Report From the Field: Outerbike 2011

For most of the country the first week of October is usually knee deep into fall and everyones MTB season is slowly switching gears. If you’re in Anchorage, fall has all but landed on the ground and old man winter is charging down that newly cut singletrack like an angry Grizzly. “Outerbike in Moab? Sign me up! By the way, whats an outer bike?”

Now in its second year, Outerbike is an annual event that brings dozens of bike manufacturers to Moab to let regular riders demo the latest bikes. For one price anyone can get admission to the 3-day event and the opportunity to ride any bike they choose on a network of trails ranging from novice to highly advanced and everything in between. Of course you also get the chance to talk with bike and component manufacturers and get your hands on a bunch of cool new stuff. For those who got in town early, there was the option to choose from several scheduled shuttle rides with Western Spirit Cycle Adventures on trails around the Moab area for the 3 days leading up to the event. Free skills clinics were also held during the week in a park located at the brand new Aquatic/Rec Center in Moab – all you had to do was sign up & show up.

I can’t think of a better location for this event. The Moab Brand trails area has adequate space and parking for the event plus it’s right at the edge of a full range of trails. The paved bikeway from town through the Moab Canyon runs right past the front gate creating not only hotel commuting options but also a place to test ride the road and urban bikes that were available for demo. The event itself was very well organized and is a benefit for IMBA among other MTB-related organizations. The event staff were ever present, friendly, very helpful and seemed to pull this off without a visible hitch. I estimate there were 20 different bike companies there with a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Getting the exact bike you wanted to ride could require a bit of a wait, however the chance to try something you had never seen before was always there. Along with major bike companies there were booths from several component companies like Fox and Shimano.

Continental Tires kicked off the event Thursday night with a showing of Klunkerz at the Star Hall in Moab. This is a must see movie for anyone even slightly interested in how we got where we are today – good stuff. Each day there was a different free shuttle destination from the event; on Friday it was the Mag Seven trails. On Saturday there was a shuttle to Amasa Back and on Sunday the shuttle dropped riders at Slickrock Trail. Check out a bike you want, and get on the shuttle – as many times as you want. Yeti Bikes had the largest selection of demos and was probably the busiest booth there. Want to ride an $8,000 Ibis? Or an Orbea? No problem, getting there early will help. Turner, Elsworth, Kona, Niner, Pivot, Giant, Intense and many others were there too. Spot had a selection of their belt drive hardtails that were very popular.

My friends from Alaska even showed up with the Fatback bikes just to kind of introduce them to the folks here. They brought four bikes since the bikes arent really ideal for this type of terrain however they couldnt seem to keep them on the rack – everyone wanted to try them. Pete even threw in his personal bike as a demo so they could have one more in the rotation – go figure.

Lunch was served for several hours each day so no one missed it and consisted of fresh, locally baked breads and a full selection of cold cuts plus pasta salads, drinks, etc. After a few hours of hard riding the DIY Dagwood sandwich is pretty awesome! The steady stream of riders and bikes coming and going was almost dizzying and kept that constant buzz of excitement heavy in the air. Saturday was actually overcast and unseasonably cold for Moab but that didnt seem to slow anyone down – the down coats and ski hats came out and everyone kept right on riding.

I noticed at around 4:30 everyday the crowd thinned out dramatically – then I realized this is when the Beer Garden opened for those who wanted to partake. For myself it gave me a chance to talk with the manufacturers and others about their products in a more relaxed manner. I met Maurice Tierney, the original mastermind behind Dirt Rag Magazine. We talked for a bit, swapped stories and that led to an invite to a semi-private party at Poison Spider Bikes including some awesome tacos and several locally brewed beers. It was great having dinner and conversations with some of the industry’s movers and shakers and finding that no matter where you are from and what you do, we all just love to ride.

Not having been there last year I didnt have anything to compare this event to but this year there were over 850 registered riders. According to the locals Outerbike was at least 3 times bigger this year than last. Nice. With any luck next year will be even bigger, and I really hope they dont change a thing.

*Disclaimer: I’m not really in the market for a new bike so I wasnt shopping very hard. Nor am I very qualified in giving the high tech reviews on bikes as some of you are. I did, however, love getting to see the newest frames outfitted with components I have only read about. Outerbike is about the bike, but really, there’s so much more to it. I finally used a 2×10 drivetrain and can see some of the advantages. I also used a 3×10, several new forks, shifters etc. that were all incredible. After my first ride on a bike with new brakes I was compelled to drop my personal bike at Chili Pepper Bikes for a bleed and tune up.

I was disappointed in one bike that I was really anxious to ride but then completely surprised by one that I rode just because.’ That’s the whole purpose here I guess. Of all the bikes I rode the Santa Cruz Blur TRc stands out as light and just a whole lot of fun to ride. I have to say that the Pivot Mach 5.7 is the most amazing trail bike I have ever ridden – this will be the one the industry chases, within this category anyway. It ate up everything I could possibly throw it at and seemed to taunt me asking for more – is that all you got old man? I’m very impressed.

Bottom line is this was one cool event and a real bonus if you’re in the market for a 2012 bike. I can only see the popularity of this growing over the years – I know I will be here just to soak up the excitement if nothing else!

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