The Line Experience, a recently opened bike training center and shop in North Bend, has struck a deal with the City of Snoqualmie to open a mountain bike rental and education kiosk at Snoqualmie Point Park.
CEO Mike Kunz said the lease agreement allows The Line to launch “Trailhead,” a project aiming to “serve people who otherwise couldn’t try mountain biking,” and further its efforts to get more people on bikes regardless of income or ability.
Trailhead involves placing shipping container-sized kiosks, filled with fleets of 20 or so bikes, at popular mountain biking spots. Kiosks will be staffed by knowledgeable coaches who will not only set riders up with rental gear, but provide on-site training and education for first-time riders, Kunz said.
Snoqualmie Point Park, connected to miles of trails in the Raging River and Tiger Mountain State Forest, will be The Line’s first iteration of Trailhead. Kunz said they hope to eventually expand the model to other parks in the region and across the county.
“We think we have a fairly unique proposition in that we are using [the kiosks] to bring education and promote it right at the trailhead,” he said of the project. “We’ve heard of it in other countries, but not anywhere in the U.S.”
The Line opened its training center and shop along East North Bend Way about six months ago, but Kunz said they’ve been working on the Trailhead project for about four years. The company itself was founded about two years ago with a vision of making biking more accessible and its participants more diverse.
An avid biker, Kunz knows first-hand the benefits and freedom that being on a bike or riding a trail can provide. His understanding of that benefit grew even larger after coaching Seattle middle schoolers in the Washington Student Cycling League.
While his athletes ranged drastically in skill level — from the fastest in the state to kids finishing last in every race — biking allowed them all to gained confidence, courage and celebrate individual growth. Numerous parents would tell him how their child, who “had trouble participating in sports,” had fallen in love with biking.
It was an awe-inspiring experience of the sport’s benefits, Kunz said. At the same time, however, it wasn’t an experience everyone could have.
“We watched these kids participate, but we found out there were a lot of kids who couldn’t,” he said.
Mountain biking, and biking more generally, has a huge problem, he said — its participants tend to skew wealthy, white and male. For example, one survey from the nonprofit Outdoor Foundation found nearly half of mountain biking participants live in homes with household incomes over $75,000.
“We were like, why aren’t more people mountain biking?” he recalled. “I did a lot of research into the sport, how it’s grown and how it hasn’t and found out that there is a huge portion of the outdoor recreation participants in the country that would mountain bike if they could.”
The Line’s founders identified three barriers, which they call “hurdles” that keep would-be riders off the pedals, including access to and transporting of equipment, perception of risk, and knowing where to ride.
Trailhead, Kunz said, helps alleviate several of those problems. It provides bikes at the point-of-use for cheaper rates, and also adds an education element that makes biking more approachable.
“There’s a few really clear basics that can get people riding safely on a mountain bike,” Kunz said. “Once you know those, it makes mountain biking fun and safe.”