Cyclists seek obstacle course for Santa Rosa park

Planning is underway to build a dirt obstacle course for bicycles known as a pump track in Northwest Community Park in Santa Rosa.

Backers, including retired pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer, turned out to support the concept at a Board of Community Services meeting Thursday.

The board, which advises the City Council largely on park projects, expressed unanimous support for the track, which would be built using volunteer labor and private donations.

Pump tracks are like skateparks for bicycles. The object is to go around the track's humps and tight turns with little or no pedaling. Riders instead rely on their upper bodies to generate momentum by pumping down on the handlebars as they descend the track's ramps and features, similar to the way pumping your legs forward on a swing makes you swing higher.

Pump tracks are popular because they are inexpensive to build, can be located in a tight area, and are not very dangerous, according to Douglas McKenzie, a mechanic at Spoke Folk Cyclery in Healdsburg.

McKenzie, 54, said he's been trying to figure out how to get a pump track built here since he rode one two years ago at the Morgan Hill headquarters of the Specialized bicycle company.

"I fell in love with it," McKenzie said. "I'm like, 'We need one of these up in Santa Rosa,'"

He checked with the city about appropriate locations, and initially was steered toward southwest Santa Rosa, he said. But since McKenzie lives near Piner Road and anticipates needing to check on the track regularly to keep it well-maintained, he held out for something closer to home, he said.

Then he spotted an aerial view of a circular patch of weeds in Northwest Community Park near the dog park.

"I went, 'Oh my God, this is perfect,'" McKenzie said.

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