Mountain biking downhill

Join the Mountain Biking Boom

March 8, 2022

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people value outdoor recreation. Bike sales are booming — up as much as 55% last year — and along with that is a broader focus on trails, especially “singletrack.”

Mountain biking downhill singletrack trail

A singletrack trail — usually just called singletrack — is a narrow, often one-direction mountain bike trail designed to flow through natural terrain with minimal impact to the environment.

And not just any singletrack will do. Mountain bikers enjoy a mix of technical terrain with climbs and descents winding through nature’s glorious flora and fauna. Add to that easy access to fun places to dine and shop, or take in local arts and entertainment, and you have a recreation destination.

Wausau is just that place. “You could literally spend the weekend there and not have to ride the same trails twice,” said Randy Bailey, owner of Stadium Bike, which has five locations, including in Wausau.

Bailey, who describes himself as the typical middle-aged male rider, is anything but typical. His passion for biking turned into a bike-centric lifestyle working for Trek for 20 years, competing in races for decades and owning five bike shops throughout Wisconsin with his wife, Stacie.

He certainly has a handle on bike culture. He sees people so entrenched in biking that they’re building their lives around trails. “To a lot of people in our industry, a good workday is riding two hours in the morning before work.”

According to International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), nearly 90% of rides happen on trails close to home. So it’s no wonder why some residents consider proximity to bicycle infrastructure when deciding where to live and work.

Bailey points out that Rib Mountain, with its 700-foot vertical descent and propensity towards gravity mountain biking — could lure in bikers looking to ride and anchor those ready to relocate. And, with the rise of remote working, people are moving to towns with great outdoor recreation venues more than ever before.

“The Wausau experience would be completely different than anything else in the state because of elevation. There’s really not another park that comes close to what Rib Mountain could offer.”

Randy Bailey, owner of Stadium Bike

Getting Behind Alternative #4

Other industry pros also recognize the potential here in Wausau as the DNR reviews the 2005 Master Plan for Rib Mountain and considers changes to the park and Granite Peak. Robert Burns, vice president of Trek, is leaning into Alternative #4 of the proposed changes because it generates the most significant overall economic and tourism impact at an estimated $71.1 million.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state,” said Burns.

Wisconsin was once the second most bicycle-friendly state in the country, according to the League of American Bicyclists. It has dropped to 29th in recent years. Burns believes that Rib Mountain — under Alternative #4—could put the state back on top.

Noel Kegel, owner of Wheel & Sprocket, also favors Alternative #4 because it offers a dedicated spring through fall mountain biking season, five gravity lift-served trails and year-round lift access on the southside of Granite Peak. “The recreational opportunities under Alternative #4 will benefit the entire state and our local businesses, residents and communities,” said Kegel, who owns eight retail locations throughout Wisconsin with over 250 employees.

Wisconsin Bike Fed is highlighting Alternative #4 of the Recreations Needs Assessment on their website citing that “opportunities like this don’t come along every day” and it’s important to “show the value of these incredible new mountain biking options.”

Let your voice be heard during the next public input period coming soon.

Mountain biking downhill in the fall

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The Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership is a collaborative group of business and community leaders coming together to help develop a stronger, more competitive economic development platform for our community. Our primary purpose is to assist in the implementation and execution of the Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan. The primary objectives of the plan are to 1) attract and retain talent, 2) embrace technology to grow local enterprises, and 3) engage in placemaking to enhance amenities and quality of life. For questions or more information, contact