Last weekend hundreds of mountain bike connoisseurs converged on Moab to try out the latest and greatest gear.
The event is called Outerbike, and the idea came from Ashley Korenblat, proprietor of the Western Spirit bike shop in Moab.
“The manufacturers all build these demo fleets, and traditionally they were used just for the dealers and the bike shop owners to come and ride,” Korenblat said. “We thought it would be great to bring them to Moab and let the folks test the bikes on real rides, not just a little spin around the parking lot. These bikes run between, two, three to ten thousand dollars. So if you’re going to make that kind of commitment, you kind of want to ride one on a real trail before you buy it.”
Korenblat said it’s an idea that is catching on with other mountain bike destinations, including Whistler, B.C. Mountain bikers can schmooze with people from the actual factories and then try out the latest bikes on world-class trails.
“I’ve got a friend, she’s probably ridden eight bikes today, and so it’s a great opportunity to really compare,” Korenblat said. “And so what she’ll do is, she’ll go home to Texas and order the bike either from her dealer or online if it’s available.”
The vendors at Outerbike include some of the industry giants, like Salt Lake City-based Scott Sports and Marin Bikes from San Francisco. But smaller regional bike makers are also well represented, including the Durango Bike Company and Pivot Cycles, out of Tempe, Ariz. Also on hand was Brian Anderson from Rocky Mountain Bicycles in Vancouver.
“The materials, the frames have changed from steel to aluminum, now to carbon fiber. And then with disc brakes, hydraulic components, hydraulic suspension, the bar is moving so high and so fast, it’s putting a lot of pressure on companies, including ourselves, to come up with new and progressive product every year,” Anderson said.
Wendy Aber was representing the Durango Bike Company, a good example of a lean and mean regional bike maker that knows how to survive.
“We do rider-direct, so we don’t have a middleman that marks up our bike along the way. So that helps with our business model, so we don’t have to wait to get paid for our bikes,” Aber said. “What is tricky for bike companies is they have a lot of inventory out all over the U.S., and then they have to wait for payment to come back in.”
This actually gives the advantage to the smaller-volume manufacturer. Aber said Durango Bikes can draw on local skills to be highly competitive.
“Everybody’s on board, really pushing the envelope, and showing that when you do it in the U.S., what we can do in a short amount of time, and how quickly we can adapt to something, rather than waiting two or three years until you sell your inventory,” Aber said. “We can tweak the technology as it becomes available and beat everyone to market with it.”
Meanwhile, Moab’s network of mountain bike trails is increasingly on a collision course with local oil and gas drilling. That leaves Ashley Korenblat scrambling to maintain a competitive mountain biking experience.
“We really don’t have any assurances that some of these trails are going to be open, even as early as next year, because if some of the lease holders decide to drill, they might build a road right where the trail is. So we’ve been working with the BLM on the Moab Master Leasing Plan to sort out the zoning,” Korenblat said.