MARQUETTE - The bikes are coming, the bikes are coming!
They'll be taking over Marquette this weekend for the inaugural Marquette Bike Jam, an event inspired by the Superior Bike Fest that was last run on this weekend in 2010.
"The biggest change from the Superior Bike Fest is the recreational focus we have," said Bike Jam race director Jon Becker. "Before, they had a focus on marketing to the racers and race teams, and now our focus is on the average recreational rider.
Nathaniel Williams reacts to winning a race during a Superior Bike Fest 100-mile road race in 2010 in Marquette. (Journal file photo)
"But we're trying to offer something for everyone."
One example is Friday night's Downtown Criterium being run on a course almost identical to 2010 and earlier in downtown Marquette, along a six-block course that includes West Washington Avenue and South Front, South Third and Spring streets.
Instead of 30 classes, there's now seven divisions with names that fit the recreational extreme-sport lexicon, like Dudes, Chicks, Serious, Klunker and Fat.
No, there won't be a weight minimum in that last class. Instead it refers to a division for mountain and other types of bikes with "fat" tires.
And there will be a Serious class for racers who are just that.
Before that at the Marquette Commons and along nearby Main Street will be a sponsor and vendor expo, kids' bike rodeo and bands playing, while later in the evening will be a movie shown outdoors in the Delft Theater parking lot.
As with the Superior festival, Saturday's itinerary begins on rural roads and ends with events at Marquette Mountain.
But rather than competitive events leading up to the ski hill's races, there will be recreational rides - the Traffic Jam Gran Fondo and Family Fondo, with options of 15, 50 and 100 kilometers, or about nine, 30 or 60 miles.
"We call it a 'fondo,' which the Italians call a tour followed by a feast," Becker said.
The two longer lengths start and end at Marquette Mountain with Border Grill food free for participants at a midride break and at the end.
The 15K Family Fondo is mostly along the bike path in the city of Marquette.
The ski hill then hosts the Gravity Jam events - the downhill, super downhill and dual slalom, something akin to skiing's slalom races.
The weekend wraps up on Sunday morning with the Trail Jam, cross country mountain bike races of 12 and 25 miles on the south Marquette trails in the area generally just north of Marquette Mountain.
The Marquette Bike Jam began as an idea when a number of area bicycling enthusiasts got together about a year ago to discuss bicycling events and the possibility of replacing the Superior Bike Fest.
"We had an informal planning group meet last fall, and we all said we missed the bike fest," Becker said. "As the group progressed, someone had to step up and oversee management of the event."
And that was where BlindStoker Productions came in, the group that puts on the smaller and more informal 12 Hours of Potluck on the Harlow Lake trails and Potluck Creek near Wetmore Landing and Hogback Mountain north of Marquette.
Several other organizations are involved with this year's event, including the Noquemanon Trail Network, the Kitch Mi Kana Cycling Club, Range Mountain Bike Club, the YMCA Strong Kids campaign and the Northern Michigan University police cadets, who are providing marshals and security for the criterium.
The event's title sponsor is River Valley Bank, with major sponsors that include Classic Auto Collision, Border Grill, Getz's, Marquette County and Downtown Marquette Association.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.