Texas’s Latest Mountain Bike Park Was Constructed by a Teen Entrepreneur

Texas’s Latest Mountain Bike Park Was Constructed by a Teen Entrepreneur

On a sunny Sunday afternoon just a few weeks in the past, my fourteen-year-old son and I pulled into the most recent mountain bike park in Central Texas—Station Mountain, within the hilly lakeside hamlet of Marble Falls—with slight trepidation on my half. Although I spend lots of time on my bike and as soon as traversed the three,014-mile perimeter of Texas, I desire to stay to roads of asphalt or gravel. Fortunately we weren’t there to placed on an indication, simply to preview the park and chat with its teenage proprietor and creator, Rhett Jones.

After talking with Jones, we climbed to the highest of the park on our bikes by way of the shuttle street that bisects the 129-acre property. Really, my son ditched me midway up to take a look at the bounce strains close to the underside. After snapping just a few pictures of the rolling Hill Nation views from on excessive, I lower than gracefully descended by the park, doing one of the best I might on my gravel bike (be taught from my mistake and produce a correct mountain bike, as my son did). Towards the underside, I used to be glad to observe him zip alongside the easy-flow path generally known as Low Tide. He assured me it could be completely doable on my bike. So I chased him by the jumps for just a few laps, feeling the load of my worries shaken out of me on my nonsuspension bike.

Station Mountain, which opened on November 3, can be a formidable addition to Central Texas’s rising mountain biking scene even when its creator weren’t nonetheless in highschool. The property is crisscrossed by twenty trails that climb 370 vertical toes. It additionally gives steady shuttle service to whisk riders again as much as the highest. The park builds on the success skilled by close by Spider Mountain Bike Park, which opened in 2019. Situated about thirty minutes north of Station Mountain, in Burnet, Spider Mountain has turn out to be a winter vacation spot for riders from exterior Texas. “It’s the solely year-round lift-accessed mountain bike park within the nation,” mentioned Wiley Mosley, an account government with Large Bicycles and a member of Group Tremendous Superior, an Austin biking staff. Riders may discover such close by spots as Reveille Peak Ranch and Rocky Hill Ranch, in addition to the a number of trails in or close to Austin, corresponding to Walnut Creek and Brushy Creek. In brief, there’s by no means been a greater time to mountain bike in Texas.

Station Mountain started as a college undertaking for Jones, who has been biking critically for about three years, using seven days per week. He’s a senior at Alpha Excessive Faculty, a personal college in downtown Austin, the place each pupil is tasked with making a “Masterpiece”—an audacious or “Olympic Stage” undertaking. (His friends have got down to launch a clothes line, create a TV present, and educate a million youngsters the sport of chess, amongst different pursuits.) Not in contrast to start-up founders on Shark Tankevery pupil begins with a transparent, one-line aim assertion. “I’m constructing the world’s greatest bike park by constructing Texas’s greatest bike park as my first step,” Jones mentioned in a video on Alpha’s YouTube channel.

Astoundingly, Jones opened the park lower than a 12 months after starting the planning course of. “I used to be like, ‘All proper, screw it,’ ” he mentioned. “I’m gonna go make a enterprise. I don’t care what anybody says; we’re making this occur.” He wrote his marketing strategy in January 2023 earlier than shifting on to elevating $358,000 and securing appropriate land. Then got here the design section, adopted by building, which started in July. He did all this whereas attending college and through summer time trip, drawing inspiration from different entrepreneurs, together with his father (who owns a small enterprise) and mentors at college. “I’ve learn all these tales about excessive schoolers who based companies,” Jones mentioned. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool. I need to be that man.’ ”

Courtesy of Rhett Jones at Station Mountain.
Rhett Jones midjump at Station Mountain. Courtesy of Rhett Jones

A trail at Station Mountain.
A path at Station Mountain. {Photograph} by Aaron Chamberlain

To boost funds for the park, Jones employed a traditional hustle mindset with a contemporary twist. He despatched his pitch deck to native founders and entrepreneurs, utilizing these preliminary contacts to land Zoom calls. On these calls, he gathered recommendation on how one can strengthen his pitch. “I spent like 300 hours making a pitch deck that you could possibly learn in two minutes,” he mentioned. Then, on LinkedIn, he messaged any investor who additionally appeared to have an curiosity in mountain biking. The overwhelming majority ignored Jones, however that didn’t faze him. “I messaged about 4 hundred folks and obtained 5 responses and two buyers out of it,” he mentioned. Jones additionally despatched Twitter direct messages and posted in Fb mountain biking teams. Ultimately he was capable of cobble collectively all the $358,000.

