When Claudio Caluori isn't managing his professional downhill team Scott-Velosolutions or doing course previews and commentary at World Cups, he builds pump tracks and trails. Claudio's company Velosolutions are renowned for their pump tracks which they have built all around the globe, including South Africa and Lesotho. With the help of Maryke Zietsman and her music industry knowledge, Claudio is hoping to build many more pump tracks for developing communities in South Africa through their #pumpforpeace initiative.
#pumpforpeace launched with a concert and the opening of a pump track in Lesotho. The project is now coming to South Africa. Why did you pick Southern Africa to kick off this global cause?
The #pumpforpeace idea was in our heads for a long time, but we never quite found the right opportunity to kick it off. When we built the Velosolutions Pump Track for Eduplex in Pretoria, things started to shape up. I met Maryke, who’s job it is to “make music happen” and soon after, I had a call from Tobias Steinigeweg, who wanted me to be part of his film expedition through Lesotho. See “Following the Horsemen”. We connected the dots: Velosolutions built the first #pumpforpeace pump track and Maryke organized the first concert for it.
The first #pumpforpeace pump track opening and music concert took place in April at the Roma Trading Post in Lesotho.
From your experience, how does a pump track help to uplift a developing community?
Velosolutions pump tracks are more than just a place to ride bikes. They bring people together. No matter where they come from, no matter what age, no matter if beginner or pro, no matter whether they ride the pump track with bikes, skateboards, inline skates, scooters, or even just run on it. Velosolutions pump tracks provide places to learn and live tolerance in a healthy environment - and they are certainly a lot of fun.
What motivates you to take time out to support an initiative like #pumpforpeace?
I’m not taking time out for this. This is what it’s all about! What could possibly make you happier than seeing that what you do makes other people happy?
#pumpforpeace is not only about building bike tracks: music development is also an important part. How important is music in your own life?
Music is very important to me. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to connect my world of sport with the music world. Maryke is currently making it a reality!
What comes across in your course preview runs is an absolute love for riding bikes. How did you get started, and what is it that you love most about riding bikes?
Well, I got started while training for ice hockey on a bike. But then riding bikes became more important to me than playing hockey. Downhill came four years later. Nowadays, we’re so busy building tracks all over the world, that I really only get to ride DH at the World Cups. Otherwise, I’m lucky to get a quick lap in on the XC bike. But I love that just as much.
The Velosolutions pump track in Thailand.
How did you find that you had a passion for building pump tracks, and how did Velosolutions come about?
Building tracks, in general, came together with riding, without even planning on making this my job. We’ve always been building some sort of tracks, jumps or trails. The pump track story began with a little track in Zurich, that I built together with the Swiss National XC trainer Andi Seeli in 1999. Then, 10 years later, my friends Pete Stutz and Fabian Vollrath organized the track to be fully rebuilt, officially with the city of Zurich. After that, one project followed the other, and we got more and more into it, to the point where we’re building them worldwide now.
You appear to be a busy man. How do you make time for all your responsibilities and projects around the world?
Most of all, having good partners, workers, and friends. In many cases, one person can be all three of them.
Also, not much sleep, a lot of love and passion for my work! You know, it really gives you a lot of energy when you see kids smiling on something you’ve just built.
How many pump tracks has Velosolutions built? Which pump track are you most proud of?
We’ve never really counted. In 2016, we’ve built 25. There will be a lot more this year. There are plenty of tracks that are such good memories. New York City, Thailand, Bali, India, and Lesotho… I can’t name one particularly, but I’m grateful for all these experiences.
The pump track Velosolutions built in New York.
Where do you find the inspiration for new pump track designs?
I’m drawing pump tracks almost daily. I use elements that we know that work, and I add a bit of something to try out. When I see how some riders are using them differently, I add some new features according to that. Sometimes we are forced to change things on site because of unforeseen things, and if our adjustments are good fun to ride, we might use them on future builds.
What’s the hardest part of the build and how long does it take to design and build a track?
The hardest part is certainly working with the asphalt, which can be brutal, depending on where in the world you are. The time for the construction depends on the size, but we usually build our tracks within 3-5 weeks.
Laying the asphalt is the most labour intensive part of a build
Your pump tracks seem to be mostly asphalt. What is the advantage of this surfacing?
Lots of grip and therefore endless line options, low rolling resistance, sustainability / no maintenance, clean, rideable in the rain, rideable with bikes, skateboards, inline skates, and scooters. The options are endless.
A quick unrelated question: How scary was the Red Bull Rampage course compared to your other downhill course previews?
Oh, this is not even comparable. If you’re scared of heights like I am, Rampage is really NOT where you want to be.
An aerial view of the Eduplex pumptrack in Pretoria.
Maryke Zietsman - The Project Room
How did The Project Room and yourself get involved with Claudio and Velosolutions?
When Claudio and I met we realised we had a similar vision in terms of changing the world that we live in, even if it's in a small way, although neither of us tends to think small. Combining the vision we both had and the strength of our companies in the different sectors we work in made perfect sense, we both believed that sport and music combined could make even more of a difference. If we could find a way for those elements to hold hands the message would be stronger and more powerful… well, here we are… changing the world one pump track and one music show at a time.
It's not only cycling benefiting from #pumpforpeace. How does it help aspiring musicians?
We are combining forces with music charities and NGOs in every city/country we hold a show or build a track in. At the moment, we are focusing on supplying instruments to those charities to support good work that is already being done, where we can we will arrange workshops with established artists to further the cause. I would like to see every kid have the opportunity to play a guitar, those are the smiles that make me happy.
#pumpforpeace Concert and Enduro - 12 August - Wolwespruit MTB and Trail Park in Erasmuskloof
After a rocking launch in Lesotho, global sports & music upliftment initiative #pumpforpeace is hitting South Africa with a series of exciting outdoor benefit concerts, starting with Pretoria.
With iconic acts Karen Zoid and The Parlotones confirmed to headline 12 August at Wolwespruit MTB and Trail Park in Erasmuskloof, a whole feast of other artists will be announced soon.
In the spirit of the initiative - celebrating music as well as an active lifestyle - the Pretoria #pumpforpeace event will kick off with a short-form mountain bike enduro race followed by a full day of live tunes.