Magazine chooses Fruita as backdrop for special tech edition

Tester and mechanic Ryan Palmer test rides a Rocky Mountain Elements bike along the Horsethief Bench trail south of Loma as Kevin Rouse, associate editor at Bike magazine, videotapes him from above for the publication’s website.

Pick up any issue of Bike Magazine and check out the adrenalized photography and passionate storytelling. You’d be hard-pressed not to be inspired to hop on your mountain bike and hit the trail. Or hop a plane, your bike in tow.

Each year, Bike picks a destination to serve as a backdrop for its all-encompassing, remarkably thorough, industry-leading gear review special issue. Editors try to select a location that will stir readers to follow in their footsteps, and ride where they exhaustively tested (literally) all the latest in mountain bikes and gear.

This year, that place is Fruita.

“At this point, Fruita is right up there — considered an equal to, if not better than, the best places in the country for mountain biking,” said Vernon Felton, Bike Magazine’s gear and web editor, and coordinator of the magazine’s monthlong fun-slash-slog gear evaluation project.

“I think it’s got the reputation not only for great singletrack, but a great mix of riding. That’s one of the keys for us, because we have to test all of these different styles of bikes,” Felton said.

Cross-country race bikes, trail bikes, all-mountain bikes, downhill bikes — 30 bikes in all — in addition to components, brakes, forks, wheel sets, dropper posts, clothing and other gear. It all gets ride-tested by Felton’s team of editors, and gets written up in a special issue that hits newsstands in January. They call it the Bible of Bike Tests.

“We have to find terrain that is absolutely appropriate for each of those types of bikes. And that’s what makes Fruita so great — there really is a bit of everything,” he said.

His team of five editors, a World Cup race mechanic, a videographer and assistant, an associate photo editor, and local photographer and Hot Tomato owner Anne Keller have been out on Fruita’s trails since the beginning of the month — riding endless laps, taking copious notes, snapping innumerable photos, and basically pushing the latest in mountain bike gear to its limits.

They’ve hit all the local hot spots. Their cross-country loop at 18 Road included Prime Cut, Zippety, Joe’s Ridge and Kessel Run. They are testing true trail bikes on the Horsethief Bench loop out at Kokopelli’s.

They’re headed to nearby Grand Junction, and the Tabeguache network of trails, for their aggro all-mountain testing.

Each night, after a long day of riding and evaluation, the team gets together around a table to talk pros and cons. There’s probably beer.

“It’s kind of like Siskel and Ebert — but with four dirty guys talking about bikes,” Felton said.

“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s full-tilt,” he said about the nearly round-the-clock evaluation process.

Since 1994, Bike Magazine has directed readers — er, dreamers — to the great mountain biking destinations around the world.

Felton said this is the fourth year that Bike has put out a comprehensive gear guide, having previously profiled mountain bike meccas Brevard, N.C.; Bellingham, Wash.; and Whistler, British Columbia.

“We’re really trying to create an issue that makes people not only excited to ride bikes … but also make people think about going somewhere different. And that’s where Fruita comes into play,” he said.

Felton said Fruita really showed up on the radar of people in worldwide mountain biking circles around 1998.

Whereas most people back then came to the area as a stopover on the way to Moab, news started leaking out about the efforts of Troy Rarick and the Over the Edge shop, and the growing collection of varied trails and terrain.

While gear is the focus of the Bible issue, Fruita plays the critical role of host and scenic backdrop for the special edition.

Felton says that there will be a four- to six-page profile of Fruita’s biking history and riding community, GPS coordinates of the trails that his team has ridden, tips on where to eat and have fun, and a collection of videos at

What’s sure to shine through in the issue — beyond perfect trails and spectacular scenery — is the local riding community, Felton said.

He’s impressed with the city’s support for mountain biking, and surprised by the kindness and demographic range of the people he and his team have come across this month.

“Every single soul has been incredibly gracious and incredibly friendly. It sounds like a clichés, but it’s true,” he said. “There are a lot of places that have great trails, but not every place is as welcoming that way.”

“We know that when we send readers here, that they’re going to actually have a great time, and they’re going to come back,” Felton said.

Bring them, and their gear, on.


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