Tag Archives: table tops

Developing construction skills for a skills park: a work in progress

I published a post yesterday to my local mtb club’s blog titled, CROCT’s Sechler Skills Park continues to evolve.

The skills park is my primary responsibility as one of CROCT’s many volunteer trail workers. My motivation to work on it?

  • Our in-town Sechler Park MTB Trail is a river bottoms trail and doesn’t have a lot of challenging terrain. So having a skills park in the middle of it is way for local riders to practice their skills and challenge themselves
  • It’s handy to have a local skills park for instructional clinics. Kids who live in town can ride their bikes to the park via the local network of paved trails
  • I’m always working on my own riding skills and being able to construct features that are appropriate for my own development is a treat

Last summer, my interest in learning to jump via Ryan Leech’s Jumping with Confidence online course (affiliate link) spurred me to learn how to build beginner and intermediate level table top jumps. I had the full-time use a tractor with a bucket, free street reclamation dirt from the City of Northfield, a budget from CROCT to have it hauled in, and labor from other trail worker volunteers to help me shape, learn, test, and rebuild the jumps until we got them ‘good enough.’

By the end of the season, I’d gotten to where I could consider myself solid at beginner-level tabletops. Here’s a 1-minute video clip of me riding the 7 jumps that we built:

And the jumps proved to be a hit with kids and adventuresome adults, of course.

In addition to the 7 tabletop jumps (6 beginner-level, 1 intermediate-level), the skills park also now has:

  • 3 berms (1 large wood berm, 2 dirt berms)
  • 2 wood drops (1 beginner-level, 1 intermediate-level)
  • 2 large log piles
  • 1 line of 8 small rollers
  • 1 log skinny/logover obstacle, configured for several levels of difficulty
  • 2 railroad ties configured for uphill steps
  • 1 large boulder
  • Several skinnies (intermediate-expert) with changing configurations

We’ll be adding more features to the skills park this year.

Video: getting the hang of beginner tabletops at Cottage Grove Bike Park

I visited the Cottage Grove Bike Park today to ride the new beginner (green) jump line. However, since I suck at jumps, I first practiced the very small tabletop that’s in the middle of the larger pump track until I felt like I was getting the hang of it.

I then spent about a half hour on the new beginner tabletops and jumps. Way fun. I can barely get any air but the kids say I have potential. It’s pretty neat that you can ride the beginner jump line and get back up to the top in less than a minute.

Here’s my 84-second video:

30 seconds of coaching from Jed Olson and I learn to jump a table top

Jed Olson and boys Jed Olson at Ray's Indoor Bike Park, Milwaukee Jed Olson (video still) Jed Olson (video still)
Jed Olson was one of a dozen or more Minnesotans who made the trip to Ray’s Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee for the IMBA members weekend. I hadn’t met Jed before but had seen his postings in the MORC forum and was bummed when I couldn’t make it to the Gravity Summit he hosted in Red Wing last fall. (Above left photo: I’m using a ‘dad’ photo from his Facebook profile because, duh, I neglected to get a photo of his face at Ray’s.)

As you can see from my photo and the 19-second video clip of Jed above, he knows how to ride. So when I saw him with his buddy at the Micro Rhythm track at Ray’s, I asked him to critique my form.  He said I was pumping the rollers just fine but when I got to a tabletop, it looked to him like I was trying some kind of jumping or bunny hop motion. He told me to just ride the table top with the same motion as I was riding a roller, like it’s round going up, round on top (but in the air), round going down. (Those aren’t his words, just my best recollection.)

I rode the track once and immediately felt the difference. I think I said "Wow" but I was actually thinking "Holy fucking shit."  After a few more times, Jed said, "You got it." He said I just needed a little more speed. And sure enough, by mid-afternoon I was able to clear the lips of all three of the table tops on the back stretch of the Micro Rhythm track.

I’ve watched many how-to-jump videos (BikeSkills.com example here) and I’ve read and re-read the section on jumping in the book Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack (I blogged it here).  So it was more than a little amazing to have Jed diagnose what I was doing wrong and prescribe a fix in one sentence. I guess that’s what good coaches can do.

My whole weekend at Ray’s was memorable but learning a new skill was not something I expected.  I’m psyched to tackle the table top jumps at Lebanon Hills (photo here). And I now have the confidence to work my way up to where I can handle some of the bigger jumps at other area MTB parks.  Copper Harbor, here I come.

In case you’re wondering what a Micro Rhythm track is, here’s a helpful description by Jon Pratt at Dirt Rag back in Oct. 2011 in a review titled Dirt Rag visits Ray’s indoor mountain bike park in Milwaukee:

Along with the upgrades to the cross country course, there is an out-and-back Micro Rhythm track which is a great place for people to get comfortable with how a jump line feels. Built with an out-and-back design, the track features several boxes and jumps. Instead of a bermed turn at the end of the outbound rhythm line, there is a platform that allows the rider to reset themselves if they hadn’t been able to get in sync with the course before attempting the inbound line. Personally I had trouble getting back in sync once interrupted by the platform, something that I had issues with on the out-and-back in Cleveland as well. But, I understand the idea behind the exclusion of a bermed turn.

Indeed. Having that platform instead of a bermed turn made a huge difference, for me and from what I could tell, many others.