It’s our mission at Park City Bike Demos to bring you the best, most interesting bikes on the market. In order to do that, we stay on top of the latest trends and ride lots of bikes. Last month I went to Moab for Outerbike so I could demo a bunch of new mountain bikes. If you haven’t been to Outerbike (www.outerbike.com) before, I highly recommend it. Although I live in Utah and I’ve worked in the bike industry for years, this was my first Outerbike and I was really impressed. I had lots of fun riding and came home with a nice list of bikes to add to the Park City Bike Demos rental fleet.
If you’re really in the market for a new mountain bike, I can’t think of a better way to try out a bunch of different bikes. You can ride them back-to-back, on the same trail, on the same day, with the same trail conditions – something you could never do at your local trailhead. I tested nine bikes in two days. Where else are you going to be able to do that?
The Moab Outerbike is held at the Bar-M trailhead, a great trail system with plenty of variety and trails for every level of rider, from the Lazy/EZ beginner loop to Deadman’s Ridge, a very challenging trail with lots of technical riding. Bar-M is usually my first stop on Moab trips because it’s right on the way into town and it’s a perfect warm-up for Moab’s special brand of mountain biking.
I don’t know exactly how many bike companies were at Outerbike this fall but my guestimate is 60+. If you include booths like DVO Suspension, where you could choose from five or six DVO-equipped different bikes, the number is even higher. You can also try out any kind of bike technology you’re curious about – drivetrain, brakes, suspension, dropper posts, wheels, etc. – it’s all there to demo.
I’m not going to go into detail about each bike I rode, although I will say they were all pretty good. The truth is, it’s hard to find a bad mountain bike these days. My goal was to identify some fun, versatile new trail bikes for Park City’s world-class mountain singletrack. I tried the Marin Mount Vision, Jamis Defcon, Canfield Balance, Niner WFO, Devinci Troy, and Transition’s Smuggler 29er and Patrol 27.5 bikes. I also checked out the DVO Diamond and MRP’s Stage fork. I tested them all on the same trail – an approximately 1.5-mile loop that includes a good mix of terrain, including punchy technical climbs, chunky rock descents and flowy bermed sections. For those of you who know the Bar-M trails, my test loop was North 40 counter-clockwise to Maverick and then back. It’s a great quick loop that allowed me to get a good feel for a bike in a very short amount of time.
The most exciting discovery for me at Outerbike was the Devinci Troy (www.devinci.com). Devinci isn’t a big brand but I’ve noted a lot of positive buzz about them from the right people and I was excited to check them out. The Troy is a 140mm 27.5 trail bike that utilizes Dave Weagle’s patented Split-Pivot suspension design. The Split-Pivot linkage uses the rear axle as a pivot, isolating suspension from braking and making the rear feel really plush and bottomless. Even though the Troy was set up stiff (every bike I tested at Outerbike was set up too stiff), it still felt super plush in the chunky stuff and seemed to climb very efficiently. To test the suspension under braking, I rode it down a steep, chunky rock section with the brakes on pretty hard. As promised, there was no brake jack – just smooth, plush, predictable suspension performance. I was super impressed with the Devinci Troy and there’s a very good chance there will be some carbon Devinci bikes in the Park City Bike Demos 2016 rental fleet.
Confession: I’m not really a 29er guy. However, I’ve opened my mind this year and tried a few 29ers that surprised me. Current 29er geometry is pretty damn good. The Transition Smuggler (www.transitionbikes.com)is one of my favorites, yet. On the surface the Snuggler (my preferred name for the bike) is a pretty run-of-the-mill aluminum 29er. However, I found it was more of a fun-of-the-mill bike. Because of the Snuggler’s aggressive geometry – short chainstays, slack 67.5° head angle and relatively low bb – it’s really snappy and playful on the trail. And even though it’s a relatively short-travel bike with 115mm in the back and a 130mm in the front, the big wheels really take the edge off the Bar-M trail’s blocky sandstone section. I was also surprised by the Snuggler’s point-and-shoot cornering and how easy the front wheel snapped up with a bit of pedal kick. The Transition Smuggler is one of the funnest 29er trail bikes I’ve ever been on – and the second funnest bike I rode on my Outerbike test loop. Nice work, Transition!
