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Mountain Biking is Big Business in Small Marquette

Elizabeth's Chophouse and Marquette Mounts tap into the local riding scene

While on the ground in Marquette, Michigan, for the Bible of Bike Tests, we will also be exploring the town and the local characters important to the mountain bike scene. Next up is Tom Wahlstrom and Robert Martin, two business owners who are key to the local mountain bike industry.

Downtown Marquette is lined with brick buildings that frame Lake Superior, which looks more like an ocean than a lake. In the evening, light posts emit a pleasant glow far from what you would find in any other big city. But at 21,000 people, Marquette is the big city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In the quaint downtown, there is one neon sign alight above the rest, marking the location of Marquette's white-tablecloth establishment: Elizabeth’s Chophouse.

Elizabeth’s Chophouse is in the center of downtown Marquette.

The fine-dining restaurant is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and like many places in Marquette, the owner is involved in the mountain bike community. Unlike other places, though, the owner, Tom Wahlstrom, has been in the restaurant industry since he was 5 years old and is a certified executive chef dedicated to bringing to Marquette the sort of fine dining commonly found in bigger cities.

"I've had 13 different types of restaurants and about 25 years ago my wife and I sat on a Marquette beach and dreamed of having a fine-dining restaurant in Marquette, and 15 years later we found the right spot," says Wahlstrom, who owns Elizabeth's Chophouse with his wife Elizabeth. Wahlstrom has spent his entire life in Marquette and has made his fine-dining dream a reality while also witnessing the mountain biking scene change immensely over his 60 years.

Tom Wahlstrom.

"It's incredible," Wahlstrom says. "I live past the trailhead so I see it every day—the number of cars and enthusiasm for it. All year round, it doesn't ever stop." While Wahlstrom is a casual user of the trails, he has also brought mountain biking into the business side of his life, partnering with Robert Martin, the president of Marquette Mounts.

Mounting hardware slides into pockets on the truck bed and then expands to fit almost any model.

Marquette Mounts builds racks for truck beds that expand storage space so you can carry cargo above the bed. The rack mounts into pockets on the sidewall of the truck bed, then expands to fit almost any model. On top of the pockets sits a metal rail where slides can be installed to hold cross bars. With crossbars installed, the sliders can move back and forth to adjust distance between the bars, allowing almost any rack or bike to fit. Unlike other crossbar systems, the Marquette Mount can work when mounted only on one side, although it works just as well when mounted to both sides.

For a smaller system, only one rail needs to be mounted with short crossbars.

"If you put a bike in the back of a truck and you are going on a trip, it screws up the whole thing." Martin speaks from experience, coming up with the idea for the rack after multiple trips in which his truck bed was filled with bikes instead of luggage. Now with his Marquette Mount, Martin no longer has to choose between the two. "We could easily haul six bikes, and still have the bed of the truck wide open."

Martin next to his invention, with a rooftop tent mounted above the bed of his truck.

The mounts are fully patented, and are starting to receive some recognition, with models being sold around the country. The racks are customizable, and Martin is happy to work with individual consumers to build a rack for their needs. Spending his entire life Marquette, Martin wanted to keep his business here as well, and the racks are made in Michigan from start to finish, with most of the work happening in the Upper Peninsula.

For more information, go to marquettemounts.com.