I was scared to try the pump track. Mostly, it was vanity. I worried that I would look like a fool trying to pedal around the dirt circuit. What business does a 44-year-old woman have getting in the way of all of the guys expertly using the pump tracks in Santa Cruz, California?

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Crash Test Dummy

There was also the possibility of crashing. But I’ve hit the ground on my mountain bike plenty of times during the past 15 years of riding singletrack trails from Canada to Mexico to Peru. Yet, I was so concerned about my pump track debut that I put it off for years. Finally last week, it was time to take the plunge.

Wonder Women at the Pump Track

Cycling coach and action sports writer Joh Rathbun, a former downhill pro, was offering a two-hour, women-only clinic designed to get women on the pump track — perfect! Plus, she’s a friend with a great sense of humor. That would make me relax.

Five of us gals gathered on a hot Saturday afternoon at the Chanticleer Pump Track in Santa Cruz for the event organized by Shine Riders and Girls Gone Wilder. Three of us were brand new to the pump track and the others had visited pump tracks just a few times. Here’s what went down.

Safety and Equipment

“The biggest obstacle for women is intimidation… Don’t compare yourselves to others. If you are slow, so be it. We are here to have fun,” Coach Joh rallied us. We prepped: Helmets, knee and elbow pads on, basic bike safety check completed and tire air pressure lowered. We brought only hard tail mountain bikes, not full suspension. So far, so good. Then, things went downhill for me.

Problem #1: My pedals were rusted on and refused to budge for the pedal wrench. So I would have to spend the clinic with little clip-in pedals digging into the balls of my feet of my running shoes. Ouch!

Problem #2: My seat tube was too long to be lowered. Joh took my bike seat off. I was stunned. Where would my tired tush rest?

Needless to say, I was worried.

Our Hope and Fears on the Pump Track

Before proceeding to the pump track, I practiced my front wheel lifts, while the more advanced girls practiced bunny hops, all under the watchful eye of Coach Joh who had plenty of tips.

Hitting the Big Time

All warmed up and stoked we went over the pump track. “Own it, own it, own it!” Joh cheered. After Joh demonstrated where to ride an easy “line” on the dirt track, I followed her path, rolling gently onto the track I had feared for years.

Immediately, I loved it! It was flowing, fun and the whoops and hollers of my gal pals pushed me to go around and around (resting in-between laps!) I practiced the push-up-like pumping motion to keep my body going with momentum around the track. Ideally you are not supposed to pedal but I couldn’t complete a full lap without some pedaling!
“This is WAY more fun than I thought,” said my friend, Traci, a beginner rider and also new to the pump track. I had to agree with her. I couldn’t wait to return for another session to practice my pump skills and build my confidence.

Lessons Learned

The pump track is a blast – even without a bike seat and little pedal nubs digging into my sneakers. Adrenalin took over on the turns and berms of the track and it didn’t matter. It’s always fun to learn new technical skills in a women-bonding setting. I feel lucky that I had the chance.

Most importantly for me, I won’t let the fear of looking foolish hold me back from trying something new that looks so fun. I hope you’ll go for it, too. Bring it on!

Author Bio

Karen Kefauver is a freelance writer and avid mountain biker based in Santa Cruz, California. For more stories and photos, visit http://www.karenkefauver.com