Another surprise was Marin Mount Vision 8 (www.marinbikes.com) – a 140mm 27.5 trail bike with a carbon front triangle and aluminum rear linkage. The Mount Vision uses Marin’s IsoTrac flex stay suspension system for a “stable pedaling platform and plush linear stroke.” The most notable characteristic of the Mount Vision for me was how balanced and stable it felt. Looking at the geometry, it actually has a steeper head angle than most other 140mm bikes. Combine that with shorter chainstays and it’s definitely a quick handler. I didn’t notice any twitchiness or instability when I was riding it, though – perhaps because of the low (330mm / 13 inch) bottom bracket. Regardless of the reasons, I found the Mount Vision to be a very competent and fun trail bike and I’d love the opportunity to get some more time on it.
Last but not least – I’ve gotta give props to Jamis (www.jamisbikes.com) for their new 27.5 160mm Defcon enduro bike. It may seem like they’re a little late to the game but Jamis was actually way ahead of the curve with their Dakar 650b trail bike, nearly 10 years ago. The Defcon is a solid enduro option and I enjoyed riding it, although I’m not sure it’s a standout in the enduro category. The important thing is Jamis, who were a medium wheel pioneer, have a horse in the race again.
I was also happy to have the opportunity to try out the MRP Stage and DVO Diamond forks, both of which I’ve heard great things about. The MRP Stage fork (www.mrpbike.com) caught my attention at the 2015 Sea Otter Classic when I wrote an article about it. The Stage fork combines high-speed compression damping and bottom-out in a hybrid adjustment they call Ramp Control. It’s supposed to be completely independent of normal damping so it doesn’t affect the top and mid-stroke feel at all. The one lap I did on the Stage wasn’t really enough for me to get a feel for the fork. But it certainly didn’t feel bad and I’d love to spend some more time experimenting with one. To learn more, read my MRP Stage article on the Italian mountain bike Web site, TrirideMTB.
I’ve wanted to try the DVO Diamond fork (www.dvosuspension.com) for a long time. The DVO guys used to be tMarzocchi USA and they helped create the freeride mountain bike movement. They’re really good at off-the-top sensitivity – the part of the travel is most important for cornering traction. The best fork I ever rode was a pre-production air fork they gave me during the Marzocchi USA era. Unfortunately, the fork only lasted a few days before the negative air spring blew up. But those were glorious days of unlimited traction!
One lap on the DVO Diamond definitely wasn’t enough for me. However, it did feel more lively and responsive at the top of the stroke than the RockShox Pike that’s on my own bike. And that’s saying a lot because the Pike is one hell of an air fork. Ultimately though, my DVO test was only a tease. I hope I get some more time with on the Diamond in the near future because I’d really like to get to know it better. I also think it would be cool for Park City Bike Demos to offer demos on forks like the MRP Stage and DVO Diamond. If that’s something people are interested in, please let us know.
I consider my Outerbike adventure a huge success and I’ll definitely be back. Next time I plan to carry my own shock pump and be a lot more careful about suspension setup. The biggest problem I had was every bike was set up too stiff. Next time I’ll be prepared to make trailside adjustments. I do feel I got a pretty good read on each bike. But there’s always room for improvement. Investing a little more time getting the sag and damping right would have paid off in a very big way. I may end up riding fewer bikes but I’ll have more a qualified experience with each one I do ride.
If you’re in the market for a new bike, I can’t say enough about Outerbike. There’s simply no better place to test bikes and figure out what you should buy next. And of course, Moab is one of the coolest places on the planet to ride a mountain bike. If you’ve never been there, your mountain bike experience is incomplete.
Outerbike lasts for three days and costs $175 (plus a $10 service fee) via their online registration page. For your money, you get all the bike demos you can handle, a swag bag, lunch, snacks, daily shuttles to some of Moab’s most popular trails – and there’s free beer every afternoon. If you decide you want to go, make sure you plan ahead. Moab is a small town and spring and fall are the busy seasons. The motels jack up their rates during big events and everything fills up so make reservations as early as possible. If you plan to fly, the nearest real airport is in Salt Lake City – about a four hour drive from Moab. You can also fly into Grand Junction, Colorado. Grand Junction is about an hour drive from Moab but it’s a small airport and will cost you extra to get there. My recommendation is to fly into Salt Lake City and spend a couple of days with Park City Park City Bike Demos. Fall is prime riding season in Park City and we’d love to have you.