Lalley: Pump track first step in the BMX bike dream for Sioux Falls
Dirt track is the product of desire for opportunities for kids to learn BMX and adults to still have fun riding their bikes. Organizers hope it's the first in a series.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Elmwood Park isn’t well known.
First of all, it’s small and most Sioux Falls residents would probably think you were talking about Elmwood Golf Course, which is on the other side of Russell Street.
But tucked into the scrub oak, ash and cottonwood grove that covers much of the park is one of the city’s newest recreation opportunities.
It’s a BMX pump track.
To which, some of you may be saying, “A whooz-a-what?”
BMX is derived from the phrase “bicycle motocross.” It’s a classification of bikes normally associated with kids and teenagers.
They have smaller wheels than your typical road or mountain bike, wide tires, one speed and handlebars similar to those of a motocross motorcycle.
Even if you don’t know the name, you’re probably familiar with the image of the bike as a vehicle for urban-style jumps and tricks. Maybe some dude flying around a skatepark during the XGames, that sort of thing.
And a pump track is a dirt track where, when riding said bike, you tackle a series of jumps, rollers and berms in a continuous loop.
The pump bit comes from the motion of pushing and pulling the bars up and down through the rollers, which builds momentum to carry through the other features.
That description sounds particularly technocratic and much more boring than it is.
The population dip that was the early years of Generation X, of which I am one, was not blessed with the experiences of those who followed us. We didn’t have any of those fancy skateboards, BMX or mountain bikes.
We rode Huffy three speeds on whatever sort of surface we could.
And we liked it, see.
So I’ve had to — gingerly — experience some of these things in later life.
I like bike racing and am fortunate to be involved with the Sioux Falls Bike Racing Series.
One of our signature events is coming up Oct. 22-23. It’s the Elmwood Forest CX, at the aforementioned Elmwood Park. Which is all to say that I’m very familiar with that little piece of land, having helped stage the cyclocross race for 10 years.
(NOTE: I’ll have to explain cyclocross some other time but you’re welcome to join us.)
The pump track is a great addition to the park and a further expansion of our bicycle infrastructure in Sioux Falls, which includes nearly 40 miles of paved trails and somewhere around 15 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails.
The pump track is the product of the blood, sweat and tears of Chris Philips, who until recently was a mechanic at the Sioux Falls Bicycle Company.
“I originally started doing this because I wanted to build something I never had when I was a kid,” said Philips, who’s still a spry 38 years old. “I’m older now so I can't do the things I used to do. A pump track is a good safe way for people of any age to get out and enjoy their bike. For an older guy like me, you can get that same energy drain, or adrenaline rush and it’s just easier on your body.”
Philips and friends formed Sioux Falls BMX and have been packing, pounding and shaping mounds of dirt into a suitable track for the past several weeks. Things are pretty much finished and the track is rideable. An additional section for the little kids on Strider bikes, the tiny buggers with no pedals, is under construction.
If you want to learn more, Philips and friends will be at the Elmwood Forest CX.
The hope is that this is just the first of more tracks around town.
And the big dream is a full-on BMX racing course.
If that sounds grand, it’s not.
BMX is popular.
It’s been an Olympic sport since the 2008 games in Beijing.
Rapid City and Aberdeen both have tracks that stage big events.
That’s right, Aberdeen.
So, why not us? There are BMX racers from the area traveling the region to compete. And other folks would certainly come to our fair city to do it as well.
Then things just build from there.
BMX is great for kids because it’s simple. The races are short. The bikes are generally uncomplicated, but, like all sports, you can get as spiffy as you’d like.
It teaches bike handling skills at an early age that translate to other disciplines. And competition is a beautiful motivator.
The recent push to develop a skate park in Sioux Falls is a great example of how our city realizes the big idea. It wasn’t easy, as the organizers will tell you, but it is possible.
BMX, like skateboarding, is a great activity for kids who don’t fit into the world of team sports such as football, basketball and soccer. Yet, there’s a camaraderie to it, a shared experience that shapes your character.
Hopefully, the little pump track in the woods is a step toward something bigger.
In the meantime, we’ll see you at Elmwood Park.