Sunlight burned the desert. Wind kicked up dust and sand. The Outdoor Demo, a two-day industry event in Boulder City, Nev., was in full swing, with dozens of bikers snaking down trails like ants on the dry hills far below.
It was a Tuesday in late September. I was high on a climb, Nevada’s sprawling Lake Mead visible in the distance beyond the otherworldly terrain of Bootleg Canyon. As a premier outdoor-demo event, and a precursor to the annual Interbike Expo trade show, the Outdoor Demo draws thousands of riders and some of the most influential people in the world of bikes. There are legends of the sport on the trails. Dozens of companies set up tents and arrange bikes to try out and ride for miles into Bootleg’s desert heights.
For me, the Demo mixes two things I love: New gear and epic outdoor activity. Over a few hours, with temps edging in the high 90s and wind whipping sand, I clipped in and pedaled a half-dozen bikes in Bootleg. There was a Kona dual-suspension single-speed, Giant’s 29er line, bikes with belt drives, and a lightweight fixed-gear I rode on a paved trail.
Bootleg Canyon has miles of cross-country mountain bike trails, a downhill-specific course, a BMX track, and a closed road course. There’s a cyclocross demo course and an electric-bike demo track. Shuttled downhill runs deliver riders to the top of a ridge.
On the singletrack, I spun uphill for 10 minutes before turning right to follow the flags. The trail swooped into a ravine. It rode the spine of a ridge, narrowing near the apex of a mound and then turning sharp to round a spur. Pumice rock tore out from the earth, an alien place where tire tracks were the only sign of human life.
Then it was downhill to a tent, water coolers stacked and stowed in the shade. Refill. Drink. Recharge. Clip back in, and ride.
The Demo is a rare time where dealers can show off bikes in their exact element. I kicked some tires, figuratively, in a conversation with the president of Ellsworth. Giant and Norco showed me their new lines. Gates Carbon Drives stocked belt-drive-equipped bikes from a dozen companies.
By the end of the day, my throat was raw, my hands gripped. My mouth was dry. In Bootleg Canyon the sun beats down and the trails do not relent. At Outdoor Demo, at least you know you can find the right tools for the job.
—See Gear Junkie’s report on the new bikes and gear from Outdoor Demo and the Interbike Expo trade show at http://gearjunkie.com/interbike-gear-preview-2010.