The Ultimate Pumptrack Challenge: Chrystal Viper Five Cinco de Die-O

Aug 19, 2014
by Danielle Baker  
The rain held off for the finals but it was a close one. Not more than a second after Barry Nobles won the pump-off the clouds opened up to a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightning.
  The rain held off for the finals, but it was a close one. Not more than a second after Barry Nobles won the pump-off, the clouds opened up to a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning.

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.

Ultimate Pump Track Challenge Crankworx 2014.
  Ultimate Pump Track Challenge, Crankworx 2014.

How many years have you two been working together on this?

Adam: Too many. And by the way you’re fired.

Kenny: Good.

Adam: We’ve done it every year together. It has been me, Kenny, and Gunner, Chester has been there for four years now.

Mitch Ropelato had on his tighty whiteys but they couldn t get him on the podium.
  Mitch Ropelato had on his tighty whiteys, but they couldn't get him on the podium.

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.

Finn Isles looking toward the future.
  Finn Isles looking toward the future.

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.

Jill Kintner was on point but it just wasn t enough to beat BMX-inclined Caroline Buchanon.
  Jill Kintner was on point, but it just wasn't enough to beat BMX-inclined Caroline Buchanon.

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

Paul B and Adrain Lormon battling till the bitter end.
  Paul B and Adrain Lormon battling 'till the bitter end.

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.

To say the race for the pump track woman s title was close was more than an understatement.
  To say the race for the pump track woman's title was close, was more than an understatement.

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.

Caroline Buchanon on her way to de-throning the former queen of Crankworx Jill Kintner.
  Caroline Buchanon on her way to de-throning the former queen of Crankworx, Jill Kintner.

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.

Caroline Buchanon. Woman s pro winner.
  Caroline Buchanon. Woman's pro winner.

Barry Nobles. Men s pro winner.
  Barry Nobles. Men'a pro winner.

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.

Good times.

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.

Crankworx Gold Sponsors


  • 12 0
 Wait.. So kenny is actually fired? Jk fun article though, definetley wanna see different stuff next year
  • 2 0
 Wow, sweet video! Oops…
  • 3 2
 why does everyone have a sus fork. surely a fully rigid get up would work far better on a pumptrack. with a rigid all the power goes to the wheel and the pump and the floor with a sus fork surely you lose some of that to the fork.
  • 4 1
 Because it is sponsored by Rock Shox. Similar for the slopestyle. The suspension is run super stiff to the point of virtually negating its effect. Both could better be done on a 24inch rigid jump bike or bmx cruiser made out of something flexy like steel or Ti.
  • 1 0
 ahh ok. bloody sponsors. I'd rock an identiti rebate for pumptracks
  • 2 2

good question - here's my take on it

when I had built the huge pumptrack at Esher bike park, I rode a Banshee Rampant (100mm) full suspension with Pike 454 air.

People always asked why I rode full suspension- basically I could go faster - more "pump" and much more wheel grip especially when going faster. I know this because I also rode the pump track on the Banshee AMP (hardtail) and also some DJ bikes with rigid forks

The Rampant was very neat in that the short link virtual suspension had some chain growth, when you pumped the rear suspension it actually rotated the rear wheel, causing you to accelerate Smile
  • 1 0
 Hampsteadbandit, will esher ever come back? Looked awesome but never got to check it out!
  • 1 0
 @hampsteadbandit could it also be because of the rebound of the suspension giving you more pop like an MX bike does on a steep kicker? that would make sense in my mind.
  • 1 0
 @hampstead that's friggin cool about the chain growth thing. I bet that was actually a pretty awesome advantage getting a little pedal kick on every pump.
  • 2 0
 @Mrs fun socks - its been 3 years since Esher shut down Frown

@Jordan - rebound was run quick/medium to deal with repetitive bump forces, but did not benefit the scenario I described.

@bkm yeah it was dope. Never realised it until we built the pump track. Props to Keith @ banshee bikes for his awesome design!
  • 1 0
 @hampsteadbandit That sounds a little far fetched to me. There's no way any potential minor chain growth and claimed resulting acceleration can be a benefit over your wasted energy from trying to pump. To me your wheel would have to move a considerable amount to become any sort of an advantage, and with that you've wasted energy.

Is there anything to support your claim to chain growth causing noticeable acceleration?

I think your negative experience on a rigid bike is due to your comfort level and ability on a bike, rather than the bike itself.
  • 1 0
 the idea makes sense but you would have to have loads of really soft travel to make it do anything but that would ruin your pumping. I'd still stick with a fully rigid
  • 1 0

25+ years of BMX racing and skatepark / street experience and then 4 years as a sponsored rider for Mythic (Banshee in the UK), Da Kine and then Devinci so no lack of experience or ability on my part Wink

it surprised me too and I swapped from the Rampant to the AMP repeatedly, but from talking to Banshee's design engineer Keith Scott, it made complete sense

it also depends on the pump track itself I guess, Esher's track was very 3 dimensional with 6' elevation changes on some of the sections, compared to many of the "bmx" style pump tracks which are smoother and smaller scaled
  • 1 0
 Suspension forks might be an advantage if you're pumping, but if you're manualling, I doubt it. I know that for me, my BMX cruiser (24" wheels, mega stiff) is way faster on pumptracks than my 24" NS Holy, whether the Holy is on rigids or DJ1s.
  • 5 1
 im so confused if they were actually mad at each other or not?
  • 2 0
 Perfect track again this year boys, loving your work..
  • 1 0
  • 3 4
 doesnt look very flat? i though you only pumped things when there flat
  • 1 4
 Not that much effort, there's no surfacing, re-use the design from previous year, all the dirt is free of rocks as its saved from previous tracks. Pretty sweet gig.
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