A Wisconsin Junket With Minority Mountain Bikers
Earlier this year we shared an interview with the founder of Minority Mountain Bikers (MMB), Harry Hill. ast week, two BIPOC League staff members, Jamil and I, joined MMB for a trip to Wisconsin with the Chris Kegel Foundation and Wheel & Sprocket to visit Trek Bicycle Corporation’s Headquarters, ride their trails, provide some skill training to some inner city students with Milwaukee Public Schools, and participate in the Trek Red Barn Classic, part of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series and the host of the state championships.
At the League, we have been engaged in building relationships with advocacy and rider groups that focus on minority experiences with cycling. So when a post about the Wisconsin Minority Mountain Biker Week came across my Instagram feed, I jumped at the opportunity to do exactly that. . Minority-focused cycling events are crucial to growing the sport and making cycling more inclusive, but they can still be inaccessable for all who would like to participate. For instance, I do not own a functional mountain bike, so when I learned that event partners the Chris Kegel Foundation and their family bike shop, Wheel & Sproket, were not only providing free bike rentals for those who needed, but also providing housing for the event, I was in!
Our first stop was Trek’s Headquarters in Waterloo, which serves as a multi-use building with an office space on one side and an assembly factory on the other. I was honestly a little taken aback by how sleek and modern their building actually was.
I’m not a total stranger to corporate office spaces but this space was super open except for its design office space—and for good reason! Opposite their office space was their painting and assembly areas. This is where Trek’s Project One bikes are painted and assembled alongside some of their higher end bikes.
While we were walking through, we also got to see some Fetch+ 4s being assembled. Those were unveiled earlier this year, and they’re Trek’s take on an electric bakfiet with enough bucket room and rack strength to support up to 5 kiddos and a rider.
Afterwards we headed over to an area in a different part of Waterloo called Trek Trails which they operate in conjunction with some of the local farmers. The trails are for employee recreation, hosting races (obviously!), and for filming some of the marketing materials they make for their bikes and products. Not only are they used by Trek employees, but they are also designed and maintained by them too! They have built a little barn stocked with supplies to dig out and groom the trails for all conditions including snow. Not only do they have traditional mountain biking trails that weave through trees and prairies, but they also have a couple of dirt jump tracks and a poured pump track. The whole complex is actually quite cool.
Since it was my first time properly mountain biking, you might have expected that I might have taken a fall or skidded my hands through a stand of trees, and I would be happy to inform you that, on this first day, I did exactly that. There was one instance where I got disconnected from my little group because I had to slow down a bit because of the fat bike I was riding. When I emerged to join them in a clearing a little bit later, I was covered in dust. As it turns out, tackiness plays an important role in determining when a tire does and does not stay connected to the ground.
After a day of riding, we took some time to debrief at the lounge and heard from some of the Wisconsin folks who had set up the trip, Trek’s VP of Human Resources Mark Joslyn, and watched a short documentary that premiered earlier that week about Minority Mountain Bikers.
To cap the night off, the group headed over to lounge at a lakeside house where some of us were put up to sleep. This was our final destination every night, and it was quite stunning to be totally honest.
The next day we headed over to the John Muir Trails to learn and teach some mountain biking skills. For several hours of our riding, we rode with some students from some of the inner city schools inside of Milwaukee Public Schools. Jed Olson, the Executive Director of Outdoor Recreation Alliance in Wisconsin and a NICA coach in Milwaukee, led a skills clinic before some of the attendees set out with groups of kids to try the trails.
We still had a bit of time after the kids left, and Jamil and I joined a group to ride one of the longer trails in the park. I learned a bit more about what the dirt in Wisconsin tastes like through this experience and I also had my first go at biking through sand.
The next morning we split up. Some of us went to two recreation areas, CamRock and Quarry Ridge, while the rest of the group went to Trek Trails to do a pre-ride of Sunday’s race route.
I was super sore and physically depleted from the two previous long days of riding by this time, so I ended up just pre-riding the course. Jamil, who has been mountain biking for two years and attended several MMB events, hit the trails at Quarry Ridge with the crew. These trails were more downhill oriented with big features, and rocky natural terrain – Jamil’s favorite! After a few laps and sessioning features, the group narrowly missed getting caught in a thunderstorm and decided to call it. After all, the next day was race day.
The next day we all convened on the Trek Trails site to watch and partake in the Trek Red Barn Classic. I raced the “Citizen” class meaning I did two laps (10 miles) altogether. I was handily passed by a lot of people, which I’m not too mad about. This was my second time participating in a race, and I still don’t know how to manage my energy and speed—or anything really. Afterwards, I heard something about this thing called “Bike-Body Separation” that NICA emphasizes for racing and mountain biking–a challenge I’ll look forward to taking on during my next mountain biking adventure.
Overall, the weekend was awesome. I learned a lot about the biking world in Milwaukee and got to share some space with some extremely fun people. While it was not Jamil’s first time at an MMB event, it was mine, so I did not know what to expect at all.The experience was absolutely awesome and I am glad we had the chance to attend. Lots of the people we met were not aware of the League, and I think meeting and speaking with NICA coaches in particular about the things we do like LCI trainings might encourage some of them to sign up so that they can be experts on helping their students be just as good as getting places as they are at competing in races.