Circle the Wagons

We knew back in January at the outset of this year that Sea Otter and Outerbike would be the two bookends, between which the goals of our summer travel season would be targeted. Outerbike would not only be the unofficial wrap-party for our season, it would also mark the final date of our six-week IMBA Epic road trip; a fitting conclusion in Moab’s stunning desert, surrounded by new friends, old industry pals, and some of the very best riding in North America. And so with one destination left on our whistle stop tour, we refueled in Salt Lake City and turned the Sprinter South then East across Utah’s arid countryside just as the vast expanse of late-summer clouds caught fire.

Outerbike started as something of a lark — a rider-centric rebel expo for those who weren’t amongst the congregation making the yearly pilgrimage to Las Vegas for Interbike — cycling’s largest insider-only exhibition event. Insiders or not, these were people who weren’t content to be led around crowded expo halls in one of the least cycling-friendly cities in the United States. They wanted to be able to see the same new products, but be able to test and ride them to their hearts’ collective content, and be able to do so across one of the most iconic trail networks in North America. The people demanded demos, and the people demanded Moab, Utah. And thus, Outerbike was born.

There is an incredible variety of great product ripe for sampling at Outerbike — like our line of tester A/M Softshell Shorts, for example. But for all intents and purposes, Outerbike is, and will likely continue to be all about the demo bikes. The exhibition area is littered with clean bikes on stands, dirty bikes on stands, and rows upon rows of bikes waiting to be tossed into the surrounding desert, shuttled to the top of Captain Ahab, hucked off ledges on Rockstacker, and subjected to the most sadistic of rider tendencies. But there’s a caveat: if it’s a Santa Cruz, Yeti or Ibis that you’re craving to thrash, you still have to queue up and wait your turn, just like everyone else. Outerbike’s rapidly growing popularity and rabidly enthusiastic ridership leads to earlier and longer line formation, before being followed by a stampede on each of the event’s three mornings at the stroke of nine o’clock, as attendees scramble to secure the newest and most choice bikes.

Neither Mars, nor Marin, the otherworldly terrain in Moab defies description. Every vista in all four directions has likely long since found its way to a postcard, now affixed to a refrigerator in a kitchen thousands of miles away. In stark contrast to its unfalteringly crisp blue skies, Moab’s signature vivid reddish-brown and orange sandstone and slickrock are everywhere you look — so much so, it begins to feel like a singular, flowing crust of prehistoric earth plunked down eons ago and left to the mercy of the winds. Trails here are not so much ‘built’ as they are literally painted into the landscape itself. When the loose rock and sand sections give way to the grippy slickrock, the riding is consistent; fast, rarely flowy, technical, and frequently puckering, and awe-inspiring every time you stop to catch your breath. There’s a reason that Moab is a regular inclusion on every outdoor bucket list the world over, and there’s a reason that mountain bikes are named after these trails — it’s simply an experience not worth missing.

The Outerbike exhibition grounds are conveniently nestled up against Moab’s venerable Bar-M network, which offers plenty of easily accessible trail options and a wealth of ride variety. But for those looking for more than a brief out-and-back, daily shuttles are provided by the event hosts at Western Spirit to give attendees the complete package: a chance to ride the bike of one’s dreams and savor the experience of a daylong epic on some of Moab’s most legendary stretches of trail, like the Whole Enchilada. If there’s a better event where you can get it all at once, and all in once place, we’d love to hear. And yes, Mountain Bike Oregon comes very close.

Naturally, the centerpiece of our booth was the Kitsbow All-Mountain collection for attendees to touch and feel and take to the trail. But in what is quickly becoming a Kitsbow tradition, we also brought along our La Marzoccho espresso machine and made certain our pop-up Outerbike café was stocked with fresh roast (courtesy of our friends at Verve in Santa Cruz) to help caffeinate each morning’s demo stampede. Whether it’s donating to IMBA, organizing trailbuilding days, running aid stations, or serving coffee at an expo, we believe in giving back. Mountain biking is a joyful endeavor — one that that empowers, inspires, and has lent great meaning to the rest of our daily lives. Giving back seems like the very least we could possibly do. [zp]

With the bittersweet conclusion of our 6-week IMBA Epic road trip, comes the requisite housekeeping as we re-situate ourselves in the heart of Marin (home of the new Mountain Bike Hall of Fame). We’re also already fast approaching the time when we start thinking about next year’s trailheads — where else we can “send the Sprinter” to give back and continue to tell our story? You can stay abreast of our most current developments by liking our page on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing to our newsletter here.