Pro­file: Pump It Up! Micayla Gatto Talks Pump Tracks

Micayla Gatto Talks Pump Tracks

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words by Vanessa Mar­shak Pho­tos sup­plied by Micayla Gatto

The grass is try­ing to take over. Dan­de­lions have pop­u­lated the rollers and berms, but you can see still see tire tracks. One per­son rides this pump track year-round: Simon Toole is a farmer in Black Creek just out­side of Courte­nay, Bri­tish Columbia. When he’s not pick­ing his de­li­cious straw­ber­ries, he’s prob­a­bly mov­ing some dirt or rid­ing on it.

I had rid­den the pump track and was amazed at how my skills im­proved im­me­di­ately. I learned to look through cor­ners, move my bike and use my legs and arms for mo­men­tum. I had a few crashes into the straw­berry fields be­fore I fig­ured out the big bermy cor­ners, but they were the most de­li­cious crashes ever! Last year Simon’s lovely wife Heather gifted him with a Bobcat rental. That’s when things got se­ri­ous. He fin­ished the rest of the pump track—although it’s al­ways a work in progress—and we all came out to ride.

A med­i­cal is­sue had kept me off my bike for a cou­ple of months. I missed it greatly: the ex­er­cise, the de­com­pres­sion of my brain—and my fork—and the so­cial gath­er­ing of friends on bikes. On a sunny Sun­day in July, I found my­self be­ing served a fresh glass of rhubarb lemon­ade and a home-cooked meal. Rid­ers zipped by me, down the drop-in ramp, and over the first lit­tle table­top. Be­hind me, or­ganic straw­berry fields warmed by the sun sent me the sweet smells of dessert. Aside from not be­ing able to ride a bike, this was heaven. I chat­ted with ev­ery­one as they walked back up to the ramp—giv­ing ku­dos and the like—and I was in­ter­mit­tently kept com­pany by those who had to take a break… ask any­one, pump tracks are hard work!

I wasn’t on my bike, but I was hap­pily sub­mersed in a day of bik­ing. The pump track is a play­ground for adults and kids, the so­cial hub of many neigh­bour­hoods, and a great place for skills im­prove­ment. In a con­ver­sa­tion with Micayla Gatto, she agreed. “It has ev­ery­thing you need on a trail in one con­densed cir­cu­lar space.” As a coach, she can see kids ride a cor­ner over and over and with all the kids in one space she can work dif­fer­ent skill sets at the same time.

“There’s a lit­tle bit of some­thing for ev­ery­one… you can in­di­vid­u­al­ize it a lit­tle more.

It cre­ates such a good sense of com­mu­nity and it’s an amaz­ing way to see peo­ples skill sets and im­prove your own skill sets. It’s an awe­some train­ing tool for any­one from a com­plete be­gin­ner to a world class pro. I don’t know any­one who hasn’t rid­den a pump track and said, ‘oh my gosh, that was so hard and so awe­some at the same time’. It’s just such a use­ful tool to have and I think ev­ery sin­gle com­mu­nity should have one be­cause it brings peo­ple to­gether too; that’s what makes it fun.”

Agreed. If ev­ery neigh­bour­hood had one, peo­ple would use them and ben­e­fit from them. As Micayla said, it still seems that peo­ple will drive 5-hours to ride epic sin­gle­track, but they won’t drive an hour to ride a pump track. Simon’s pump track in Black Creek is only 15 min­utes away, but I will of­ten drive to ride some XC trails in­stead. If there was one down the street, I’d be there in the sum­mer evenings for sure.

Micayla won the Les 2 Alpes Pump Track Chal­lenge in 2014, that was the first year there was a sep­a­rate women’s cat­e­gory and there was a sur­pris­ingly small group of women rac­ing. I asked her why. “Women were lined up to ride”, she said, but “they just didn’t want a crowd watch­ing them do it.”

Micayla—who just got out there and did it on a bike that was not even hers—said she could un­der­stand where the girls are com­ing from, re­fer­ring to how dif­fi­cult the pump track can be, es­pe­cially for your first time. And although they are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, not ev­ery­one has joined the party.

When asked where her favourite pump track is, I wasn’t sur­prised to hear her say, “The Whistler Crankworx Pump Track is prob­a­bly the best one… (it) is al­ways im­mac­u­late and the berms are ... ver­ti­cal… and just the smoothest nicest ground ever.”

Sadly, it is only for the pros, and only dur­ing Crankworx, but there are other op­tions in Whistler. There is the pump track in the bike

park, and ru­mour has it there is a gem near Alta Lake—I know where I’m go­ing warm up on my next road trip to Whistler!

We may not see Micayla on the race cir­cuit as much this year as she is not cur­rently spon­sored, but she is con­fi­dent that this time off will al­low her to re­ally dive into her other pas­sions. One pas­sion is ob­vi­ous when you speak with her.

“I just wanna let girls know that, ‘hey, it’s okay… you don’t have to be crazy… su­per manly… or re­ally in­tense to like, ride a bike. I love get­ting dressed up and wear­ing makeup and I’m com­pletely nor­mal and I get scared shit­less too… it’s okay.”

While try­ing to be more of a men­tor for ev­ery­one to ride and feel good about them­selves, Micayla will also be fo­cus­ing on some of her own train­ing as she starts go­ing in the di­rec­tion of En­duro. So although you may not see her on your lo­cal pump track this sum­mer, she just may show up in a neigh­bour­hood near you some­day look­ing to in­spire, ride the rollers, and get ver­ti­cal on the berms.

Photo Credit: Pa­tri­cio Soto

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