Building more than just jumps at Philly Pumptrack

Volunteers of all ages put shovels and tires to dirt at Philly Pumptrack, where a BMX party is set to unfold this weekend.

Building more than just jumps at Philly Pumptrack
Looking on while riding back to the lineup as dad, Travis, flies overhead. 
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Philly Pumptrack was buzzing last weekend during its dig day where whole families came out to help prepare the jumps for the Community BBQ and Jumpjam scheduled for this Saturday, August 5.

After years of advocacy, fundraising, engagement, and planning, Philly Pumptrack opened at 53rd and Parkside Ave behind the Mann Center in May of 2014. In partnership with Philly Parks & Rec and with the support of donors and sponsors, Pumptrack is open five days a week and is free to enter, free to ride, and offers bikes and helmets free of charge to anyone who needs to borrow one. For real. Just show up, sign the waiver, and pump it or jump it on any or all three of their tiered tracks.

Pumptrack features a paved oval-shaped track best suited for beginners, a larger paved track with multiple line choices, and a set of larger dirt jumps where riders can push the limits of human flight. Designed by Jim Dellavalle, the Pumptrack is an incredible resource for urban youth, families, or dudes like me whose formative years revolved around building and hucking jumps in the woods with friends.

As discussed in a previous story on The Trellis, riding bikes is a powerful force of positive energy in a city so familiar with trauma. The Philadelphia District Attorney's office recently visited Philly Pumptrack, where they distributed $60,000 in grants to West Philly-based youth cycling programs as part of an anti-violence initiative. Pumptrack benefitted to the tune of $10,000 and will be able to use those funds to procure materials, make improvements, and expand hours.

In recent years, Pumptrack has invested in paving two of its tracks, significantly reducing the need for regular maintenance. During the offseason, however, the dirt section of the park suffered the effects of erosion and revegetation. Last Sunday, folks of all ages lent a hand in clearing rocks and debris while building up and reshaping the jumps before testing them out prior to next weekend's big event featuring jump contests, live music, food and drink, and free prizes and giveaways from major sponsors.

Volunteers used rakes, pickaxes, shovels, wheelbarrows, and other tools along with a bit of elbow grease to rework the jumps back into riding condition. When it was time for a break, volunteers hopped on a bike, took a few laps on the asphalt tracks, and plucked a hot dog off the grill before chugging another ice-cold water.

Throughout the day, young people were testing their skills on the track by flowing over the rollers, carving the berms, or positioning the bike just right to dial their speed or style. Pumptracks are awesome because they're approachable for riders of any skill level and the technique can be endlessly perfected.

When work was finally finished and the afternoon sun started dipping lazily toward the horizon, the volunteers dropped in to show that it was all worthwhile. Nothing beats flying through the air on a bike like Elliot and E.T. and I can only imagine the feeling of sticking a no-hander or one-footed x-up like some of these guys were landing. As for me, I'm working on my double backflips ;-)

This is all happening right here in Philly and, let me reiterate, it's all free. Thanks to the hard work of founding members, volunteers, and supporters in the public & private sectors, Fairmount Park maintains a thriving BMX pumptrack and trails. Beyond fueling the nostalgic yearnings of mischievous old punks like me, Pumptrack is a matchless asset for anyone seeking a good time in this vast city.

Support Philly Pumptrack by donating, sharing this story, or simply visiting. You'll want to double-check their opening hours on Facebook before heading over, but there's no time like this weekend to visit for the first time.

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