This past weekend I went up to NEMBAfest at the Kingdom Trails way up there in VT. Due to a previous engagement, we could only get there a day after it started, on Saturday morning. This was my first time there, and it was my first organized mtb event in a while.
Holy cow were there a lot of people there. This is about what it looked like as we pulled in on Saturday morning:
... and that's just one part of where people camped. I don't know the official numbers, but it was big.
This was also the first time I'd been to the Kingdom Trails, which this year celebrate their 25th anniversary. There are 100 miles of trails there, with an awful lot of variety. Unlike a lot of New England trails, the majority if what I saw I'd call "buff" and very flow oriented. I liked the trails a lot.
One thing I didn't like that happened on Saturday was breaking my chain ring. One of the spider arms just snapped. #watts I guess? Anyway, the lack of availability of anything like a 32t GXP direct mount chain ring in the area meant I'd get a chance to try some other bikes. I'm not sure I'd want to marry the 27.5+ 130mm (?) travel bike I used the most, but it was fun. Fun for sure. Another bike showed me that the Maxxis Ikons I always raced on in the Mid Atlantic really are a holy cow fast wheel for hero dirt. Saturday was about the best hero dirt you'll ever see. Sunday was axle grease after a ton of rain.
In general, XC bikes don't exist. People ride trail bikes, which to me seemed a little too much bike for these trails, but again I didn't ride all 100 miles that they have, and you don't get a bike for just one trip. For a lot of New England "go ride and have fun" riding, a trail bike is probably money. I'm still on a race oriented bike, which I love and am certainly in no hurry to change.
Apart from some Scott Sparks and some Cannondale Jekyls, you couldn't even find an XC bike to try. There were plenty of gravel bikes (PLENTY of gravel bikes) but really no XC. Which again I think for most people is right, as the whole deal is more about fun and the boingy boingy bikes are pretty darn fun.
The wheel spec on demo bikes was interesting. Bikes come with narrower rims per tire width than our customers generally use. The 27.5+ tires I used, which I think were 2.8" came on i35 rims, which is probably about ok, but there were a lot of 2.5"-ish tires on 26mm rims there. It was kind of hard to see what people were using on their own bikes, but in general the tires were big - 2.4" seemed to be about the Mendoza line.
It used to be you'd show up at an mtb race and 90% of people were on Stan's rims. That sure wasn't the case here. I9 had a huge number of wheels on bikes out there (they're pretty easy to spot). From the sounds of it, people like quick engagement because man you could hear people coasting!
The women's stuff on offer was great. The GF did a women's ride/clinic on Saturday which took her from conceptually enthusiastic to totally hooked. In general, if you want to help a woman get hooked on riding dirty, you could do a lot worse than NEMBAfest and the Kingdom Trails in general. I was told that all of the women in the clinic had the same deal - came up with bf/husband who was out riding and they'd happily gone separate ways to do what each would get the most from. For the record, we went up on her initiative.
The demo and vendor expo thing was great if you're looking for a new bike and/or just want to see what all's the latest. A few years ago, we considered doing the expo thing there, but for one I really really don't like doing trade show type stuff (too shy, too easily bored) and for two I think while it might drive general awareness for us, we could easily spend a mountain of time and money and effort doing that and not really drive the ball forward enough. But it was neat to see what all's out there.