(Photo by Brian Peterson)
BISMARCK, ND – As the COVID-19 pandemic ended summer plans, many dug up their bikes, dusted off their helmets, and enjoyed the great outdoors.
Melissa Marquardt, marketing and event coordinator for 701 Cycle & Sport, told the Bismarck Tribune that this had led to a “bike boom”. The sudden surge in popularity also sparked a bicycle shortage that is still ongoing.
“We’ve definitely sold more bikes than ever before, which means there are a lot of new people on the trails,” she said. “You definitely notice it when you’re out on the trails, you see more people out there than probably ever before. It’s great to see, we love it. “
Last year 701 Cycle started organizing weekly mountain bike tours in the community. Marquardt leads the ladies’ rides on Mondays.
“Because we’ve seen so many new faces in the store, we’re really trying to expand our bike community,” she said. “So we started incorporating some group rides that we keep very beginner-friendly and try to encourage people to come and try them out.”
Jamie Fuchs, who has been on these rides from the start, said the groups have grown as more people try mountain biking. She said the best part of riding is the supportive community that comes with it.
“It was nice to meet some of the drivers,” she said. “Everyone cheers everyone on.”
Every week Marquardt and her group explore a different system of trails in the Bismarck-Mandan area. Marquardt said they drive at an easy pace with water breaks, chatting, and selfies.
Marquardt says that cycling has no age limit and can be enjoyed by anyone with two wheels. Her group rides have included women in their 60s through to girls in sixth grade. The only requirements are wearing a helmet and bringing water with you.
Your rides are considered “no-drop”, which means that no one is left behind.
“I just want it to be very inviting because cycling can be intimidating,” said Marquardt. “I want everyone to feel that they can do it and just have fun with it.”
Be it the fear of swapping paved roads for rough terrain or the high price of investing in new equipment, some may be afraid to dive into the mountain bike world.
Jennifer Morlock, owner of Dakota Cyclery in Medora, said if you’re not sure if it’s for you, try renting it. Both Dakota Cyclery and Cycle 701 offer bike rentals.
“Renting a bike is the perfect way to try it out, especially since you can’t get bikes right now,” said Morlock.
Morlock said the consistently high temperatures this year were much slower compared to last year’s record visitor numbers.
But despite the heat putting some off, Morlock says they still have bikers from all over the world visiting their shop and the acclaimed Maah Daah Hey Trail system, a 144-mile single track through the Badlands.
“I still have tons of stuff booked through September so we still have a good season,” she said. “I am optimistic that it will stay busy.”
One thing that really helped cycling get big, Morlock said, is the LAND-hosted Maah Daah Hey races. Their Badlands Race Series features races year round and attracts hundreds of mountain bikers from across the country.
Bismarck has its own fair share of races, including the AlKemist Gravel Fest in October and the Fat & Flurious Fat Bike Race in February.
In addition, Burleigh County Bicycle Cult sponsors the Summer Mountain Bike Series, free weekly races on local trails that are open to everyone.
Amy Juelson and her daughter Mia were two of 41 to compete in the serial race at Fort Lincoln State Park that July. Amy and her family have been cycling together for years. She said the races are great family-friendly events that are well attended this year
Mia Juelson, 11, has made it to each of the weekly races so far. She said her favorite part in racing is winning – when she does it.
Marquardt hopes that more people, especially women, will get on their bikes. She said only about 15% of the bikers in the Cycle 701 sponsored races are women. There is enough space for everyone on the trails.
“I want everyone to feel welcome and not worry and enjoy themselves for a bit,” she said. “I was there. I know the feeling that everyone is waiting for you and you feel like you’re not on everyone’s level, as if you just don’t belong. These feelings are what I try to get women to do to forget them, just ride a bike and have a good time.
“The cycling community here is really welcoming,” she said. “So just try not to be afraid and give it a try.”