Dirt Wurx USA - Track Building Tips
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1. Choosing The Site
2. Desiging The Course
3. Building the Supercross Track
4. Go Big with Takeoffs, Tabletops and Whoops

Building Takeoffs, Tabletops and Whoops

Sorry it's been so long between installments, a lot of you have e-mailed to let us know you weren't happy with the delay. All I can say is sorry, we have been super busy with the US OPEN, the factory test tracks, getting the drawings done for the 2003 THQ SUPERCROSS Series and shipping our production stuff ahead to Europe for the first two rounds of the World Supercross Series in Geneva Switzerland, and Arnhem, Holland, etc.

Right now the DIRT WURX USA crew is in Paris, France, taking in the Bercy Supercross and doing some advance work to get the dirt, equipment, and trucking we are going to need in Geneva set up and ready to go. I just got a spare couple hours and came back to the hotel to get this next Track Building Tips article done!

Last month we talked about rhythm sections, 3 footers, backward ski jumps and the basics of building jumps. This month, LET'S GO BIG.

The bigger jumps on your track, whether they are table tops, step-ups, or big doubles or triples are probably the most important things you will build, when it comes to making your track fun and safe to ride. A big jump doesn't have to be intimidating or dangerous. A well designed jump can be safe, fun and a confidence builder if you take the time to do it right.

Obviously table tops or step-ups or step-downs are a bunch safer to learn and practice on then any kind of gap jump, but a double can be made a lot less intimidating and dangerous if you build the landing like a table top with a nice slope down the back side. Make the gap short, maybe 30' at the maximum, then a 20' table top and a 20' long landing ramp. That way it's easy to at least jump on it, you have the safety margin of the table top itself, and as you get better you can downside it like a big dog, gain skills, and go bigger.

Building a table top starts of the same as with the smaller jumps we talked about last time. With the loader, put your first buckets on the two stakes on one end of the table top or the other. Remember to overhang the stakes to maintain your width. Fill in the middle and then go up to the desired height and slightly more. You don't have to go as much above the desired height as with a peaked jump 'cause you are not gonna crush it as much as you would rolling over the top of a peaked jump with the dozer.

Put your next buckets in front of your finished peak working your way back towards the other end of your table top. After a few buckets curl your bucket under and use the cutting edge to rake back so everything is level and even with the desired height you started off with on the peak.

If the table top is going to be a landing for a gap jump, you can just lay in a down ramp once you get to the other set of stakes marking the table top. (Do it the same way that we discussed last time when we talked about ski jumps.) When you switch to the dozer, walk in the sides and the front face of the table top first before you get on top of it. That way the top won't want to cave off when you get near the sides.

Getting the top of a table top finished and flat is a time consuming job, because as the dozer tips off the front, back, or either side, the blade will lift off the surface and leave a row of dirt sitting on the table top. It's also difficult to generate up the dirt needed to fill low spots when you are working in such a confined space. If the table top is a landing, and has a down ramp on one side, it gets a bunch easier because you can come on and off the top on the ramp side without your blade loosing contact with the surface and loosing your dirt.

Okay, so now we come to the big one, how to make a safe, fun takeoff for a big jump. All the basics remain the same of course as far as getting started: cover the stakes, stay wide enough, come up in lifts and go slightly higher than you need allowing for crush.

But, remember the dirt is going to spill naturally at about a 1:1, or maybe 1.5:1 ratio. That means for every foot up you go, the toe of the ramp is only coming out the same amount or slightly more. And that's steep, way too steep for a good takeoff on a large jump face. Even at the pro Supercross tracks, we are going about 2:1 for the triple takeoff and similar jumps, meaning the distance on the ground from where the jump ramp first starts off the flat, to the highest point or peak is twice the height of the jump. A six foot tall triple takeoff would therefore be twelve feet from peak to toe of the ramp.

For an amateur track this is still pretty steep. We would go to approximately a 3:1 pitch. Much mellower and more forgiving, a slope like this will also allow quads to hit the jump if your track will see any four wheel action. To get this longer ramp you need to put additional dirt into the lower 2/3rds of the jump face after you get the jump piled up to the right dimensions.

Use the same process as before. Place a couple of buckets on either side and fill in the center evenly. Then rake the dirt up or down the face with the edge of the loader bucket to get the approximate shape or angle of the ramp. Grab the dozer and finish it up!

Again, it's best to track up and down the face all the way across to compact the dirt a little and get an idea how close you are. It's up to you whether you want to go over the top or not. We usually don't on a tall jump face, instead we put the dozer blade over the top and press with it to level it up. Then blade the face until you've got the angle you want (3:1).

Make sure to keep it consistent all the way across the face and all the way to the top. You don't want a swell or hump anywhere in the face before the peak or it will make the riders leave the face at the high spot instead of at the top of the takeoff like they should. You also need to make sure that there isn't a lip or bump right at the top. This could make for a dangerous kicker that pitches the rear wheel up on takeoff.

One last technicality you have to think about is the belly or transition. A completely flat 3:1 (or whatever) ramp is not going to give you much lift, if any. You need a little bit of belly (curve) to the face to compress and then unload the suspension to give you that lift and nice float so you can nose over for the landing.

Of all the things we talked about so far, I guess this is the one hardest to describe and to teach you 'cause it's not a measurement or a set technique. It's kind of an art that comes with practice and feel. It's easier to grasp if you are a rider or you have the rider with you while you are shapin' it up. Too much is as bad or worse than not enough. It will be too much of a g-out and launch you like a major seat squat! Nose high or ass end high, it won't be good!

Pay attention to doing the faces right. Take your time, look at your work at intervals while you are working on it, both straight on and from the side. Is it still straight and in line with the lane? Is the ramp uniform with no swells, hollows, or kickers? Is the top edge level? Make it right!

Probably the most often asked question we get here at the DIRT WURX USA global headquarters is: "How do you make whoops?" There are a couple of choices.

First, here's how we do it at a Supercross or on a pro level practice track. We lay down a pad of dirt the right width for the lane and as long as we want the whoop section to be in total. The dirt is approximately a foot and a half deep, meaning a foot and a half above the existing grade of the racetrack surface. Then we take the loader and ride down the pad in the direction that the riders will travel and make a steep cut into the pad about 3' from the end, flipping the dirt we dig up onto the pad on the far side of the cut. We are cutting the last whoop first and will back our way back down the pad.

After the dirt is flipped up, we get the top and front face shaped up a bit with the bucket, then roll the loader down into the cut and up and over the dirt we piled up. Do it all the way across . This rounds the bottom of the "v" cut we made and rounds and packs the first whoop. After we get it packed all the way across we put the bucket over the back side of it and curl over as we backdrag to take out tire tracks and other imperfections. Take a look at the picture and you will get the idea.

Spacing is approximately 8' top to top. And the front side of each whoop is much steeper than the back, because it's the side we are working. This is all good for pros, but probably too much for an amateur track.

For amateur whoops you gotta use a different method. You can pile 'em up one by one with the loader and roll 'em in as above. This gives you a bunch more control over their height and shape than cutting them into a pad, but it's much slower. Or you can make the pad as above, but then cut the whoops with the dozer. The dozer gives a flatter, more forgiving face, mellower bottom, and wider spacing that makes the whoops a lot more friendly.

Okay, that's a bunch for this month. We probably won't do another track tip for awhile, since the new season is right here. Check out the race schedule section to get the latest info.

Rich Winkler, Dirt Wurx USA


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