Is the River City a mountain biking mecca? You bet your pair of heavy-tread, mud-coated tires it is.
Is the River City a mountain biking mecca?
You bet your pair of heavy-tread, mud-coated tires it is.
National Geographic Adventure magazine picked Peoria as one of its 50 next great American adventure towns in which to live and play. To create the list, the magazine searched for 'innovative towns that aren't just prime relocation spots now, but also smart choices for the future.' The cities on the list are not ranked in any order.
The magazine selected Peoria — the only Illinois city named — for its growing miles of mountain bike trails that surround it as well as its nightlife offerings along the downtown riverfront. The list can be found in the magazine's September issue, which hit newsstands Wednesday.
'People think, ‘How can Peoria have great mountain biking?' But we do,' said Rich Pestien, owner of Bushwhacker, an outdoor-adventure gear store. 'I think per capita, Peoria has some of the best mountain biking in the country.
'You don't have to go to Colorado to have some fun.'
Despite the fact central Illinois has an acute shortage of mountains, biking buffs say the area's natural terrain makes it a prime location for cycling, hiking and equestrianism. Many riders take to the bluffs and hills hugging the Illinois River for trips that, while different in topography and style, are on par with ones out West.
'I get calls from Chicago periodically. Guys wanting to know what the trail conditions are like before they come down,' said Mike Antonini, owner of Little Ade's Bicycle and Repair in Pekin, adding though closer to home, the area's reputation has remained a bit hidden.
Recently at his store, when a customer was shown a mountain bike, they replied, 'Mountain bike? Well, where are you going to ride that?'
But the city's position came as no surprise to Terry Carter. President and founder of the Peoria Area Mountain Biking Association, he said friends from out of state will scratch their heads when he uses the words 'mountain biking' and 'Peoria' in the same sentence. That is until they set foot in central Illinois.
'Boy, they are really surprised when they get here and realize that we have hills,' he said. 'They are amazed at what we have.'
He said the eight-year-old biking association counts about 125 members who help design, maintain and, of course, ride more than 100 miles worth of forest-lined trails around Peoria in parks such as Jubilee College State Park, Black Partridge Park and Dirksen Park. Earlier this year, the group hosted a Midwest biking festival at Farmdale Reservoir that drew close to 800 cyclists from nine different states.
Calling the national mention 'very exciting,' Carter said, 'It kind of gives justification for what we've been doing for the past eight years.'
Besides biking, the magazine listed the 'revamped riverfront' as another plus where residents can down microbrews and listen to some live music.
'It gives Peoria some time in the national spotlight,' said Brent Lonteen, president of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. 'I think local folks really take that for granted some time.'
Frank Radosevich II can be reached at (309) 686-3142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.