Bike enthusiasts will soon have a new place to practice their biking skills, as the Susquehanna Area Mountain Biking Association (SAMBA) is in the process of building a bike track in Coleman Memorial Park.
All photos are by Alexis Steele
It will include a large pump track specifically geared towards helping young, beginner riders develop their skills and a small balance track to help very young children learn balance and other basic skills for riding a bike, even if they are unable to pedal yet. In addition to these tracks, there will be other features and obstacles for riders to practice on.
“You will have the scale of progression to move from one to the next to the next as you develop your skills and kind of get more comfortable with it,” said SAMBA President Nick Loftus, who is acting as the project manager for the track.
Pump tracks are called as such because, on the track, riders will push their bikes while riding them in a technique called “pumping.”
The technique of pumping helps riders gain momentum and traction on the course and if it’s done correctly, they will not need to pedal. It also provides a full-body workout that strengthens the arms and legs and helps build endurance.
“It’s good for learning, but it’s also good for fitness,” said Loftus. “It’s a workout. It’s a large, large track and by the time you pump your way around it one time, you’re going to be pretty tired.
“That’s where the fitness comes in.”
As opposed to BMX tracks, where people are going over jumps, pump tracks keep riders on the ground for the most part. The track at Coleman will consist of turns, “rollers,” which are similar to speed bumps for cars, and hills for riders to pump over and through.
“Pump tracks are important because it doesn’t matter if it’s a BMX bike or a mountain bike, it teaches you the basics of balance and momentum [and] it really teaches you the basic skills to ride a bike,” said Loftus. “Even if you’re not into mountain biking and BMX, it transfers to road riding and any other kind of riding.”
While the track SAMBA is building is geared towards younger and less experienced riders, the facility will benefit bike riders of all ages and experience levels. More experienced riders can take advantage of the facility by doing multiple laps around the main track.
“There are different areas so there’s something for everyone,” said Loftus. “That’s the goal.”
According to Loftus, there is no bike track like the one they are building anywhere else in the region. In addition to one track each in Philadelphia and Chambersburg, there is a small park in Ephrata that SAMBA built last year. However, these tracks do not compare to the scale of this one.
“This is going to be the biggest and the best track of its kind in the region,” said Loftus. “We’re going to be attracting people from all over the mid-Atlantic region to come here for this and make use of this.
“This will serve the whole central PA area and hopefully attract a lot of people to Lebanon. It should be the best track anywhere around, we guarantee that.”
The track will be built in the enclosure between the tennis courts and the Gingrich Memorial Pool, which the Lebanon City Council last year voted to demolish.
“When we came out to look at the site, we saw this beautiful enclosed area under the trees,” said Loftus. “It’s the perfect spot for this kind of course.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SAMBA was forced to start construction on the site months later than they had anticipated. However, they were able to adjust their plans and hope to be able to open the track in early September, if the weather permits and they have enough volunteers.
“You just gotta roll with it,” said Loftus. “There was nothing we could do about that so we just kind of adapted and made it work.”
To construct the facility, SAMBA has partnered with the city of Lebanon, the Community Health Council of Lebanon County and Lebanon Valley Bicycle Coalition (LVBC). They also received support from local businesses such as Umbergers, True Value and Maguire’s Ford.
Currently, Loftus and a few other volunteers are in the process of using machinery to move around the 400 tons of dirt Benchmark Construction donated to construct the pump track. Once they finish that part, they will begin shaping the track.
All of the work on SAMBA’s projects is done by volunteers, so they will be looking for people to help them construct the track.
If everything goes as planned this week, they plan on having a volunteer day the weekend of July 18, where volunteers from the community will work together to build the track. The specifics about this event and SAMBA’s volunteer events will be available on their Facebook page.
“We hope folks from the community will come out and check it out, see what’s going on and help us get it ready,” said Loftus. “If people are interested in coming out, even if it’s for an hour or two, it all helps.
“We’ve got plenty of shovels.”
Once construction is complete, riders will be able to use the track for free (at their own risk) whenever Coleman Park is open. Riders will be required to wear helmets and are asked to take care of the track to keep it in good shape for everyone to use.
“It’ll be here and ready to use for anybody at pretty much any time,” said Loftus. “We envision that kids will start having their birthday parties here and those types of things.”
Loftus hopes that building the facility will bring more people to Coleman Memorial Park.
“I think it’s a big step towards the revitalization of Coleman Park,” he said. “There will be an avenue for more people to come into the park and there will be more to do here and it would really be a great place for families to come here and spend the day.
“I think it’s going to be a great addition to the park.”
Members of SAMBA have a few ideas about the future of the facility and Coleman Park as a whole. They are considering developing programs and seminars to teach young people how to ride a bike, incorporating the park’s nature trail into their activities, and opening the concession stand (which is right next to the track) to riders.
“It should be a really good time once we get it finished and opened up,” said Loftus. “I’m curious to see what we can do with it once it’s established [because] there’s lots of different stuff you can do with it.”
Overall, the facility will provide a place for the people of Central Pennsylvania to have fun and get together while also improving their biking skills and fitness.
“When it opens up again in the spring next year when the weather is nice, I imagine that we’re going to see a lot of kids in here,” said Loftus. “I’m really looking forward to that.
“That’s the payoff, seeing all the kids out there enjoying it.”
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