Most important thing to do before buying a bike? Make sure it’s the right bike. That means test ride, test ride and test ride some more. But that’s not always easy. Maybe your bike shop of choice resides far from legit trails. Maybe it doesn’t carry the bike(s) you’re interested in. Or maybe, like a growing number of cycling consumers, you’re planning to buy on-line, making a test ride virtually impossible.
So how can you get real trail time on the bike (or bikes) on your buy list before plunking down your credit card? Go to Outerbike, the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival, the Dirt Rag Dirt Fest, or one of the numerous other demo’centric MTB powwows that are popping up all across North America.
With few exceptions you’ll get the chance to test ride a wide array of top-tier bikes — and do it on some of the best trails in the country. The three-day Outerbike festival, for example, started with one fall gathering in Moab, Utah, and has since added a spring event in the same locale, plus a summertime version in the cycling Valhalla that is Whistler, British Columbia. The trails in Sedona are equally amazing. Same goes for festival host sites in Fruita, Santa Cruz and Oakridge, Oregon. The list goes on and on.
Check out the highlights from last fall’s Outerbike event HERE.
“We’ve already been approached by three other chamber of commerce people who want us to do an Outerbike in their town,” said Mark Sevenoff, who along with his wife Ashley Korenblat, started the Moab event five years ago, and will debut the first spring event March 13-15. “A lot of towns and ski areas are investing in trail systems so that they’re not just relying on winter sports for visitors. And obviously there is a lot of interest on the consumer side. Most people want a chance to test a variety of bikes before spending $5,000 or $6,000.”
Indeed, last fall nearly 1,000 people from 41 states and five countries showed up for Outerbike. Each paid $160 for a three-day pass, which includes unlimited access to demo bikes, daily shuttles, lunch, beer, and a host of evening social activities such as movies and parties.
“People want to ride bikes and the manufacturers want to get people on their bikes,” said Korenblat when asked about the genesis of Outerbike. “Before events like this, maybe a demo truck would show up at your shop. Maybe it would be at a convenient time. Maybe it would be near a good trail network. But really it felt like there was a disconnect between the bike buyer and the bike companies. So we decided to create a way where they could all be together in one place. This event is about connecting the consumers directly to the bike companies.”
The fall Outerbike show’s timing is especially attractive, as it comes just after the cycling industry trade show season and is often the first opportunity consumers have to see and ride the next year’s bikes.
It also doesn’t hurt that Moab has recently undergone a trail building renaissance of sorts. After a period of stagnation while nearby Fruita, Colorado, was exploding with new trails and national notoriety, the small Utah town that borders the Colorado River and is within 30 minutes of two spectacular National Parks, has been in construction overdrive.
In a cooperative effort between Grand County, the local Bureau of Land Management office, the Moab Trail Alliance, the local IMBA chapter and Trail Mix, a local advocacy group, money was raised and digging commenced. The results include a spectacular 3-mile long riverside bike path that connects the terminus of the famed Porcupine Rim Trail with town, and another path that links Moab to the new Bar M/Brands Trails a few miles past the entrance to Arches National Park. This ever-expanding 35-mile stacked loop trail system is ground zero for Outerbike, which sets up in the adjacent parking lot.
“It’s the ideal spot for an event like Outerbike,” explained Sevenoff. “You can park about 40 trucks and 500 cars, and more importantly you have this huge trail network right next door that has cross-country trails for basically every ability level. It’s a perfect place to do comparative bike testing.”