by Sarah Thomas + Dallas Jamme, East Coast event crew
We’ve been riding bikes for decades, but we had no idea what awaited us in Philadelphia, PA on May 9. We headed into town for the Philly Pumptrack Pump Jam and Bike Swap, celebrating the one year anniversary of the pumptrack that PeopleForBikes helped to fund. The sun began to set as we were pulling up to the pumptrack, but we were still greeted by a dozen or so people who were making some finishing touches before the big event. During a quick walking tour of the facility they explained to us that the Parks & Rec service actually employs two people to help run the pumptrack, and the rest is volunteer-based. There was a strong sense that the whole operation is self-governing and community enhancing.
The following morning when we arrived to set up there was already a crew of volunteers out working on the pumptrack, packing down fresh dirt and adding gravel to the surrounding area. The air was thick with dust, and our car (along with the inside of our noses) was soon coated in a thick layer of it.
As soon as the volunteers stopped raking, cleaning and prepping the park, people started trickling in to ride the tracks. Music started playing and it helped to keep the energy going between laps on the tracks. At some point a grilled cheese food truck showed up and scents of warm cheese began wafting by our tent. Throughout the event, we were both in awe of the amazing sense of community we felt from people of all ages coming together to participate. Everyone was very respectful, cooperative and encouraging as they shared riding on this wonderful resource they had in the city.
The facility had a whole bunch of new BMX bikes that were available to borrow since we didn’t have our own. The local kids were great support and quick to offer their advice toward our endeavors, which really helped coach us around our first few times on the track.
If you?ve never tried riding on a pumptrack, the basic idea is that you can build momentum without pedaling by ?pumping? your weight forward when you head downhill and lifting your weight high when going uphill. After each of us tried a few laps around the beginner track, Heidi, our main contact for the event, told us we were ready for the ?big kid track? (yay!). The big pumptrack was a little intimidating at first, but a lot of fun, and we both felt a great sense of adventure and accomplishment after successfully (albeit clumsily) navigating it. This was a style of riding that neither of us had tried before, but we became instantly hooked. We will definitely be stopping in to ride a few laps again the next time we pass through Philadelphia.