A few months back, while Marin was still being subjected to heavy rains on the daily, we heard that the riding far away in Fruita, Colorado was pretty decent (re: “incredible”), where it stayed dry almost year-round. We’d also heard that the town’s annual Fat Tire Festival was a springtime “must-experience” in the world of mountain biking. So with a relatively quiet number of weeks immediately following the Sea Otter Classic, we decided it was high time to make the long drive out to Colorado, take in the festival, and see what Fruita riding was all about.
Fruita is a quirky desert town with a good sense of humor and a purposeful identity. You’ll find it immediately west of Grand Junction on Highway 70, with nothing but vast desert as far as you can see in every direction. Fruita knows that its remote location ensures that few will hear of it (or drive through it), but those who do make the trip are rewarded with plenty of fresh air, vast canopies of stars and spectacular vistas, as well as world-class mountain biking. And while some of the friendly locals might call Fruita one of mountain biking’s “best-kept secrets,” this video from Yeti suggests that those secretive days are long since gone. Starting with the link to its desert neighbors in Moab via the legendary Kokopelli Trail, Fruita has trails of its own epic enough to name a mountain bike after, and for very good reason. Discovering that undeniably spiritual connectivity between your bike and the trail is something that simply must be experienced to be understood, and Fruita provides many an opportunity with its fast and flowy sections of supremely well-traveled singletrack which ribbons across the Colorado desert.
So yes, the riding was good. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, as we were in town for the festival. It doesn’t take much to overwhelm the small town of Fruita, but that’s about what the Fat Tire Festival does; bringing in dirt-lovers from every corner of Colorado and neighboring Utah to check out the very latest and greatest trail machines to hit the market while enjoying plenty of refreshments from a wide variety of local Colorado micro-breweries. The hotels are the first to fill, followed by the surrounding campgrounds at beautiful Highline State Park and the awe-inspairing National Monument. Those looking for a prime spot for the early morning demo line opted to camp much closer to town.
Like any good festival weekend, things were kicked off with a free pancake breakfast sponsored by the advocacy group COPMOBA — an organization who is largely responsible for the establishment and continued maintenance of Fruita’s amazing reputation for riding. And like many mountain bike festivals, not just the riding was celebrated, but those who ride as well. A wide variety of vendors and exhibitors were on hand to show off new product, and were supplemented by plenty of live music and great food. Free skills clinics were also available for beginner-level riders, further ensuring there was truly something for everyone at every juncture of the event.
Frivolities aside, the crux of the Fat Tire Festival and the true draw of the area is all about riding. People lined up as early as 7:30 in the morning for a guaranteed chance to commandeer a demo bike from Specialized, Felt, Pivot, Yeti, and Santa Cruz, or even a fat bike from Alaska’s Nine Zero 7 on some of the very best trails that the American West has to offer. And since Kitsbow was camped out right amidst the various fleets of demo bikes, we were also sending riders to the trails wearing test pairs of our Soft Shell A/M Short. Just like how it might take a demo ride or two to find the right bike to match your riding style, a test ride in our shorts is a key component of understanding the nuances that make the Kitsbow fit completely different than any other apparel available for the trail.
Each night, the slow trickle of demo riders returning from the trails to seek out end-of-day refreshments signaled our turn to head out to the famous 18 Road trail playground or to squeeze in a few gleeful laps around the Highline Lake before sunset — the latter of which, is where the equally epic 18 Hours of Fruita is raced.
We’re already looking another excuse to send the Sprinter to Fruita, if only to get in some more riding followed by a chill-out at the Hot Tomato. In the mean time though, we have plenty of races, festivals, and other trailbuilding events to visit this summer, so don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Twitter to find out where the Sprinter van is headed next. We’ll see you out there. [zp]
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