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Northstar a hit for OutDoor Demo

Published September 17, 2018
Weather was perfect. Bike racks were empty. Lift lines were long. Vendors were happy with dealer turnout. But consumers were lacking.

TRUCKEE, Calif. (BRAIN) — While the Northstar Free-Ride Festival got off to a slow start on Saturday morning with clouds, sprinkles and strong winds, by Sunday consumer traffic had gone up, and more dealers trickled in. Monday was "crazy busy" with vendors sending out dozens of demos.

Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles, which had a line of riders waiting for demo bikes every day, said the line at the booth got twice as long on the trade-only day. He said he was on track to hit more than 300 demos by the end of Monday, and sent out more than 200 demos each day of the festival weekend. Monday's demo, only open to dealers, ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Other bike brands, including Cannondale, Haro, Mondraker, Devinci, Marin, Jamis and Canyon, also had lines and empty bike racks throughout the weekend. Some P&A exhibitors, however, felt traffic was slow, especially of consumers over the weekend.

Interbike show director Justin Gottlieb said that 93 brands set up tents in the lower parking lot of the Northstar California Resort, including many e-bike brands. He didn't have consumer or dealer attendance figures Monday afternoon, but felt the consumer festival was successful, and dealer turnout seemed high by Sunday evening.

"I can tell you we had our retailer reception [Sunday evening] and we had to turn people away," Gottlieb said, "and that room holds 150 to 200 people. Northstar had us holding people at the door because we were at max capacity."

Vendors said they saw dealers from far afield, not just California, with shop staff from Minnesota, Florida, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Montana, Texas and Michigan testing bikes.

E-bikes were everywhere and a popular choice for riding up the mountain and avoiding the lift lines. Because of the variety of downhill trails available, attendees also opted for long-travel full-suspension rigs. Lines lengthened at the gondola lift, especially on Saturday, when high winds forced the resort to slow the speed of the cabins for safety reasons.

Stetina's Sierra Prospect road ride drew more than 300 riders on Sunday morning. Interbike's Gottlieb said he would like to offer more road events for novice to advanced riders next year so more people can participate. There's also room for improvement with signage, he said.

Still, Northstar as a demo venue hit it out of the park. Exchanging the arid Bootleg Canyon desert for an alpine setting in the Sierra Nevada met with unfettered approval from vendors and retailers for its riding terrain and cooler weather.

"We love this," said Todd Corbitt, road and drop-bar product manager for Jamis Bikes, about the new venue. "It's beautiful. Who doesn't like trees?"

It was a sentiment echoed throughout the three-day on-mountain demo.

"The venue is awesome. We're super happy," said Kervin Quinones of Qarv Imports, distributor of Spanish bike brand Mondraker, which took up a large booth since the brand wasn't exhibiting at the indoor show. "Riding is a lot better than Bootleg, too. We're happy to have the amenities."

Aside from lift-assisted riding, the Northstar California Resort also offered a slew of restaurants and bars, coffee shops and restrooms.

Northstar couldn't provide consumer ticket sales information, but communications manager Stephanie Myers said the resort was pleased with the crowds it drew for the first-ever Free-Ride Festival.

"Overall we're happy with the turnout," she said. "It was really exciting to see all of the brands set up and booths in full color and flags waving. It transformed the village into something it hasn't been before.The village was really busy, the demo was really busy, and the mountain was very energetic."

She said Northstar plans to continue to host the consumer festival in conjunction with Interbike in coming years, as well as the downhill and e-bike races.

"We're in the middle of negotiating next year for Northstar," Gottlieb said. "Overall we had a lot of great feedback and look forward to making it even better. We will be here next year."

Topics associated with this article: Interbike

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