RampPlans.Org Frequently Asked Questions


We get a fair amount of questions here at R.P.D.O. and we try to answer everybody. If we don't know the answer we'll try to find out. This FAQ comprises some of our more common questions.

As most websites warn, this is a work in progress. If you feel an answer is wrong, or you have a better one email us us and let us know so we can update the information. We've even got a couple of unanswered questions down there, that we just dare you to answer. If you've got another question, go ask it on our forums section.

We also have the world famous Dan's World FAQ which augments the information here.

1. Questions about the site
1.1. Do you have any plans for a [ fill in height ] ramp?
1.2. Can I link to you? Will you Link to me? I've created a website about ramps / my ramp, can we swap links?
1.3. Do you sell ramp plans?
1.4. Will you send me plans for ...
1.5. Your site sucks, Where are the plans?
2. Questions about Ramps in General
2.1. How do you bend the wood?
2.2. is it true that you have to change the surface of your ramp once or twice a year after your ramp is complete?
2.3. What type of surface should I use?
2.4. How do you protect your ramp against the rain?
2.5. Should I paint my ramp?
2.6. How do I draw the transition?
2.7. How do I draw an elliptical transition?
2.8. I was wondering how long a halfpipe should be cause i only have so much space 15 feet is that enough room?
2.9. How much flat should I have for a [fill in height] high ramp?
2.10. What size radius should I use for a [fill in height] high ramp?
2.11. What should I use for coping?
2.12. How do I attach the coping?
2.13. How much should the coping stick out past the ramp surface or above the deck?
2.14. How do I bend coping to fit a curve?
2.15. What size ramps are good for beginning BMX riders?
2.16. What should I know about surfacing my ramp?
2.17. What type of screws or fasteners should I use?
2.18. Can you catch air on a mini ramp?
2.19. How can I make a half pipe quiet?
2.20. How much does the wood cost?
2.21. How can I build a ramp for cheap.
3. Questions about the "R.P.D.O. mini" (3' x 12' x 21') specifically
3.1. Can I have the plans to your mini ramp?
3.2. How much did the mini ramp cost you to build?
3.3. Why did it cost that much? Can I do it for less?
3.4. what radius is the transition of your ramp?
3.5. What are the exact specifications of the ramp on your home page? ie: materials, dimensions, etc.
3.6. where did you get the plans you used?
3.7. how long did it take you to build it?
3.8. what kind of wood did you use? (and how did you get it to bend? )
3.9. have you had any BMXers ride the ramp, if yes what did they say about it.

1. Questions about the site

1.1.

Do you have any plans for a [ fill in height ] ramp?

What we have is listed in the Ramps Section of our site. If you don't see exactly what you want let us know what you wanted and we'll work on getting plans for the most popular requests.

1.2.

Can I link to you? Will you Link to me? I've created a website about ramps / my ramp, can we swap links?

absolutely! We're hoping this site will encourage you to document your ramp, so that others can learn from your experience, and get ideas for their own ramps. if your site has good ramp making information then we would be glad to link to you.

1.3.

Do you sell ramp plans?

No. We hope to over time build up a library of free ramp plans. to give away. Our first one will be the second version of the "R.P.D.O. mini" ramp featured on the RampPlans.Org site. Designed to cost as little as possible and be easy to build. We've already got the Preliminary plans available.

1.4.

Will you send me plans for ...

Everything we have available gets put on the site. we don't have anything extra to send you directly, so please don't ask. if we have anything extra we'll post it on the site as soon as we can.

1.5.

Your site sucks, Where are the plans?

Thanks. We're working on the site. just knowing that people out there still want the info helps us spend more time on it. The sad bit is we all have regular jobs now and can't spend all our time preparing ramp plans to give away to nice folks like you. Plus you know, we want to skate. ( we used to say: "We know the site is a bit sparse at the moment, and we'll fix that.", but thanks to all of you who've sent in valuable info we can say: ) While the site doesn't have all the detailed plans we want it to have yet, it's been progressing steadily, and no one's really whined at us like this in a while.

A lot of the plans we have received ( send in your ramp plans! ) have either been the heckler ramp plans , available everywhere on the web, or Tum Yeto, which every little ramp plans link page has. we've posted the links in our "From the Web" section which, incidentally has a good link or two to useful ramp plans.

We've tried to mirror a copy of what's good out there on the site, and we're working on drafting up plans for the "R.P.D.O. mini II" which we'll also make available. Of course if anyone sends in a decent set of plans for anything we'll be posting that as well.

So, don't forget to draw up some nice plans for your ramp and then send them in to us and we'll post them.

2. Questions about Ramps in General

2.1.

How do you bend the wood?

The simple answer is, you build a frame, push the wood against it, and then screw the wood down to it, but you probably wanted better advice than that.

For all but the top layer the wood should be bent with the grain. It bends much easier this way. The basic technique is to screw the bottom of your plywood in place, and have your helper(s) walk slowly up the transition bending it and holding it down with their weight against the frame as they go. Then you, and possibly others work your way up screwing in one row at a time. It's important to have the plywood held flush against the transition framing by your helper(s) when you screw it in. If you rely on the screws to pull the plywood flush, they'll pull through the plywood, or pull the plywood out of place.

One technique we use is to screw down a spare piece plywood with a straight edge to the flat bottom as a guide. The edge should line up right where you want the first transition piece to end. this piece should be square with your frame, you're going to butt the plywood for the transition up against this, and if it's not straight you're surface will crawl up the ramp at an angle which is a pain to deal with.

We've heard that some folks soak the plywood in water to make it bend easier. We've found that when your bending 1/2" plywood with the grain, you can bend it pretty tight. and 1/4", last layer type, plywood also bends pretty well without soaking. That said we did try this out once. We built a little pool using some 2x6's as a frame and a Tarp to hold the water. This seemed to help the plywood bend a little bit, but all in all it didn't seem worth the effort.

