Velosolutions has been building a vast array of pumptracks and pumpparks in Europe over the past few years, most notably in Zurich, Pontresina, Sils I.D, and most recently in Pfaffikon. For us, to build something on another continent was a dream for us. So when the opportunity to build in South East Asia presented itself, the Velosolutions team was keen to create something unique and ambitious. Fast forward five months and 120 emails later, a scaled-down Velosolutions team of just me and Adrien Loron were on a plane to Thailand, to one of our most ambitious projects yet.
The project is one of the largest taken on by Velosolutions to date, as although Zurich's pumppark is bigger and includes a BMX track and a jump track, the track in Thailand was to be purely for pumptrack action. Knowing how tough it is to build an asphalt pumptrack in Europe, we were quite nervous about building out in Thailand given the added factors of humidity and high temperatures we would have to brave whilst we built the track. Alongside this, we also had to worry about having to build the pumptrack in just one month. Questions were buzzing around our minds; "Will they have the right tools, machines, and materials?", "Will they have enough motivated workers?", "Will we get the exact asphalt that we ordered?", "Will it all be delivered on time?"
Situated in Aranyaprathet, next to the Cambodian border, on arrival the Velosolutions team was greeted by the person who commissioned the project. The welcome was warm and we were treated to a great evening of good food and whiskey. Lots of whiskey! As a result, come the first morning at the site, the our main concern was not getting the construction of the track underway, but just getting our heads straight again! Soon we realised that this was going to be the routine for every day for the whole month, which probably wasn't so great for our livers!
After a while we realised that everything about the build of this project was chilled - except for the weather - and everything ran smoothly without any stress. Thanks to the pre-production work by the local team, including moving 5000 cubic metres of soil to the site and laying out the drainage, we could start straight away with shaping the lines. We could never understand why the local team never seemed to get tired despite the long hours working in the heat. Was it the delicious local cuisine? Was it the whiskey? Or was it that everyone on the site was always in a good mood? Whatever it was, we were happy too as this great vibe lifted our spirits above the soaring heat.
It also wasn't long before we became addicted to the spicy Thai food. It kept the team sweating during breakfast, lunch and dinner, and last but not least, I had to escape from the ladyboys pretty much every night, so the sweating was going on 24/7! The weather was extreme and often Adrien and I had to step away from the asphalt for a couple of seconds, just to make sure we didn't pass out due to the heat.
As the days went by, and quicker than we would have ever dared dreamed of, the pumptrack started to come alive in front us. This was down to the resourcefulness of the workers at the site and the local businesses in the area. If we needed a couple of rakes, they welded 10 for us, if we needed a truck modified, they modified two of them. We couldn't believe how easy they made the build for the pumptrack in such a short space of time.
With the tarmac bedded in and rested, it was finally time to ride the track! With many local riders in toe, Adrien and I rode the track, trying different lines and directions of travel. From the very start, the pumptrack design was going to be something that was unique. It is symmetric, which means two riders can race each other on different loops, and it is wide enough to pass other riders. The design affords riders to make creative line combinations, as highlighted in the video, which just scratches the surface of the potential this pumptrack has to offer.
You might be asking who we were building this huge pumptrack for, or indeed given its location, who could actually afford a bike to ride it? In fact, I was wondering the same thing given the closest buildings to the track made up a small shanty town. At the beginning it felt quite awkward building such an expensive track next to families who were obviously in poverty. But in fact, the kids from the shanty town were the first ones to ride the pumptrack when it was opened, and they were able to ride it all day long on their bikes, the majority of which had broken off pedals which meant the kids rode barefoot on the axles. I asked the owner of the pumptrack if he was going to leave this open and free for everybody, even when he builds a hotel next door. He said he would, because the pumptrack is for the whole town. There is only one thing I can say to that - Thank you.
To find out more about Velosolutions, check out the website: www.velosolutions.ch