The top-selling bikes at local shops show the sport is growing in popularity and riders are investing fat bikes, which were once dismissed as a novelty.
A co-owner of Kokopelli Bike and Board, Pete Eschallier, attributes the growing popularity to local trail systems including Phil’s World.
“If that trail system didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be as big as we are,” he said.
An informal survey of local shops show that riders in Cortez and Durango have different tastes and requirements. Most of the popular bike styles favor 29-inch wheels that increase a rider’s ability to handle rocky terrain and maintain speed.
Many customers of Kokopelli Bike and Board in Cortez are new to the sport, buying more entry-level bikes than other local shops in the region. The top-selling models have front-end suspension only and wheels 29-inch wheels. Known as hardtail 29ers, these bikes start at $550.
“It’s a fits-all-skill-levels kind of bike,” said Scott Darling, a co-owner.
Bikes with full-suspension and 29-inch wheels have claimed second place in sales at Kokopelli. They appeal to more serious riders with a bit more to spend on a bike.
In third place at Kokopelli are fat bikes. With smaller, wider wheels, they lend themselves to riding across snow and sand. The wheels are 26 inches in diameter and are 4 inches across and come with a hardtail or full suspension.
“The most-asked questions in the shop is: What are those tires for?” Eschallier said.
For years, the bikes were a joke and preferred by shop mechanics. But now people come in looking for them, he said.
One of those mechanics was Durango Cyclery’s Garrett Alexander, who started racing them six years ago. He said the tire width is not an advantage in a race, but they have all-around versatility.
“It allows for a more supple ride and allows for the tire to morph around anything,” Alexander said.
At Lizardhead Cyclery in Dolores the No. 1 seller is a Breezer Supercell, a new bike with full suspension and 29-inch wheels, said owner Nicholas I.T. Jones. These bikes run above $2,000.
The Breezer Repack, which has a 27.5-inch wheel and full suspension, came in second. It gained praise from customers for handling like a dirt bike going downhill while seeming to pull the rider uphill as if there was a dog on a leash leading the way, he said.
“Whatever you think you can’t handle, the bike will let you do it,” he said.
Bikes with a 27.5-inch wheel, sometimes called a 27B, are favored by downhill bikers and are replacing 26ers across the industry, a shop owner in Durango said.
At Lizardhead, third place went to a hardtail 29er, called the Breezer Storm, which is the least expensive of the three.
At Mountain Bike Specialists in Durango, owner Jeremy Thompson, said in that in general, full-suspension and 29-inch wheels are favored. His best-sellers share these qualities because the most popular local trails – including the Colorado Trail and the Telegraph Trail System – are fairly technical.
As for fat bikes, he doesn’t see them moving from the fringe to mainstream yet.
The long-term trend in Durango is that customers are shifting away from road biking to mountain biking.
“Road biking is somewhat less sexy and appealing than mountain biking,” Thompson said.