CRESTED BUTTE — Hundreds of cyclists converged on Mount Crested Butte this weekend for the first Crested Butte Outerbike event. If you love mountain biking, this was the spot to be.
Formerly held in Moab, Utah, this Colorado-edition of the bike festival featured more than 1,200 demo bikes, lift-served trails, cross-country riding, happy hours, and of course, the enthusiasm of mountain bike fans from across the country.
“Yes, this is the first time the event has been held in Colorado,” said Andrew Sandstorm, public relations manager for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association. “In fact, it is the first time that is has been in the central Rockies. In the past, the event has taken place in Moab and Whistler. We took it from Whistler!”
I can’t think of a better place to hold a bike festival in Colorado. Crested Butte already boasts some of the best singletrack and a bike-friendly community. Additionally, the area’s famed wildflowers were still ablaze, and riders got to take in the mountain splendor throughout the weekend.
I’ve been to my share of bike demos, but I was particularly impressed with the turnout and quality of the Crested Butte Outerbike. The event was smaller in size and number than its predecessors, but the level of riding did not disappoint. Brands that attended included Giant/Liv, Jamis, Yeti, Scott, Specialized, Rocky Mountain, Evil, Ibis, Pivot and Norco.
One of my few complaints, which was shared by some riders who had attended Outerbike festivals in the past, was that little transportation was provided to reach area rides, limiting most riders to the resort trails. Bikes weren’t allowed in personal vehicles, and other than the bus, which runs from the center of town to the resort on a regular basis, many people didn’t have a way to reach popular trails such as Doctor Park or Strand Hill. Maybe next year.
Bikes that made a splash
Outerbike featured mostly 2017 models, although some brands brought samples of their 2018 fleet as well, offering prospective buyers a sneak peek at what will be in stores next year. A couple Colorado brands were very popular among riders, including Spot, a Golden-based company that recently released its new 27.5+ trail bike, the Mayhem. With its long lines, Living Link suspension and 130mm of travel, the Mayhem rode technical trails like bikes with much bigger forks. Spot’s reps were having a hard time keeping these bikes on the demo rack. My husband, after several laps on the resort’s techier trails, announced the Mayhem as his favorite ride of the day.
Yeti probably had the longest line of any brand, with riders willing to patiently wait to try their trail models, the SB5, SB5.5 and SB6. Long recognized as the quintessential Colorado bike, these rides thrived on the flowing downhill terrain of the resort trails
Outerbike for the ladies
I can’t talk about an event that is all about introducing different bikes to a variety of riders without touching on women-friendly products. A quick, unscientific survey of Outerbike revealed mostly dudes, but also a fair number of women. Bike companies were hit or miss as to whether they had high-end women’s models at all, or if they brought smaller bikes as part of their demo fleet.
Companies should take note of Liv, an all-women’s brand, which was constantly buzzing with riders and running low on available demos, even though men outnumbered women at this event. Liv broke my heart by discontinuing their XC race bike, the Lust, a couple years ago, but they’ve introduced some new models with more travel and descent-friendly geometry like the Pique and the Hail. The Lust has been my trusty race steed for several years, but other riders seemed thrilled with the new models, so they must be onto something.
Other standouts included Yeti, with their Yeti Beti line. These women-friendly bikes sport the same frames as the regular models, but with suspension dialed for lighter riders, shorter crank-arms and women’s specific saddles. I had a blast on the Yeti SB5, which seemed to gobble up rock beds for breakfast.
Niner’s neon-colored Jet 9 RDO was also a hot commodity among both sexes. I’d mostly seen this Fort Collins-based brand’s hardtail 29ers, but the beefier looking Jet surprised me with its nimbleness, lightness and fun factor. I was especially impressed that it came in a perfect-for-small-ladies XS. Turns out, one of the owners of Niner is 5-foot-6-inches, so smaller frames are a priority.
Outerbike Crested Butte is a perfect way to shop for a new bike while enjoying what I think is the most beautiful season in this classic ski town. The only limitation I really found at Outerbike was how many rides my legs would allow. I can’t wait to go back next year.