Last Thursday night Crankworx hosted the Ultimate Pumptrack Challenge and crowned a new Queen and King; Caroline Buchanan and Barry Nobles. Adam Billinghurst and Kenny Smith make up half of the team that has built the track for the last five years. Possibly suffering a little with hangovers and definitely having spent too much time together over the years, Kenny makes a good Statler to Adam’s Waldorf.
Within an hour I had learned everything I needed to know about kangaroo hunting, Kenny had been fired twice, and I had stopped the interview when I started to learn a little too much about the twosome. How many years have you two been working together on this?Adam:
Too many. And by the way you’re fired. Kenny:
We’ve done it every year together. It has been me, Kenny, and Gunner, Chester has been there for four years now. When do you start building the track?Adam:
Not early enough. We have about a week to build it. Are you here at Crankworx for anything other than building the pumptrack?Kenny:
And Deep Summer too. Adam:
It’s kind of nice working this far into Crankworx, you don’t get drunk every night. Kenny:
I did. Did you find that taking the time off of building on the pumptrack in order to shoot Deep Summer was worth it?Kenny:
Oh yeah, anything to get away from the pumptrack. F*ck. Adam:
It was a nice break for us too. How did the event go for you?Kenny:
Well we beat the rain. People seemed pretty stoked and the track held together. Adam:
We were so lucky with the weather, the race finished and then there was an apocalyptic downpour. This is your fifth year with the event, how did you get involved with it in the beginning?Adam:
We built the Alta Vista pumptrack here in Whistler, so when (Brian
) Finestone (Whistler Bike Park Manager
) wanted to have a Pumptrack Challenge at Crankworx we just made it happen. The track has changed locations over the years, what was the reasoning for the change?Adam:
The first two years it was just above the Slopestyle course on the flat grassy area. It was a cool spot, but not enough people went to it. After that we decided to put it in the village and this is the third year that it has been in Olympic Plaza. Do you think making it more accessible and visible has had an impact on the life and continuation of the event? Adam:
Yeah, I feel like it’s one of the most viewed events at Crankworx now. I don’t know how many people actually attend, but it always feels like a couple thousand. When it was on the hill you would have to know it was up there and want to go see it, now you can be going to Dairy Queen and wander over to watch. I have heard that you give each year a nickname, what is the track called for this year? Adam:
Chrystal Viper Five Cinco de Die-O What restrictions do you face with designing the track? Adam:
Due to the event format we have to build a two-sided symmetrical track, it is actually quite a small zone to build that in. I would love to move it over to the day lots and change it to a jam format with a single track, we could make that a lot more interesting, as far as the track goes, with unique features and bigger air. But the current format is head to head racing. What is the science behind building a symmetrical track? Adam:
We now know the spacing we want between rollers and the size of the berms.Kenny:
No we don’t. Adam:
That guy is no help. He’s fired actually. This will be Ken’s last year on the pumptrack. Gunner goes in and roughs out the track with the excavator. He is quite good at it and gets it really close for us. As he is doing that we have the tape measure out and we try to make it as equal as possible. We measure everything and try to make perfect radiuses in the berms. But it is impossible to make it perfect. It’s 100ft long and 50ft wide and made of dirt. Our goal, though, is to make it look like it is made out of plastic and we just brought it and set it up. What is the secret to packing the dirt in for the finished product?
Adam: As much water as possible. How do you source the dirt for the track? Adam:
I don’t know what the actual mixture of sand to clay is but this stuff is pretty silty, I sourced it last year. Two years ago we had some really shitty dirt with tons of rocks. When you are trying to make something this smooth and perfect it is hard to do it with dirt that is full of pebbles. I didn’t want to do that again so I went half way to Pemberton and sourced the dirt that we have now. I drove my shitty Subaru down this road past huge signs saying ‘don’t come in here’, ‘no cars allowed’. I pulled up and got out in my flip flops and all the dudes in the quarry were looking at me like they wanted to kill me – but we ended up spending $10,000 on dirt. Crankworx bought the dirt so now they just store it until the following year. It is still not the perfect dirt but it’s pretty damn good. How much planning do you have to do ahead of time? Kenny:
Not as much anymore.Adam:
I would like it to be different for next year. It was a good race, people liked it, but I want to keep building different things. What improvements do you think would make the event better? Kenny:
We would need to figure out how to do it in an area where people can see it, rather than having to watch it on a screen, and where we could build a bigger track too. I think some jumps should be thrown in, something to make it a little more exciting. Adam:
Maybe next year we should bring in a tunnel. Kenny:
It needs jumps. Adam:
I would kind of just like to build a jump track, like basically just fast dirt jumps. How would that differ from the Speed and Style? Adam:
No trick scores. Kenny:
It wouldn’t be gravity fed.
From there the focus was lost and the conversation segued to Kenny's illustrious XC racing career, the two sided shack he called home in Australia, and possibly Adam may have fired him again. These clever minds and talented builders have plans to keep improving the Ultimate Pumptrack Challenge, creating more for the riders and spectators from the same pile of dirt each year.