Words and Photos by TASCO Photo Ambassador - Mike Cartier
When I heard there was an opening in a group of local riders to go to OuterBike - Crested Butte, I didn't hesitate. The trip would consist of an 18-hour slog to pick up five other riders along the way and drive day and night all the way up to the center of Colorado. Destination: Evolution Bike Park.
Streaks of light all night.`
Braaap Bear riding shotgun.
What is OuterBike? It’s an outdoor mountain bike demo event that found its roots in Moab, Utah seven years ago. The idea is for passionate riders to unite on the sacred grounds that is the slickrock of Utah or on the scenic and diverse trails of Evolution Bike Park to try some of the most sought-after bikes on the market today. Not only can you take your preferred bike on your new favorite trails, but there's free lunch, free swag and of course, free beer!
Couldn’t ask for a more scenic venue for a bike demo.
Fast-forward through all the introductions, childish jokes, thunderstorms, and McDonald's stops on the way...the real highlight was Colorado's reveal to our dry, sleep-deprived eyes. The Centennial State greeted us at daybreak with electric-green hills, backlit mountains, and a golden glow that made us feel like we had the best slumber we've ever had. It was abundantly clear we were in Crested Butte when every head turn and every eye glance was full of bikes. Bikes...everywhere. It was something foreign to us in South Texas with drooling and dropped jaws being the general group reaction. We arrived early and walked through the town to check out the local culture and bike shops. It did not disappoint as a mountain town with its incredibly friendly population and the common denominator: the love for two wheels.
Colorado’s warm welcome.
Every day, we got up bright and early to get in line for the bicycle riding activities with only our preferred pedals in hand and our event bracelets on our wrists. Memories from last year's first bike park experience at Angel Fire flooded my brain as soon as I sat on the lift chair. I was a happy boy and so were my new friends. Pines, aspens, and wildflowers were everywhere to be seen. The sights and smells of the alpine climate were something to remember for those not familiar with it. After a day full of park laps, we went straight to grabbing food to cook for dinner at the market up the road, planning the next day’s riding, and trying for a good night’s sleep. Sleep was at a premium with a snoring roommate.
Pedal Pile. Give us our bikes!
New friends on new trails!
That glorious feeling of floating toward the summit.
I don't consider myself a climber, but on Saturday a few of us split off from the rest of the group to do even more lung-busting backcountry riding than we had done initially. We caught up with the group, but I later got dropped trying to photograph the beauty that was off-trail. I stopped at another fork in the trail after a painful solo climb, gazing at the vast valley below, somehow expecting myself to know which route to take to catch up without killing myself. I rested while other riders, strangers to each other, stopped at the top to gasp for air like I did only to catch their breath and strike up casual conversation. I found myself in love with the mountain life in that very moment. I followed one guy into town and noticed my group messaged me that they stopped at a pizza restaurant for lunch. I made my way down the main street on my back wheel on the hunt for the pizza place I vaguely remembered only to have them and other restaurant patrons yelling "Mike!" as I manualed past. It was a highlight of the weekend, for sure.
Earthy tones of the nearby ranges.
Scenic wheelies near a cliff of death.
Valley in its vastness.
The photo that left me riding solo. Worth it.
Winding singletrack with Mt. CB looming in the background.
In the Western Spirit shuttle carrying our pizza-filled bodies back home.
The final day, Sunday, was simply a photo mission. I've carried extra weight in glass the whole weekend and every pedal stroke with not enough photos to satisfy my obsessive need. We did a warm-up lap only to spend the rest of the day getting sunburned shooting at segments of trail 20ft apart in the park. A lap later, my group doubled in size and we went for another scenic backcountry photo hunt. I was the happiest kid in the valley, and that's quite the statement when the local school has a pumptrack in their backyard! Not many words can express this final day. I fought with the time constraint to capture the breathtaking views on offer though only my eyes have the truest images burned on their retinas. I'm sincerely glad to have made new friends to experience these views with.
Mt. CB illuminated with the overshadowing Milky Way.
Unknown rider on a tear during a beautiful day.
Cam railing berm with the valley down below.
Light was abundant in the midday aspens.
Matt trying not to get distracted.
Slate River snaking below our tires.
The gasping of remaining O2 particles before dropping into wild and beautiful tracks makes my grin grow bigger with every corner and root. I could try and try to describe how it looked and felt through my eyes, but I'd only keep circling with limited synonyms and an exponentially increasing word count. Instead of purging all these words I can't invent, I'd only recommend you go ride there. Only then will it all make sense.
Big thanks to OuterBike, Western Spirit Cycling, Evolution Bike Park, and of course Crested Butte as a whole. You’ve been lovely!
The group! [All not shown, including myself]
Ashley Korenblat (owner of Western Spirit Cycling) riding down Luge. She was such warm personality in the pits and on the trail. Thank you for such a great event and experience.