2.2.

is it true that you have to change the surface of your ramp once or twice a year after your ramp is complete?

It depends on the surface. Skatelite lasts well over 4 years supposedly. Polyboard probably will last as long as well. We went almost two years with Masonite on top, (which doesn't last well in the rain. however we're in southern California.) and that was a pretty long time for it to last. Usually not more than a year. we replaced it with polyboard.

You can make wood last if you give it a good coat of paint.

One of the most important things to making your skate surface last is building a solid frame. The more the frame can flex the more the surface flexes and stresses, don't try to save money by spacing out the joists (cross supports) too much. In the bottom half of your transition where most of the downward force hits while skating/riding, do not space the joists more than 6" apart.

The span of the joist also matters here, people have built using 8' spans, which is about the most I would recommend, we built the "R.P.D.O mini" ramp pictured on the site in 4' sections, which not only makes it strong, it makes it easier break down into sections and move if we ever have to. That cost us a little more for wood however.

The last thing that matters is how well each layer of plywood lays down on the previous layer. ( this is where You're going to need the help. ) if you aren't careful pushing the plywood into place and screwing it there, you end up with little air gaps, these will most certainly cause the wood to crack and break apart fast. Also don't skimp on the layers of plywood, always do at least 2 layers of 1/2" and then a final layer. ( the first two layers you can bend with the grain making it easier to get a snug fit. )

most ramps have 2 layers of 1/2" plywood with another layer of 1/2" or 1/4" on top of that. we originally had 1/4" plywood on this little ramp, but it's curve was very tight, and it was hard to get the plywood flush with the layer underneath. if you don't get the plywood down flush the gaps in between will allow it to flex and move and it will come apart very quickly. So get you'll want to get a good fit on each layer.

Hope that helps.

2.3.

What type of surface should I use?

There are a variety of choices of stuff you can use to surface a ramp. Skatelite, Ramp Armor, Polyboard, Sheet Metal, Rampskin, Masonite (also known as hardboard.), Mylar, and Plywood. They all have different qualities and vastly different pricing.

Skatelite _is_ expensive. about US $95 per 4'x8' sheet. ( or US $150 for Skatelite pro. ) compared to 1/4" plywood at about US $12 per sheet, but, it's supposed to last longer, We've never used it so we can't say for sure. Supposedly it lasts for over 4 years and longer, but it was only invented 4 years ago so no one knows for sure. Perhaps some of our other readers will send us an update. However we have ridden ( skateboards ) on the stuff and it's very nice. It has good traction but if you slide on it it doesn't tend to burn you. If you can afford it we'lld recommend it.

Ramp Armor is a material we're told is equal to Skatelite (we've not actually ridden the stuff yet.) It's a bit cheaper at around US $85 for a 4x8 sheet of the regular stuff and US $115 for the D-Lux. They state that they are a "skater owned company" unlike their Skatelite competitors. That seems worth supporting. They list the "Skate Park of Tampa" (Florida, USA) and the "Encinitas YMCA" (California, USA) as references, two very fine skateparks.

We recently got one piece of feedback about Ramp Armor, Mike McKee writes: "it averaged about 48 1/4 inches wide and 96 3/8 inches long. It was cut so poorly that most sheets were not square. We had to cut practically every sheet. Time to cover ramps was about 3x what it should have been."

Polyboard is also some very cool stuff. It's what Don B uses. and Fess just resurfaced the R.P.D.O mini with it. it's quite a bit cheaper than Skatelite at about US $30 per 4'x8' sheet. but it's harder to find so shipping can bring the price up. it's manufactured by Renew Resources in Canada. Polyboard curved very well. However it expands and contracts quite a bit with temperature changes so you have to make special accommodations to prevent it from buckling. It should last a lot longer than wood or Masonite.

Steel is probably the fastest, slipperiest surface available. It comes in 4'x8' sheets- just like plywood- and is available from most steel distributors (look in the Yellow pages under "Steel- wholesale/distribution" for a warehouse near you).

When buying steel, it must meet two standards: first, it must be galvanized. Secondly, it must be at LEAST 3/32" thick- preferably, closer to 1/8" thick. Galvanized steel won't rust as easily as cold-rolled steel (which is the more "common" steel)- and, it must be that thick to allow for countersinking the screws into the surface.

Painting a steel ramp takes some careful preparation. The last time I painted one, I first cleaned the entire surface with rubbing alcohol; that gets rid of the oils that the steel comes covered in from the warehouse to protect it, as well as oils left over from your skin while handling the steel, etc. You really should do this twice, just to be sure that all of the oil is off the ramp. Then, I primed the ramp, with a steel primer. Now, primer seems to be a great surface paint in itself; it's flat, not gloss- so, it's pretty grippy. And, it doesn't reflect sunlight too bad. The actual ramp that I was painting, I was asked to paint it gloss gray- it was for a skatepark- so, I rolled the paint on with a roller, which gave it a little bit of texture. And, it was about perfect, just like that.

In time, a steel ramp will get slipperier, with exposure to the sun and dust. For this, the answer is to wash the ramp in a mild Coke/water solution- believe it or not. It gets rid of the dust- and, as it dries, the sugar in the Coke actually makes the ramp grippier. Seriously, it works.

[ Steel update thanks Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

We have no experience installing Sheet Metal. We've ridden on it. It was a little slippery, but it was nice and quick. From what we've heard the type of paint you choose, usually some kind of latex, determines what the traction is going to be like. It seems you have to keep it painted. And depending on how you prep the surface your paint either stays well or it doesn't.

