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Tom Prochazka talks the art and science behind Gravity Logic’s massive bike parks

When Tom Prochazka started building trails for Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, he didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of its impact. To many people, the world-famous Whistler Bike Park is an absolute haven for mountain biking. Now, Prochaska’s company Gravity Logic has roughly 30 completed bike parks under its belt and consults for more than 100 across the globe.

Prochazka, who people commonly refer to as Pro and is the unofficial mayor of Whistler, aims to make each park vastly different, telling Digital Trends, “Every bike park I’ve built is close to my heart.” Yet, his process of actually building one remains consistently the same. To get an inside look at the extensive process native to Pro’s routine, we spoke with the popular designer about the steps he takes to turn ideas into biking sanctuaries.

Building an intelligence report

Fielding insider information from those who call the area home helps Gravity Logic design the perfect park

Step one for Gravity Logic is to first build out an intelligence report for any area it’s currently surveying. By initially visiting a location to see if it’s suitable for a park, Pro and his team then have the ability to determine the area’s strengths and weaknesses. This pre-planning goes a long way in allowing the company to deliver a high-quality park.

“What is this bike park going to look like? We go to the location and we analyze the land but also with what the area has already – infrastructure, restaurants, etc and then we create a plan,” Pro told Digital Trends. “We call it the Intelligence Report because it makes you smart about what you can and you can’t do. It is roughly what a business model would look like. We really want to have a solid plan before we make a design and get to the fun stuff.”

Talking to the locals

Before starting on the design phase, Pro and his team don’t just survey the immediate land but the surrounding area and existing trails, as well. By simply assessing the condition of the trails already there, he says it allows them to “make a pretty good assumption about what we are working with.”

The team then seeks locals to get a general understanding of the region’s weather patterns and history, something which proves especially important in areas which experience extreme weather and those with impactful water systems or very dry climates. Fielding insider information from those who call the area home goes a long way in allowing Gravity Logic to design a park perfect for the region.

Creating art

Once Pro and his team deem a location suitable for a set of trails, they then begin an exhaustive design process. Calling this step “90 percent art and 10 percent science,” Pro’s true specialty concerns the actual terrain and brainstorming what it might look like to have the park up and running.

Justin Olsen

“Terrain is paramount,” he added. “We next envision a bike park according to our experience.”

Known for some of the best mountain bike trails in the world — like Whistler’s Dirt Merchant, Schlepper, and Tidal Wave — Pro’s ability to see lines and work with natural features of land made him a legend in the biking world. The first question he asks himself when beginning to design is, “Does the terrain have any rideable features we can work around?” He has a catalog of trails in his head he compares and refers to when crafting new lines.

Putting tools to trail

To break ground, Gravity Logic uses a conceptual map it builds via CAD mapping, while also utilizing Mapsource for access to GPS readings. Pro then brings his machine operators — along with some of his own equipment — and uses an inclinometer to measure the slopes and angles of berms and other sections of trail.

‘The community in Guatemala doesn’t care about golfing, they care about mountain biking.’

During this process, the team also develops proper drainage systems to make sure trails don’t become inundated with rain. Recently, Gravity Logic’s new trail built in Guatemala saw the company approached by a private community who’s owner loved Vail’s connected trail network. He was also a huge fan of Whistler.

“The community down there doesn’t care about golfing, they care about mountain biking,” said Pro. “They get an insane amount of rain down there. We had to put so many drains in because if the trails get washed away, it costs so much money to put it back together again.”

While Pro Diamondback rider Eric Porter reiterated Guatemala’s affinity for mountain culture, he also pointed out the importance of Gravity Logic including efficient drainage into the park. During a recent ride, Porter saw firsthand just how critical it was for the company to get drainage right.

“The day before we went to the park, we were hypothermic on a volcano around the corner on the other side, riding ancient footpaths and it was just pouring down. There were just rivers on the trail,” Porter told Digital Trends. “So we were worried when we got to the Gravity Logic trail. But it was perfect. Everything drained off. Gravity Logic builds trails that just won’t flood.”

Another point Porter made about Gravity Logic’s skills is its ability to build for all types of riders.

“It is hard to build trails which work for a huge range of people,” he added. “The flow trail in Guatemala is something anyone could have a blast on and even their big jump trail, which had 40 or 50 feet jumps, were massive. They worked at speed but everyone else that wasn’t jumping still had fun too.”

Maintenance is key

Once Gravity Logic completes a park, Pro doesn’t just shift his thinking to what’s next on the docket. Revisiting his past projects and assuring they operate as efficiently and correctly as possible is not only important for the company’s future plans but remains a fundamental aspect of the way Pro handles his business.

“We are always excited to go back to the bike parks we work on,” Pro admitted. “We don’t come in for one year and the relationship is over. We usually work with these parks for a number of years trying to help and develop them — to manage future development.”

For the future, Gravity Logic says it’s planning upcoming projects in Italy and Austria that, Pro told Digital Trends, the company is wildly excited about. To see more about Gravity Logic’s parks visit its website and for those feeling especially adventurous, the company has bookings to its Guatemala park open now.