By Tom Diegel
Several years ago Ashley Korenblatt, the former Wall Streeter turned Western Spirit Bicycle Tours owner in Moab, came home from her annual September sojourn to Las Vegas for the Interbike bicycle trade show and wondered why it was that all of the bike manufacturers made such an effort to get shop employees to try their bikes on real trails, but no one was trying to get actual consumers onto real trails on their bikes. A consumer who is considering a new mountain bike is forced to read internet reviews, listen to shop rats wax poetic about nuances on bikes they rode 6 months prior, and take a “test ride” on sidewalks and jumping over curbs before pulling out their credit cards. Ashley – famous for her forward thinking and bold initiatives – decided to change that, and came up with Outerbike.
Her premise was simple: provide a venue for manufacturers to connect with consumers who would be able to easily try lots of different bikes on real trails, and really create “an event” out of it, with shuttles, guided tours, parties, bike movie premiers, and free food for all attendees. Put it at an easily-accessible network of great singletrack in Moab during the famously-perfect October Moab weather, and it’s a winning recipe for all. It has quickly become a “must do’ for the bike manufacturers; even though the companies’ promo vans travel the country and are getting better at doing demos at trailheads here and there, they are rarely in the same zone as their competitors, so Outerbike provides a golden opportunity for Utahns to try not only Cannondale’s entire line, but also the entire line of bikes from Giant, Ibis, Rocky Mountain, etc. This year virtually all of the mountain bike manufacturers were there with their 2014 bikes (with the notable exception of Trek and Fisher) in order to take advantage of the enthusiasm of the 1000 or so participants.
As anyone who has planned a wedding or big party can understand, the logistics of pulling together any large event is daunting, much less having 50 different vendors and keeping 1000 consumers entertained for 4 days. But Western Spirit’s staff, spearheaded by newcomer Laurel Hunter, spent all year strategizing on the best ways to do it, and the organization is flawless. A key component of Outerbike is the shuttling: while the event is focused at the venerable Bar M trails, Western Spirit annually rounds up every possible shuttle vehicle in Moab to provide show-goers the opportunity to take their demo bikes up to the more-excellent Mag 7 and northern Klondike Bluffs trails. So a consumer can take a bike for a quick spin on the Bar M trails, see if they like it, and then grab one of the many shuttles to those other trail areas for a longer, more-varied ride. But your timing has to be right because you don’t want to miss the good free lunch! You can be sure that the last shuttles will return you to the venue in plenty of time to take advantage of the free beer garden at the end of a day.
These days the array of mountain bikes to choose from is dizzying: aluminum or carbon frame? Ditto for wheels? 29-inch wheels or 27.5? Hard tail or full suspension? 2×10 or 1×11? SRAM or Shimano? If full suspension, then what shock/linkage configuration? What about them fatty bikes that look so wacky and fun? With the dozens of manufacturers all providing convincing evidence that their tech is the best, nothing can beat a “real ride” on a bike and then directly comparing it to its peers, and with the costs of bikes reaching astronomical highs, the ability to try before you make this substantial purchase is becoming increasingly invaluable. Thanks to the vision of Ashley Korenblatt and the excellent organization of her staff, Outerbike has become the perfect resource for anyone considering a new mountain bike.
For more information, visit outerbike.com.