Feature: The Backyard Pump Track – Construction

How To

Finally, we will leave you with a couple guys who took some leaf-strewn dirt in the woods of New Hampshire and turned it into a work of art. From a lump of coal, they extracted a diamond using a wheelbarrow, a shovel and a whole lot of muscle.

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We talked to one of the builders, Phil Kmetz and he shared some of their experience. They’re part of a website called The Mountain Bike Life where they live the dream of biking and write about it almost every day.

Mtbr: How did this project come about and what surprised you the most?
Phil Kmetz: The biggest surprise was how well it came together. The ground was really uneven and tree infested, so conceptualizing a pump track built in that area was rather challenging.

One of the big advantages we found of building a pump track in the woods is that it doesn’t bake in the sun and become dry and dusty. The tree cover keeps the direct sun off it which helps keep the dirt moist which is very important. If you ever go to a BMX track during a race, you’ll see them watering the course fairly often. Also the shade makes the riding more enjoyable.

Another thing that I learned is that sometimes, for no seemingly no reason, a pot hole would develop. This was much more noticeable when the course was dry. The reason the pot holes were forming was the root system below was too close, and even with 6 inches of dirt on top, would give ever so slightly and start go crumble. To counter act that, I would dig out the pot hole, and even a little wider, and remove the organic matter below and fill it in with rocks and good dirt.

The thing that amazed me the most was how much positive interest there was. Since this was built off the side of a road, it started to draw some attention from passersby. For the most part it was all positive, and we were even able to convince a few non-riders to give the course a try. However, there was one neighbor who for some reason, just didn’t like it and tried to recruit every neighbor to get the track shut down (even though it was on my friends private property). Luckily, getting on the good side the other neighbors played to our advantage and the “angry” neighbor was not able to gain any traction.


Next week, we will write a whole lot more about how design and build a pump track or get a contractor to do it for you. And more important, we will discuss how to convince your spouse or town/city to get a pump track built.

If you have more ideas and examples, please leave in the comments below.

Some of our resources are:
Mark Weir of WTB and Bikeskills
Lee McCormack of Leelikesbikes.com
Alex Fowler of Action Sports Construction
Mark Davidson and the “Pump Track Pandemonium” on April 13-14 in Santa Cruz, CA
Phil Kmetz & Rivers Mitchell of The Mountain Bike Life blog

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Shannon W. says:

    Just a little ‘woot woot’ for the link to The Mountain Bike Life – way to represent, Phil :)

  • Robert T says:

    Thanks guys, one more thing on my summer project list.

  • Greg Koenig says:

    any way to make it out of cement too so you could skate AND bike on it?

  • UncleTrail says:

    A little advice for the DIY homeowners out there. Don’t bury the sod like he did.
    Rip that sod up and get rid of it. It will not decompose under the dirt and will become a wet, rotten, smelly mess in no time at all.

  • UncleTrail says:

    Also, avoid piling that dirt on top of your tree roots from the trunk to the trees dripline. Big no, no. You will suffocate them and they will become diseased and die.

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