WEST PORTSMOUTH—An upcoming pump track clinic will soon offer cyclists of all ages and ability levels the chance to work with world class athletes at Earl Thomas Conley Riverside Park.
The pump track at ETC Park greets visitors with a banner indicating that it’s the “future home of champions.” For Kristie Franklin, a member of the founding cohort of the Southern Ohio Mountain Bike Association (SOMBA), the pump track is the result of a project that has been close to her heart for many years.
Though several were involved in the creation of the pump track, including the Scioto County Commissioners and members/supporters of SOMBA, Franklin fondly remembers that Jeremy Burnside opened and expedited the necessary contacts and channels which led to the pump track’s creation. Instrumental in helping SOMBA forge connections with Shawnee Forest to help the group with their work on its bike trails, Franklin credits Burnside with all they were able to achieve.
Since it opened to the public in 2021, Franklin said that the pump track has been well received by community members and out of town visitors alike. The track, which is certified to the standards of the Red Bull Racing Series and Velosolutions USA, brings unique recreational opportunities to the community.
And if you bring your bike on the right day, you may get the chance to ride with champions.
“It’s been incredible. The [pump track] is busy all the time, and it’s really cool because Tommy Zula comes and trains all the time, there are some guys who come down from Huntington who are phenomenal riders, and we are all out here together. It’s cool to see the kids just now starting, and they see what can happen here. It’s really rewarding to see the kid whose not quite getting it, or just starting out, [they’re] here for a couple of hours and it’s a night and day difference with their riding style,” Franklin said.
On June 25, riders can receive an opportunity to learn from the pros. First-ever UCI Pump Track World Champion Tommy Zula and Eric Diehl will offer clinics for riders of all ages and ability levels, whether they are learning fundamentals or more advanced maneuvers and tricks.
The first clinic of the day is tailored for intermediate and advanced riders and will kick off from 8 a.m. until 10 a. m. Riders in this clinic should have previous experience riding the pump track. With guidance from Zula and Diehl, participants in the first clinic will strengthen their existing skill set with more advanced maneuvers.
Following a short break, the second clinic will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. Tailored for beginners who are new to the pump track, Zula and Diehl will teach and strengthen fundamentals.
At $25 per person, per clinic, the upcoming clinics offer riders an unbeatable value to receive training from champion pump track cyclists.
It’s important to note for prospective participants that helmets are required, and that admission is cash only. Riders should bring their own water and snacks, and anyone curious about the pump track is encouraged to bring a chair and watch the action.
Franklin said that nurturing that curiosity may be the first step to discovering a beloved new hobby.
“Just start. Don’t be afraid, that’s the first thing. This is such a laid back, chill environment that it would be awesome just to come hang out and watch. Ask some questions, message one of us; just come and experience it, and you’ll get the bug,” Franklin said.
While the pump track is a beloved feature for local mountain bike riders and BMX enthusiasts, it isn’t the only place where Franklin and SOMBA are working to enrich these skills.
SOMBA, who are dedicated to “promoting sustainable trail access for mountain cyclists and to maintain the trails on which mountain bikers ride,” according to the organization’s Facebook page, is working diligently to maintain and create mountain bike paths throughout the region.
Since 2019, the group hand-built over eight miles of trail themselves in Shawnee Forest, and they are committed to doing so in a sustainable way. SOMBA works carefully with naturalist Jenny Richards to maintain existing trails and to educate riders about respecting the natural environment around them.
In the grand scheme of SOMBA’s community involvement, Franklin looks ahead to goals of more trails, new features like a bike rental fleet and, eventually, non-profit status.
For now, she’s excited to see where this ride takes those goals.
Visit the pump track clinic at Earl Thomas Conley Riverside Park on Saturday, June 25th beginning at 8am. Follow the event on Facebook, as well as the Southern Ohio Mountain Bike Association. Attendees are encouraged to message SOMBA’s Facebook page with any questions.
Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]
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