Mountain bikers from the Wood River Valley and around the West got a taste of the latest bikes and tech last weekend at the Outerbike expo’s inaugural visit to Ketchum, offering consumers a rare and personalized glimpse into an industry that is working to overcome its insider exclusivity.
Started by Western Spirit Cycling in Moab, Utah, about 10 years ago, Outerbike offers annual bike-demo expos in Moab; Crested Butte, Colo.; Bentonville, Ark.; and now here in Ketchum. The three-day event at the River Run base of Bald Mountain boasted dozens of bicycle brands, component manufacturers and apparel and accessory companies, all offering their latest products for attendees to test. A full pass costing $250 included unlimited bike demos, a three-day lift ticket for Bald Mountain, group rides, shuttles to the Greenhorn trailhead, catered meals and social events. Less-expensive passes included only social events or only social events, a lift ticket and shuttles, but no bike demos.
What sets Outerbike apart from other expos, vendors and organizers said, is that it’s open to everyone, not just industry insiders. Cameron Lloyd, the marketing manager for Hailey-based Club Ride Apparel, said that Outerbike is the ideal event for anyone considering buying a new bike—and it’s a good time.
“They can come here, spend the weekend riding 10–15 different companies’ bikes, deciding which one is right for them. It’s the perfect blend of bikes, beer, mountain culture and just a great overall weekend,” Lloyd said. “A lot of the events we go to are just for dealers … but this is one of the best events for a consumer themselves. They can come in here, try any bike over and over and over, and really get a sense of what’s right.”
This was the fifth Outerbike Lloyd worked for Club Ride. Usually, he said, he’ll sell apparel at expos, but with so many dealers locally in the valley, this time he handed out discount cards for use at local shops. Outerbike is great for brands to reach consumers directly, he said, and for consumers to maximize their time testing products.
“If you’re looking for a higher-end bike, you want to go try bikes out. At a bike shop, you’ve usually got to spend $50–$75 to demo a bike, so at this event, for $250, you can ride 25 bikes—that’s $10 a bike,” Lloyd said. “Plus, you have food everyday that’s provided by Moab Private Chef and you have beers in the afternoon. It’s an all-around great deal for consumers, especially somebody looking to get a new bike.”
And the location is perfect, he said.
“This place is great because we have the Sun Valley Resort right here—we have the mountain literally a five-minute ride from the venue,” Lloyd said. “There are shuttled rides out here. It’s quick five, 10-minute [drive] out to Adams Gulch or Greenhorn.”
Mark Sevenoff, the founder and owner of Outerbike’s parent company, Western Spirit Cycling, said that’s what made Ketchum an easy choice for the newest Outerbike event.
“We were one of the early [mountain bike guiding] permittees in the Ketchum Ranger District, and so when we started looking at new venues to come to, Sun Valley was high on the list. We knew the riding was great, we knew it’s kind of like—I don’t want to say ‘best-kept secret’—but it’s a really good secret,” Sevenoff said. “There’s a ton of public land, which is awesome. The trails, many that were put in on [motorcycle], are just so expansive and just so well done that it’s pretty grin-inducing.”
Sevenoff said that about 360 people were pre-registered to attend Outerbike here and about 40 people registered on-site—good attendance for a first-year event, one that he expects to grow next year.
“I think everyone that came here had a true world-class experience. It’s kind of a more VIP, curated experience,” Sevenoff said. “Those people, they’re going to go home and brag about it, and they’re going to come back and bring friends.”
Sevenoff said that his wife, Ashley Korenblat, cooked up the idea for an outdoor consumer bike demo after years of explaining to bike-tour clients that the former Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, Nev., was restricted to industry employees. Outerbike may be smaller than Interbike was, but unlike the larger and now defunct indoor trade show, Outerbike draws bike-minded consumers.
“Everyone’s talking about the quality of the people—the people are really into it,” Korenblat said. “Most are shopping, and if they’re not, they’re about to start shopping, and they’re knowledgeable. Everyone I’ve talked to is really psyched.”
Not only is Outerbike open to existing cycling consumers, but Korenblat and Sevenoff are hoping to attract more people to mountain biking by breaking down the exclusionary gatekeeping they see as too prevalent in cycling culture.
“We’re just a little too tight. There are all these people that don’t look anything like cyclists, like we think, and they want to ride, and they are so excited to be invited to the party. By respecting them and inviting them, we’re working on more education. Someone should be able to go into a booth and not know the difference between 27.5 [inch wheels] and 29 and still be welcome,” Korenblat said. “That’s kind of a thing that we, as an industry, have never been that great at. We don’t mean to be mean, but we are and it’s stupid, because guess what, if we don’t get diversity in cycling, that’s going to be a problem. They want to be part of the scene and we’re trying to make that possible for them—anyone that wants to come.”
Former professional mountain bike racer Sam Schultz, who won the men’s Cross-Country National Championship here in 2012 and raced in the London Olympics weeks later, said that consumer access and a relaxed, inclusive vibe set Outerbike apart from other expos. Schultz, now a self-described “professional soul-rider” and athlete ambassador for Rocky Mountain Bicycles, has worked Outerbike events before and said that, “Versus an indoor trade show, this is so much cooler—anyone can come. There’s group rides going on, there’s good food, there’s beer, there’s shuttles that go out to different riding areas. It makes it a real easy way to take a bike vacation without the pressure of racing.”
Having ridden and raced here for years, Schultz said that Ketchum is the perfect place for Outerbike.
“The access to trails—there are so many trails around here and they’re beautiful. It’s sweet to have lift access right here, as well as places you can go pedal,” he said. “I just like that you can get deep into the mountains quickly from town and feel like you are out there and in that sub-alpine riding with crazy views and snowcapped peaks in the background. I’m trying to fit in as many bonus rides as I can.”
Event attendees were just as impressed with the riding, and praised the quick trail access from town. Mary Zuvela, a 55-year-old longtime mountain biker from Portland, Ore., made her first-ever visit to Ketchum to attend Outerbike. After three days of testing bikes on scenic singletrack around Ketchum—including on the Greenhorn-Imperial Gulch loop, her favorite ride here—she and her husband will likely return next year, she said.
“I just like the variety [of trails], the shuttles, the access to the lifts—it’s just convenient to do everything,” she said. “This was awesome—all the bikes, the demos, the riding, the whole mountain biking culture.”