For a second year in a row, the air painfully has been let out of the tires for the Fruita Fat Tire Festival.
“We held out as long as we could,” said George Gatseos, general manager for the festival and bike shop Over the Edge Sports, 202 E. Aspen Ave., in Fruita.
The festival that for more than 20 years has brought mountain bikers from across the nation to Fruita in early May to demo bikes and take on the area’s popular singletrack trails is canceled for 2021.
While the pandemic was the direct cause of the festival being postponed in 2020, this year’s cancellation was more of a “byproduct of COVID,” Gatseos said.
The 2021 festival was given the go-ahead by the city of Fruita, the Mesa County Health Department and the Bureau of Land Management, and it would have followed the necessary safety protocols, Gatseos said.
However, the new bikes, the demo bikes brought in by bike companies for festival attendees to admire and try out, were not going to be there, and those demo bikes are a huge component of the festival, Gatseos said.
They are what people line up for and without them, “it didn’t seem awesome,” he said. “It’s a big part of what we charge for, and I just felt it would look really poorly on our event.”
“We always prefer to do the right job rather than just do a job,” Gatseos said. “We’re disappointed, too.”
In 2019, the festival had about 50 vendors, more than half of them bike companies with mountain bikes to demo, he said.
“These bike demo fleets are like touring artists for the bike industry,” Gatseos said. “They don’t exist right now.”
The reason why goes directly back to the pandemic and the enormous consumer demand for bikes that began nearly a year ago when being outside was regarded as safer, he said.
Prior to the pandemic, 2020 was shaping up to be a lean year with an already low production of bikes, he said.
Then the wave of demand hit. Stores quickly saw their cushion of inventory roll out the door and the supply pipeline, which in many cases goes back to Asia, hasn’t caught up and still isn’t smooth, he said.
At Over the Edge Sports, “we might not have exactly what the customer or we would want every time, but we’re trying really hard to have an option,” he said.
With parts, inventory is arriving “in fits and starts,” he said. “If you didn’t put in preorders like last summer, there’s not stock. You kind of had to think ahead last year.”
If a customer walked into Over the Edge Sports and wanted to order a particular bike, “it could be a six month wait. That’s just how it is right now,” Gatseos said.
So for bike companies that are selling bikes as soon as they are made and getting orders they can’t fill, driving a demo fleet to festivals doesn’t make much sense, he said.
While this has led to the cancellation of the Fruita Fat Tire Festival, the 18 Hours in Fruita will still happen on May 7–8, said Gatseos, who also organizes that endurance race held annually at Highline Lake State Park.
When it comes to vendors, 18 Hours in Fruita doesn’t have an emphasis on demo bikes and without them, the race still will be a good experience for those who participate, he said.
“We’re sad,” he said about Fruita Fat Tire Festival. “And we look forward to having everyone back out there with us again.”
The Fruita Fat Tire Festival is scheduled for May 6-8, 2022. For information about the event, go to fruitafattirefestival.com.