Last year was the first year that I attended the famous Fruita Fat Tire Festival (FFTF). “18 and Legal,” the event promoted, after almost two strong decades of kicking off the knobby-tire season in one of America’s best-known biking destinations. This year, the festival will be held April 24-27.

Lunch Loops are the perfect place to avoid the masses

One of my friends, who has lived in Colorado for years, almost talked me out of it, citing crowded trails and expensive lodging. I am so glad I didn’t listen to her! 🙂

What you need to know if you are going: The FFTF 2014 event page can be found here, which has the skinny on events, demos, etc…. including the VIP pass. This pass gets you access to the Thursday night party, two beers on Friday and Saturday, a commemorative t-shirt, and other swag. Registration is $40 until 4/15, then goes up to $45 afterwards, plus the online registration fee.

Here are 10 additional tips and unsolicited observations if you are thinking about going this year:

1. If you just want to demo bikes, you don’t have to pay for the VIP pass–but you should anyway.

The event organizers would flog me for saying this, but it’s true. Bike companies galore line the streets in front of the festival, and they’re open to the public. However, the money for the VIP pass buys you other things (see above) and ultimately pays to keep this event going. $40-$45 is a small price to pay for that, so just get it.

2. If you want to demo bikes, get there early. Really early.The website says that the demo vendors have bikes available from 8am-6pm, but last year there was already a strong line for some vendors before 7am, with astute riders holding places, and having friends/wives/girlfriends bring them coffee and donuts in line. Moreover, vendors opened before the scheduled time, and a lot of the popular bikes were gone by the scheduled opening time. If you want to demo a top-shelf bike, get up before the rooster.

Peak riding time on Zippity, and the trails are empty except for that one guy way out there

3. The trails aren’t crowded.

This is generally true, unless you wait until mid-morning. I rode the Kokopelli trails, the Bookcliff system, and most of the Lunch Loops last year, and did not see many riders except for at the parking lot or the trail junctions. The exception to this was the lower 18 Road parking lot, which was empty at 9am, but pretty full when we left at noon. But who wants to ride in the middle of the day anyway? Ride early, go back to the festival and have a beer while you shop, then ride early in afternoon. You won’t encounter many riders that way.

4. Free beer goes fast, and so does the food.

If you purchase a VIP pass, don’t wait until the 11th hour to get your food and two complimentary beverages. I learned the hard way last year, because once the keg is dry, it’s done.

5. Camping ain’t worth it.

I was once a very poor college student, so I get it. But despite the fact that camping is cheaper (but not free) than the cheapest of hotel rooms, hotel rooms are really not that much more if you split the cost with someone. Believe me, if you ride hard for three days on demo bikes that your body isn’t used to, a bed will help you recuperate/recharge so much faster than sleeping on a leaky ground air mattress… especially if you crash a couple of times. Treat your body right, and help out the local economy. 🙂

Tristan climbing part of a surprisingly-deserted Horsethief Bench. Protect this place with your $$$

6. Hand your wallet over to COPMOBA–the pancakes are worth it.

If you have a VIP pass, you’ll be treated to a “free” pancake breakfast on Saturday. There’s nothing magical about these pancakes, except for the fact that every dollar you donate to the volunteers that are serving them to you goes directly towards the very trails you are riding. COPMOBA builds and maintains all of this world-class singletrack, despite thousands of annual visitors. So don’t be cheap: throw a Jackson or two in the bucket… if these trails go away, the world will surely end.

7. Some vendors close after their demos are taken.

Okay, by some vendors, I mean you, Santa Cruz. Once all their bikes were signed away, they closed up shop and didn’t reopen until later that afternoon, meaning you had one shot to get the bike you wanted, or you had to come back the following day. Most other vendors have time limits, or half-day demos, so you can reserve yours for a morning or afternoon session. Santa Cruz is actually smart, because they take off and enjoy the trails themselves while patrons demo all day, instead of waiting until Sunday—just be cognizant of this. If they have the new Nomad out this year, expect it to be crazy.

8. Take your bike.

Most people do, just in case they don’t get a demo, or try a few out and quickly decide that nothing is better than their own bike. But I met a few people last year who didn’t bring their bike, and they were literally begging for the leftovers.

The climb up Moore Fun is brutal, but rewarding if you like technical descents

9. Don’t be afraid to explore the surrounding areas if you want to avoid crowds.

Let’s say I’m wrong and throngs of riders show up this year and saturate the trails. Good news! There are hundreds of miles of singletrack beyond the tourist-laden St Mary’s and 18 Road Trails. Mack Ridge, Palisade Rim, and Rabbit Valley are just a few… and chances are you’ll see no one out there.

10. Moab is only an hour-ish away.

Though you may be here for the FFTF, Moab is a vacation within a vacation. If you’re not familiar with the area, then you may not be aware how close Moab really is to Fruita. It’s close enough that if you have never been there before, it’s worth it to take a couple of extra vacation days to drive over and shuttle Porcupine Rim, ride Amasa Back, or check out Slickrock. Chances are the local Fruita riders will be there to avoid “the crowds.” 🙂

Hopefully you find my random tips helpful to. If you are going to the FFTF this year, have a blast!

# Comments

  • mtbikerchick

    Great tips! Believe it or not, I tend to avoid Fruita during the Fat Tire festival…this is the time we usually ride Lunch Loop trails, Butterknife, etc. But I’m glad so many people get out and enjoy it! Thank you for mentioning COPMOBA too; without them (though I don’t always agree with them on issues) we would have far fewer trails.

    • delphinide

      Yeah, I know the locals head for more obscure trails when the visitors gather, and I don’t blame you. It isn’t crowded, but you are also not riding in the same solidarity outside of the festival. Thanks for all of the great articles you write on the area…it is my favorite place to ride–just couldn’t convince the misses to move there 🙂

    • mtbikerchick

      There are good and bad things about living in the Happy Valley 😉

  • k2rider

    I’ve been going to this event for several years and always have a good time. Last year was the first time that I saw them run out of food (twice) at the Mexican food place on thursday night. I know they are moving to a new location this year which is a good idea because the crowds were getting to be a bit much. We always get there early and get a table right up front (and closer to the food).

    You’re right about the bike demos but once again, last year was the first that I saw the early morning chaos. It was mostly for the new Bronson, Rip9 carbon and the new Yetis. They absolutely need to change the policy to *paying attendees only* for demo bikes…or at least until 12 Noon. At the Hurricane FTF, you have to pay to play and it runs very smoothly.

    The only place we experience any crowds is the climb UP to the Horsethief Bench area. After that, the crowds this out.

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