Dirt jumpers looking for a home

With monster shock absorbers and sturdy bash plates, heavy-duty jumping bikes are all the rage with young riders.

With monster shock absorbers and sturdy bash plates, heavy-duty jumping bikes are all the rage with young riders.

Homemade dirt jumps and obstacles are popping up wherever conditions are right.

Like skateboarding a decade ago, freeriding and dirt jumping have outgrown their underground status.

Local bike enthusiasts Devon McDiarmid and Mike Stevely have teamed up with the Cycling Association of Yukon and the city of Whitehorse to find a permanent home for these high-flyers.

McDiarmid has picked up the torch for the bikers’ skills park after other parties planted the idea with the city last year.

“We’re now working with the (city) on finding an appropriate spot; that’s really the biggest hurdle we have to get over,” said McDiarmid on Thursday. “But the city is totally on board, they want to see it going.”

“We know there’s some momentum in the city for this, so we’re definitely in the discussion for it,” said Linda Rapp, manager of the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

McDiarmid said he has a half-dozen spots on his list, “but some of them are a bit of a pipe dream.” The ideal spot would be situated on a slope, close to the city centre with good drainage and access to water.

Room to grow is also vital, as McDiarmid’s plan is multi-stage.

“We’re starting with a dirt-jump park, then we want to look at a BMX track, then a free-ride park, and if we get a suitable location, we’d like to link it up with a cross-country trail network.”

McDiarmid and Stevely picked up the project about a month ago, when they decided to bring up the free riding film Roam to Whitehorse for its premiere.

They turned the event into a fundraiser for the skills park, and with little advertising and much word of mouth, were able to get 200 people to the Yukon Arts Centre for the film Thursday, raising just under $2,000 after expenses. 

Safety is a big motivator for McDiarmid. “Part of the goal is to make something proper, that isn’t dodgy or built alongside a walking trail, or lands out on a road,” he said. “We’ve been talking to designers in BC already and there keen to come up and help us.”

McDiarmid hopes to pull off the project for less than the city has estimated it will cost. The low-budget plan is based largely on volunteer labour and donations in kind (dirt and machines).

Bringing the biking community together in a healthy environment is his ideal scenario.

“We’re really going to look to the volunteers that help us build to take ownership, and maintain the park,” he said.

“We’ve got some key youth in mind, to work as mentors for the younger riders …  setting examples about keeping the place clean. It’s not a place to party; it’s a place to ride and work on your biking skills. This isn’t about being cool.”

The first phase is the dirt-jump park, but the BMX track is especially exiting for McDiarmid. “With the BMX track we can actually hold races and events; the dirt jumps are pretty much just jumps.”

He also thinks the younger kids would benefit from BMX riding.

“A lot of the little kids are trying to buy dirt-jump bikes, and they’re just too big, and really heavy bikes.

“A lot of the best jumpers, free-riders and mountain bikers have a BMX background … right now they’re all jumping ahead, if we can bring it back a notch, get them on BMX’s, then the quality of riding will go up.”

McDiarmid is optimistic about his plan: “I can see the dirt-jump park being in place by the end of the summer, that would be the best case scenario, but there’s no guarantee until we find some land.”

Anyone interested in helping out can contact McDiarmid at devmcd@yahoo.ca.