We also know very little about ramp skin.

the "R.P.D.O. mini" until recently used Masonite as the final surface. It's was outside for almost two years before needing resurfacing badly. Masonite was also the cheapest at about US $9/sheet. We could have made it last longer by keeping a tarp over the ramp when it rained. (it's small) of course we live in a nice climate, in southern California. The reason we chose the Masonite is because the curve we used was very tight, ( top half is a < 5' radius which most minis don't do ) this made it very difficult to get the last layer of plywood on ( with the grain ) without cracking it and / or having air gaps. The plywood we put on the first time came apart in less than 2 months due to air gaps.

Another Masonite drawback is that it can tend to burn the skin if you slide on it, where as with wood you either get a splinter or you're good.

With Masonite you have to pre-drill and counter bore, (using a drill bit that makes a space for the screw head. ) A lot of people don't do this and the Masonite will crack and flake very quickly if you don't it's part of where Masonite gets it's reputation for cracking so easy.

where there are seems under the Masonite where the plywood meets and makes a tiny crack , the Masonite has a tendency to make a linear crack there it is ok until about a few months later when the crack starts to chip away more and more. in some places i have fixed or replaced the Masonite and put strips of metal on the seems and then placed the Masonite back down the only problem found in doing that is that the screws used to hold down the metal have decided to make little circular bumps in the Masonite. [ This paragraph thanks to Trey, Charleston SC, USA ]

Mylar. We had never considered mylar, but we got this update from Larry in Lynchburg Va, USA, who practically has a skatepark built in his yard and is building a park for his church: "our ramps are covered with a sheet called mylar it is the same material that is used on the back of cabinets in Lowes or home depot you can buy it for under $10.00 a sheet it comes in an exterior grade. I find it to be the best. Once you begin to see major wear unscrew it and turn it over you get twice the use out of this. I will also treat it with Thompson water sealer. Plus I keep ever thing covered with tarps."

That seems like another interesting, inexpensive choice to add to the list. [Anyone else out there tried Mylar?]

That said, wood is our last surface to consider, if you choose a wood top layer, be sure to water seal it and paint it. this will greatly increase it's lifespan.

make sure that your ramp drains water off, don't let water sit on top of the ramp and soak in. if you have a spot where water pools, put a drain hole in. Drill a hole the size of a straw, and with caulking glue a straw down through the hole, this way the water can drain, but won't get into the sides of the hole.

In summary, We think Skatelite is good if you can afford it. Polyboard is a good choice if you can find it. Both cost less than they seem over the long term because they last longer. Only choose Masonite if you have a really tight transition, and/or are willing to keep it covered/indoors and replace it more frequently. Finally, for cheap and outdoors, choose wood, but seal and paint it.

We got the following update to this question from Don B:

Skatelite or Rampskin or polyboard

polyboard is cheapest but harder to find, if found you have to know a few things about it before using it. some sheets like luan and birch work decent with thick coats of urethane, but hard to maintain and you have to replace sheets regularly. besides those you can probably get away with Masonite in a dry climate, it wouldn't last a week here in Cleveland. supposedly an oil-based floor paint (usually grey & for basement floors) can work as a nice preservative. this may be a good alternative to urethane, it will hold up better in the sun. i would personally recommend saving money and buying your final layer first, as it will be the most expensive part of your ramp. without it, you might as well not build anything at all, and from there the expenses will be all be downhill. [ Thanks to Don B, USA ]

2.4.

How do you protect your ramp against the rain?

[ This answer thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

Protecting a ramp form the elements is something that seriously needs to be addressed before starting the ramp. This will vary, of course, on your environment.

Wet and damp conditions are the worst scenarios for wood ramps- since wood, untreated, will rot over time. As will most screws and nails, which hold your ramp together.

There are a few things you could do to prevent rot in your ramp; but, these need to be thought about in the planning stages, not after the fact.

Raising the ramp off the ground is a good start. Building the ramp on top of concrete blocks, instead of directly on the ground, will keep the wood away from grass and soil that will trap rainwater and runoff.

When building the ramp, make sure to use galvanized screws or nails. Galvanized fasteners are much more rustproof than black oxide and/or zinc coated fasteners.

Using pressure treated wood is generally regarded as being a good idea for templates or bracing that directly touches the ground. I'm not sure I agree with this. Pressure treated wood should still be painted (90 days after installation; the wood needs to dry sufficiently before it can be painted). A common misconception about pressure treated wood is that it is forever rot-proof; that's not true. The CCA chemical (copper chromate/arsenic) is meant to deter termites and other wood-eating insects- and, as a side benefit, will protect the wood from rot caused by water for a while- but, not forever. (Arsenic, of course, being a poison to insects as well as humans). Pressure treated wood needs to be handled with care; slivers can cause infection, and breathing treated wood dust can cause serious harm to your lungs (Again, Arsenic's a poison). In light of these facts, the advantages of pressure treated wood are pretty marginal when compared to carefully prepared, regular lumber.

Painting the ramp helps even more. Painting the templates and bracing before you surface the ramp is a good idea; a lot of this stuff is hard to get to once the ramp is surfaced. I go as far as to paint each piece before assembly, if it's going to be in a particularly wet environment. I use a good, gloss latex paint. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe's will sometimes have "Oops" paint available for less than five bucks a gallon; that is paint that was mixed for a [fussy] customer that ended up not matching their house, or whatever. It beats the $25 a gallon that most good paint costs- so what if it's a darker or lighter shade of red or blue? Latex has the benefit of washing up with soap and water, which is nice.

When I surface a ramp, I tend to paint every edge of the plywood, and both sides, before I install it. This completely seals the wood from every direction. Believe it or not, water will find it's way into the darndest of places- between the layers of plywood is not an exception. Painting every surface will stop the inevitable rot that would happen, otherwise.

Once the ramp is built, tarping it will help that much more. Make sure not to set the tarp directly on the ramp surface; you ramp should be able to "breathe" under the tarp, which will allow humid air and dew to escape from under the tarp.

