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When you do a lot of hiking, you pay attention to your shoes. That’s why the shoe room is Nadia’s favorite part of Bushwhacker. She likes studying how different shoes benefit hikers in different ways. In the summer, she hikes in Chaco sandals; in the winter, she uses Merrell Trail Gloves. She’s been hiking year round since she was three, and her mom first took her to Forest Park Nature Center. She knows every route, every hill - which ways are easy, and which are hard.
She loves to travel, too. One fairly recent trip involved a month-long class in London, and side trips to Amsterdam and Iceland (the last including kayaking as well as hiking).
Nadia majored in psychology, and minored in sports psychology and forensics studies at McKendree University. She played hockey her whole life, but when she graduated, she lost a team to play on. So she decided to coach six-to-eight-year-olds at Peoria’s Owen Center. Trace is her assistant coach. She loves how much outdoorsy stuff there is to do in the Peoria area.
The owner of Bushwhacker started working at the original store in Champaign in 1974. A math nerd turned rock climber. Rich quickly decided that exploring all things outdoors was a lot more interesting than key punching old-style IBM cards in the computer lab. He opened the Peoria store at Main and University in 1976.
The Champaign and Springfield stores were gone by 1984, victims of changing demographics and unchanged business models based largely on backpacking and cross-country skiing. Rich, on the other hand, explored new opportunities in skateboards, windsurfing, downhill skis, patio furniture and bicycling.
Perhaps not surprisingly, his favorite part of the store is all of it. When he’s not at the store or playing tournament bridge, you’re likely to find him at home in Peoria, wearing his favorite 20-year-old North Face fleece.
We do not have enough room to discuss Robert. About how he’s been a mechanic since 1987 and how he’s worked here since 1999. How he keeps up to date with tons of technical training. How he’s built frames and raced road, mountain, cyclocross, track and time trial bicycles. How he runs flat-tire clinics. How he spearheads fall events, like the Dutchman Classic, and the Giro d’Spoon gravel ride. How he feels it’s important that Bushwhacker remain knowledge based, not just product based.
We could mention that three of his bikes are a Giant Defy, a Giant Revolt and a Rivendell, and how he commutes on the red, all-steel Rivendell, because it’s a relaxing way to get around town. We could write about the hundreds of repairs he manages each year. But, there’s no room for that.
There’s almost enough room to talk about how he likes the inclusive nature of gravel biking. How he repeats that word "inclusive" all the time. How he goes to gravel events with customers who ride faster or slower than he does, but connects with them at the end--usually over a beer. But, there’s no room.
You’ll have to come in, and talk to him yourself.
If you ask Russ, kayaking and mountain biking - two of his favorite outdoor activities - have almost nothing in common. That’s what he likes about them: the variety of experiences they offer. Variety is what he likes about Bushwhacker, too. He can bring people up to speed on anything in the store, and their bicycles up to speed for any terrain.
If he only had one kayak, it’d be a 14-footer, for its open-water capability. But he has more than a couple (more than a few?), and likes to take a 12-foot Dagger Alchemy on the Mackinaw River. When shopping kayaks, he looks for modern design, including a higher knee position, for improved hamstring and lower-back comfort.
An owner of a Giant Trance 29er, Russ contends bigger is better in the wheel-size race - and that everyone but Trace knows it. He doesn’t jump the bike, or slide it around corners, saying the smooth ride of a 29-inch wheel matches his riding style.
Sam sold four of his own bicycles in one year. This is totally out of character - and has left him with only a tandem, a tricycle, a fixed-gear, two road bikes, a gravel bike, an electric bike, a two-speed machine from 1964, and whatever he’s bolting together next.
He’s been doing this for a while. For instance, he remembers unboxing Specialized’s first mountain bike. Imagine his glee at finding Mafac cantilever brakes, a TA crankset and Tommaselli brake levers. Then imagine him wondering whether mountain bikes would ever catch on in flat-land Illinois. Yep, he was that young. Once.
It’s not all about the past. (Ask him about his haiku blog, with 1,000 entries and counting after three years.) But there’s quite a bit of the past to digest, like the time he worked at a bicycle shop smaller than Bushwhacker’s shoe room, or, more to the point, the time he discovered the limit to a Peoria’s spaghetti house’s all-you-can-eat special (eight plates).
If you want more playing time on the soccer field, you focus on what you can control - and always work on improving. For Savanna, improvement meant running between practices for added speed and stamina. After all, a right midfielder covers a lot of ground playing both offense and defense.
She’s never stopped running. But now she’s changed her focus to 5Ks. One key to her success: comfort. That’s why she loves her Altra Superiors. The big toe box gives her forefoot the space it needs to work, and the zero-drop design - supporting the same foot position as if she were barefoot - reduces initial impact and promotes better running technique.
She also hikes. Her ideal trip involves the mountains of Montana’s Glacier National Park. If she’s carrying a heavy pack, she looks for boots that offer ankle support and pays just as much attention to her socks, because no one--not even a tough, deceptively fast former midfielder--likes blisters.
What do you look for when you’re buying a bicycle? The frame? The components? The color? Trace looks for a bike that’s easy to wheelie. Right now, he trips the one-wheel fantastic on a 2018 Specialized Camber Comp Carbon, which possibly makes the rear suspension more important than the front.
He started building bikes at Bushwhacker when he was 15, and enjoys riding Wildlife Prairie Park, and trails in Minnesota and Georgia. And, when the snow flies, so does he - on a super-versatile Burton Custom Flying V. He also coaches youth hockey at Peoria’s Owens Center alongside Nadia, another Bushwhacker pro.
In the mountain bike community, there are people who favor 27.5 tires, and people who favor 29-inch tires. Trace is firmly in the 27.5 camp, claiming the short wheel offers quicker acceleration, and a higher fun factor - especially in the air.