Elevating cash was troublesome, however discovering a spot to construct the park was a wholly completely different downside. Jones scoured actual property maps and located 123 privately owned (not essentially on the market) ranches that had greater than 300 toes of elevation inside two hours of Austin. “I despatched each single one in every of them emails, handwritten envelopes, and chilly calls, the entire thing,” he mentioned. “One-twenty-three of the one-twenty-three mentioned no.” After narrowing his search to property that was truly on the market together with his desired specs, he discovered the land that’s now dwelling to Station Mountain. Jones was capable of make a lower-cost lease deal that offers the landowner fairness within the firm. “It’s a locked-lease deal, so so long as I maintain funds they’ll’t promote or do something to the property,” he defined.

As soon as Jones had secured the land, he got down to design the park. He needed Station Mountain to supply choices for all riders of all ranges, from newbie to professional. “We now have all the things, from the greenest of the inexperienced trails to the most important jumps in the entire state,” he mentioned. His imaginative and prescient included particular parts that he’d all the time dreamed of using. “I needed to make a superlong bounce run, which we’ve constructed. It’s referred to as Seventy-five Hits,” he mentioned, in honor of the spectacular variety of jumps riders will fly over as they traverse the three-sectioned path.

Path building lasted 4 months, with a crew of twelve full-time path builders and almost 100 volunteers shifting filth. In contrast to close by Spider Mountain, with its year-round chairlift, Station Mountain has a system of trailers and vehicles to get riders to the motion. “We now have three shuttle vehicles that every maintain twenty-four bikes and those who drive you out from the underside, all the way in which to the highest,” Jones defined. Riders select from trails that supply spiderwebs of circulate (clean, machined trails with berms and jumps) or others which might be technical (hand-cut or pure trails that may be rocky and ridden slower). Earlier than dropping in, they’re soothed by stunning Hill Nation vistas in a number of instructions. Although Jones is staying tight-lipped about any future additions to the park, he desires to make use of the early days of being open to listen to from riders. “We’re going to repair a lot after opening weekend,” he mentioned, sharing that round 350 folks visited within the first three days.  “If folks don’t like that berm or that bounce, we’re gonna go in and alter, like, 100 issues.”

For many who don’t need the enjoyable to finish, tent and RV tenting can be found on the park, and a number of other trip leases are close by. A meals truck, slinging tacos, espresso, and drinks, may also be on-site for hungry riders who don’t need to enterprise into city between runs. Marble Falls is a brief 9 miles away for provides or meals, together with three breweries (my son and I had lunch at Bear King Brewing after our session). Whereas these extras are enjoyable, Jones desires to maintain his concentrate on the using expertise. “I need to be sure that folks benefit from the park, whether or not that’s by the facilities or by the paths. However for me, I undoubtedly need to ensure that we’ve correct trails which might be all the time maintained,” he mentioned.

Clearly, mountain biking is alive and properly within the area, however it nonetheless has extra to do to meet up with the massive canine. “We now have strong journeys and other people go to right here, however it’s not like Arkansas . . . but,” mentioned Jones. Whereas it appears unlikely that Central Texas’s mountain biking choices will surpass these of Bentonville, the addition of Station Mountain additional elevates a scene that was already on the rise. I requested Jones to share his five-to-ten-year imaginative and prescient. “Perhaps I’ll have the world’s greatest bike park by then,” he mentioned, “however for now I’m simply targeted on Station Mountain. That is my child. It’s sort of loopy seeing this come to life. It’s superior.”

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