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  1. #1
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    Skills Park Build: Best approach?

    We were just granted the privilege to build a small skills park. Yay! We have built and rehabbed plenty of singletrack, but this will be our first park. I'm hoping y'all can give me some guidance as to how to approach this project...

    The area is 100m N-S x 140m E-W [3.5 acres] with a small hill close to the south edge, about 3-4m high. Overall the site slopes from NW to SE at maybe a 5% grade. If the soil is anything like the rest of the area, it will be a thin layer of organic over clay and the occasional river rock. At present, the entire site is covered in wild grasses and weeds which will need to be scraped off. There are no trees on the site itself, but there is a small windbreak to the north. Prevailing winds are from the North and West.

    Our budget is not known quite yet, but assumed to be under $10k. That is what I think we can put together by May. Most of the budget will go toward moving dirt around the site. We'll be relying heavily on volunteer labour and miracles. The land manager will likely be installing benches, and existing parking and washrooms are immediately adjacent to the site. We may be able to have material donated, in particular clay soil and treated wood, but I'm not counting on it. I am assuming that the build will take all summer.

    The target audience is beginner to intermediate riders, mostly teenagers [although there will be more than a few old farts like me in there]. If advanced riders can be accommodated, we will definitely do so.

    Park elements should include pump tracks, multiple jump lines, skill square[s], and some drops. The scale of the park will be for mountain bikes, as there are already BMX facilities in the city.

    So, what do you think? Concerns, questions comments - let 'em rip.

  2. #2
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    I don't know how you're going to get more than one pump track,multiple jump lines and drops for less than $10,000 if you're doing it all in a season or two. I don't know what you mean by skill squares.

    If you're on 5% grade you'll have to fill and grade to cut that in about 1/2 for a pump track.

    Machine time, materials, getting dirt and fill to the site will cost a lot of you're doing so much at once. If the $10,000 is to start then you can get some good elements done.

    I'm further confused by your asking when you title says you're the IMBA coordinator for the area. Don't you work with the Trail Solutions staff?

    Good luck.

  3. #3
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    pump tracks don't need to be built on a totally flat area. and lots of barrow pit/ drain pits.
    Epic trails get built in the Northwest by epic people!

    Sustainable quality trails please.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitflogger View Post
    I don't know how you're going to get more than one pump track,multiple jump lines and drops for less than $10,000 if you're doing it all in a season or two. I don't know what you mean by skill squares.

    If you're on 5% grade you'll have to fill and grade to cut that in about 1/2 for a pump track.

    Machine time, materials, getting dirt and fill to the site will cost a lot of you're doing so much at once. If the $10,000 is to start then you can get some good elements done.

    I'm further confused by your asking when you title says you're the IMBA coordinator for the area. Don't you work with the Trail Solutions staff?

    Good luck.
    Skill squares are a technical practice area that puts riders on a narrow ladder bridge with turns in it, often forming a square. The goal is to make it all the way around without dabbing or riding off the side. It's usually only a foot off the ground, so a bail is not too dangerous.

    Fill should cost us nothing, but we might not be allowed to bring any in, which means we'll be digging holes on site, or excavating the hill.

    IMBA in Canada doesn't have the budget to actually pay for projects like this. Local projects are funded locally, which explains the tiny budget. I'll harass our TS guy eventually, but he's pretty swamped with other projects right now.

  5. #5
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    I too am researching "skills areas" (not pump tracks). Would love to know what others have done.
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  6. #6
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    ... and if we just ...

    We were very lucky that the county paid for the pump track we have at our local MTB park. Volunteers and fundraising races pay for everything else... We too are in the process of building a skills area primarily for the younger and new riders. There are a few skinny's planed, a teeter-totter and a few "bridges" all on flat ground. The idea is to build all these features low enough that when someone falls or rides off of a feature, they won't be high off the ground and get hurt.
    The park itself has enough bridges and wood feature that high enough to get peeps in trouble.
    The skinny's will start with an 12" wide plank followed by successively narrower boards down to 4" width. The bridges will feature the same pattern of planking as the 'real' ones in the park with a few turns thrown in for practice. The teeter-totter will be in a more separate part to prevent injuries when someone doesn't pay attention. We have a free ride area already for the 'crazy' kids so the skills area will complete our park.
    All this will cost less than $1000 for materials and labor is "free"..
    IMHO it is a good idea to copy some of the features from the trails into the skills area, so that new riders will have the confidence and skill to ride those features on the trail.
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  7. #7
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    We'll be applying for grants and such to expand the budget, but there's only so many of those to go around.

