MARQUETTE - If mountain biking keeps you healthy, Marquette might be the place to do it.
The website TheActiveTimes recently named Marquette as one of America's top mountain bike towns, a list that made it into USA Today.
Bicycling is an active form of recreation that not only is healthy for the cyclist's physical and mental well-being, it's good for the environment too because no fossil fuels are being used to get from one place to the other - unlike cars and trucks.
A local mountain biker enjoys a Marquette-area trail recently. The Marquette area was named among the top mountain biking locations in the U.S. by a biking website. (Journal file photo)
And although some degradation of the local environment might be inevitable, the International Mountain Bicycling Association said bikers can lessen their impact by adopting a few simple rules, such as staying on the trails to avoid trampling the natural landscape.
Whatever the reason for a local resident to hit the trail on his or her mountain bike, the Marquette scenery and landscape aren't hard on the eyes.
Kristin Butcher wrote for TheActiveTimes: "Located in the far northern reaches of Michigan, Marquette's growing status of mini-mountain bike mecca makes living in the Upper Peninsula an appealing proposition even for those unaccustomed to 11 months of winter."
Phil Ott, owner of Quick Stop Bike Shop at 1100 N. Third St., acknowledged mountain biking is popular in the area. In fact, it's grown to make up most of the shop's business.
"The terrain is great here," Ott said. "Being close to town and having access to terrain is huge."
Stephen Andreae, manager of Lakeshore Bike at 505 N. Lakeshore Blvd., agreed.
"The access and amount of single-track (trails) is huge," said Andreae, who can ride right from home onto a trail.
Riders also can leave from the downtown area and hit a single-track trail north or south of the city, he said.
Not surprisingly, mountain biking business is big at his shop.
"Well, there's a lot of trails around town, a lot of single-track trails with a lot of skill levels," Andreae said.
Bill Thompson, co-owner of Down Wind Sports at 514 N. Third St., said the shop now sells mountain bikes year-round. Thompson said he's been at the shop since 1991 when mountain bikes were being sold, but not at the numbers seen nowadays. He attributes the rise in popularity to trail development.
"We've always had trails, but in the past they've been hard to find and hard to negotiate, and they weren't well publicized," Thompson said.
For example, he said the Noquemanon Trail Network is well-designed to provide better riding, with bermed curves.
Bob Hendrickson, publisher of Upper Peninsula Mountain Biking, said Marquette has made huge strides in building a trail system.
He also stressed the mountain biking community is more than just about riding. It's about building a legacy with a good trail network that flows with the terrain.
Marquette has the geography for mountain biking, Hendrickson said, but it's the people that have made the trail system what it is.
"There's a lot more planning made into trails," Hendrickson said.
Mountain biking also has the potential to help the economy, he said.
"It's not just a recreational activity for locals," Hendrickson said. "It's a way for Marquette to draw visitors."
Doug Campbell, manager at the consignment store Switchback at 209 S. Front St., said mountain bikes there are sold three-to-one or four-to-one over road bikes. A mountain bike has an advantage because it can handle more riding styes, he said.
"Kids come here and they want a commuting bike and a bike to go to school, but their best bet is a mountain bike," Campbell said.
Jim Bedore, a salesman at Sports Rack at 315 W. Washington, said mountain biking encompasses a big chunk of business there.
Again, the close proximity between town and trails is a big plus.
"There's very few places you can ride out your back door and be on the trail in 15 minutes," Bedore said. Local mountain bikers like to lead a healthy lifestyle, plus the sport also is low-impact on the environment, he said.
"They try to keep the environment in mind when they cut all these trails now," Bedore said.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is email@example.com.