Outlier Offroad Festival celebrates bikes, athletes | VailDaily.com

Outlier Offroad Festival celebrates bikes, athletes

VAIL — If you're cruising down Fred's Lunch this weekend, feeling like you've never been so good at mountain-biking, then it's not you. It's the new bike.

The Outlier Offroad Festival, a celebration of mountain-biking and the consumers who've helped to grow the sport, returns to Vail Village today after a successful first year last fall. While the event will get competitive with several cross-country races today and a three-stage enduro on Sunday, the demo area is the bigger draw for the average mountain-biker.

"Competition is a focus, but not the focus," event organizer Mike McCormick said on Friday. "The races add energy and vibrancy and are cool to see, but getting consumers to see new stuff for the first time is a little more important than the racing."

HELMETS, PADDING AND BIKES

With the Outlier being one of the first festivals in the country where manufacturers will have their 2017 bikes available for demo, the festival becomes a chance for enthusiasts to see what's new in the industry.

Today's cross-country race is sponsored by Scott and their 2017 Spark cross-country bike.

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"This is one of the first consumer demos on the calendar," said Zach Vestal with Scott bikes. "We just got our first shipments of 2017 bicycles in July."

The Scott Spark has a new frame layout, new geometry, new suspension, and lighter and stiffer frame which is about a half pound lighter than competing models.

"It's a completely different animal, so it's super exciting for us," Vestal said. "So far the feedback has been really positive."

Also look for Rocky Mountain Bicycles to debut four new bike models at Outlier this weekend, and Alchemy Bicycle company, of Denver, is also expected to debut a brand new bike today. Mountain-bikers need not bring their own gear, as G-Form is on hand with knee, shin and elbow pads for demo, and Smith Optics has helmets available.

"It happens so often where people come back and say 'I was so happy to have your pads because I crashed so hard," said Joanna Petterson, G-Form's bicycle product line manager, who came in from Oregon for the Outlier. "That's always the best, to know your product protected someone out there."

Smith Optics's people came in from Denver to make their helmets available.

"We have a new technology which is leading the market in weight to impact dispersion," said AJ Appezzato with Smith. "There's nobody else in the industry who uses Koroyd material for protection, everybody else uses EPS. It's a honeycomb-like material, if you haven't tried it you have to come check it out."

'PLURAL MARRIAGE'

The Outlier Offroad Festival was closer to the end up September when it debuted in Vail last year. While the event was a great success, McCormick had to change the date this year due to the timing on the Interbike International Expo in Las Vegas.

A local family man who has been married for 10 years, McCormick said a lot of what he has applied in event planning he learned through marriage.

"There's a lot of give and take, and thinking of the long game is really the way," he said. "It's a relationship — actually for us the festival is more like a plural marriage between our group, the resort and the town. When the resort or the town wants something, they have a reason why they want something. Understanding, and trust, helps us get past those hiccups that may trouble other events."

McCormick's model in the Outlier is the annual Sea Otter Classic bike festival in Monterey, California.

"Sea Otter is this amazing racing venue that has hands down the best demo in the industry," McCormick said. "We see through that event that the racing and the demo are equally important."

That festival, though, doesn't have a couple of gondolas for downhillers to take advantage of.

"Vail is a marquee venue, and it really lacked a signature mountain-bike property, while we're surrounded by them in other communities," McCormick said. "It was a shared observation with the resort, with the town and with us, that we could put something here that would fit comfortably."

The Outlier Offroad Festival will go until about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, with the last demos leaving the base of Gondola One between 3 and 3:30 p.m. For more information, please visit http://www.outlier.bike.