By Tom Jow — So … it’s early in the mountain bike season and feeling a little rusty? Went to bike camp and need a place to practice? Trails not in rideable shape due to the snowline hitting lower elevations? Visit the bike park. Here in the Salt Lake area, we are lucky to have several bike parks, dirt jumps and pump tracks. What are these bike parks about? Mostly they are about having fun, but we can practice skills there too. Things we can practice are jumps, berms and technical riding. Each park has its own style. Follow along for a tour of my favorite features of our local parks.
One of the earliest dirt jump areas in Salt Lake is the I-Street bike park. Of the parks I visit, I-Street is the most advanced. Many of the young kids there, even some ten-year-olds, ride bigger lines than me. There are some intermediate lines I can ride, but one feature I find really useful is a three-step progression of drops. Riding drops is a key skill for the rocky trails of Utah. At I-street, they built the drop lines with wood ramps leading to sloped landings. The smallest drop, at about 18 inches, will feel pretty intimidating to a beginner. The layout of the drops makes it easy to practice one height until it’s down pat. Then step up to the next level, and then the next. One drawback to I-Street (for beginning jumpers) is that most of the jumps have gaps.
For a lower key jump experience, I head to the 9-Line dirt jumps. At the 9-Line you will find riders of all ages; toddlers on striders, kids on BMX, teenagers, as well as moms and dads. With five jump lines, there is something for everyone. The jumps are much less intimidating at 9-Line. The reason they are less scary is “tabletop” jumps. A tabletop jump has a take off ramp, a landing ramp, and a flat “table” in the middle. The connectedness of the two ramps removes a large amount of the anxiety of jumping. Jumping is a skill that requires much practice to be confident. Especially for jumps with gaps. Even on short jumps, take out the tabletop and it is very intimidating.
A more natural intimidating feature of Utah trails are rocks. Sometimes a couple of big rocks, sometimes a small field of boulders. Occasionally there is a narrow line of rocks or a wooden bridge built up between surfaces. Mastering rough rocks and bridges requires being able to focus on the chosen line and little else. I recently found that Eagle Mountain Bike Park has an extensive skills area which includes two narrow, technical rock lines and wooden bridges in a variety of widths and elevation. The wood may seem wide, but add a little elevation and some angle and it will get your nerves jumpy.
Trailside Park in Park City has a variety of terrain including a nice area with low bridges of various widths. To practice these skills at speed, the builders at Trailside developed a short flow trail with technical rocks and bridges. What is really nice about Trailside is the very short climb required to do laps on the flow trails.
Flow trails, like at Trailside Park are a fantastic way to practice riding jumps and berms. Berms are banked turns designed to help the rider keep momentum. In addition to the tech trail mentioned earlier, Trailside also has beginner, intermediate and advanced flow lines. What is really nice here is a short climb back up to facilitate multiple laps. Berms are also a key feature of “pump” tracks. A pump track is like a flow trail, with rollers and berms, except flat. The idea behind pump tracks is to learn to “pump” the bike up and down the rollers to keep, or even increase your momentum around the track. My favorite pump track right now is located at Centennial Park in West Valley. Constructed of wood, the track has a rubberized surface for traction. The rubberized surface provides one hundred percent, confidence inspiring traction. Zipping around the berms on this track is incredibly fun.
These are by no means the only bike parks in Utah, or across the country for that matter. They can be found in the city centers like the 9-Line, or adjacent to trails like Trailside and Eagle Mountain. The parks accommodate all riders from beginner to expert, and from toddlers to Moms and Dads. A wide variety of features can be found including jumps and berms. By by far the best feature though is fun. And perhaps some practice disguised as fun.
Got a bike question? Email Tom at [email protected]