Trail bikes are a lot of 'bike' for pump tracks so here is how to manage the extra travel and size!
Words: Jared Rando Photos: Nick Waygood
As mountain bikes progress more and more to a “one bike for everything” realm of thinking, it’s more likely that we are going to hit up trails and features on our trail bikes that aren’t necessarily built with trail bikes in mind, but are still a bunch of fun to ride.
Pump tracks fit right into this category. Sure a dirt jump hardtail with 65 psi in the tyres and locked out forks is the ideal rig for a pump track but riding a pump track on a trail bike is just as much fun, albeit a little bit more challenging.
Pump tracks such as this one at Stromlo Forest Park are a great place to hone your trail riding skills when it comes to pumping and timing. Getting faster around a pump track on your trail bike will no doubt translate into faster and smoother riding out on the trail. Here are some tips to remember when riding pump tracks on your trail rig.
Step 1- Set up wide for the turns
A wide entry on pump track turns is critical to carry your speed through the turn. It’s also critical on 99% of the turns you’ll ride out on any trail. Setting up wide on a pump track normally means you’ll need to ride up and over the edge of the berm. Concentrate on being light over the bump into the turn so you don’t scrub any speed and more advanced riders can try to manual up and over the bump into the turn. Also look to ride the high section of the hard pack area in the turn so you don’t scrub speed and lose traction while making the turn wider at the same time.
Step 2 – Pump or jump
Experiment with jumping and pumping. For the majority of pump track riding it’s normally fastest to keep your wheels planted but playing around with jumping sections will help hone your timing on jumps out on the trail. Aim to make any jumps as smooth as possible without scrubbing any speed and look to pump out of the jump as hard as possible to gain speed whenever you can.
Step 3- Pump up and over
The key to pump tracks is to be light when going up, and push hard when pumping down. On a trail bike you really need to emphasise both movements to squeeze every bit of speed you can from the rollers. Think about lifting your front wheel up and over the roller and pushing your rear wheel down the backside of the roller as hard as possible. The harder you pump, the faster you’ll go and on a trail bike you really need to make a huge effort so give it everything you can. The same movements out on the trail will really help you maintain and generate speed on all kinds of features.
Step 4 – Work on your transitions between corners
Transitioning between corners and hitting the right lines is a great skill to work on. When transitioning from turn to turn, always look up and ahead and look to hit the high entry point. To get it right on a pump track you need to “pull” off the first corner hard to get your wheels in the right spot on the next corner. The movement carries over really well to tight switchbacks and berms out on the trail and like pumping, on the trail bike you really need to pull hard to get your bike in the right spot.
Step 5 – Work on manualling
Pump tracks are a great spot to learn how to and also work on your manual skills. Trail bikes with long wheelbases and chain stays definitely make it a whole lot harder on pump tracks but once again, the principles of the movement carry over to trail features really well. Work on single effective manuals first and transition to double and triple manuals after that. Always use your exit speed as the gauge of how well you have done it. If you get it right, you’ll be coming out faster than when you went in.
Step 6 – Bike Setup
Whilst it might be tempting to lock out your suspension and pump your tyres up to 60psi to get around the track faster, I’d recommend taking a middle ground to still feel what your suspension is doing and how it reacts over rollers and in turns. My preference is to set my compression somewhere in the middle or “trail” mode and if I’m going to be on the track for a while I might add 5psi to my tyres. This will still help you get around the track and make things a little easier but still allow you to work on your timing with your suspension and how it reacts to the features and turns on the track.