MARQUETTE - Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Marquette Friday evening for the kick off the Marquette Bike Jam, a weekend of cycling and bicycle celebration.
"This has been fantastic, bringing a ton of people to this city, which is known for its bike culture, both on and off the road," said Bike Jam Race Director Jon Becker of the festivities Friday evening.
Becker said more than 400 people had registered to participate in at least one race over the weekend and roughly 100 people had volunteered to help out in various capacities.
Competitors in the Klunker division of the Marquette Bike Jam line up at the start during Friday night’s races in downtown Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Friday saw the Speed Jam take place in the heart of downtown Marquette. The Speed Jam offered racers of all levels a variety of categories to enter, including a male and female division as well as a "klunker" division for one-speed bikes.
Several downtown streets were closed to facilitate the event.
The Speed Jam was also made available to the younger generations, with a separate, smaller track set up on Main Street.
The Marquette Bike Jam itinerary begins on rural roads and ends with events at Marquette Mountain.
- the Traffic Jam Gran Fondo and Family Fondo, with options of 15, 50 and 100 kilometers, or about nine, 30 or 60 miles.
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 former Superior Bike Fest.
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.
For more information and to register, visit the website www.mqtbikejam.com or email email@example.com.
Becker said he thought it was important to include people of all skill levels in the weekend's activities.
"For so many people, learning to ride a bike is such a formative thing, to have the kids here, learning to ride their bikes and ride safely is just great," Becker said.
Henry Wilson, 3, the son of Heather Prusi-Wilson and Paul Wilson, of Negaunee, was one of many racers under the age of 6 to participate.
"He loves (biking)," Heather Prusi-Wilson said of her son, adding that she was glad a children's division was part of the weekend of biking. "It's great. It's a really good way to get families into biking."
A number of vendors were set up along Main Street as well, with restaurants, bike shops and bike brands littering the sidewalks.
Matt Palomaki, of Au Train, had a tent set up for his bike customization shop, Sisu Cycles. The shop takes orders for customizable bike frames.
An avid cycler, he said it was nice to see so many people come out and enjoy a weekend of biking.
"It's great, especially for the community," Palomaki said. "It's important to get people to come out and have cycling be the reason to come out and hang out."
Palomaki's business is sponsoring a team of racers who will compete throughout the weekend, with Palomaki himself competing as well.
Marquette used to be home to the Superior Bike Fest before the event eventually shut down in 2010 due to lack of participation. The Bike Jam was created two years later, with more of a lean toward family-friendly activities rather than hardcore bikers.
For Becker, bringing a cycling competition back to downtown Marquette was a big deal, and he said the support the event has received from area residents and businesses was appreciated.
"We're really thrilled with the response and support of our sponsors and participants and spectators that just show up and watch," Becker said. "It really feels great to be embraced like this."
For more information on the Bike Jam or to view a list of sponsors, visit www.mqtbikejam.com.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.