    There are many well-documented park designs online, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we'll likely cherry-pick the best elements from elsewhere. As long as things are low maintenance and fun to ride, we'll include them. I have noticed that TTFs [stunts] have changed over the years, and instead of balance-related structures [skinnies, teeters, etc.], there seems to be more "commitment" required. I'm thinking about things like looooong wallrides, or steep roller-coasters, where the main requirement seems to be a little speed and staying off the brakes, both things that help when you ride jumps, step-ups/downs and gaps, not to mention rock gardens.

    Other than design issues, I'm trying to think ahead to problems we might encounter on the project. The biggest is [lack of] budget. I've been warned to measure twice and dig once, which makes sense. I've heard differing opinions on when to involve the local riding community - some say early, some say just at the end for buffing. Anyone care to share their experiences?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinkrobe View Post
    We'll be applying for grants and such to expand the budget, but there's only so many of those to go around.

    There are many well-documented park designs online, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we'll likely cherry-pick the best elements from elsewhere. As long as things are low maintenance and fun to ride, we'll include them. I have noticed that TTFs [stunts] have changed over the years, and instead of balance-related structures [skinnies, teeters, etc.], there seems to be more "commitment" required. I'm thinking about things like looooong wallrides, or steep roller-coasters, where the main requirement seems to be a little speed and staying off the brakes, both things that help when you ride jumps, step-ups/downs and gaps, not to mention rock gardens.

    Other than design issues, I'm trying to think ahead to problems we might encounter on the project. The biggest is [lack of] budget. I've been warned to measure twice and dig once, which makes sense. I've heard differing opinions on when to involve the local riding community - some say early, some say just at the end for buffing. Anyone care to share their experiences?
    Did you get in touch with Jay Hoots? He's pretty easy to talk to and has more experience with skills parks than anybody in Canada.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Ninja View Post
    Did you get in touch with Jay Hoots? He's pretty easy to talk to and has more experience with skills parks than anybody in Canada.
    I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask for some advice. We definitely can't afford his rates, though.

  10. #10
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    Besides designing and building, he is pretty good at helping you find funding so that you can afford his rates.

    PM sent.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinkrobe View Post
    . . .

    Park elements should include pump tracks, multiple jump lines, skill square[s], and some drops. The scale of the park will be for mountain bikes, as there are already BMX facilities in the city.

    So, what do you think? Concerns, questions comments - let 'em rip.

    I would suggest having three trails/loops designed for varying skill levels, but each of which integrates most of riding aspects that you're talking about.

    For example, at Valmont, there are three or four different trails down the main hill. There are drops, berms, rollers, jumps, and slant-walls mixed in for each of the lines.

    Similarly, at Ray's MTB Park in Cleveland, you pick an indoor "trail loop" that has features of appropriate difficulty for the rider, but each "trail" has multiple types of things in it--once again, rollers, tabletops, berms, drops, wallrides.....

    One major (hopefully constructive) criticism I have of skills parks is where the designer breaks every riding aspect into different pieces and places. Pump over here. Jump over there. Lumber items over there. Drops in one area. Skinnies in another. This is not a gymnasium, where you work on your quads in one place and work on your arms in another. !!!! The goal is integration.

    For example, my spot, Walnut Creek Pump Track (in Austin TX), integrates jump and pump in the same loops. The jumps are big enough to be fun for even intermediate/advanced riders, but since they are filled in as tables or rollable-doubles, they are highly accessible to beginner/intermediates. Because there is a starting hill and there are rectangular loops, you get back to where you started, which makes the session feel more like a skatepark/bikepark. Ray's MTB Park in Cleveland makes oustanding use of this concept.

    wcpt random edit - spring 2010 on Vimeo
    wcpt random edit - spring 2010 on Vimeo

    See: WCPT - Page 25

    Jumps can be rolled over OR boosted. Typical bmx/dj spots have gaps that do not allow for people to just roll them.


