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. We start with Todd Poquette, an instrumental figure in cultivating the next generation of mountain bikers for the Upper Peninsula.
When Todd Poquette was growing up, his dad worked at distribution giant Sysco Foods, and then so did he. But when Sysco decided to let the 30-year veteran go, Poquette's father made the move to competitor Reinhardt Foods, and suddenly the gospel of Sysco was now the gospel of Reinhardt. By this time, the younger Poquette was also working at Sysco, and seeing his father make the change shed light on how superficial the work was. Poquette realized he didn't want to build his life around that.
Around this time in 2009, Poquette also moved to Marquette, Michigan. Three years later he left Sysco to become operations manager at the Border Grill, a community-driven Mexican restaurant. After seeing what his father went through at Sysco, Poquette wanted to spend his adult life more focused on community, which he found at the Border Grill. But he also found it in mountain biking.
"When I came into town, you could go to any trailhead and typically you were alone there," says Poquette of the Marquette mountain bike landscape in 2009. These days, on some summer weekends, you are lucky to find a parking spot at the trailhead. The growth in mountain biking has brought new trails and economic development to Marquette, which Poquette has seen first-hand at the Border Grill.
Mountain biking has given Poquette an outlet for building a community. In 2014, Poquette started the 906 Adventure Team, a nonprofit focused on involving youth in the outdoors through mountain biking, boosting self-esteem and teaching them to lead active and healthy lifestyles. "Looking at [the bike culture], we were a town of late 20’s, early 30’s and 40's mountain bikers. But how were we going to cultivate the youth side of it?" Poquette says. "So that's where the idea started." And since 2014 it has taken off.
The 906 Adventure Team's summer program, the Adventure Bike Club, had 60 kids ages 5 through 17 involved this year. Their newest venture, the Bothwell Middle School after-school program, has also seen 30 kids sign up in its first year. As a whole, the 906 Adventure Team is seeing involvement from both boys and girls, with the latter making up one-third of the team, beating the national average. To round out the team, the 906 has a racing component for high-school kids who want to give competing a try, allowing them to ride in the Wisconsin league due to a lack of races in Michigan.
Poquette is adamant about not pushing kids toward racing though. "We are just having fun." But it's not just about fun either. When asked what he is most excited about for the 906 Adventure Team Poquette answered: "What it can do for kids' lives. And I don't say that to be cliché. I've seen kids lose 20 to 25 pounds and totally change their view of themselves."
The team gives local youth an outlet to push themselves, and accomplish things they may never have thought possible, including the Marji Gesick 100, a 100-mile, 12,000-foot elevation gain endurance race. Heralded as one of the hardest endurance races in the country, the Marji Gesick 100 is hosted by the 906 Adventure Team and brings in hundreds of riders, including top-level athletes and 906 team members alike.
The 906 also hosts the Polar Roll, a winter-time fat biking race. Both events continue to grow the mountain bike community in Marquette and bring more attention to the area and the 906 Adventure Team.
Going forward, Poquette hopes to expand the after-school program to two other middle schools in neighboring towns, double enrollment for the summer Adventure Bike Club and continue to grow the team as a whole.