The Lake Cunningham Action Sports Park in San Jose, California is the latest in a growing number of urban bike parks hitting the radar of bike park loving dirt jump enthusiasts. Spots like Calabazas and Red Devil put the area on the map for years, with the resulting scene cultivating a number of pro BMX and mountain bikers. Although San Jose has enjoyed long storied history as a BMX destination, it faded in recent times due to high profile lawsuit that shut down Calabazas.
Dirt jump spots come and go though, and of the two, only Calabazas remains. Some time after the lawsuit that closed it, it was poorly rebuilt by contractors as a public park and only with a shade of its former glory.
The opening of the expanded and rechristened Lake Cunningham Action Sports Park puts San Jose back on the map, with a diverse dirt bike park experience with features that include a slopestyle course, dual slalom/MTX cross, dirt jumps, drop zone, skills area and pump tracks.
The project has been on our radar for some time and during our recent trip through the Bay Area, we made a point to stop by and experience it just a week or two after its grand opening.
The downside? Because its pay to play model, the park was completely closed when we initially planned to visit San Jose and ride. If you’re traveling, we strongly recommend visiting the website to verify hours in advance. Completely closed on Monday and Tuesday (supposedly for maintenance) it doesn’t open until noon on weekdays.
Frustration about open hours aside, the design of the park is ambitious, with 10 acres of city park land dedicated to action sports pursuits. Already the site of the largest skate park in California, this spring the new dirt BMX/MTB expansion to the park opened to the public.
Building off the existing concrete park, the large dirt pump track wraps around the fenced off skating area and is divided into two, with one section dedicated to beginners and the other more experienced riders.
The opening weekend apparently took its toll on the pump track. A number of blown out areas in the lines detracted from the flow, making it hard to maintain momentum. While still being able to hit quite a few lines including the wall ride it was a bit beat already.
Since it wasn’t running very well, after a few laps I moved on to the dirt jump lines across the way, which were significantly more enjoyable.
The dirt jump zone was fun with jumps at four different levels lined up to facilitate riders of various levels. All the jumps are easy to roll with the beginner and intermediate consisting mostly of table tops. The 3rd line in features a concrete face for the jumps and were mostly step up style landings.
I found the biggest line easist to hit as the transitions were longer on my 26″ dirt jump bike. However, keeping up the momentum to pump through the entire set took a good amount of effort — especially considering the temperatures, San Jose is hot mid-day — so I ended up transferring to the right a lot as I made my way down the course.
The jump line ends with a big curved wall ride and exits by a much appreciated water fountain.
The large starting mound for the dirt jumps also serves as the starting hill for the dual slalom course. I found it to be more of a hybrid mountain cross/ dual type of run with most of the jumps being wide table tops that served both sides. The bottom of the dual slalom ends with a climb/push back up the paved ADA friendly path.
Having brought her trail bike to the party, Inga spent the bulk of her time at the park on the dual. It enjoyed a lot of use from other riders on their trail bikes as well.
A paved path/ surface runs in a big loop around the park facilitating access for park workers, first aid and maintenance. The park is already getting a ton of use and looks to be a chore to keep running based on the hit many sections took in the short week since it opened. Fortunately water hoses spread at various points for watering and the pump track (and the other dirt areas) are designed with drains in a number of locations. From what we saw though, maintenance is limited to park staff only.
Shaded benches provide relief for downtime or parents watching kids, and with the temperatures getting quite high during our stay we took advantage of it, as well as the drinking fountains positioned at the bottom of the dirt jump course.
After acclimating to the various jumps and features throughout the park, the slope style zone ended up being my personal favorite. Not only is it one of the longest feature packed runs in the park, but the wood kickers are likely the same jumps we have at our local bike park. It made the transitions easy to get accustomed to.
Also, being set up as double black diamond level with gaps, the line on the starting hill was much smaller.
I’ve been spending a lot more time on my trail bike at our local bike park, so my flow game needed a bit of work during the day. Pedaling between jumps helped a bit as I worked my way through it all. If I was a local here a lot I’d consider gearing my dirt jumper a bit higher.
Like the dirt jump zone the slopestyle run features multiple levels for progression. I again found the larger jump easier to negotiate on my dirt jumper, and really enjoyed running laps down the slopestyle course as I dialed it all in.
After the first few sets, the slopestyle changes things up with a hip jump into a wall ride followed by a turn, another curved wall ride and even more banked wood turns.
That leads to a whole another straight with even more features, like this step up to whale tail style feature.
The slopestyle run is flanked by a beginner drop line suitable for conquering basic drops and ties to a skills run that goes around the entire park. It doesn’t quite flow through the park but should faciliate riders looking to learn the basics.
Pay to play
We recommend doing a bit of home work and paying for parking off the bat, as the park features what seems to be a growing trend in cycling: a pay-to-play model with fees for parking as well as admission. You’ll want to stay on top of getting the parking paid for – we saw no less than 4 rangers walking the lot writing a significant number of tickets.
Besides the $6.00 parking fee, there is a $7.00 entry fee to partake in use of the facilities. (I’ve reached out to parks for more information but have yet to receive a reply; no word on if there is a price break for lower income kids/riders at this time)
Riders do receive value for their dollar. Amenities of the park include a number of free bicycle and skateboard repair stations, maintenance staff, a shaded patio with heaters and fans, wifi and a watering system. With the use this park is destined to receive, park staff will undoubtably have their hands full.
The Lake Cunningham Action Sports Park is easy to locate at 2305 S White Rd, San Jose, CA. 95148.