If your ramp gets puddles in the flat bottom on a regular basis, a good idea would be to drill some 3/8" holes in the flat bottom to drain away the standing water. Make sure to paint the insides of the holes with a small brush! And, sand around the holes, as well. Otherwise, the water will seep into the holes, and immediately settle between the plies of the ramp- which will lead to rot. And, if you don't sand them flush, they may cause splinter problems later.

Most of these suggestions are still valid, even if you're using a Skatelite surface (or, something similar). Although your riding surface may be rot-proof, that doesn't automatically mean that your bracing or templates are, too.

All of these will add time to the construction of your ramp- but, will save you a LOT of time and money down the road.

[ Thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

2.5.

Should I paint my ramp?

Painting a ramp is always a good idea. Just like a house; do you see unpainted houses? Nope. They're painted to protect them from the elements. I'd strongly urge anyone to paint a ramp- especially if they're spending a lot on it. if you're going to spend serious money on a ramp, make sure it's going to last.

Plywood surfacing should be painted on both sides, as well as all edges. If not, water will get into the cracks, and get under the surface; then, the surface will rot form underneath, because it can't breathe. Painting the edges and underside of the plywood will help with this a LOT. I tend to build the entire ramp, without the surface; paint the whole thing; paint the surface sheets on all sides; then, install the surface. It takes time. It's worth it.

[ Thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

2.6.

How do I draw the transition?

There are two methods for this. The string-compass method, and the board-compass method, but they are basically the same. ( what's a compass? go ask a trig teacher. )

For the string-compass method, the basic idea is to anchor a piece string on one side, and tie a pencil to it at the point that marks the length radius you want to use. Keeping the string tight you just pull the pencil along drawing the curve.

For the board-compass method, the idea is the same, but the board-compass method is a little more precise. Instead of a piece of string you use a board. You hammer a nail through one side where you would have anchored the string. (but keep it loose so it will spin. ) you drill a hole where you would have tied the pencil. Then holding the pencil through the hole, spin the board. we've found that using a 1" strip of plywood works well for this.

with both of these methods you'll want to make sure the place you anchor the pivot point is 1 radius distance away from where you want the transition to start. It makes sense if you think about it. The point is you want to think about it. Typically people leave room at the bottom of the transition for a 2x4 if they're building a half pipe. If they're building a quarter pipe that's suppose to come right to the ground they start the transition right at the edge of their plywood.

pictures would be good here. we'll try and get those up. if you can draw these kinds of pictures. please send them in to us.

2.7.

How do I draw an elliptical transition?

I'm sure you've heard of the String-Compass Method of describing the circular transitions of a ramp. Describing elliptical transitions is very much the same, exploiting the Law of Ellipses. Instead of using one nail and a straight length of string, this time you use two nails and a loop of string, which is wrapped around the nails. Take your pencil and pull the string until the pencil and two tacks make a triangle. Then begin to trace out a path with the pencil, keeping the string wrapped tightly around the nails. The resulting shape will be an ellipse. [ Thanks to Justin Shaefers, Dallas Texas, USA ]

To draw an ellipse knock 2 nails parallel to each other in to a piece of wood the nails should be a little bit closer together than the longest part of the ellipse then tie a piece of string between the two nails the string should have enough slack that when you put a pencil in it and pull the slack taut in line with the two nails the point of the pencil will be on the the point of your ellipse (does that make sense?) then pull the pencil round keeping the string taut this should draw half an ellipse repeat on the other side for a a full ellipse. you can also play around with how close the nails are this will alter the ellipse. [ Thanks to Chris Seaman, Sheffield, England ]

Paul Cagle drew up this image:

which illustrates that method. he also pointed out this website which talks about drawing ellipses.

Get your string at the right length for your radius (e.g 5' radius = 5' of string) then attach it to a circular object that is more than 2' (e.g a really big bucket)As you swing it round to draw your transition the radius will decrease as it gets caught around the object.This will draw a decreasing radius which I have found is good for launch ramps. [ Thanks to Danial ] [ not sure if the math on this one is actually an ellipse but you probably don't care ]

2.8.

I was wondering how long a halfpipe should be cause i only have so much space 15 feet is that enough room?

The length, width and height of a ramp are probably the most important factors to consider when planning your ramp. This can have a serious impact on how "fun" your ramp is or is not, not to mention safety. Things to take into consideration are the amount of flat, transition length, platform depth, overall ramp height, length and width you can fit into your space. This is THE area that I've [ Miles Sims ] seen a lot of first time ramp builders (including myself) spend too little time on and it can really come back to get you in the end. Spending $300-$400 on a death trap is not cool.

That said, almost no space is too small to put a sweet, shred-able ramp if planned correctly. For a half-pipe I would say around 17-18 feet of length is about the [ bare ] minimum, you can go a little smaller but your ramp will be tight and quick which could get ugly depending on your ability. About 8 feet wide (1 sheet of ply) is the bare minimum for width. 12 feet is about the ideal width for a 2-3ft mini and the minimum for anything taller than 3 ft. For flat anything less than 6ft can get pretty tricky. This has a lot to do with your ability and being able to get ready for the next trick. You can play with this number a bit for smaller ramps but a ramp taller than 3ft has to have a good amount of flat. With 17-18ft of length and 12ft of width you can fit a nice little 2 footer with 6 ft of flat and 2 foot platforms. You could go up to 3ft. in height but anything higher may get too tight.

