By Joh Rathbun. Photos by Clay Ryon.
I’m usually the only woman at the pump track, so I’ve decided that if I have to be the only woman to get more women out there, I will be that woman. I also lead rides in Santa Cruz for my team, Shine Riders. The Shine Santa Cruz rides are designed for women to work on their bike-handling skills, regardless of their skill and fitness level. So, it seemed like a no-brainer to host a Shine ride at a pump track. I would get the women out there via my team outreach.
I was stoked when Epicenter Cycling, with the permission of the land owners, Barry Swenson Builders, and the local kids’ labor, built the first pump track in Santa Cruz County in 2010. Flash forward to 2014, and there are several pump tracks in the area. I chose the Chanticleer Pump track for this ride, as it’s centrally located, and rumor has it that it’s the best one.
Pump tracks are amazing for many reasons. 1. It’s a great way to work on your bike-handling skills in a low-risk environment. 2. It’s a great work out, as you usually go anaerobic in under 30 seconds—before you even finish your first lap. 3. It’s a great way to meet your neighbors. 4. It’s a great equalizer—everyone’s gotta start somewhere! 5. You don’t necessarily have to have an expensive bike to ride a pump track.
California is in a drought, so while the recent rain was welcomed, it made for some muddy conditions. Fortunately, the track was still rideable, and everyone had a can-do attitude. I advertised this ride as all-ages and co-ed, so I was pleased when more women than men showed up. This is a public track, though, so the men still outnumbered the women on the whole. Nonetheless, I did not feel like a minority, swimming solo in a sea of testosterone.
Brittany Bolen, of Scotts Valley, was one of the women that showed up. “It was a great experience for my girl friend and myself,” she said. “We definitely enjoyed our time thanks to the great encouragement from everyone. Waiting to drop in can be intimidating but all the camaraderie helped take away that anxiety. I learned so much and I can’t wait to improve my pump skills more!”
The first rule of thumb for the pump track is that you must keep up your speed, and maintain that momentum. Once you learn that rule, you automatically apply it anywhere you’re riding. And that is my favorite aspect of any pump track—the fact that you’re having so much fun on the track and with whomever shows up—that you don’t realize you’re acquiring skills until you ride your favorite singletrack. Because you’re hitting features at full speed, and not even blinking.
If you’d like to join us, the next mellow, one-hour clinic is this Saturday, May 10, at the Chanticleer pump track in Santa Cruz. We will cover the basics needed to ride the track, including lifting the front wheel, body positioning and some bike maintenance. Get more info and RSVP here.
About the author: Joh Rathbun is a freelance action sports writer, and columnist & ride leader for Shine Riders Co. To stay up to date on West Coast events, or to join her on a ride, like her Facebook page, or contact her at johrathbun.wix.com/freelancewriter.