The grass is trying to take over. Dandelions have populated the rollers and berms, but you can see still see tire tracks. One person rides this pump track year-round: Simon Toole is a farmer in Black Creek just outside of Courtenay, British Columbia. When he’s not picking his delicious strawberries, he’s probably moving some dirt or riding on it.
I had ridden the pump track and was amazed at how my skills improved immediately. I learned to look through corners, move my bike and use my legs and arms for momentum. I had a few crashes into the strawberry fields before I figured out the big bermy corners, but they were the most delicious crashes ever! Last year Simon’s lovely wife Heather gifted him with a Bobcat rental. That’s when things got serious. He finished the rest of the pump track—although it’s always a work in progress—and we all came out to ride.
A medical issue had kept me off my bike for a couple of months. I missed it greatly: the exercise, the decompression of my brain—and my fork—and the social gathering of friends on bikes. On a sunny Sunday in July, I found myself being served a fresh glass of rhubarb lemonade and a home-cooked meal. Riders zipped by me, down the drop-in ramp, and over the first little tabletop. Behind me, organic strawberry fields warmed by the sun sent me the sweet smells of dessert. Aside from not being able to ride a bike, this was heaven. I chatted with everyone as they walked back up to the ramp—giving kudos and the like—and I was intermittently kept company by those who had to take a break…ask anyone, pump tracks are hard work!
I wasn’t on my bike, but I was happily submersed in a day of biking. The pump track is a playground for adults and kids, the social hub of many neighbourhoods, and a great place for skills improvement. In a conversation with Micayla Gatto, she agreed. “It has everything you need on a trail in one condensed circular space.” As a coach, she can see kids ride a corner over and over and with all the kids in one space she can work different skill sets at the same time. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone…you can individualize it a little more.
It creates such a good sense of community and it’s an amazing way to see peoples skill sets and improve your own skill sets. It’s an awesome training tool for anyone from a complete beginner to a world class pro. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t ridden a pump track and said, ‘oh my gosh, that was so hard and so awesome at the same time’. It’s just such a useful tool to have and I think every single community should have one because it brings people together too; that’s what makes it fun.”
Agreed. If every neighbourhood had one, people would use them and benefit from them. As Micayla said, it still seems that people will drive 5-hours to ride epic singletrack, but they won’t drive an hour to ride a pump track. Simon’s pump track in Black Creek is only 15 minutes away, but I will often drive to ride some XC trails instead. If there was one down the street, I’d be there in the summer evenings for sure.
We may not see Micayla on the race circuit as much this year as she is not currently sponsored, but she is confident that this time off will allow her to really dive into her other passions. One passion is obvious when you speak with her.
Micayla won the Les 2 Alpes Pump Track Challenge in 2014, that was the first year there was a separate women’s category and there was a surprisingly small group of women racing. I asked her why. “Women were lined up to ride”, she said, but “they just didn’t want a crowd watching them do it.”
Micayla—who just got out there and did it on a bike that was not even hers—said she could understand where the girls are coming from, referring to how difficult the pump track can be, especially for your first time. And although they are growing in popularity, not everyone has joined the party.
When asked where her favourite pump track is, I wasn’t surprised to hear her say, “ The Whistler Crankworx Pump Track is probably the best one…(it) is always immaculate and the berms are…vertical…and just the smoothest nicest ground ever.”
Sadly, it is only for the pros, and only during Crankworx, but there are other options in Whistler. There is the pump track in the bike park, and rumour has it there is a gem near Alta Lake—I know where I’m going warm up on my next road trip to Whistler!
“I just wanna let girls know that, ‘hey, it’s okay…you don’t have to be crazy…super manly… or really intense to like, ride a bike. I love getting dressed up and wearing makeup and I’m completely normal and I get scared shitless too…it’s okay.”
While trying to be more of a mentor for everyone to ride and feel good about themselves, Micayla will also be focusing on some of her own training as she starts going in the direction of Enduro. So although you may not see her on your local pump track this summer, she just may show up in a neighbourhood near you someday looking to inspire, ride the rollers, and get vertical on the berms.
Vanessa Marshak went on her first mountain bike ride four years ago, and has been enjoying all the ups and downs of riding ever since. When not on her bike, she’s probably making something delicious to eat on her ride, playing a guitar, or hanging out in her garden. But more than likely…she’s on a bike. She is STOKED to be a part of the Mountain Bike for Her team, and hopes to inspire and be inspired.