The Truckee Bike Park was born out of grief.
Co-founder Cortney Knudson was deep in mourning after her father passed away, and to cheer her up, her boyfriend, Brooks McMullin, suggested a vacation away from their North Lake Tahoe routine. They found themselves in Hailey, Idaho in 2011, visiting friends and riding dirt bikes over pump tracks – circuits full of berms to roll up and down.
It was a welcome reprieve, Knudson said, and an organized type of rural biking that didn’t exist in Lake Tahoe.
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On the nine-hour drive home, Knudson and McMullin kept having the same thought: “Why couldn’t we do this back home?” About a week later, they founded a nonprofit called Biking for a Better World, designed to raise funds and awareness for cycling in Northern California.
Today, Biking for a Better World’s sole long-term operation is the ever-expanding Truckee Bike Park, which accommodates 150 to 200 guests per day during summer months. A slalom course, dirt jump area and 20,000-square-foot pump track offer options for riders of all abilities. It’s the only nonprofit bike park of its kind in the region with its range of courses.
“Our park is friendly to everyone,” McMullin said. “Imagine a staircase toward progression or expert riding, and we have every step.”
The park also has a drop zone with wooden platforms to jump bikes from, a half-mile cross-country track through a forest, and flow lines designed to help bikers learn how to maintain control.
Neither Knudson nor McMullin receives a salary from the park, a business decision that has saved Biking for a Better World an estimated $450,000 in grant writing, maintenance and use permit revision as the park expands. Knudson cuts hair for a living, while McMullin gives dirt-biking lessons and works as a bike park consultant.
“Every dollar we raise for the park goes back into the park,” Knudson said. “Parks down in Sacramento, San Francisco and Marin County have consulted us trying to see what we did to survive. But it takes a lot of time. People won’t, or can’t, work for free, so that’s why our project has happened when others haven’t.”
Instead, they rely on private donations, fundraisers, sponsored advertisements and discounted services from friends and community members. Scott Schields, an excavator for Alpenglow Sports, has voluntarily cleared vegetation from the park lands for the past four years as more features are installed.
New Belgium Brewing Co. donates kegs of beer to nearly every park fundraising event. Local restaurant owner Tom Turner, whose properties include Bar of America, Caliente and Gar Woods Grill and Pier, is also one of the park’s biggest supporters.
A $150 all-female skills clinic organized by Knudson sold out in June, with 40 women riding alongside 10 coaches. Other small races throughout the weekend brought in additional revenue, while spectators and riders alike enjoyed food trucks and a beer garden.
Hayden McJunkin, 11, rides the pump track on her black racing bike, but is looking for something with thicker tires so she can explore more areas around the park. She has been to the park about 30 times, often with her father, professional mountain biker Jamie McJunkin.
“I really like all the different levels that they set up so pretty much anyone can go there, no matter how good they are, if they want to learn,” she said. “I’m really excited to go back.”
Planned installations such as dirt jumps and a slope-style course, where riders move quickly and jump off wooden logs and platforms, will bring Truckee Bike Park’s six-phase plan to completion in 2017.
Knudson and McMullin take a two-week trip every summer to similar parks across North America, looking for ideas to take back to Truckee. This year, they rode their bikes around Washington state, ending with a trip to Whistler, Canada.
“We’ll get off our bikes and be like, ‘That was a rad ride, how can we incorporate it?’ ” McMullin said. “We’re looking for a controlled safe environment to build bike skills for all levels.”
Truckee Bike Park
The Truckee Bike Park is part of the Riverview Sports Park, 12200 Joerger Drive. It’s open from sunrise to sunset and closed when muddy and when riders sink into the terrain. Admission is free, but there’s a donation box to help with maintenance and further phases.