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Local Interest In Biking, Outdoor Sports Skyrockets During Pandemic

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Ben Meyer/WXPR
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Many local outdoors outfitters face a good problem.

Demand in bicycles, kayaks, and other outdoor equipment is so high, they can’t stock enough new products.

These days, for example, Al Jozwiak often has to work weekends just to keep up with bicycle repairs and sales.

Jozwiak owns Bikes-n-Boards in Rhinelander and said the interest in biking during the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming.

“I’m seeing bikes that I haven’t seen, and I’m sure haven’t seen the light of day, in 30 years,” Jozwiak said.

High demand means Jozwiak can’t keep enough new bikes in stock. Nationwide suppliers are struggling to keep up.

“In today’s world, if they can’t go watch their favorite baseball game or soccer match or whatever they would typically do, they’re finding alternative ways to get outdoors,” Jozwiak said. “Sometimes alternative means doing what they did 30 years ago.”

Jozwiak also volunteers at the Mud Lake mountain bike trails, and he said it’s been decades since he’s seen this level of usage.

The Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association also notes that biking and hiking interest seems to be up over last year.

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Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR
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Mel's Trading Post in Rhinelander.

A similar story is true at Mel’s Trading Post in Rhinelander.

“We’ve seen just a tremendous increase in interest in doing things out of doors,” said owner Mitch Mode.

Mode didn’t know how consumers would react to a pandemic, and, at first, he opted to be conservative with ordering bicycles and other new products to sell.

But his store has been flooded with business.

“It’s fun to see a lot of other people this year jumping on board. They’ve maybe wanted to in the past. This year, they’re doing it,” he said.

Bike and kayak rentals and sales are highly popular. It’s a trend that, as a business owner and lover of the outdoors, Mode is delighted to see.

“We’re northern Wisconsin. We have access to lakes. We have back roads. We have bike trails. It’s a great place to be if you’re looking for outdoor recreation. We’re seeing that in sales. We’re seeing that in rentals. We’re seeing that in people coming and doing things,” he said.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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