    But most of the time on pump track jumps, people stay relatively low and just flow. Ken here. He's over 40 and just getting back to jumping after 20 years away:


    Berms should be adapted for the speed in a particular section. A wave style berm like this soaks up some speed, while allowing for a flowy turn. A tight radius bowl-corner style berm is better, though, when you're needing to "whip" out of it--especially when turning to go back up-gradient.

    Wave-style berm:


    These riders are pumping these rollers through the trees, slightly upgradient. (Walnut).



    As for lumber features, I created a thread over here for "inspiration":
    TTF (Technical Trail Feature) / Freeride BUILD thread ---> inspiration

    These type of slant banks are very easy to make and might be something you could do within a low budget. I took this pic at Whistler:


    Since your land is on a slant, you may want to have trails that criss- cross that slant in a switchback style manner. This will give you the opportunity to have cool berms, some of which can be dirt, while others can be lumber:
    I took these pics at Winter Park:


    Last edited by cmc4130; 10-31-2012 at 11:46 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Ninja View Post
    Besides designing and building, he is pretty good at helping you find funding so that you can afford his rates.

    PM sent.
    Thanks!

  13. #13
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    Cmc4130 - those are some very good points regarding dividing everything up into single discipline sections. I find that the most fun trails have a bit of everything, but allow me to maintain speed and "feel the flow". If we'are trying to build real world skills, perhaps the park should emulate that.

  14. #14
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    here's one that is going to be put in my neck of the woods, it takes a lot of advocation to get such a project to move forward. i'm also working on another one as part of a trail network. one thing i've learned it is very important to get a councillor involved in the project to advocate for funding.





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  15. #15
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    That Sunnyside park is a massive undertaking. Should be sweet when it's done!

  16. #16
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    Unfortunately, there appears to be an emerging cookie-cutter design for dirt jump parks. You can see it in the drawing on this IMBA page:


    18 Steps to Building a Dirt Jump or Freeride Park | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    This is NOT cool.



    The "state of the art" in bmx/DJ trails is not dead straight lines of only jumps. Rollers, berms, step downs, step ups, hips, and other features have already been part of bmx/DJ trails for the last 20 years. Although a line of plain tables of equal height/shape/size is fine and good, with a little more effort, a much better and more creative spot can be made that is still accessible to different skill levels.

    Government Jumps

    My friends and I dug this spot by hand in about one month, (and it wasn't even done, there was going to be a lot more). cookout @ HDT trails, austin, march 5 2011 on Vimeo. Even though it might look like just a line of jumps, there is more going on. The wood roll-in leads to a flowy monster roller after which there is a mellow-ish jump, followed by a step up jump. The third jump has a landing that is slightly off-set, then there's a roller before a berm jump into a second berm jump. This is just a tiny example of how regular riders are out there building stuff that is way more interesting and fun that some of these "government jumps" that are starting to appear around the country.

    At Valmont, on the other hand, the builders did a very good job of integrating different things into the dirt jump trails. Rollers, berms, wallrides, step ups, step downs, etc.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbty View Post
    pump tracks don't need to be built on a totally flat area. . . . .
    Yeah ! Natural terrain starting hill for our pump-jump track. The loop brings you back up onto this elevation (which I'm guessing is around 10 feet higher than the lower area):

  18. #18
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    Ka-bam! Just found out we have a source for clay fill, and it's free!!!! Yeehaw!

  19. #19
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    Lots of good feedback from folks. There are pros and cons to integrating skill areas into trails, and there is no 'right' answer in my opinion. Having a separate drop section for people to learn drops is nice, as if it's integrated only into an existing trail, then it makes it more difficult to hold training sessions when people keep whizzing by you down the run. In an ideal world, you would have both ..... skills area for practicing basic moves, and then runs/trail of varying skill levels that incorporate all those elements. However, since physical space and budget are almost always limited in some perspective, compromises have to be considered. I do agree that a trail that integrates a wide variety of terrain, features, and elements makes for a much cooler experience......and you can always have the main line of a trail be more beginner friendly, with lots of optional elements that less skilled riders can skip, while more advanced riders can choose to hit the optional elements.

