Holy rollers

Bike Magazine visits Marquette trails

Lucas Wardell flies down one of the many enduro routes during an all-day race presented by Liv Cycling USA/Giant Bicycles Sept. 30 at the Noquemanon Trail Network’s South Trails in Marquette. Bike Magazine is visiting the area and is planning to feature the trails in its 2018 “Bike Bible” publication. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette area’s vibrant mountain biking scene will be featured prominently by a leading industry magazine come December.

Bike Magazine selected the trail system in Marquette for its ninth annual “Bike Bible,” which is what the magazine calls the most comprehensive mountain bike gear guide in the industry. In it, riders test the latest bike models and profile the local trail system where they ran the tests.

Ryan Palmer, senior writer for Bike Magazine, said testers, film crews, photographers and writers arrived in Marquette Monday and will wrap up Friday, after nearly two weeks of testing 35 models of the “latest and greatest” bikes.

Palmer said they look for communities with great ride centers, trail systems that are “close to home,” and lots of variety and mileage to create versatile test loops.

“And here is perfect because there’s lots of different terrain, from beginner all the way to expert and it’s all close to town,” Palmer said. “And it’s just a really welcoming town too. We want to be in towns that are investing in mountain biking tourism, right, that are helping to grow the sport.”

Inside the 2018 Bike Bible, there will be a 15-page feature story on the Marquette community, the people who started trail-building 30 years ago, those involved today, and the trails themselves, he said.

There will also be an online video about Marquette, Palmer said, “So there’s a lot of content produced that promotes this area.”

Palmer said they’re mostly using the Noquemanon Trail Network’s south trails.

“The trails are amazing … and they’re very good for testing bikes,” Palmer said. “There’s a lot of really great natural technical stuff and a lot of machine-built flowy trails that are really great for beginners and fun to ride for everybody.”

This is not the first mountain biking accolade for Marquette. The extensive single-track trail system — boasting hundreds of miles of trails for mountain bikers, runners, skiers and others — earned the distinction in 2015 as a bronze-level ride center by the International Mountain Biking Association. Marquette was also named the No. 1 place to bike and live by Bike Magazine in 2009.

Anna Dravland, community relations coordinator for Travel Marquette, said local businesses and community members are offering a warm welcome. She noted it’s a huge deal for Marquette to be able to reach Bike Magazine’s audience.

“Honestly, it’s a credit to all the trail organizations and the volunteers that have committed so much time to building and maintaining these trails,” Dravland said. “To see that become a nationally recognized destination by these elite athletes in the national community is really very special.”

Todd Poquette, founder of the youth-centered 906 Adventure Team and coordinator of the 906 Polar Roll and Marji Gesick races, said the attention is a positive reflection on the quality of the trails and the effort put into them.

“I don’t build trails, … but if trail-building is anything like what I’m doing, it’s a ton of work,” Poquette said. “But here’s the thing, when you’re doing what you love, you don’t look at it as work. … You’re doing something that’s driven from within your being that really can’t be put onto a spreadsheet.”

Poquette said he hopes with all the extra attention the trails are getting, the community works to ensure they are well-maintained.

“I think the key is going to be that everybody continues to work together and take a look at the impact that the attention brings to Marquette County,” Poquette said. “Have a plan, forward thinking, you know, get ahead of it, … and just at all times make sure that there’s a combined effort to … control the impact to the trails and do the right thing basically moving forward.”

Palmer said mountain biking nationally is often supported by groups of dedicated volunteers, and despite its not being considered a mainstream sport, it’s hugely popular around the country.

“When people start mountain biking, they usually do it for life,” said Palmer, who noted he’s been doing it since he was 12 years old. “It’s a sport that people get into and never let go of, and it’s definitely way more vibrant than it ever has been.”

Palmer added that he wants to thank the community.

“Everybody’s been extremely welcoming. People here are amazingly friendly and that’s a standout feature,” Palmer said. “It’s great to come here and have people just come up to you at the trailhead and just talk about the trails and ask you where you’re from, and … they have no idea that we’re here woking on a feature story. … It’s really cool, and it’s definitely unique.”

Dravland said people should keep an eye on Bike Magazine’s Facebook and Instagram accounts this week.

“As they develop content, they’re putting up stories, and it’d be a great thing to spread that energy around while they’re here,” Dravland said. “They put up two stories about Marquette already, I’d love to continue to see that engagement on social media to show them how passionate we are as a community to have them here.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.