The second thing to consider is your ability. Its all about the transition to platform ratio. The [ larger the radius of ] your transition the more laid back it is and [ that will cause your platform to have to be shorter to still fit in your space because a larger radius rises more slowly ] If you go with more than a 5-6ft transition on a small 2ft or 3ft ramp you're not going to have much room for platforms with only 17-18ft. Doesn't sound like a big deal but it sucks when only one person can be on the ramp at a time or you get hung up on the back side of the ramp trying to do a fakie rock. Just make sure you are comfortable with the transition and I would say 18" is THE minimum for platforms, and thats pushing it. If you are building your ramp in a garage (like I did) you also have to consider the ceiling height and anything hanging down from it. One good thing to do is get a ladder and stand on a few of the steps to figure out what will work. See what feels right and make sure you have room to move around on top of the ramp. Also make sure you are clear of garage door hangers, openers, lights, overhead storage, etc. Don't forget to figure in the height of your flat as well, it can make a difference.

Once you have figured out how long and how wide your ramp can be, start thinking about the platforms. Shoot for 2ft or more and see what you have left for transition and flat. Messing around with these numbers and looking at other ramps should give you a good idea on what size ramp you can really fit in your space. [ the depth of your transitions, or length they'll take up on the ground can be calculated with this formula: d=r*sqrt(1-(1-h/r)^2) where d is the depth, h is the desired height, r is the radius and sqrt() is square root. you can punch that into excel or something if you don't understand it ]

Most of [ these ] recommendations are for the minimum. If you have more space than 4 referenced above then get at it! The goal is to build something that is fun, challenging and safe. I try to build ramps that push my ability as a skater and are fun to session. Finding that "happy place" is what its all about! [ Big Thanks to Miles Sims - Austin Texas, USA ]

2.9.

How much flat should I have for a [fill in height] high ramp?

This is a subjective question. Which means it's a matter of personal opinion. So we'll give you a rough idea, and then we'll give you some other stuff to consider to modify the decision on your own. You can also get some second opinions by asking about your specific choices on the rampplans.org forums.

here's a pretty good rule of thumb. Take the height of your ramp and add 5 feet. you should use at least that much flat bottom. But feel free to adjust that as you see fit. It's a pretty good rule to use for your minimum. you could add as much as 4 feet to it. if you go less, don't go very much less or your ramp will get difficult.

The thing you're really planning for with flat bottom is the amount of time you have to recover from one side of the ramp and prepare for the opposite side. The more time you have, the less crazy the ramp is. However, the more time you have the more speed you'll loose. That's the tradeoff.

Time across the flat is a factor of distance (amount of flat) and speed. (how fast you're going across the flat.) generally the taller a ramp, the faster you'll be going and therefore you'll need more flat to have the same amount of time across the flat as a shorter ramp.

The next thing to factor into your decision is that time between each side includes the time you spend in the transitions. If the transition is tighter (smaller radius, steeper.) Then you spend less time in it. Less time in the transition is less time between each side of the ramp. So, the tighter your ramp, the more flat bottom you might want to have. Also with a tighter transition things are more difficult so having more a little more flat can help a lot with recovery and setup.

One last thing people like to consider when planning how much flat they're going to use is to make the final layer line up with even sheets of plywood. These means calculating the arc length of your transition + how much vert you have multiply that by 2 sides add the minimum flat needed and then round up to the nearest multiple of 4' this helps result in the least amount of scrap.

2.10.

What size radius should I use for a [fill in height] high ramp?

This is a subjective question. Even more subjective than how much flat to use. [ and right now it needs a good answer] You can get varying opinions on the rampplans.org forums.

2.11.

What should I use for coping?

We recommend black pipe (your basic steel pipe). You can get it from a plumbing supply place. Others use galvanized pipe or PVC pipe. With PVC pipe sometimes folks put a wooden dowel through it to keep from cracking it.

Bud Stratford, [ Muncie IN USA ], had this more in depth answer:

I use Hot Rolled Angle iron; Hot Rolled Flat Steel; Cold-Rolled Steel Tube; Black Iron Pipe; Galvanized Electrical Conduit; white PVC pipe; and, gray PVC tubing depending on what I'm building, and how I want it to grind.

Hot rolled angle is what I use on my rails and boxes; it measures 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 3/4" thick. It has a stickier grind that feels the most like concrete ledges. And, it's pretty cheap.

Hot rolled flat is what I use on the edges of my bank ramps. Again, it has a stickier grind- and, it's cheap, too. This coping allows me to grind up the edges of the ramps, as well as ride up them. It adds just a little extra fun, that's all.

Cold-Rolled steel tube is what I use on most mini-ramps, vert ramps, and street obstacles with round coping. All of the above is best bought at a steel distributor. In this tube, I use 1 1/2" or 2" round exclusively, with a 1/4" wall thickness. It has a slippery grind- but, not too slick. Some vert ramps use round coping as large as 2 1/2", maybe 3". It's a personal preference.

Steel warehouses will also typically cut these to size, for you. A major bonus.

Black Iron Pipe is available through most plumbing distributors. It's a rougher steel pipe that grinds more like pool coping; I used this recently on my mini ramp. I like it. It's about 1 1/2" round, and comes in 10' lengths; it's good.

PVC tubing comes in two colors: white, and gray. The white is typically used in home plumbing, slick, and tends to break in cold temperatures. I much prefer the gray PVC conduit; it's used to insulate wires in electrical circuits, and extreme plumbing duties. It's less prone to breaking, because it's a shade softer, and more forgiving of lower or higher temperatures. Both of the above are available through plumbing supply stores, as well as the millions of Home Depots and Lowes' out there.

Also available at the Lowes'/Home Depots of the world are IMT Conduit, and Ridgid Conduit. They're both used in office buildings to house bundles of wires within the walls safely. Both of them are a galvanized steel pipe, about 1/8" think, and they come in 1 1/2" and 2" round, typically. They're sold in 10' lengths, and are found at electrical supply departments/stores. The galvanized pipe won't rust like cold-rolled steel will, and it's not as slick, either- the galvanization makes it just a little bit grippier. Hope it helps.

[ Thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

2.12.

How do I attach the coping?

We've only seen three methods, with anchor bolts, with threaded rod method or with screws. The anchor bolt method seems to be strong and easy and it's the way we recommend, but the threaded rod method may be easier, as it requires a smaller hole.

The anchor bolt method: get some large anchor bolts, large enough to go through the ramp, and into the coping. We've seen both masonry wedge anchors used and Toggle Bolts. Drill holes to fit the anchor bolts back through ramp in the place where your coping is going to sit, place the coping in place on it's shelf, covering up the holes. have someone drill back through the holes from underneath the ramp, just enough to mark the coping for where each hole is. then take the coping off and drill the holes in each of those spots, (not all the way through the pipe, just through one side. ) The coping now has holes that match up with the holes on the ramp. Put the coping back on the ramp. Line the holes up. Insert the anchor bolts through the back of the ramp, and through the hole in the coping. put a nut on it and tighten it. As you tighten it the anchor part of the anchor bolt should expand inside the coping and hold it from slipping through. Mile's garage micro illustrates this method very well. The "R.P.D.O. mini" page has a picture or two of this method in use. Also the "R.P.D.O. mini II" page has a diagram of this method.

The threaded rod method: Do it the same as the anchor bolt method but instead of using anchor bolts you use threaded rod. Drill a hole just a bit smaller than the threaded rod. Use a tap to thread the hole for the threaded rod. Then lock two nuts against each other and then use that to tighten the threaded rod into the coping. Then proceed the same as the anchor bolt method and bolt the coping from the back.

The screws method: Drill Large holes on one side. Next for each large hole drill a small hole on the exact opposite side of the coping. the small holes should be small enough for your screws to pass, but not the head of the screw. The large holes should be big enough for the head of the screw to pass and for your drill/screwdriver bit to get through. Screw through the large holes through the small holes into the wood behind the coping. Jakob Wikman's ramp shows a picture of this method. ( look for the coping and framing detail )

2.13.

How much should the coping stick out past the ramp surface or above the deck?

As with most things in ramp building this is a little bit of a personal preference thing. People have skated all sorts of stuff as coping, starting with it's namesake, pool coping which stuck out far further than anyone ever thinks about now-a-days. That said, most of the time coping comes out wherever it ends up, because it's a little hard to be exact enough about your construction to get it in the right place. but it can be done, and you should try.

The amount the coping sticks up above the deck is the amount a skateboard wheel and truck, or a BMX peg has to hang on to. usually that's chosen to be about a 1/4". The amount the coping sticks past the ramp surface is what is used to pop the rider in towards the ramp when they hit it. If thats to big it's kind of rough, and maybe not as fun. ( again, personal preferences. ) if it's too small, especially on a mini, it can make some tricks feel a little less exciting. usually this amount is chosen to be about 1/8" - 1/4"

2.14.

How do I bend coping to fit a curve?

For a single small bend the easiest thing to do is to find an electrician who has an electric or hydraulic bender. Figure out your angle and draw a template to match up to.

For large radius bending you have to look for a shop to do it. This is not necessarily easy to find. the KEY WORD here is the name of the type of bending. you need to look up "Roll Bending". We've just had some bent and they came out nice. Careful, before you waste your money having pipes rolled for a bowl corner, learn not to make the number one mistake. Don't go out and have a radius bent to the same radius as your transition. Unless your bowl corner goes all the way to vert, this is NOT the right radius for your coping. Study your trig!. [ Thanks to Don B. OHIO, USA ]

Steel coping needs to be professionally bent. To order this, you'd need to know exactly what the radius of the platform is- assuming you're building, say, a bowled halfpipe. Steel will bend very, very slightly, by hand- so, you do have a little tolerance for this. But, it's not a lot. Call your local steel warehouse to find someone in your area that can do this for you. Also: order it a little longer than you think you'll actually need; you can always hacksaw off a little, to make it fit perfectly.

Gray PVC bends easily; that's one option if you're using bent coping. It's the only coping that you can actually bend, yourself. [These last two answers Thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

2.15.

What size ramps are good for beginning BMX riders?

a [ mini ] halfpipe should be around 16 feet wide and usually a great height is 4.5 feet tall with transitions that you are okay with for grinding, and 5 foot deep decks. A BMX ramp is the most expensive but definitely the best way to build a ramp you can grow with. [ Thanks to Mike Sell - The Burly bikes crew, USA ]

[ Some more opinions would be good here ] ...

2.16.

What should I know about surfacing my ramp?

Now there's a good question. There's lots of answers here are some of them:

Seams between different layers should never line up together. The top layer should be staggered, so that you avoid two layers having a seam meet in the same place. It's important or, you'll get noticeable kinks in the transitions. [ Also, water can get deeper into the ramp though seams ]

The bracing should always be doubled up where seams meet, for the same reason. Everywhere that a seam ends up, install another 2x4 under it, just to be safe. This gives you something to screw into, as well as lessening the kinks. [These last two answers Thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

For every layer of surface be sure to screw into the joists. it is not ok to screw in one layer of surface to the plywood beneath it. Every screw should hit a joist. You should use a screw pattern for each layer so that you know exactly where the screws are in the layer below, and you can keep each screw at least an inch apart. to help avoid splitting the joists (not to likely) and to avoid hitting a screw head underneath. (far more likely than you think.)

Use screws not nails. (at the very least never use screws for the final surface layer.) Nails have a tendency to pop up quickly and tear people to shreds.

2.17.

What type of screws or fasteners should I use?

[ The following answer thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

I use only two types of fasteners: Spiral Cut deck nails, and Galvanized deck screws.

Spiral cut deck nails are galvanized (so they won't rust), and have a spiral cut into them, kind of like a screw- so, they won't pull out as easily as a common/box nail. I use these, sometimes, to hammer bracing into transition templates. They hammer in quick- but, hold tight in the wood, like a screw.

