Bellingham’s New Pump Track Is a Hit

With just a push or two of a pedal, riders weave up, down and around, gathering speed and harnessing it to tackle the next turn or incline. On Bellingham’s very first pump track, inertia is the name of the game, one that can be played by both four year-olds and Olympians.

A pump track is essentially a bike track sculpted from the earth, consisting of dips, rises and quick turns that converts the rider’s momentum and body shifts into speed. If the motions are done correctly, the rider will rarely have to pedal, although this doesn’t make it any less of a workout.

The track was installed last June in Whatcom Falls Park, right off of Electric Avenue, near mountain-bike haven Galbraith Mountain. It came after a long process of acquiring grants, educating the public and local government, and installing the track itself. Altogether it took roughly two years, said Eric Brown, trail director for the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition.

From the beginning, Brown was one of the main trailblazers for the pump track, walking the project from idea to reality. He started by meeting with public officials to allow the construction. Then he worked to gather the permits to legitimize it. Finally, got his hands dirty and helped in its construction, along with local volunteers.

Even after the track’s completion, Brown shows up to maintain the track, and has installed rain-basins to stem erosion and make sure it remains safe to ride. According to Brown, a track is never fully finished and undergoes various changes, additions, and upkeeps.

If Brown was the main driver for Bellingham’s first pump track, Jill Kintner was its secret weapon. One of the most accomplished women in cycling, she won 2008 Olympic BMX bronze before becoming a world champion mountain biker, and has dominated the pump track world tour. Kintner and her pro mountain biking husband, Bryn Atkinson, moved from her hometown Seattle to Bellingham a couple years ago, bringing with her a connection to top-notch pump track builder Momentum Trail Concepts of Colorado, key to the project.

“It’s built really well,” said Kintner, who helped design the track and credits Brown for his prodigious work. “The whole thing’s great. I know all the kids and help them with their setup.”

The hard work pays off in the positive impact it has on the community, Brown said. “It’s something you can do regardless of age,” Brown said. “You can start em’ before they’re even peddling.”

Sophia Mickelson gets in a few laps at the Whatcom Falls Pump Track. July 5, 2017.

Amy Young lives blocks away from the park and would bring her kids down three or four times a week in the summer to ride the wavy dips of the pump track. She says the older riders are considerate and patient when her kids ride along.

“It’s a pretty good little camaraderie they have with all the people that are biking,” Young said.

The track is typically shared by multiple riders at once, with the rider in back paying close attention to the rider in front, and so on. This system is usually kid-friendly, but in times when the track is flooded by older, more experienced riders, there’s a safe alternative for younger ones.

The “grom track” nestled directly next to its larger counterpart has the same dips and turns, only they’re dialed down so kids don’t have to worry about barreling down steep drops or climbing rises twice their size.

Soon after its completion, the pump track became a sort of after-school hub for kids, Brown said.

The Whatcom Falls track is the first of perhaps several pump tracks around Bellingham. Brown is currently working toward setting up a track next to the Birchwood neighborhood, which would bring the joy of pump track riding to more riders, big and small.

Whatcom Falls Park
1401 Electric Ave., Bellingham
360.778.7000 | wmbcmtb.org

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"The hard work pays off in the positive impact it has on the community, Brown said. 'It’s something you can do regardless of age,' Brown said. 'You can start em’ before they’re even peddling.'"