The easiest and best way to get started is to grab some friends and head down to the local BMX track. If you don't have any BMX tracks in your area you can try to find a pump track or even build your own! (I wont be getting into trail building this issue but stay tuned!) Having friends with you can speed your skills improvements by having someone to compete with, someone check your form and friends makes it alot more fun.
Drills and techniques
Once you become well aquainted with the track, you can start practising pumping technique:
- keep your head up - like all mountain bike situations, you should have your head up, scanning the terrain ahead so you can become familliar with what's comming up.
- body movements - you need to be active on the bike by moving both up and down and forwards and backwards. You need to achieve this by pumping your arms and legs in a rhythm with the humps on the track. As you increase in speed, your pumping action will need to be faster and more dynamic.
- body separation - in the pumping action, you need to use your upper body's full range of motion to maintain your front wheel's contact with the ground. You will find that your arms will be pumping up and down rapidly as you increase speed. Your legs should be reletively quiet compared to your arms but still needs to be active in pumping and maintaining traction with the riding surface. In the pumping action you are aiming to push your wheels overand down the humps in a fluid motion, linking your upper and lower body movements which will increase in speed as you go.
A great way to improve your pumping technique is to practice going through the entire BMX track without peddling, only pumping. You can also race your buddies and you will see that an increase in your distance and speed are a sign of your improvement.
Practice jumping your bike by hitting the kicker with appropriate speed and landing smoothly on the down ramp on the other side. I reccomend starting on tabletops as it is easier to land safely if you don't make the distance. when your skills and confidence improves, you can step up to some of the bigger jumps.
All you really need is a bike and a helmet to start riding BMX tracks. However, when you start jumping, you may want to enclude some extra armour in case you fall; it may also give you the confidence needed to get you over the gap. If you find a hidden talent in BMX track riding you can grab a dirt jump bike and continue your quest to international 4X victory! The compact frame and slack geometry are well siuted for quick manuvers at BMX tracks giving you a better grasp on jumps and humps. I am comfortable using my XC hardtail as I fell confident riding it and it makes it easier to transfer skills from the track to the trails.
How BMX track riding will improve your mountain biking
Pumping through BMX tracks are all about increasing momentum and holding traction which are two very important aspects of mountian biking. The more you practice pumping, the more you will use it in singletrack situations. Your emprovements in holding traction will make you better at cornering and the fluid pumping action will make you a more fluid rider. Combine small hops and pumping through root infested trails to hold speed, traction and fluidity.
Getting some air at the BMX is very useful for improving your confidence and areal awareness. you will learn to spot landings mid-air and execute them smoothly. practising landing on a transition (down ramp) will greatly improve your smoothness and safety when jumping on the trail. There are many situations where jumping in the singletrack is faster, smoother and safer; especially when you have the skills to do it! Having the ability to jump with confidence opens up a world of new lines that you can ride adding to your performance and the enjoyment of the ride.