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Come in the store to meet the experts in their unnatural habitat. On course. Off-road. Or in the middle of a downhill adventure. We've used the equipment and outdoor gear we stock on the shelves. And we can tell you about it.
At Bushwhacker, we sell outdoor gear to two different types of people — those who don't know where to start, and those who never know when to stop. No matter which group you fit into, you'll find the resources you need here to improve your performance, and share your passion for the great outdoors.
With our roots in backpacking and hiking, the store has changed a lot, since cleats and climbing rope were among its top sellers. Today, Bushwhacker is one of the area's largest bike shops, with a broad assortment of kayaks, clothing, backpacks, and other outdoor gear that changes with every season. But for all those who've walked through the doors of this local Peoria store, it continues to be something more.
For the beginner, it's the starting point, where advice is free, and questions are always encouraged. And for the pros, it's the connecting point — the one place where they return time and time again to share their passion for sport. And perhaps more than anything, it's that atmosphere of collective exploration that keeps Rich invested after nearly 40 years of retail. "You can't package that sort of vibe. That's real. That's us." And that's why Bushwhacker continues to be one of Illinois' greatest original brands.
Monday-Saturday, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM
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.
He loves bicycles. Loves cycling. Says the worst day here is better than the best day at any other job. And yet…
Aaron could do without all the internally routed brake and derailleur cables. Maybe because they take more time to replace. Or maybe it’s because when he looks at his Ibanez acoustic guitar he can’t think of a single guitar built with the strings on the inside. Not one.
Still he loves bikes. And he loves the guitar, the bass, the drums, the keyboard and singing as a member of The Easy Riders and Wood Brothers tribute act The Spirit. What do bike repair and music have in common? Discipline. To be the best you can, you have to be mindful all the time. And he’s never minded that.
In 2017, Ashley and her husband pedaled 1,000 miles across Iceland in 10 days. Her takeaway from the journey? The weather’s not as bad as people make it out to be.
Bushwhacker is a good match for her bicycle shop experience as well as her interest in kayaks and canoes. During warmer weather she leads the Wednesday Night Ladies’ Ride, focusing on new riders and leaving no one behind. She studied political science at the University of Missouri and is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Peoria’s Methodist College.
Her favorite piece of clothing is a North Face Thermoball jacket because it’s warm, lightweight and packable. Especially in Iceland.
Coffee plays an increasingly important role at Bushwhacker. We drink a lot of it, and more than a few of us have served it, as well. Such is the case with Bradley, who continues to split his time between Starbucks and our store. He sees coffee customers at Bushwhacker, and Bushwhacker customers at the coffee shop, which only encourages him to find additional correlations between coffee and the outdoors.
He’s been around Peoria his entire life, if you don’t count a budget-challenged six months in Colorado. He’s interested in bicycles, because there’s so much to learn. He enjoys slacklining, because, come on, it’s slacklining. His outdoor career started when he walked his dog at Jubilee State Park. Then he started running the trail, learning to eat on the go to avoid the dreaded bonk.
His advice on coffee? Focus on quality, the ratio of coffee to water, and the grind setting. Above all, think fresh. You can’t just open a bag, and use the beans a month later.
It’s all about altitude for Joe--both achieving it and leaving it behind.
Most of the achievement comes from eighteen ascents (and counting) of Colorado’s many 14,000-foot peaks with an Osprey Sirrus 24 pack on his back. He climbs more often in Illinois, but tops out at a modest 8,000 feet because that’s as far as his single-engine pilot’s license takes him. Next up: more engines or a much lighter license.
To rapidly shed altitude, Joe likes to point his all-carbon Specialized Stumpjumper downhill at places like Copper Mountain, Keystone and Aspen Snowmass. We think a heavier bike would do just as well, but then again, Joe is all about air.
How did Mateo start riding a unicycle on Farmdale’s mountain bike trails? It has everything to do with preparation.
One day, as he always does, he carefully packed his car with everything he needed before heading out to Farmdale--everything but the mountain bike as it turned out. Bummer. But then he realized he had his unicycle in the car. Turns out one wheel was plenty.
When he’s not riding (or forgetting to pack) his sweet Specialized Camber 29er, he climbs and builds bikes during the summer, snowboards during the winter and often commutes on a longboard. He’ll try anything, so if anyone wants to introduce him to water skiing, he’s ready.
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.