The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program has helped launch several startups in the cycling industry since it formed in 2021.
Founded through a $4.1 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, GORP is a business incubator for early stage startups in the outdoor recreation industry, said Phil Shellhammer, director of the program.
“Cycling, of course, is important, but so is climbing, camping, hiking,” he said. GORP also focuses on startups related to fishing, hunting and water sports.
One of the cycling companies that have come out of GORP is TrailPilot, an app for mountain bikers that gives a guided audio tour while the rider is on the trail. The rider hears a recorded message that’s triggered by GPS and alerts the rider in real time what’s coming up around the next turn, said its founder, Mark Marsiglio.
“The original idea came from years of frustration of visiting … a new trail and always feeling a little apprehensive about the first ride,” Marsiglio said. “Because you never know where that feature is going to creep up and get you and hurt you.”
He hopes to take advantage of technology to help riders keep their eyes on the trail. The tours also are sprinkled with storytelling and trivia about the area.
The app was launched in June 2020 and has since had several thousand downloads, Marsiglio said. The app has 17 mountain bike tours that cover 200 miles.
Another company that used GORP was Gnargo Bike Co. of Bentonville, formed by Elysia Contreras Springer and her husband, Zach Springer, in October 2022.
She said they created the company to “solve our own problem of needing an affordable and high-quality cargo bike to haul our kids and all of our things and hopefully replace a car around Bentonville.”
In the founders’ garage, Gnargo repurposes discarded steel bike frames to create e-cargo bikes. The electric-assisted cargo bike “makes it really possible to essentially replace a car,” Contreras Springer said.
Gnargo has sold about 40 bikes since it started selling them on its website about six months ago. The bikes sell for between $2,500 and $3,500.
She said that she and her family moved to Bentonville in 2019 from Minneapolis.
“We absolutely love Bentonville and the bike culture that is here,” Contreras Springer said. “There are just so many like-minded, cycling-loving families that want cargo bikes, and they want to support local businesses.”