At near 40, I’ve managed to discover a new riding style and bike that I feel has refreshed my enthusiasm for riding like I was 16 again. Most 40 year olds these days seem to be loudly proclaiming the comments “I’ve just bought an e-bike and can’t believe how great they are!” but oh no, not this man child. I’ve discovered the humble pump track and classic 26” dirt jump bike (with one gear).
Now it’s no secret that the world and New Zealand has embraced the urban pump track, but locally here in Whangarei we haven’t really seen anything spectacular in that space, ever. A few school pump tracks scattered around the region and one or two gravel, space fillers have popped up but, finally filling that void is a brand spanking, near half kilometer of asphalt velo solutions goodness.
Being president of the local MTB club allowed me a couple of sneak peaks of said track and I quite quickly worked out that a 1200mm wheel based steel hard tail, was too much bike for what I was trying to achieve. By trying to achieve, I mean last at least one lap without having some kind of cardiac arrest.
Searching high and low on local Facebook market place and trademe netted only finds of astronomical amounts in a trend that is seeing the humble dirt jumper reach soaring heights of hard earned peso.
Popping up in Nelson, I found a humble, Haro steel reserve 1.2 which ticked all my boxes. Was steel, wasn’t absolutely clapped out and met my peasants budget. I few emails, some exchanges including a tracking docket saw my baby blue bike arrive and into my stable. N+1 right??
With the bike in hand, and our local track still under construction, I dragged the kids south one afternoon to a close-ish velo track at Mangawhai. We all set out thinking we’d likely be there for a half hour, the kids would get cranky, hungry or both and we’d be on our way home lamenting life. What happened tho was quite the opposite. 4 hours and all 3 of us had probably the most fun we’d had on wheels for quite some time.
Now with a track opening 5 minutes from my door, a whole new challenge lay ahead each time. The more I rode, the more I improved and made tweaks to my “style” before quietly coming to my cardio vascular death later and later each time. My first hurdle was overcoming the lack of being clipped in. I did threaten wearing clips but I was told that was actually a crime! After that, the major hurdle was just not falling off and learning how to pump, like proper pump!
Once I’d semi mastered the basics, I started hanging out with a bunch of what I would consider pro’s with easily a decade of both age and the equivalent years in kilograms on their sides. A few tips on setup here, a few pointers on technique there and I was starting to feel like I was mastering the art a whole heap more. You have to bear in mind I’m a 100kg plus, hairy, rotund male who normally rides a wagon wheeled enduro bike only on trails and generally with no real expression. This alone was an achievement just being able to make a lap let alone a few!
So riding a bike that feels as big as my childhood bmx on a pristine asphalt track would only provide suitable skills for street riding, right? Wrong! From this point on I feel the benefit to my trail riding has already benefited massively with a new found spring chicken like feel and a total appreciation of letting the bike move underneath me a whole heap more. Not only have I found some muscles again that have been, err umm hidden for some time, I’ve improved my short duration sprint and cardio through performing an entire lap while holding my breath in panic. I know, come summer time, I will be reaping the rewards.
So irrespective of how old you are and how past-it you may feel, giving these tracks some time and some effort will help improve your overall riding ten fold! Can you teach an old dog new tricks? The jury is still out on that but you can certainly re-train an old dog a trick that they once did easily 20 years previous.