Galvanized deck screws have a coarse thread (unlike drywall screws, that have a fine thread- so, they're almost as prone to pulling out as common nails, over time), and are also rustproof.

Deckmate screws are by far the best screws on the market. I get mine at Home Depot, and they use a special bit that's a combination of a Phillips and square drive; this stops virtually all stripping of the heads (caused by a plain 'ol Phillips bit jumping out of the head of the screw, and spinning the screw head into shreds). They're also coated with this stuff called Evercoat; it's basically a really, really good, rustproof primer. They're a little more expensive than plain 'ol galvanized deck screws- but, they're money well spent, considering fewer destroyed screws, and a lot fewer headaches, too.

2.18.

Can you catch air on a mini ramp?

The simple answer is yes. The more complex answer is maybe it depends what you consider air.

For skateboarding you essentially have to ollie into it, practice frontside ollies until you get them up or over the lip. Once you get used to that grab frontside right after you crack your ollie. grab firm but quickly, let go and stop your board back in the ramp while watching your back wheels come below the coping. If you're having a hard time getting your grab in then try to bend your knees more before you ollie and pull them up quickly as you ollie. bring your board up to your hand. if you still need more time, carve into it more.

next, try backside ollies. carve into them good, pull your front foot back real far and crouch real low for the ollie. pull your knees up fast and rotate at the same time. when you stomp it down you should stomp out the last of the rotation. your back foot has a lot to do with finishing the rotation on the way in. [ thanks to Don B. OHIO, USA ]

for BMX, ( we got a lot of answers, because we got behind on updating them. ) [Michael (spongebob @ ....com) writes] it is possible to get air on a mini with a BMX bike? Yes it is, someone here in Lebanon, Ohio at the YMCA zoo park did it easily. [Aaron Hummel writes] yes it is [possible to catch air on a mini]. [However] the best [size mini] for that is about a [5 or] 6 foot mini. [ so not to small a mini. ] [ David Dudek writes,] BMXers can definitely get air out of minis. I'm not sure on small ones ( 2 - 3 ft) but above that we can blast. Nate Wessel (Pro) can get about 7 ft out of a 6 ft mini. [ And finally, "Billythekid190" wrote] any ramp that is at least three feet tall is fun for BMXers. any size spine is fun, if you are good enough. the little ramps are good to learn tricks on so you can do them on the bigger ones. and yes you can get air with a bike on a three foot mini. just make more of a long arc as you leave and enter back into the ramp instead of going straight up and down.

For inline skates, we've heard that the closer to vert a ramp is (even a very small mini) the better it is for inline airs.

2.19.

How can I make a half pipe quiet?

This is a tough question, so this answer is somewhat of a list of guesses. You can close up the back of the halfpipe we did this and it seemed to help a little. Fill in the back of the halfpipe with some sort of sound deadening material. Dirt is probably the cheapest and would work the best. We're pretty sure if you fill up the back of a halfpipe with dirt this will work really well. Add layers of sound deadening material between the layers of your substrate, such as tar paper for roofing. Use a surfacing or substrate material that deadens sound, polyboard would be a very good choice.

If you have experience with any of these solutions or know of others, please let us know how it went so we can get this question answered better.

Brian Pittman had some good things to add:

At some point your half pipe just gets too big to use dirt to reduce sound. Unless you're really psyched about moving mounds of dirt I'd advise against it. Putting dirt up against the wood has the added disadvantage of encouraging all kinds of wood-eating bugs, mold, and mildew. And if you've got a permanent or semi-permanent structure in mind (more than 1 or 2 years) you've got to stick with solutions that provide longevity.

When I permitted my ramp, the local city recognized sound as a potential issue and required me to close in the back of my ramp with plywood. This is the strategy at just about all Vans skate parks. At about $6 to $10 per sheet, just buy 1/4 inch ply and slap it up. For my 16 foot wide halfpipe, it took six sheets on the back and three for the sides, so about $70 for each side. An 8 foot wide mini ramp may come in at $50 for both sides. [ Thanks to Brian Pittman ]

Another cheaper option is to scrounge around carpet store dumpsters and staple discarded carpet scraps in 4- or 8-foot sections to the back of the ramp. Carpet is about the best noise insulator you can find - just ask your neighborhood garage band. [ Bud Stratford, reports that this method worked very well! ] Just do yourself a favor and avoid carpet scraps that are saturated with dog piss.

[Another] good cheap way of sound proofing a mini-ramp or half pipe is by standing up old mattresses. They are usually easy to find. Just ask around for people getting a new bed. [Thanks Slade Buddy]

Another idea involves the hollow-metal sound that you get when you grind steel coping. You can fill the coping with sand, and plug the ends with dowels. That cuts down on coping noise a lot.... [Thanks to Bud Stratford, Muncie IN USA ]

Posit L had this to add:

if you use a barrier of plastic between the bottom of ramp and the backfilled dirt for sound deadening it will help to combat insects and mildew.

The main thing you need to do in order to silence a mini is to shut the coping up. sand works but fill it with concrete, make a watery slurry, stand coping up, plug one end and pour in other from off ladder. Since it is so heavy now you can keep it in place with plumbers tape (bendy metal strap with holes) on the last inch or so, were nobody grinds.

Don't forget to "vibrate" it, you can use a piece of all thread or rebar, just ream it in there and slush it all around, you don't want any air pockets. enjoy also its best to use construction grout,(no rocks in the mix) about 8 bucks a bag, one bag should do a 12' wide mini.

2.20.

How much does the wood cost?

Wood is a commodity item, which means the price on it fluctuates all the time, from lumber yard to lumber yard, from day to day. Your best bet is to call your local lumber yards, (even home depot) and see how much you can get the wood for.

