I recently found an old cell phone video of my son, not yet quite 2 years old, scooting himself around the pump track with his pacifier in. It’s hard for me to even remember him being that little, let alone remember him biking with a binky. Tomorrow, he will be 5 years old. (Pass the box of tissues, please).
The amount of change over the last several years has been drastic. He talks (non-stop)! He does math! He’s grown a foot! But one thing hasn’t changed–he still loves the pump track. In fact, it has become a staple in our daily and weekly routine.
In our Biking with Kids Facebook group, parents are always posting pictures of kids on the pump track, talking about how great it is for skills-development, confidence, etc, etc, etc. And I couldn’t agree more. Here are my top 9 reasons that pump tracks rock for families.
1) Pump tracks are great for skills development.
This one is pretty obvious. The entire purpose of pump tracks is to build skills. But when you apply that to children (especially young children) the effect is amplified. I’ve seen it time and time again. Toddlers who start riding their Strider on the pump track are pedaling by 3 and full-on shredders at 6. The repetitive practice of going round and round and round, getting faster and more capable, builds confidence on the bike. Kids learn to corner, to jump, to shift their weight. There is nothing quite as good as a pump track for becoming a competent cyclist.
2) Pump tracks are great exercise.
We live in a society where kids spend, on average, less than 30 minutes outdoors every day. Pump tracks provide an excuse to get outside and to get exercise. Have you ever tried riding a pump track for 15 minutes without stopping? It’s intense. When we go to the pump track, my son will spend an hour without stopping. He sleeps really, really well afterward.
3) Pump tracks cater to a wide range of ages and abilities.
Pump tracks are fun for everyone. Have kids of different ages? No problem. They will all have fun at the pump track. Mom and dad will have fun at the pump track. The kid you babysit who can barely ride a bike? He will have fun a the pump track too (although you should probably have his mom and dad sign a waiver first).
4) There’s no waiting for kids.
We like to do a lot of trail riding with our son. I think we’re pretty unique in that we enjoy taking a 4 year-old on a 10-mile mountain bike ride. That said, there are some days when I just don’t have the patience. On those days, we go to the pump track instead. Young kids are painfully slow on long bike rides. At the pump track, you ride, they ride, everybody goes their own speed. There’s no waiting, there’s no cheer leading–and it is glorious.
5) There are no big climbs.
Climbs are tough for young kids, but unless you live in the mid-west, most off-road rides (and many on-road rides) have hills. This can quickly be frustrating and confidence-destroying. The pump track is great in that there are no big climbs involved. Kids get to rock and roll and build their confidence on the bike.
6) They are great for passing time.
Ok, lets all admit it. When you are the parent to a young child, there are days that pass like molasses. There are Sunday afternoons that need to be filled somehow, and the pump track is awesome for sucking up time. Take a snack, ride the track — you can easily spend 2 or 3 hours of an otherwise listless afternoon.
7) Pump tracks build community.
It isn’t very often that I go to a pump track and don’t talk to anybody. Kids tend to make friends here, parents tend to make friends here. If you are new to an area, it is a great way to meet new people.
8) They are fun to find while traveling.
Everybody has their “thing” they like to do while traveling. Ours happens to be micro-breweries and pump tracks. It is fun to try new pump tracks all over the country. They are usually off the beaten tourist-path and are a good way of meeting locals and getting a feel for the town.
9) Mom can take a nap or sunbathe.
I’ve left my favorite for last. I’ll admit it–I just like to go the pump track to sit there. My husband likes to ride 6 dozen laps; I like to ride 6. There is something awesome about being outdoors, the sun on my face, kiddo occupied, and getting a moment to myself. At the playground, I usually have to push him on the swing or help him on the monkey-bars. At the pump track, he’s fully absorbed and occupied, and mom can finally just get a moment to sit and do nothing.