Everyone deserves to get the most enjoyment out of their backyard space. From golf simulators to stock tank hot tubs, adding a unique flair to your backyard living space makes it custom to you and your family. If you’re passionate about mountain biking, BMX, or skateboarding, then you might be wondering if you can bring the fun of a pump track to your own backyard. The answer? Yes, it is possible to build a backyard pump track.
While you’ll need to scale things down and decide exactly how much time and many resources you want to devote to the project, a backyard pump track is possible. From wood, to dirt, to concrete, build a pump track in your backyard that is best suited to your needs and your outdoor space.
What is a pump track?
First, let’s talk a little bit about what a pump track is. Before you bring one into your backyard, it makes sense to know the basics. A pump track is simply a track made of a series of rollers, banked turns, and other features. Pump tracks are designed to be ridden simple by “pumping” the body to generate momentum, rather than peddling or pushing with feet
Originally, pump tracks were created by individuals in the mountain bike and BMX scene. These pump tracks were generally made with dirt and are easily recognizable. Once these constructions gained popularity, a concrete version was introduced and became well loved by the skateboarding community.
Who can use a backyard pump track?
If you’re interested in bringing some unique fun to your backyard space, a backyard pump track is not something you see every day. Putting a pump track in your backyard living space signals a real love or need for the feature. However, if you are passionate about biking, skating, or even roller blading and scootering, a backyard pump track could make great sense for you and your family.
This isn’t to say you need to be an expert rider, either. Pump tracks are relatively easy to use, and are great for bikers or skaters of all skill levels and ages. They are accessible and great for developing your skills and technical abilities while riding.
Are backyard pump tracks legal?
Putting a pump track in your backyard might seem like a fairly innocuous project. After all, you’re not planting any permanent trees, you’re not encroaching your neighbors property lines, and you’re not even really breaking ground the way you would with a pool. But the truth is, you still need clearance before you begin. Make sure you have all of the permits and permissions required to build a backyard pump track in your area before you begin construction.
DIY Pump Track vs Hiring a Professional
Now, in the BMX and skating communities, plenty of everyday people have put their heads together and created fun, functional backyard designs without any professional help. This approach is certainly possible, and is what we will cover in a moment. However, we do want to let you know that building a pump track in your backyard is also a project you can bring directly to your landscape designer.
A designer can be helpful in putting something like a pump track in your backyard, especially if you are envisioning a small concrete or asphalt pump track design. Laying hardscaping in the right configuration can be tricky for the everyday person. We recommend elaborate or hardscape pump tracks plans be run past a designer or contractor before you begin work.
How to Build a Pump Track in Your Backyard
Choose The Type of Pump Track You Want
Like we just mentioned, there are multiple types of finishes that can be created for pump tracks. The rest of this article describes the process of putting in a dirt pump track, however concrete or asphalt installations are also possible. Talk to your local contractor or landscape designer to see what is possible in your space.
Gather Your Supplies
The first supply you need is enough space. Your backyard doesn’t have to be massive, but you won’t get the impact you’re looking for in a tiny space. From there, you will need:
- Shovels. Flat head shovels work best for moving and packing dirt, but aren’t great for digging. Have both pointed and flat head shovels on hand.
- Rake. Have a metal rake to drag dirt and smooth the surface area of your backyard pump track.
- Hose. To pack and shape your dirt, you’re going to need to get it wet. A garden hose or other water source is needed for this purpose.
- Wheelbarrow or truck. You’re going to be moving dirt, and a lot of it. A wheelbarrow or truck bed with tarp will both work here.
- Spray Paint. You will need to mark out the guidelines for your pump track.
- Dirt, Dirt, Dirt. You can’t build a backyard dirt pump track with the main ingredient. You’re going to need enough dirt to finish construction of your track. This amount will vary by size and design. You may be able to use the dirt found right in your own backyard. However, if you’re working with incredibly sandy soil in your region, you may have to ship it in.
- Skidsteer. Now, all of this can be done manually, but it’s going to be a lot of work. If you have the budget and the know-how, renting some heavy machinery can go a long way toward making your life easier.
- Friends. Last but not least, everything is easier with a little help from your friends. Building a backyard pump track is possible on your own, but we foresee a lot of long days and nights wishing you had help.
Plan or Design Your Backyard Pump Track
Before you start moving dirt around, make sure you know exactly what kind of backyard pump track you are looking to build. Nailing down a design that works for your space is the key to success. You may have a complicated vision that incorporates endless twists and turns. However, most people don’t have the space for something that complex.
Simpler, oval shapes designs are often effective and allow for enough creativity to make the project worthwhile. Sitting down and sketching out your backyard pump track design will be beneficial to you during the process. Decide how many rollers you want to place and where, and make sure your dream is achievable with the amount of square footage you have.
At this stage of the process, it’s also important to figure out where any potential complications may be in your backyard space. Gas lines, electrical, and water lines are all not things you want to accidentally damage with your shovel. Figure out where they are, and then work around them carefully.
For inspiration, books like Welcome to Pump Track Nation by Lee McCormack can be helpful for both design pointers and for practical guidelines.
Flatten Your Space & Drainage
Backyard pump tracks begin with a flat surface. Once you have designed your track, begin to flatten the space. This can be done by hand, but can be laborious. You will need to remove grass, dirt, and any other debris. This is the stage of the process where renting a machine can be very helpful to speeding up the process.
It’s also important to make sure you have considered drainage. You are changing the topography of your yard, and drainage will matter. YOu don’t want to end up with rainwater and precipitation pooling in or around your new track. Building on a 2-3% grade can help direct water off of the track.
Create A Rough Draft
Before you set everything in stone (or pack it in dirt), it’s good to do a rough draft. A looser pack of your dirt can help flag any major issues and give you a good look at your backyard pump track design. It may turn out that you have more or less space than you initially believed. You may be able to wider turns, add rollers, or refine a few berms.
Pack Your Backyard Pump Track
Once you are happy with your rough design, it’s time to start packing. This is the most important part of your project, and will determine how successful your final pump track is. A soft pump track will fall apart and be impossible to ride. Inconsistent packing will create grooves and damage in areas of the track. Packing carefully is the most important part of the backyard pump track process, so do it carefully.
Packing your dirt can be done by hand with a flat shovel or another tool. Make sure your dirt is wet, and pack all sides evenly. You can create stability and color by packing grass seed into the sides of your track. Not only will this help the structure, but it will create some color and contrast, making the project more visually interesting as well.
Let it Dry Completely
After your dirt is packed, the real hard part begins—waiting. We know it’s tempting to hop on your bike as soon as you finish packing the dirt. But remember, you had to pour a ton of water on this thing to pack it down. Now, you’re going to need to wait for it to dry before you ride it.
Several sunny days with no additional precipitation are needed to fully dry out most pump tracks before they are usable. Resist the urge to get ahead of yourself. You could end up ruining your hard work!
Once your track is completely dry, it’s ready to ride! Here is the point where you will be able to get a feel for your work. And it might not be perfect! Part of the appeal of having your very own track is the ability to make tweaks and adjustments.
Widen or sharpen turns, add or subtract rollers. Your backyard pump track is customizable for as long as you put in the work. So break out that shovel, find some like-minded friends, and start moving some dirt!