Kid Bay Area Bike rides: Dirt World Bike Park in Richmond
I decided to take a different route home after teaching a bike class that ended at Richmond BART, and headed to Dirt World in Richmond (4 21st St, Richmond, CA) to check it out. I'd heard for a while now that it was a fun place to take kids to ride on some dirt and do some small jumps. But I hadn't had the chance to go. (here is their Facebook page, which appears to be their main information hub)
Dirt World was finished in 2018, 4 years after Dennis Hoskins II and Jasmin Malabed conceived of the idea and led construction. They wanted to build a place for their son and other kids to practice BMX skills and mountain biking. Construction companies donated dirt, and a large group of volunteers helped clean up the space. They raised funds via GoFundMe, Title Nine Sports, and Rich City Rides.
It's located along the Richmond Greenway trail, a short bike ride from Richmond BART. It's also near Unity Park.
As I started exploring the tracks, I rode up to the highest point to see the view (you could see Mount Tam) and look over the other side where I had heard sirens from a fire truck. A few moments later, I heard someone call out "Hey, is that Phil!?" and realized that a friend and his two children were around the corner at the park.
Dirt World Riding Overview (for kids)
It looked like there are 3 separate tracks at Dirt World that roughly fall into the Small, Medium, and Large categories. I don't know the nomenclature too well, but there is "a two-rider BMX track, four separate jump lines, a dirt quarter pipe, a dirt pump track, and a paved pump track".
The Large one has a few big jumps with gaps in them that you have to clear to continue riding. In other words, there are big curved ramps on either side with a small gap in the middle. I was riding my commuting/gravel/touring bike and I did not ride this trail. I don't have any BMX or much mountain biking skill, so I wouldn't have with a mountain bike either!
The medium track was partly overgrown with weeds when I visited. It'd been a rainy winter and spring, so this is not unexpected. The cleared out parts seemed manageable for me on a mountain bike, and I think I could have done them on the bike I was on if I had lowered the tire pressure and my seat a bit. This track would be fine for kids who feel okay trying some bumps on their mountain bike. It's easy to get off the bike and walk, or just stop if kids feel uncomfortable. If kids do feel comfortable, they can try some small jumps and ride the track at a higher speed.
The smallest track is a small, paved pump track. The smallest of my friend's kids wanted to show it to me, and dad gave a demo:
This small track is mellow enough for riders on balance bikes to have some fun on, but also has features so that older riders can still test their skills.
Dirt World: Ride difficulty
Since there are a number of different tracks and portions of tracks, there's pretty much something for most ability levels. One probably has to be at a pretty advanced skill level to handle some of the jumps, but anyone who rides there certainly isn't required to ride that portion of the track. Kids on balance bikes can enjoy parts of it, and people who want to catch some air during some jumps can as well.
Dirt World: Ride distance
Singletracks.com seems to indicate that it's 2.1 miles of track, this seems a little high to me?
Dirt World: Ride duration
It's not a giant space, so depending on the interest level of the kid, I'd guess that kids could manage 30-60 minutes of riding here. Kids that are super-excited about jumps and so on would obviously be happy to stay for longer. The Richmond Greenway is path that is easy to walk and bike on, though, and is car-free aside from street crossings, so this could be extended into a longer ride. But some of the roads nearby have a lot of high speed car traffic and are not great for riding with kids.
Getting to Dirt World
Getting to Dirt World via BART is pretty simple. It's a short 0.7 mile ride. You exit the west side of the station, and then head south on 16th street. 16th does not have a dedicated bike lane, but is relatively low traffic. Once you approach the Richmond Greenway, you ride onto the trail, and then take a left and ride for 5 blocks on the car-free Greenway, with one final street crossing. The main difficult sections (in terms of riding a bike with kids) would be crossing Macdonald Ave and navigating the sadly annoying number of parked cars that block bike access to the Greenway. You will need to ride up on a curb cut and take the sidewalk because there always seems to be multiple cars parked blocking the trail entrance.
What to do while there and what kids end up doing
The main attractions are the jumps and pump track, but some kids would probably enjoy heading back to the Greenway where it intersects 16th. There's a playground and the Urban Tilth Edible Forest, which are neat to explore.
The bike riding itself and what type of bike to use
Mountain bikes, BMX bikes, and bikes with fatter tires are highly recommended so that you or your kids will feel comfortable riding on the trails and bumps and jumps. You can still easily ride there with a road bike and skinny tires though.
Weather considerations at Dirt World
There isn't any shade at Dirt World, so sunblock is recommended.
Bathrooms and food logistics
There aren't any bathrooms at Dirt World, but there are bathrooms at Unity Park. It's about 5 blocks away; a very short ride by bike. Dirt World is surrounded by train tracks, a major road, park, and residential/mixed use buildings. But there aren't a ton of food options directly nearby. There is a produce market near Unity Park though, a fish and chicken restaurant, and more food options as you get a little further away, especially if you head back towards BART.
Did the kids enjoy riding their bikes around at Dirt World?
Both kids enjoyed showing me their favorite parts of the tracks at Dirt World. I told them that I'd like to go back with my mountain bike, and invite my kid and more friends.