2.21.

How can I build a ramp for cheap.

This is a tough question. If you build a ramp to cheaply it will wear out faster and you'll end up spending more on it in the long run. So if you're planing on building a cheap ramp, be sure you don't plan on keeping it year after year. That said, here's what can be done to try and save money.

Think smaller, the smaller the ramp you plan the less materials you'll need.

Use 2x4 joists sparingly, plan your ramp with the joists 8" apart in the transitions, and 16" apart in the flat bottom, and decks. Careful though, don't space the joists out too much, you can end up busting through, rather sooner than you might expect.

Consider fewer layers of surface. If you only have one layer of CDX plywood this can save you lots of money. The drawback is this: it's a recipe for a hole in the ramp fast. Even more so when combined with wider spacing on the joists. So if you go this route, budget in a few more sheets of plywood to replace ones that break early on. (Also be aware you'll probably spend more over time, replacing the surface so don't do this if you plan to keep the ramp a while.)

And last, probably the best way you can make your ramp for cheap, is not to skimp on stuff, but to scrounge scraps from construction sites (ask them what's scrap) and other places. If you're building your ramp in 4' sections all you need is a 4' length of 2x4 in a scrap pile. and for 2' decks, even small scraps are useful. [Tim Hurley - Sunny QLDAustralia writes:] "instead of using [lots] of 2x4s for the flat bottom, i flogged around 14 pallets from around town, and bolted a solid lattice of the suckers for the flat bottom, as well as for the bottom of the tabletop frame."

[On a similar note Don D writes] Many sheet metal fabrication companies throw away the pallets that their sheet metal comes on. These pallets are made of 4x4's usually 10 feet long and some times with 2x4 or 2x6 stringers. They gladly let me haul away all I could take. With some time I was able to stash away enough materials to frame up the entire ramp. Just use the 4x4s in place of the 2x4s and you have a bomb proof ramp for half the cost. [Thanks Don]

be creative with what you find, you might have to modify your design a little, to accommodate the new material, but if you're short on cash, this could be the way.

3. Questions about the "R.P.D.O. mini" (3' x 12' x 21') specifically

3.1.

Can I have the plans to your mini ramp?

Yes!

But unfortunately we just made this one up as we went along. We've never really used many written plans when making ramps. We're working on documenting plans for a second version of our little mini because so many of you have asked for them specifically. we've got them partially completed here on the "R.P.D.O. mini II" page.

3.2.

How much did the mini ramp cost you to build?

It cost about US$900.00.

at least that's what we think, we're going to pull out the receipts and list a more exact answer to this question.

3.3.

Why did it cost that much? Can I do it for less?

it's hard to build a 12' wide mini ramp for much cheaper than that. Because it takes a fair amount of materials. see the question about a materials list.

you can do it for less probably, but the tradeoffs you would make would make the ramp last less time. For instance we used pressure treated 2x4s for all the framing. This will help prevent them from rotting and getting termites. But doing without it could have saved US$100-$200. We built our ramp in 4' sections. This means we had to have extra material for the framing, we could have done it in 6' or even 8' sections and saved more material, but don't use 8' sections they'll be too weak. We spaced all the 2x4s for our transition joists 6 inches apart. You could space them further apart (but no more than 8 inches) and save a little bit.

So, with all that said, some of you will build a ramp, and tear it down within a year, so.. who needs it to last?

For even more tradeoffs check out Jakob Wikman's mini in our ramps section.

3.4.

what radius is the transition of your ramp?

That's a good question. It's got a trick answer.

We used a 5'6" radius for the bottom half of the transition, But halfway through (at about 45 degrees) we cut the transition in half to a mere 2'9" giving us a very sharp lip on which to lock tricks.

This trick is one we made up, when were two lazy to figure out how to draw an elliptical transition. It's very challenging, especially for beginners, but it's worth it in the end. It makes you a better rider.

3.5.

What are the exact specifications of the ramp on your home page? ie: materials, dimensions, etc.

when we write up the detailed plans for the "R.P.D.O. mini II" All this info will be available in a better form. However in the mean time will take a quick stab at getting this info out for the "R.P.D.O. mini".

it's 3' high 12' wide with 8' of flat bottom, the transitions take up about 6'6" in length, the radius is described in a different FAQ. and we put 2'6" decks on it. The decks are about 2' too small and the flat bottom is about 2' to 4' to small but we wanted to save space.

Materials list for the "R.P.D.O. mini"

  • 21 sheets of 1/2" plywood, (first two layers, don't skimp on this.)

  • 11 sheets of 1/4" top layer ( Masonite in our case. )

  • 6 sheets of 3/4" plywood, for framing. ( we made ours in 3 4' sections per side. you could get by with 2 6' sections per side. )

  • 11 12' 2x4s for joists

  • 16 12' 2x4s for framing. (this would be a little less if you do 6' sections per side. )

  • bunches of screws. (don't use nails)

now keep in mind this is a quick guess, until we draft the actual plans for the "R.P.D.O. mini"

3.6.

where did you get the plans you used?

well, we just sort of made them up as we went along. if we'lld actually documented them, we would have them available already.

3.7.

how long did it take you to build it?

it took us about a week. With two different people putting in about 4-5 hours a day. So about 40 - 70 man hours.

3.8.

what kind of wood did you use? (and how did you get it to bend? )

we used 1/2" CDX (just rough. ) plywood for the first two layers, and Masonite for the last layer. see the question about how to bend the wood, for more info.

3.9.

have you had any BMXers ride the ramp, if yes what did they say about it.

hmm, no BMXers have ridden our ramp.

I have a feeling that the transitions would be too tight for BMX, and the Decks are definitely short, ( 2' 4" )

we would love feedback as to what types of small ramps are fun for BMX.