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2021 bike demo events hamstrung by lack of demo bikes

Published March 29, 2021

FRUITA, Colo. (BRAIN) — While COVID-19 precautions are relaxing in some areas, allowing some bike festivals to get back on the calendar, a lack of demo bikes might change the complexion of some events.

A year ago, COVID-19 precautions forced organizers of the Fruita Fat Tire Festival to cancel its event. But this year, it was the lack of demo fleets that moved organizers to pull the plug, George Gatseos, the event's general manager, told the GJSentinel

Gatseos, also the owner of Fruita's Over the Edge Sports bike shop, told the paper that local health officials gave the event the go-ahead, but the lack of demo bikes removed a big draw.

"It's a big part of what we charge for, and I just felt it would look really poorly on our event," he told the paper.

Several mountain bike brands told BRAIN that they paused their demo programs in early in 2020, and, with new bikes now in great demand from dealers, they have not rebuilt their demo fleets in 2021.

"There just aren't enough bikes to go around, to stock a demo program," Kona Bikes' co-owner Jacob Heilbron told BRAIN. He said bikes that might have gone to demo fleets this year have gone to retailers.

Heilbron said Kona will wait until the company is confident that demos can be held safely.

"You don't want to be the bike company that started an outbreak or held a super spreader event," he said.

Besides the lack of bikes and lack of events, Niner Bikes' Zach Vestal noted that demo's are intended to drive consumer demand, which isn't a priority in the current climate.

"It hasn't made any sense for us to maintain a fleet of bikes for people to ride when people are buying bikes at a pace we've never seen before," Vestal said.

Yeti Cycles, a mainstay at mountain bike festivals and demos pre-pandemic, currently does not have a fleet, Yeti's Kyle Rajaniemi said.

"We're really focused on making sure our dealers can maintain their sales momentum and deliver bikes to customers," he said.

He added that Yeti plans to have a small demo fleet available in August if COVID-19 restrictions and inventory allow. "Either way, the fleet will be significantly smaller than in years past," Rajaniemi said.

Events impacted

Many traditional spring and summer mountain bike festivals have been rescheduled for fall 2021 — most notably the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, a traditional spring event now scheduled for October. Smaller events like the Sedona MTB Festival in Arizona also have rescheduled for the fall. Many organizers are offering scaled-down events. For example May's Raystown Bike Fest, formerly known as the Dirt rag Dirt Fest, this year is being called the "Raystown Socially Distanced Campout Fundraiser Bike Fest 2021."

The Big Gear Show, the new trade event planned for early August in Park City, Utah, is being held largely outdoors at a ski resort and organizers have billed bike demo opportunities as a major draw.

Lance Camisasca, the director of BGS's bike event, said some participating bike brands will have demo bikes available, while others are not sure yet.

"For those brands that have expressed concern, we have discussed alternative ideas for participation, namely spending quality time with retailers, regardless, since the bike industry hasn't gathered in something like 1.5 years," he said. "Of course educational seminars, VIP gatherings and the like means there are numerous reasons to participate and enjoy Deer Valley." 

Outerbike has six 2021 demo events planned, starting with one in Killington, Vermont, in late July.

Outerbike's Ashley Korenblat said the company is assessing the availability of demo bikes for this year. "We are sorting it out right now," Korenblat told BRAIN last week. She said she would know more this week.

Fruita festival riding. Photo: Mattias Fredriksson.

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