|be adventurous | July 2016
Adventure is our business:
Medora's Dakota Cyclery
by Ann Crews Melton
Ann Crews Melton
Jennifer Morlock has "adventure" literally written on her business card. But the co-owner of Dakota Cyclery Mountain Bike Adventures in Medora, N.D., wasn't always a risk taker.
"I was terrified of mountain biking at first," Morlock says. "For the first five years of riding off-road I wasn't very good at it because of my fears, but the more I did it, the better I got at it."
The rural Glen Ullin native had minimal bike skills when she met her husband, Loren, in the late 1970s. He was an avid road racer and opened a Bismarck bike shop in 1980. Jennifer managed the front desk at a dentist's office while the couple raised their three children, and she officially joined her husband in the bike business in 1990.
"We raised our kids to love the outdoors," she says. "As young parents, (our kids) came everywhere with us, whether it was biking, canoeing, kayaking, cross-country skiing. We didn't wait until they were bigger to remain active."
Jennifer found her footing in the sales side of the bike business, applying managerial skills learned from her dental office job. When the Morlocks were approached by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation in 1993 to offer mountain bike rentals in the North Dakota Badlands, they leapt at the chance.
"Being in the Badlands was love at first sight," Morlock says. "After spending weekends and days off in Medora, it got in our blood, got under our skin. It's a magical place."
When the Morlocks expanded to Medora, no official mountain biking trails existed. They worked with local horseback riders, hikers and other adventure-seekers to develop existing trails, eventually partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to promote the Maah Daah Hey Trail, a 96-mile track completed in 1998.
"We started working with Parks and Rec and private landowners to build the trails. Everybody was pitching in because of the love of singletrack (mountain biking)," she says. "If you build trails, you actually will build a community."
The Morlocks officially incorporated Dakota Cyclery Mountain Bike Adventures in 2001, and a few years later they sold the Bismarck shop and moved to the Badlands full-time. Since then, Jennifer has discovered her love of teaching and guiding rental groups, especially novice bikers.
"Definitely my favorite part of my job is getting out and riding and teaching," she says. "I love the progression of taking somebody out on a ride, whether they're fit road riders or finding their niche -- and them saying, 'This has changed my life, I've found my new favorite thing to do.'"
Morlock says her favorite groups to guide are family rides -- Dakota Cyclery offers bikes as small as 20-inch wheels, suitable for a six or seven year old -- and women's rides, often groups of friends vacationing in the Badlands who want to try an outdoor activity together.
"Active women who like ATVing or snowboarding, they do fantastic, because (mountain biking) is part of that thrill-seeker personality," she says. "But I also have a no shame in walking policy. If you can't ride it, you just get off and walk. It's all about being outdoors."
Jennifer has begun her own new adventure, which involves a 1,500-mile commute. In 2014 she became owner/president of Cactus Adventures in Phoenix, Arizona, which offers mountain bike tours and rentals year-round. The Morlocks take bikes all the way from North Dakota down to Phoenix each November, returning to the Badlands in April to run the seasonal Medora shop. Their children are all still involved in the biking industry and help out with Cactus Adventures in the true spirit of a mom-and-pop family business.
Morlock is proud her kids grew up to love the outdoors, and hopes to continue encouraging her customers to do the same. She says her kids have inspired her to stay in shape, since she was never one to be left behind.
"I'll be 60 this year in November. But I can still ride with the best of them," she says. "I will be doing this for a while."
For more information and to plan your own adventure, visit dakotacyclery.com.
Ann Crews Melton grew up in Texas and landed in the North Dakota prairie after nearly a decade spent in Boston and New York City. She is a writer and editor who lives with her husband and daughter in Bismarck.