Outerbike is an annual mountain bike festival near Moab, Utah that brings together about 1,100 cycling enthusiasts with about 40 brands representing some of the top equipment made for the mountain bike market.
Open to the public, it was the perfect place to try out mountain biking without a major investment.
I arrived as a former youth road racer with limited mountain biking experience. I was always intrigued by mountain biking but slow to shell out the entry fee for another pricy hobby.
Outerbike offered the chance to try out amazing equipment that fits and is properly set up by pros.
The 2013 edition cost $150. For that price, you can ride all the bikes you want for three days. I personally rode three bikes worth about $15,000 in my time there.
Beyond access to tons of great bikes, I also had the chance to ride on the amazing trails of Moab and get unlimited free shuttle rides around the region.
Even lunch is included in the price. It struck me as a bargain and a really wonderful introduction to the sport.
For experts and those in the bike-shopping market, Outerbike is an opportunity to try before you buy and there is a little competition for the most popular bikes; the event opens with a Lemans-style dash for the bikes each morning.
Yet there seemed to be plenty of rides to go around. Arriving at a leisurely hour each day, three friends and I never had to wait long to find a great bike to ride although we weren’t extremely picky.
I first hopped on a full suspension Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Race. The bike features 650B wheels, a full carbon fiber frame and Rock Shox Sektor Silver TK 650B fork and carries a retail price of $3,800.
My first experience on a full suspension, I started out tentative and quickly progressed. The bike made everything so easy I was amazed by the terrain I could cross with just a bit of effort and grunting.
I was soon riding comfortably along intermediate trails. Dang, another expensive hobby.
For my next ride, I upped the ante, hopping on a Santa Cruz Bronson C that hits the wallet for around $6,000. I followed a friend and shook my head as we passed a sign warning of difficult trail ahead.
Yet, even on my first real day of mountain biking, the incredible equipment made it possible. The Santa Cruz ate up big rocks, ledges and climbs that I would have never guessed I could ride with my limited skills.
I was impressed.
We switched it up on the next day, hopping on light, carbon fat bikes from Borealis. The $3,600 Yampa may look like a tank rolling down the trail, but I found myself grinning constantly as it railed around corners and bumped over rocky terrain. It may be something of a specialized machine, but the fat bike was a blast to ride.
After sharing many miles of trails with mountain bikes while running, I now know it’s even more fun than it looks. Outerbike gave me a a chance to try it with minimal investment.
Now, to start saving those pennies. —Sean McCoy