Outerbike Has Returned, and So Have Some Demo Bikes

“This feels like the first Outerbike” said Mark Sevenoff as he scanned the cloudy, cool venue in Moab, Utah on October 1, the first day of the three-day event. Outerbike was born in 2010 in response to Interbike, the industry-only trade show in Las Vegas that lots of bike nerds wanted to go to but couldn’t. Ashley Korenblat, owner of Western Spirit Cycling Adventures and her husband Mark Sevenoff saw a need for an event that allowed consumers to actually ride a bike on an actual trail before raiding the kid’s college fund and hoping the other parent doesn’t notice.

The 2020 event, like so many others, was sucked up into the Covid vortex. Two hundred participants who’d already purchased a ticket for that canceled event were at the head of the line for a very trimmed down Outerbike 2021. If 2019 numbers were any indication, the 2020 event was headed for upwards of 1,000 eager demo-ers. The first post-Covid Outerbike was capped at 300 participants, and not only because of wobbly infection rates and new variants, but because of the ubiquitous and now famous bike shortage. Bike companies are reporting that certain components crucial to a bicycle actually rolling down a trail/road are seeing lead-times of 500 days. Yup, more than a year.

“Yeti wanted to come and they were feeling confident about a large delivery of frames and components, and they let us know three weeks ago that it wasn’t gonna happen. They were as disappointed as we were, but what are ya gonna do? Everything is so crazy right now, nobody knows which end is up” said an ever-pragmatic Korenblat, founder and President of Outerbike, former IMBA president, founding Managing Director for Public Land Solutions, and, as mentioned, owner of Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. However, several brands did show up and good use was made of their abbreviated demo fleets. This journalist got to ride an Esker Rowl, an Ibis Ripmo, a Specialized Stumpjumper Evo and a Rocky Mountain Instinct, all of which were a hoot on some of Moab’s marquee trails—Navajo Rocks, Mag 7, and Amasa Back, via continuous shuttles from the venue.

Lunch was included in the price of admission, so most folks came back midday, fueled up and selected another mount for the afternoon. With the venue’s location at the parking lot for the Moab Brand trail system (formerly “Bar M”), shuttles were not strictly necessary. The availability of immediately adjacent trails allowed for the most meticulous compare/contrast rider to hit the same flow/jump/launch line multiple times on multiple bikes to better inform their purchasing decision. But not everyone at Outerbike was necessarily in the market for a new ride. A large group of friends from Puerto Rico came to the States just for this event, just to “ride awesome bikes on great trails and drink beer with fun people.” Mission accomplished.

Bicycle brands at this year’s Moab Outerbike included:

  • Esker Cycles
  • Ibis Cycles
  • Intense
  • Jamis
  • Specialized
  • Rocky Mountain

Other, non-bike vendors included:

  • 7iDP (MTB protection–I scored some nice elbow pads that I actually got to try on an actual ride…)
  • Tag Metals (components)
  • Moxie Cycling Company (apparel)
  • Roam Adventure Co. (outdoor equipment)
  • Tailwind Nutrition
  • Moab Trail Mix (trail advocacy organization)
  • Untamed MTB (apparel)

Korenblat and Sevenoff were ubiquitous and ever-present, chatting up friends old and new, guests, vendors, staff and journalists, perhaps a silver lining to a smaller crowd. Korenblat mentioned that business is brisk at Western Spirit.

“We all speculate about whether this boom will bust once people who’ve discovered cycling during the pandemic can go back to their previous pursuits. Will they? I’m optimistic that a good percentage will stick with it. But we really must do a better job at welcoming new riders into the fold.” Korenblat notes, keen to the irony, that the price point for entry into this sport is far too high. “If we as an industry don’t start doing a better job of cultivating the next generation of rider, advocate, consumer, we’ll only have ourselves to blame when we are steamrolled by other interests regarding trails, access and bike infrastructure.”

Since its inception, Outerbike has expanded to additional locations including Crested Butte, Colorado; Bentonville, Arkansas; Killington, Vermont; and Duluth, Minnesota. “Everybody wants an Outerbike in their town” said Korenblat, without conceit, but there are a lot of factors to consider in making a successful event. Does the town want it? Are there good trails, good infrastructure? Do the vendors want to go? I asked if she considered Outerbike ’21 a success.

“I think it would be hard to run this event with any fewer participants, but given the weirdness of anything and everything this year, I’d say yes, it was a success.” And the fact that a stranger told her on his way out that it was the “best weekend of his life” put an extra spring in her step as she sauntered off to deal with the caterer/Bureau of Land Management/teenage son/Western Spirit/husband/staff/Washington DC/industry trade group/porta-pottie guy.

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