Outerbike set to make Canadian debut 

Demo event set to take over Whistler Village

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANNE KELLER - into the forest Outerbike events in Moab, Utah (shown here) are wide open, but a major difference of the inaugural Whistler event will be its proximity to trees.
  • Photo BY Anne Keller
  • into the forest Outerbike events in Moab, Utah (shown here) are wide open, but a major difference of the inaugural Whistler event will be its proximity to trees.

Living in the bubble, it can be easy to take for granted some of the advantages Whistlerites enjoy over those from elsewhere.

In particular, the resort can be spoiled with choice when seeking a new bike. But that's not the case for everyone.

Ashley Korenblat made it her mission to even the playing field when she helped found the original Outerbike event in her hometown of Moab, Utah 2010. Korenblat, who also runs the Western Spirit Cycling guiding service there, said the idea initially came from observing the riders who booked with them.

"We see groups of people coming on trips and they all have the same bike, and that's because that was their dealer or their buddy got the bike. It may or may not be the right bike for them, but it was easiest to get that one," she said. "The technology has changed so much and the designs are changing. There are so many differences that it's really nice to get the one that is best for you."

Similar events are regularly held for industry insiders to try new bikes, Korenblat said, but there wasn't much available for the purchasing public. She and husband Mark Sevenoff made a point of trying to make Outerbike as inclusive and enjoyable as possible for fear of cycling becoming "cliquey, if we're not careful."

"A big part of what makes Outerbike so fun is it's a party. It's not a race. It's not a festival," she said. "Once you've signed up, you're a VIP for the rest of the weekend.

"It's really important to me that we maintain that atmosphere."

That attitude is now starting to spread as the event is expanding in a big way in 2015. The first-ever spring session was held in Utah back in March, and beginning June 4, the inaugural Whistler event will kick off and runs until June 7.

Even if a rider feels the bikes at Outerbike are out of reach from a financial perspective, Korenblat recommends coming to try a variety of bikes to take note of the features that fit well with his or her style of riding.

Korenblat also reasoned that since manufacturers are releasing new models throughout the year as opposed to all at once, some models could be brand-new when shown off at Outerbike.

Grant Lamont, a partner in Whistler Trail Solutions who pitched bringing the event north of the border and now serves as the event director, said preparations were coming along well. All the advanced and intermediate tours have been uploaded to trailforks.com for riders to download to their phones.

Lamont expects about 300 riders to attend, of which "95 per cent" will be people travelling to the resort for the event.

"It's people travelling from Chicago (and) Florida. It's a first-year event and I thought it was just going to be regional — Seattle, Portland, things like that — but we're getting quite a few people that wanted to come to Whistler," he said. "They've been going to Moab for Outerbike and they're curious to see what it's like up here."

He said that was to be expected, as the original Moab event is also tourist-driven.

"(Locals) ride the trails all the time, so for regional guests and destination visitors, it's really nice for them to be able to jump on a new bike, go out with somebody who's going to take them out on a nice ride, and repeat six times when they're here," he said. "It's a pretty good feeling."

Though the event's basic format will follow fairly similarly to what previous attendees have experienced, there will be some "significant differences" — advantages, really — with the event presentation in Whistler.

"One of the biggest things in Moab is they put everybody in trucks and they drive them places to ride," Lamont said. "Here, we're riding right out of Lot 2. We're heading up the west side, we're heading into Lost Lake and we're heading up Yummy Nummy into Comfortably Numb. We're going to Emerald. We're really showing people nice rides and taking them in directions without putting them in trucks."

One other benefit is that Whistler's trails are more rideable should there be rainy conditions, though precipitation is not forecasted for Outerbike's four days. Moab's trails were turned to "gumbo" at the spring session, — that differentiation was important for Lamont.

Additionally, riders will receive three rides per day in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park on Thursday and Friday.

"They can just grab a bike out of the expo and jump on a lift, which is included in their tickets on Thursday and Friday, and test three bikes over the day," Lamont said.

Lamont explained a dozen different bike brands will be represented, and he expects to see about 400 bikes in all. In addition to some well-known makers, organizers also made a point to include some smaller companies like Ibis and Marin, and B.C. outfits like Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Whistler's Chromag Bikes. The latter will demo on Saturday and will be heavily involved with the Saturday night party at the Longhorn Saloon, which will act as a fundraiser for the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA).

Korenblat was thrilled to see Outerbike expand its offerings, as the original event was reaching capacity and the new locale allows riders to get a different look.

"We have a lot of flowy trails in Moab now, but they're still ledgy and rocky and different than here, than it being in the forest," she said. "To be in the trees, it's beautiful."

Each day also begins and ends at the Longhorn, with breakfast and après included in the registration cost (with the exclusion of an après after Sunday's half-day of riding).

Registration is US$220 or $120 for locals who already have a pass for the bike park and the lifts. Those looking to sign up or get a complete schedule of events can do so at www.outerbike.com.

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