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Starting strong with BMX

Ready to rip? Here's how to jump into the world of BMX.

Etched into the southern Adelaide Park Lands is an elaborate pocket of BMX dirt bike tracks known as 'City Dirt'. 

Nigel Jordan is the fearless and well respected leader of the City Dirt Crew, the team of who rule and maintain the tracks. Nigel shares a slice of his BMX experience and tells us exactly how to get started, what to expect at the tracks and when to start jumping.

Which basic skills should riders master when they’re starting out?

There are three basic skills that are the fundamentals of riding dirt BMX/MTB (Bicycle Motocross/ Mountain Bike) trails. The trails include features like berms (a banked corner), rollers (hills) and jumps.

  • The first is pumping. This is learning how to use ones body to pump the bike up and down while riding over rollers. Once done properly, a rider can generate speed just from pumping and does not need to pedal on properly built trails.
  • The second skill is cornering. It sounds simple but learning how to go around a bermed corner properly so the rider can hold or even gain speed while cornering takes practice.
  • The third skill is jumping. It doesn't have to be a big jump to learn on and once learnt the same principles apply when riding all size jumps.

What kind of bike and gear do you need to get started?

To ride trails there are two types of bikes that we would recommend. BMX or a MTB hardtail. Attempting the trails on bikes other then these can be both dangerous and can hamper ones ability to learn the skills required. BMX bikes come in different wheel sizes and are best for children or young teens how ever adults can also use them. MTB hardtails are larger and are therefore more suitable for teenagers or adults.

Little Black Bike is SA owned BMX store that has a vast experience in BMX and they can also sell MTB hardtails, let them know you intend to ride City Dirt and they will be able to put you on the appropiate bike for your budget.

Helmets are essential and knee and elbow pads are also a great protection. Most riders use a skate style helmet but a full face helmet can be a good choice for extra protection. Full face helmets normally cost more and are hotter so not great for summer months but can help reduce facial injuries if unfortunate enough to land on ones face. Most bike crashes only result in grazes which are most often on the knees or elbows.

Lingo breakdown

Lips: Otherwise known as a ramp or kicker, a lip is the take off that helps through you and the bike into the air.

Hip: A jump where the landing is at an angle to the take off. A hip requires the rider to turn in the air to safely land the jump.

Ripping: This is a term used for when some one is riding the trails with total confidence. They are said to be ripping the trails.

Golden hour: Approximately 3 hours before sunset is the best time to ride because there is more shade and less wind. The last hour before sunset is often the best and is referred to as golden hour.

There are four tracks at the City Dirt site – what are each useful for?

  1. The beginner track is designed for first time riders. Think kids on balance bikes or kids just off trainer wheels. The track has gentle berms and low rollers and is a great track to get the kids used to riding off road and on more uneven terrain.
  2. The pumptrack is made up of rollers and berms. It is designed for all riders of all abilities and the track can be ridden in lots of different ways but what it is probably best used for is to improve a riders skills and fitness. A rider can learn almost all of the core skills on this track that they will need on the intermediate and advanced track, like pumping, jumping and cornering.
  3. The intermediate track is where the the features start to get a little bigger and there is more of a focus on jumps. There are no gap jumps on this track so all the jumps can be rolled or landed short if the rider has to. The track is designed to be a stepping stone between the pumptrack and the advanced track. Here riders can hone the skills learnt on the pump track and gain the confidence required to attempt the advanced track.
  4. The advanced track is for confident skilled riders only. All of the jumps are gap jumps and the features are often large and challenging. There are multiple lines on the track with some being harder then others. This allows riders to continue to progress and challenge themselves as they spend more time riding the track.

How do riders know when they’re ready for the advanced jumps?

Riders are ready to ride the advanced jumps once they can confidently ride the intermediate track from start to finish without stopping, caseing the jumps (coming up short on the jump) or rolling over jumps instead of jumping them. If they are unsure they can always ask one of the City Dirt Crew to watch them ride the intermediate track and let them know if they are ready or need to work on any skills before attempting the advanced jumps.

Starting to jump is a bit of a leap of faith initially but there are safe ways to start.

The best way is to attempt to jump over two rollers on the pumptrack, using the first roller as the take off and the second roller as the landing. Speed is your friend here. If unsure of the speed ask a more advanced rider if you can follow them into the take off so you are certain how fast to go. 

  1. On the take off, lift the handlebars like you would to hop up onto a kerb. 
  2. In the air, try to keep your body position over the centre of the bike. 
  3. For the landing, to start with try to land both wheels at the same time or back wheel first but as you become more confident, it is ideal to try and land at the top of the landing front wheel first as this is smoother and holds your speed for the next feature.

The advanced lines have some pretty wild names, where did ‘milk bones’ and ‘sausage fingers’ come from?

You have to give a line a name so everyone knows what your talking about, especially on the advanced track where there are lines of varying difficulty. The lines are made up by the people who built them and are as creative as the lines themselves. 

Sausage Fingers is the biggest line on the advanced track. When we had built the line we were thinking the line was big and meaty and the first thing we thought of was a crew member from the City of Adelaide horticulture team named Charlie. Charlie had these huge fingers with each one resembling a sausage.

Lepore brothers 2

Charlie Lepore (right) with his brother Tony (left). COMBINED THEY HAVE WORKED IN THE HORTICULTURE TEAM for 100 YEARS!

Tell us a bit about your BMX story and why you are known as “trail dad”.

I have been a avid cyclist and trail builder for over 20 years. When I bought a house in Adelaide CBD City Dirt existed but was in a very run down state and was barely rideable but it was legal which was a big deal 12 years ago. I wanted to learn to jump better so I approached the City of Adelaide and asked for permission to fix them up. One jump turned into two and then it just grew with the passion and help from the City of Adelaide and other volunteers.

As for the nickname "trail dad" I cant say for sure but maybe its because in a sense I am the dad of the trails, I am also a dad and regularly have my kids at the trails or it could just be that I am old enough to be a dad to most of the riders. I guess it just fits.

Volunteer of the year 2018 nigel jordan

Nigel with his City of Adelaide Volunteer of the Year award in 2018.

How can people get involved?

The BMX/MTB trails community is a very friendly bunch. Although the sport is a individual sport, it is most fun with friends and because riders share a starting point (start hill) it fosters an atmosphere of inclusion and encouragement. The tracks are also all maintained by volunteers this enhances the community vibe of the spot and helps the riding community take real care of the facility. We also hold various events and regular sessions at the trails.

To get involved just come down ride and get to know people or send us a message on Instagram or Facebook. People can get involved in lots of different ways but the main way is through volunteering with the maintenance on the tracks.

City Dirt is located in Blue Gum Park / Kurangga (Park 20) in the southern Adelaide Park Lands. 

The tracks are closest to the corner of Unley Road and Greenhill Road.