Flatland riding is awesome: all riders need is a smooth flat space and they are in their element, some spending hours learning and perfecting trick after trick.
But for those wanting to catch some serious air, ramps are the way to go… and an Action Sports Park is often the solution. There’s no such thing as a standard Action Sports Park: as with Freestyle, they are all different because there are endless possibilities for positioning ramps. The overall design of a park is key because the ramps need to line up in such a way that they can be shredded to full potential.
At the highest level of the sport, a BMX Freestyle park is a purpose-built facility for BMX Freestyle riding, which incorporates various obstacles. Its layout allows BMX riders to develop a performance – called a run – which consists of a sequence of tricks involving jumps and transfers between obstacles. Creativity in how runs are assembled, and the variety and difficulty of the tricks performed are what count, and the design of the BMX park defines the type of riding that’s possible within it.
It doesn’t always follow that the bigger the budget, the better the park: it takes specialists with riding experience to design and build the right field of play. There are several riding obstacles to consider when building a good Action Sports Park. Here are some of the most common and effective ones:
An obstacle that the rider uses to jump from one side to the other. Generally, the take-off side has a steeper gradient than the landing side which makes it easier to land on. For a beginner park, the height of the jump box can be anywhere between 1.2 and 1.7 metres while the length of the deck between the take-off and the landing varies between 2 and 4 metres. Because it’s important to be able to get enough speed to jump from one side to the other, you’ll usually see jump boxes placed in the middle of the course. Jump boxes can have coping (metal pipe), but it’s not a requirement.
This is a ramp used to turn around on while performing a trick. It is also possible to start a run at the top of a quarter pipe and drop in to get speed for a jump box or another type of obstacle placed in the middle of the course. Quarter pipes can be used in multiple ways: non-vertical quarter pipes can be placed in an angle to create a hip, or they can be positioned against a wall to create a Bank to Wall, or placed next to each other to create a gap. Quarter pipes with different transitions positioned next to each other can be used for transfers.
An obstacle where two quarter pipes are placed back to back without a large platform on top. The quarter pipes are divided by single or double coping, or a small platform. On a basic park, spines can be anywhere between 1 and 2 metres tall. Generally, the steeper and higher the spine, the harder it is to do tricks over the ramp.
Other types of obstacles often found at an Action Sports Park include step-ups – where a lower take-off ramp sends riders to a landing that is placed higher up; and hitching posts – an elevated wooden, concrete or metal bar placed on top of a ramp for extra trick possibilities. Then there are rails which can be placed in many locations of the park and have different heights, shapes and forms. Add hips, ledges, a cradle and a driveway and the park is looking interesting!
As with any action sports equipment, parks must be designed and built in a way that does not present an unreasonable level of risk to riders at the level for which each park is intended. Riders are responsible for assessing whether or not any given park, individual obstacle or trick is within their ability to execute safely. And of course, all riders should wear the appropriate safety gear.
The surface of the park is usually either concrete or wood. Wood is more forgiving in a crash and is often used indoors, while concrete works well outdoors because it deals better with the weather.
Not every city has a BMX-specific Action Sports Park so riders share the facility with skateboarders, scooter riders, roller-bladers and whoever wants to have a good time and perfect their tricks.