoother it’ll ride and the longer it’ll last.

  5. Keith Darner says:

    Check it ! We are thinking about a pump line. As opposed to a track. From the west side of the new 4X course; a line that heads to the west with rollers berms and a hip or two, just before the western fence line you’ll have a 180 degree turn that brings you back on a bit harder section, where one miscaculation kills your momentum.


  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Mighty Darner knows the score. I’m devising a pump line too — 50 or 100 yards of identical rollers, with 180 berms at each end.

    If you live in CO and you haven’t visited the Nathrop Play Grounds, you should come out for a race or clinic.

  7. Butch Greene says:

    Hey bro…just found the video. Can you update the article and link the pump track video in it… wasn’t too easy to find on your site…had to use MSN search!

    Our race team is already looking to build one for our own play. One question for you guys…Wentz built his INTO the ground. Here in the southeast that would never work. Dirt is too wet here. Anybody else got a video or good photos of one at ground level or above ground. It would give me some shaping ideas.

  8. Tom Forth says:

    Cheers for the inspiration Lee!Started to construct a pump track in my wood in the rather wet north of England.Had a rather lack of inspiration to do any riding of late but your article has made me get out there with a spade and given me a urge to ride something new.It may be more a pump & slide track but here goes anyway.

  9. brent says:

    Post up on how to built jumps and berms proper! I’m going to build a pump track in the back yard of my house in Littleton. I can’t wait! Look at what you and Wentz started! Pump track mania!

  10. Patrick Larson says:

    Hi. i am wanting to build a pump track in my woods, i have about 10.5 acres to do it on. but i was just wondering, all the pump tracks that i have seen are on flat ground, and the land i have is a hill or a slight downward slope. so i was wondering is there any way to build one that is going up hill a litttle bit and not disrupt ur flow? and whats funny about it is i live in Illinois, one of the flatest states ever and i cant find a good flat place.

  11. leelikesbikes says:

    Hi Patrick.

    You can work with a slight slope. An Aussie racer named Myles Mead told e he and his buddies have one on a hill. The descent is a slalom, and the climb is all rollers. Just make sure your rollers are smooth and spaced a bit more than a wheelbase apart. You can pump uphill then RIP downhill.

  12. cory says:

    Very cool videos and those tracks look really sweet. Would love to build one this summer and the added plus is less grass to cut.

  13. Jim Dauphinee says:

    Hi lee i have s spot picked out for my pump track but i dont have any dirt to build it with could i dig into the ground to get the same affect if they were built up from the grass

  14. Maximus G. says:

    yo Lee,
    long time no see! I was thinking of making a trial-pump track (elevated wood pump track with a few see-saws perhapse?) what do you think? has anyone tried pump track/trials fusion? later,
    ~Max W~

  15. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Max!

    That sounds cool. Ray at Ray’s MTB built a pump track all out of wood, and I hear it’s amazing. Seems like you could work in some trialsy sections — maybe skinny rollers, pumpable teeters? The teeters would be tricky.

    Pump tracks are a new art form — we’ve yet to see what’s possible.

  16. egggman says:

    Just reading about pump tracks for the first time yesterday. The idea has my blod racing. Does anyone know of any in Ontario Canada. Preferable Kitchener Waterloo area?

  17. Gunnar says:

    That’s really inspiring! Is there any videos showing younger (and maybe older) riders in a pumptrack? It would be really useful fore persuading difficult sceptics in homeowners association…

  18. Damion says:

    hey I’ve been doing research on the internet on pump tracks and my family has 2000 acres in the black hills but what I’m wondering is if a pump track could be long and winding yet still have the intense speed that there built for.

  19. Sensei_bob says:

    hey I have very very very very little space (15 by 15) in my backyard- Could I make wood jumps to set out in the street instead of dirt piles?
    Would wood work?
    By the way I love your book.

  20. conrad says:

    Hey, I was wondering what department, who would I see, and what would be the best way to talk to city about finding land/building a pump track. If you dont have your own property and live in a city, is there a way to talk to anyone about finding land and dirt to promote this sport?

  21. conrad says:

    one more question, I read somewhere that some bikers are using pump tracks as an alternative to spinning classes at a gym. Do you think that you get an equivalent or better workout? what are your thoughts?

  22. leelikesbikes says:

    Pumping is different. It uses your entire body. It develops bike-handling skills.

    If you’re interested in overall fitness and skill, pumping is better.

    If you want to develop a spin and your sitting/pedaling fitness, spinning is better.

    A combo of the two would be ideal.

  23. Reemdog says:

    I rode one a while back, and it was sooo sweet! And so, I have been dying to build my own pump track! I want to build one in my back yard which is only 18 x 36. Is this a ridiculous idea? Could it work? Is there enough space? Thanks!

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