Help: I want to sit and pedal in berms

Hi Lee, I have recently completed my own pump track based on your great Pump Track Nation handbook!

Anyway, to my question: I seem to be able to carry reasonable speed on the roller straights but struggle to carry speed through the corners. Once in the corner I have a desire to sit down on my saddle and find that I need to pedal to help keep momentum.

How much of this is my poor technique vs. my poor trail building skills…

Appreciate any help!

Cheers, Russell (from New Zealand)

Hey Russell,

Thanks for writing.

I see you bought a copy of Welcome to Pump Track Nation 45 minutes before you emailed me. I doubt you built your track that fast, but I appreciate you paying up before you asked for free advice.

BTW: My stats show A LOT of people get Welcome to Pump Track Nation without paying for it. What do you people do to feed your babies? Do you mind if I steal some of it?

Russell, thanks for paying. The advice:

Make sure your track is built properly

Compare Russell’s 180 with …

Great tracks are all about subtleties. If you follow the advice in Welcome to Pump Track Nation — I mean really follow it — you will get a sweet track. 2010 Sea Otter pro track, SoCal high school track, Keystone/Giant track, Superior Bike park track, 2011 Sea Otter pro track … they were all built (or will be built) according to WTPTN specs.

Your track is not built quite right.

Carefully read Welcome to Pump Track Nation. Measure twice. Dig once.

Oops, too late. Bad karma?

Desire to sit

… this 180 at Superior Bike Park. Photo by Collin Zimmerman.

If you want to sit in the berm it’s probably due to some combination of:

• You’re not balanced enough. Strive for light hands and heavy feet. Check out Mastering Mountain Bike Skills or Pro BMX Skills or look for free tips on this site.

• You’re not strong enough. A meek 1G turn drives 1.4 times your body weight into your bike (hopefully your pedals). That’s a lot of force. Way more than most cyclists are used to. Get stronger. Soon you’ll be pulling 3Gs.

• You’re not used to this. Ripping a pump track demands tons of balance, power, endurance and skill. Start slow. Focus on great execution. Everything will come together.

Desire to pedal

Free sneak peak from Mastering Mountain Bike Skills

Note: Most riders find it difficult to gain speed in 180s. When I design pump tracks for civilians, I place 180s at the ends of fast sections.

If you feel like you need to pedal through a berm, it’s probably due to some combination of:

• The berm and its neighboring rollers are not built correctly. The entrance roller is critical. It must transition smoothly into the belly of the corner. Make the banks as steep as possible.

• You are not pumping correctly. Keep in mind that a berm is just like the trough between two rollers, only it’s sideways. Heavy in, light out. You have to dial in your straight-line pumping and your basic cornering before you can pump a corner. Mastering Mountain Bike Skills or Pro BMX Skills. Pro BMX Skills explains pump in crazy detail.

• You are going too slow. Pin that straight and lay into the corner!

With both dirt and body, pay attention to the details. Execute perfectly. Build carefully. Rip it.

Good luck — and thanks again for paying.


— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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15 replies
  1. Crayfish says:


    Have you ever considered keeping your pump track booklet in a secure location so people can’t steal it? You seem pretty worked up.

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    You’re right, I am worked up. And I deleted the worst of my rant.

    Rather than sending download links, I’m now emailing password-protected Pump Track Nation pdfs directly to buyers. That should help a bit, but people are still posting the files online.

    The Pro BMX Skills ebook is a lot more secure, but it’s a lot less user friendly.

    Ebook security sucks. What’s good for publishers is bad for readers, and vice versa.

  3. Flatlander says:

    Love it. I judge you entirely justified in rant. No measureable damages from ranting–running tally on piracy. Thanks for whipping up and serving the doctrine of flow. Any other items I can buy that will help me ride better?

    Come to Michigan and teach a clinic!

  4. John (aka Wish I Were Riding) says:

    Lee, I bought your book from Amazon a couple weeks ago. Hope that was okay. I assume they don’t notify you when that happens. 😉

  5. Russell says:

    Thanks for your reply Lee, I appreciate your rant as I work in the software industry where IP theft is common… However in my defense… I think if you check your database you will see my name about 18 months ago. This is in fact my 2nd purchase for a friend who is also building a track in his backyard as he saw mine. I have also purchased your excellent MTB skills book. So please think of me as someone who is helping feed your kids :-).

