At first glance, the rustic little Alpine Designs store looks like the kind of bike shop you'd expect in a small town.
Scratch the surface and you'll find much more. Not only are they designing professional-level mountain bikes that are shipped world-wide, they have their own race team with 15 regional riders, and they've just signed on their first pro rider, 23-year old Caleb Stolte.
"He's an incredible rider," says Alpine Designs founder Toby Feuling, "and he really cleans up at races." Last year, Stolte ranked 31st in the World Cup standings and climbed to the top 30 in the National Point Series. This year, he's ranked No. 1 in the Northwest.
Aside from excelling on the race course, Stolte offers another benefit to Alpine: feedback. After every race, he reviews the performance of his bike and components.
"It works out great," Toby said. "We're able to field test our bikes in the most demanding environment around, professional races." Stolte rides an extremely light, 3/25 Titanium bike called the "Fly Ti," designed for the extremes of cross-country courses.
And Stolte likes his role as tester. "At races, I try to punish the bike a little more than normal," he said. Despite the rough treatment, the Fly Ti has made it through every race this year without a single mechanical failure. The bike also won a stellar review in June's edition of Mountain Biker magazine.
Stolte isn't the only one racing under the Alpine Designs banner. Andy Feuling, Toby's younger brother and the race team manager, says Alpine is fielding a strong regional team made up of mostly local riders.
"We take our team to as many races as possible," Andy said. Last year, they proved their ability in the worst of conditions, winning the "24-hours of Capital Punishment" team relay in Olympia, Wash. Four members of the team battled mud and rain, covering more than 200 miles to win the round-the-clock race.
Joe Karwoski packed some punch for the team last year, finishing fifth overall in the Junior/Expert Downhill and sixth in the WIM series. Charlie Shonkwiler, another top rider for Alpine, secured sixth in the Expert Cross Country and third in Expert Downhill.
Currently, Andy is embarking on his first year at the national level, competing in the Men's Expert Cross-Country.
Funding the team has been a large task for Alpine. Along with their major sponsors, Kevin and Annie Shaha of Racor Home Storage Products, Toby attributes much of the team success to supporter Walt Norris, owner of Coast to Coast and member of the Alpine team. He also credits the Pend Oreille Brewing Co. and other local businesses.
The future looks upbeat for Alpine. Stolte has already raced in a World Cup race this year and will go on to represent Racor/Alpine Designs in three more World Cup events, six National races and up to 20 regional contests.
- Michael Delucchi
On the July 4th weekend a trio of bike events take place: the Schweitzer Dirt & Rock Tour, the Big Air Show at Alpine Designs' new location on the corner of Fifth and Oak; and a trials event at Pend Oreille Brewing Co., 220 Cedar St. Everyone is invited.
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