A Newbie’s Guide to Outerbike
With dozens of mountain bike companies and world-class trails, these demo events are the perfect way to find your new ride
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
It used to be that if you wanted to try out the latest and greatest mountain bikes all in one place, you had to know someone in the business who could sneak you into Interbike, the industry-only trade show in Las Vegas. “All our guests wanted to go,” says Mark Sevenoff, who owns the Moab, Utah–based mountain bike touring company Western Spirit with his wife, Ashley Korenblat, former president of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. “People really want to be able to try that $10,000 Yeti before they plunk down for it.” So the couple thought why not create their own demo event right after Interbike—one that was open to everyone who wanted to come? With all the companies already in Vegas with fleets of demo bikes, it would be easy for them pop over to Moab.
And so, in 2010, Outerbike was born. Far from your typical demo day at your local shop, the annual three-day event sees giant firms like Cannondale and Specialized, high-end shops like Yeti and Evil, and direct-to-consumer brands like Canyon and YT bring their newest rigs to one of the sport’s most iconic locations for a single purpose: to help you find your dream ride.
Over the years, the Outerbike has become part party and part gathering of the clans and has expanded to include additional locations, like Crested Butte, Colorado, and Sun Valley, Idaho. This week, it will travel east of the Rockies for the first time with an event in Bentonville, Arkansas, from October 26 to 28, meaning a whole new region of the country can get in on the action. If this is your first time attending, there are a few things you should know to make the most of your weekend in bike demo heaven.
Fight the Sticker Shock
At $240 for an all-access three-day ticket, attending Outerbike is not cheap. However, with demos at most bike shops running close to $100 a day and bike shuttles for trails like Moab’s Magnificent 7 starting around $25 per person, the event is actually quite a deal. You just need to test two bikes and take two shuttles to break even, and it’s easy to beat that goal in a single day.
Make a Wish List
There are plenty of brands and bikes to test, but there’s always a line at the gates for the 9 a.m. start and plenty of competition throughout the day to get on the year’s hottest new rides. Coming prepared each morning with a list of the bikes you’re most excited to try will save time and guarantee you land at least one. That said, be open to surprises. If all the bikes on your list are checked out, that’s the perfect opportunity to fall in love with something completely unexpected.
OK, not really. With the miles you’ll be logging, you’ll definitely want a midday fuel-up. But while everyone’s chowing down on the (surprisingly tasty and healthy) lunches included with each pass, the bikes they were just testing are up for grabs. If you missed your dream ride during the morning rush, this is your second-best chance.
Establish a Test Loop
You’ll be tempted to shred as much different singletrack as you can, thanks to unlimited chairlifts and/or shuttles depending on the location, but if you’re serious about finding the perfect bike, consider creating your own test loop near the venue so you can directly compare lap times and ride quality. “Challenge yourself and pick a gnarly climb or tricky roll in on the edge of your comfort zone,” Sevenoff suggests. “You may not clear it on one bike, but on another, it could be super easy.”
Demo the Direct-to-Consumer Brands
Canyon, YT, Norco, Fezzari, and other direct-to-consumer bike manufacturers are putting out some seriously good rides at seriously good prices. Check out our review of YT’s Jeffsy. But since you can’t pop down to the shop for a test ride, events like Outerbike are the only real way to know how those bikes fit and perform before you buy.
Don’t Just Wait in Line
“Be involved,” Sevenoff says. “Talk to the demo people. Every brand is different, but most will let you know right away what they have in stock so you don’t waste time waiting until you’re at the front of the line.” If you’re friendly, some may even take your cellphone number and text you when the bike you want is in, he says, and other brands, like Ibis and Yeti, have started taking reservations.
Pack Your Tools
With mechanics to set up each bike to your liking and a patrol out on the trails to fix flats and other mechanical issues, it’s easy to just go out and ride. But being able to take care of your own flat tire won’t just save you time; packing a full kit, including a multitool and shock pump, will let you dial in the bike while you’re out on the trail. Nothing ruins a test ride like a rear shock that’s accidently way too stiff or a brake lever that’s out of prime position.
Bring Your Own Bike
Part of Outerbike’s attraction is the ability to show up with little more than your kit and ride some amazing trails without having to pack your bike for a long drive or flight. But riding your own steed on the test loop is a great way to establish a baseline against which to compare the rigs you’ve been drooling over. Plus, with your own bike in tow, you can extend your trip well beyond the weekend, Sevenoff says. For example, the day before the Moab event kicks off, Outerbike offers shuttles of the world-famous Whole Enchilada trail, more than 7,000 feet of descent in 27 miles.