Avid biking enthusiasts no longer have to spend winters spinning their wheels while waiting for spring to arrive. Starting next weekend, they'll only have to travel a few miles to take their two-wheelers out for a ride.
Well, make that in for a ride.
Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park, the world's first indoor mountain bike park, is opening a second location right here in Milwaukee in the former Menards location at 8365 N. 76th St.
The first park, located in Cleveland, Ohio, has been open since 2004. When it came down to selecting a location for the second park, Milwaukee was a very deliberate choice.
"We chose Milwaukee based on the rider density in the area," says Eric Schutt, general manager of Ray's in Milwaukee.
In addition to the number of riders in the city, the number of those from as far as seven hours out of the local area contributed greatly to the decision to expand to the Milwaukee market.
"We're in the center of one of the biggest cross-country biking communities in the country," Schutt says.
Coupled with the expansion is a new local partnership with Waterlo-based Trek Bicycle.
"Our partnership with Trek is part of the growth of Ray's," Schutt says. "It became a real natural progression as they provide the tools to grow as a brand."
The new facility will be designed much like the park in Cleveland, with 110,000 square feet of trails, obstacles and a variety of bike-friendly terrain for all styles of riding but while similar to its sister park, the Milwaukee location will also have its own distinctive features.
"We've been able to take our experiences from Cleveland and apply them to a whole new place," says Schutt. "Each location will have its unique elements."
The public can get a sneak peek at what the new park has in store for them during Park Preview Night on Friday, Nov. 12 from 6 to 10 p.m.
"We feel doing the walk-through will be easier to allow people to really see the park en masse, and also purchase their passes and enter a couple raffles," says Schutt. "We want to reward people that come out early and want to be a part of this."
While Preview Night is strictly a walk-through, Ray's will officially hit the ground rolling on Saturday, Nov. 13 when it kicks off its grand opening weekend at 9 a.m.
"The cult following is tremendous. We're expecting a large turnout," says Schutt. "People can check out the park and sponsors, as well as meet a big variety of athletes."
As part of the grand opening festivities, Ray's will host a celebrity barbecue at noon on Saturday. Riders will also get a chance to share the trails with the XC Pros all day Sunday and with BMX professional bikers, including BMX star Dave Mirra, from 4 to 10 p.m.
Though the grand opening is geared more towards serious bikers, Schutt emphasizes that the park aims to cater to all ages and levels of experience.
"Ray's isn't just for dirt jumpers or cross-country riders," Schutt says. "Anyone who has skill on a bike can find a place to have fun here. It is a mountain bike park first, and we have plenty built for that crowd, but the park is designed for a lot of variety."
To make sure everyone is safely and properly equipped, Ray's has on-site bike and safety equipment rentals and holds demonstrations for the uninitiated. The park also requires all bikers to have a valid waiver and consent form on file. Those under 18 must either have a parent or guardian present or a notarized waiver, too.
Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with OnMilwaukee.com, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."
Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.