    Thanks for your notes. One of the problems of my site is that I am cutting it into a hillside and it is a bit like sculpture. I will review your tips and keep crafting my track. There is obviously quite a lot of artistry involved. Thanks also for the riding tips, I will work on that stuff.

    Love your work!
    Happy trails, Russell

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Thanks Russell. I appreciate the support.

    Your side-hill situation is tricky. My house is on steep land, and I’m about to tackle the same issue. I’m thinking about a figure eight layout where the prime riding direction is down the turns. Dive into a corner, get mega speed back up/across the hill, dive down, repeat the other way.

    Stay tuned. I hope to get this rolling after the Sea Otter pro pump track build.

    Right now one of those kids is screaming …

  7. Ryan says:

    I have both versions of Mastering MTB Skils, I love the book, and I love your site!!!
    Here is a video that was posted on the Bikeridr bolg… Talk about Awesome balance, attack position, hevey feet with ultra light hands, and serious body language for the crazy stuff!

  8. Farid says:

    Lee, your annoyance is fully appreciated.

    Yesterday, an employee of a certain bike shop in Ft. Collins wanted to buy some maps for FREE and sell them for FREE.

    I asked if the Maxxis Minions were FREE, he said no. So I said no.

    Good thing we can all appreciate getting on our bikes ripping the trail or pump track and let the stresses of daily life melt away!!! Its all good.

  9. zak says:

    Hi Lee!

    You are asking pirates “What do you people do to feed your babies?”. Answer is simple. They do not have a babies. They ARE babies 🙂 All you need is hope, that someday, when they will go to job and start earning money, they will go back to this site an pay for what they were using for free.

    Good luck!

  10. Eric says:

    Hi Lee,

    I’m confused: “A meek 1G turn drives 1.4 times your body weight…”

    I’m not Isaac Newton, but wouldn’t 1G drive 1x your body weight into the pedals???

    How does that work out like that?


  11. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Eric, I’m no Newton either, but our man Scott Feldman-Peabody is a real-life physicist (and, I’m told, a ripper).

    When I was fact checking for Pro BMX Skills, I asked Scott how much force goes into the bike when a rider brakes with 1G of deceleration. I knew it was some combination of turning force and gravitational force, but I didn’t know the details.

    Scott said:

    “That’s a vector addition problem. If he was going straight down (physically impossible), it’d be double weight. If he’s on level ground, it’s sqrt(2) times (i.e. 1.4x) pointing 45 degrees down from forward. Anywhere in between and I gotta get out the calculator to do sin or cos depending upon how everything’s defined. Boo-ya! I just laid some physics on yer ass!”

    Decelerating at 1G or turning at 1G yield the same result.

    Once in a while, it’s good to have some physics laid on your ass.

  12. Eric says:

    Ah, yes. The old vector addition problem ;P

    Now that you mention it, I vaguely remember something from some physics class long ago… To bad I didn’t consider how it applied to the real world at the time. I wonder if I still have that text book at home?

  13. Dave says:

    Hey Lee,

    I too am building a pump track in my backyard (as well as @ my church). My yard has a steep slope to it too. In my design I’ve figured out where “level” is and use it for a couple of long straight roller sections.

    At each end will be 180s dug in to the hill so that the actual berm is nearly level. The entrance will be dug into the hill, and the dirt I remove will be used to build the exit bank above ground level.

    I am also planning a transition at one end that allows a 120 turn (and the 180) which will send you downhill at an 8% – 10% slope. I’m hoping this will not be too much slope coming from the opposite direction. Any recommendations on the max amount of slope for a straight?

    Looking forward to seeing your slope design after you finish the Sea Otter stuff! Hoping to get some more ideas for my own track.

    BTW – I wouldn’t have been able to conceive ANY of this without having PURCHASED your books to help me. They are a great deal! How can anyone put a price on the fun and enjoyment you get after putting into practice your tips and advice. So, I’m joining the ‘annoyed’ list for you as well.

    Maybe enough of us can make a statement about people who steal from others! – They’re just cheap if they think it costs too much. C’mon people! Give up a couple of cafe mochas and buy it! Be honorable!

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