Feature: The Backyard Pump Track – Construction

How To

Video: Building and riding the backyard pump track

Update: July 31, 2013

So my son Miguel and I have been driving out to far away pump tracks and dirt jump parks to feed our new found interest in this kind of riding. It seems like we learn something new every day and we’re able to use these skills on the trail. It’s such a revelation when you can view the hidden berms and undulations on your local singletrack and pump your way down the trail, finding speed and traction without pedaling. It feels safer as well as we are just more comfortable on the bike because of the constant learning on the pump track.

“What if we had one of these in our backyard?”, we wondered. “No, mom would never allow it. Not in a million years.” But then, one day, mom brought it up. “I think you two should build a pump track.” she said. “You two will be happier and safer. You can have half the yard.” Can I get a hellya? It turns out, Miguel was talking to mom a lot and quietly convinced her that it was a good idea.

So before she could change her mind, I quickly sprang in to action. I could either build it myself, lose many weekends and screw it up for a year. Or I could call my friend Alex at Action Sports Construction and have it done in two days. Of course I chose the latter, instant gratification solution.

Q&A with the builder, Alex Fowler

Mtbr: Can you give us more details on cost?
Alex: Tractor & Equipment rental: Always reserve a “Tracked Skid Steer” anything with wheels can be used to place dirt, but not pack and shape it. Equipment is typically between $250-$350 per day. There is normally a pick up and delivery fee of $100 each way.

Dirt: Dirt is either the most expensive part of building a pump track. Or free! Fill dirt can be bought at any landscape supply store for $15-$20 per cubic yard. Or if you want to go on the higher end of things purchase Screened Fill dirt for $20-$30 a yard. Most backyard tracks use between 40-80 cubic yards, so it can really add up quick. If your project schedule and the build site allows, you can search craigslist for home owners (typically after they have installed a Pool) giving away fill dirt. Also try calling local contractors or even better the truck drivers themselves about projects which are hauling dirt in the area you are building. You may be just the person they are looking for to haul dirt too and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Mtbr: You always recommend four foot wide tracks and big berms. Why?
Alex: four wide track / big berms?: I stick to a four foot wide rule (unless client advises me other wise) because I want my client to have a safe experience with their track. The narrower a feature is the easier it is to lose control and have your front tire wash out or roll of the side, the last thing iI want to see is a client falling on their track. Riding on the side of a feature/roller is the #1 cause of erosion and a wider surface helps avoid that. A wider riding surface is also easier to build in a sound manner. The equipment I/we use is big and heavy which is needed for proper compaction of the dirt, if a surface is too narrow the equipment cannot be operated properly thus it will erode faster and need more maintenance down the road.

Mtbr: How much space is needed?
Alex: Pump tracks can fit anywhere! The smallest track I have ever built professionally was roughly 15″ x 25″. And regarding the 2 days work aspect. I don’t charge by the day. I charge by how much dirt is used on the job. But you can get a lot done in a very short amount of time, the bigger the job, the bigger the equipment. So the size of the job is not that important. I just use bigger machines.

Video: Here is a timelapse video of another one of Alex of ActionSportsConstruction’s projects.


Having a pump track in the backyard is a blessing indeed. Instead of my son going out to the dirt jump track, he is at home having friends over. And both of us ride much better and safer on the trail since everyday, we are practicing and learning useful skills.

Pump track construction performed by:

Continue reading for more information and examples of backyard pump tracks

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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.

    • Dana Taylor says:

      Would like to build my son a pump track near and around our oak trees and drip line. Is it going to damage them? Told him NOT piling up big burms with dirt against trees. We are studying the idea and looking for something attractive for the backyard and are trees. We have fruit trees out there too. Middletown CA

  • AngryBee says:

    My wife would never approve of a PT in the backyard. She couldn’t give a rats ass if it made me more of a dynamic rider 🙁 I guess I will just be a couch jockey or a static rider.

  • Will H says:

    Can you give an update on this pump track? Do you still use it?

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