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What is a pump track? And what is the appropriate strategy to deal with a related project?

by Konrad Willar, pumptrack.de


There are both private and public pump tracks. They are specially designed circuits for all kinds of cycles and other forms of wheeled equipment. The technique used to master a pump track ‒ the so-called 'pumping' ‒ occurs naturally in view of the terrain structure and whatever sport or leisure conveyance is being employed. Users become accustomed to it through trial and error, observing others and practice. Pumping actually involves generating forward momentum by moving the body up and down and functions irrespective of the equipment in use.

The core concept of any pump track is to give young people the opportunity to develop their motor skills and acquire other physical capabilities such as strength and stamina while riding round the track. In addition, the fun of riding and the pleasure of being mobile will encourage them to regularly exercise on the track over the long term.

The tracks with their solid surfacing are not only suitable for bikers, but can also be used by many others, such as skateboarders, longboarders, inline skaters and scooter riders. Even young children can use these tracks to train their motor skills on a balance bike. Beginners can slowly get to grips with the techniques required through relatively risk-free and playful acquirement of the skills while more experienced riders can further their abilities through training on the track alone and with others. The inexperienced can learn from the experts, while the latter will happily pass on their expertise and help train beginners. The shared activity promotes a constructive togetherness among the user community while the milieu created by the varying levels of skill on display has a positive effect on the whole atmosphere.

Because they can be used by anyone, pump tracks are ideal destinations for families planning a short excursion.


The pump track project on the Bohne recreational site in Hagen


Initial situation:

A pump track extending to some 33 x 35 m (approx. 1000 m² of asphalted surface) was to be constructed on a brownfield site in the centre of Hagen. As sufficient drainage was not provided by the existing sumps, it was decided to build a fully asphalt-surfaced circular track with point drainage.


Construction technique:

The track was pre-formed using a layer of gravel with drainage provided by the surrounding slopes, grassed areas and the above-mentioned existing sumps. In the case of the Hagen pump track, point drainage was also provided. Fully asphalt-surface pump tracks are an ideal attraction in urban environments, schools and other heavily frequented sites. The maintenance costs for this kind of facility are minimal as it is both durable and weather-proof; not only this, but it can be used the whole year round. Other options for use are provided by the similarly asphalt-surfaced edging. (plasticine model of the track, see image on page)


Planning, initial structure and asphalt surfacing:

Only specialist firms have the ability to construct asphalt pump tracks, particularly if these are to be provided with a fully asphalted surface. Provision of asphalt surfacing is a complex process and asphalt cannot be used on every form or type of surface. It is essential that the various angles and features of the course are taken into account during planning and when putting in place the substructure. It takes experience and much skill to be able to structure and compact the gravel base course layer correctly. This means that planners need to obtain the advice and support of specialised construction companies.


Planning and construction:

Close collaboration between planners and constructors is necessary if the resultant form is to be both coherent and functional. Ideally, pump tracks should be both designed and constructed by a single provider. It is not possible to fully depict all the details of a track in the form of 2D or even 3D plans. Hence, construction cannot simply follow a preconceived concept. Once the asphalt surfacing is in place, it is advisable to undertake trial circuits on a track to ensure that the 'flow' is suitable. Hence final touches can be added and the various features optimised. While the distances between the rollers (small hillocks) and the radii of curves will be predefined, the individual form of curves, the transitional sections between elements and the specific form of rollers determine whether the course as a whole will work, be fun to use and thus be accepted. It is not important for the design to ensure that distances between rollers are identical. It is much better to vary the form of rollers so that the more ambitious riders can use these to generate creative lines, tricks and jumps while children and beginners also have an area suitable for them. It is similarly important to ensure that the facility attracts as many different target groups as possible, such as BMXers, mountain bikers, skateboarders and inline skaters, not to mention children with scooters and balance bikes. The objective is to create a connection with the existing social environment and thus provide a pump track that complies with the stated factors and blends in perfectly with the given ambience. It is also advisable in most cases to consult with the local citizens and young people during the planning and start phase of a pump track project. As in the case of the Hagen project, a facility such as this is often initiated because requests for the provision of such a facility have been received by the local authority. Construction of circuit tracks are generally financed from local municipal funds and also third-party resources. The pump track in Hagen, as a case in point, was built using local authority money and with the support of the federal government's urban development programme 'Soziale Stadt'. For projects in rural areas, it is also possible to obtain funding through the EU's LEADER programme.


Image: pumptrack.de

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