The Trail as Marketplace

Why I'm paying $25 to go to a crowded Fruita, CO mountain biking festival, when I could save the cash and play on the same trails for free.

It's not for the free socks. Or the token beer ticket. And the live music is generally awful.

But for the last three years–OK two, we didn't pay one year–my husband and I, plus a handful of renegade friends, have pilgrimaged over 6 hours to attend the Fruita Fat Tire Festival, paying to be bona-fide guests of a free public trail system.

In addition to the $25 entry fee, we shell out for the campsite, for gas, and to purchase excessive amounts of high-calorie food and drink. Inevitably, one of us has to buy a new bike accessory for the event (this year: grips), and if we tack on a visit to Moab we plunk down another few Benjamins.

All this to ride the same, admittedly amazing, trails that we could ride any other weekend of the year without paying festival fees and battling the crowds at restaurants and on the trails. Why?

We’re suckers for a well-planned, physically challenging outdoor event.

At an economic time when I consider my subscription to The New York Times a legitimate charitable donation, we should really be staying in Boulder to ride the definitely passable trails right in town.

But the Fruita Fat Tire Festival has a nice ring to it, not to mention pretty marketing materials. There's the camaraderie, and the fact that other people did the organizing, and the thought that should my trusty knee pads fail me, there are many, many people to carry me to safety. Plus, it's a fun, party atmosphere and two out of the last three years I have won high-end bike products that I was able to sell (sorry) on Craigslist, more than recouping my $25 entry fee.

And really, $25 is nothing compared to the price of a marathon or half marathon. We should know, we’re going to Seattle to run a half in June. Total suckers.

– Katie Herrell