    As for funding, check out this article from IMBA on funding sources. The 'foundation finder' is an awesome tool for locating foundations in your area that fund projects, though the link in the document is specific to the US. I'd imagine there should be something similar for Canada.

    *see my future post for links

    Another option for funding, is to see if your city will allow businesses to advertise on the site, via billboards, posters, etc. If so, you can sell advertising space on an annual or semi-annual basis to help raise funds for the build, and ongoing maintenance. As the popularity of the site grows, and thus demand from businesses to advertise, you can start to gradually raise your advertising rates as well. Think NASCAR and how the drivers are covered head to toe in sponsor logos - may not be pretty, and may detract from the natural landscape, but it's a trade-off worth considering, especially if it makes the difference between having a bike park and not having one.

    Also, it's a good idea to have someone from your group attend Parks & Recreation board meetings for your area to keep in tune with what your city is doing or planning, and to be aware when there are funds available that need to be spend on park improvements.

    If someone in your group is friends with the mayor (or whatever this role is called in Canada), or someone high up in political office, try to get a meeting with them to pitch your project. A lot of times city leaders can redistribute public funds if they feel a proposed project is going to be more beneficial to the community that something else they may have already planned to spend the funds on.

    As for the build, you really need to have people that are experienced and know how to build pump tracks or lines that flow well. This is critical - if the lines aren't fun, people won't ride them, and you will have wasted a ton of time and resources. If you don't have qualified builders in your area, I'm sure IMBA Canada could recommend or identify potential non-professionals that might be willing to assist if you are unable to afford to bring in the pros - or at least work for lower wages than the pros.

    There are actually two trail building schools in Canada. Maybe you could reach out to them for a list of recent graduates that have the required skill sets, and/or propose they make your park one of their projects if they are within close enough geographic distance. Here they are:

    *see my future post for links

    Best of luck on your endeavor!

  20. #20
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    I need two more posts before I can include links in my posts.

  21. #21
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    I need one more post before I can include links.

  22. #22
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    Ok, here are my links:

    Funding Sources Article:
    http://www.imba.com/world-summit/res...th-rtp]Funding Trail Projects with the Recreational Trails Program and Other Sources | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    Trail Building Schools in Canada:
    http://www.americantrails.org/nttp/F...e.html]Fleming College offers Sustainable Trails Certificate Program

    http://www2.capilanou.ca/programs/mo....html]Mountain Bike Operations Certificate

  23. #23
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    New mountain bike trail under construction at Spirit Mountain (with video) | Northland Outdoors | Fargo, ND

    "The trail — called a flow trail, because it essentially “flows” easily downhill with few if any uphill or flat sections — is a joint effort between the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Spirit Mountain and local biking club Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores, or COGGS. COGGS put in about $10,000 and IMBA chipped in about $8,000 to $9,000, Johnson said. Spirit Mountain contributed resources, access and, of course, the site."

  24. #24
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    Hi robe

    I hope these pics are helpful. I thought this skills park was really cool. I was on a road trip. The little hill is probably 8m above the pump track. The dimensions are otherwise pretty obvious in the pics. Lake Crackenback Resort also has really nice singletrack and trout fishing and pizza and a bike shop.

    First the signs
    Next the beginner area with some idea of the flow
    and the tougher features including the lovely and tricky rock pile that looks natural and feels like it was all built to be really testing. From the rocky knoll features lead off (or up) in various directions all linked to other features. Very cool.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/attachment.ph...1&d=1352369686

    http://forums.mtbr.com/attachment.ph...1&d=1352369686

    http://forums.mtbr.com/attachment.ph...1&d=1352369686



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  25. #25
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    Here's some more pics continuing the various lines off the rocky knoll with features leading to flow trails down to the pump track. There are lots of link trails and lines from feature to feature and the entire thing is a playground. The pump track was fun too and I'm unco as on that sort of track. Enjoy

    http://forums.mtbr.com/attachment.ph...1&d=1352371024

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