The Outdoor Demo for this year’s Interbike proved to be a very well-received, if dusty affair. The official media blurb for the location of the event, Bootleg Canyon at Boulder City, on the outskirts of Las Vegas, espoused the sun-baked desert terrain as “Home to one of the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s (IMBA’s) Epic Rides. the center of product testing for the industry”.

True to pre-event claims, exhibitors were out in force, displaying a multitude of bikes and accessories for the discerning Demo attendees to test-ride. A miraculous bicycling oasis of sorts had sprung to life amidst the sand and rocks of Bootleg Canyon – mobile bike workshops / garages were arrayed amongst the rows of exhibitors’ tents, display stands, and the ubiquitous portable toilets.

The loan system for all products at the Demo entailed handing over a coupon with one’s name on it in exchange for the bike/accessory of choice. Once finished with said product, one then reclaimed the coupon so as to repeat the process, till day’s end or till tiredness took its toll, whichever came first.

Riders wasted no time hitting the road (or off-road) on the steeds of their choice. Road bikes to BMXs, DH rigs to recumbents, with everything in-between were well represented. Accessories such as backpacks, gloves, sunglasses and body armour also saw action. By far the hot accessory to be ‘tested’ were helmets – the few booths that provided lids saw them fly off the displays like hotcakes. Safety came first, and apart from the test area marshals and medical outposts in place, only helmeted riders would be allowed to be let loose on the test area.

The scenic test area included a jaw-dropping DH run (with complimentary truck shuttle rides to the trailhead), a closed 2-mile road loop for the roadie and recumbent crowds, a realistic obstacle-strewn cyclocross course, 750 feet of professionally built BMX race course, and three different cross-country routes from 1 to 3 miles in length and of varying difficulty. Riding hazards such as thorn bushes and sharp rocks were par for the off-road sections, but the common denominator for all at Bootleg Canyon was the dust. Regularly kicked up by bike and vehicle tires, and picked up by even the slightest of breezes, the fine grit made its way into bearings and bushings, and liberally coated drivetrains, fork stanchions, and the inner linings of people’s lungs.

Still, the opportunity to see and ride amidst the stark scenery and Martian-like landscape was worth the acidic sensation of a full-on ‘lung burn’ that came on even as I climbed the asphalt to the XC trailhead. Many Demo-goers like myself came away, as the Demo drew to a close, coated with particles and smiling, eagerly awaiting the next day, when Interbike proper – the first day of the International Bike Expo – would kick off.