40th Anniversary

The Whoppers that Sparked a Mountain Bike Destination

June 04, 2021
Every story’s gotta start somewhere. Consider Fruita, Colorado. Now an internationally renowned mountain bike destination, the Fruita story starts in 1994. At the home of the Whopper. Burger King.
 
At that Burger King, Troy Rarick met with John Olden—the then rep for Rocky Mountain, and currently our Sales Manager. Troy had an idea to open a bike shop in Fruita: Over the Edge (OTE). If that seemed like a stretch to John, maybe that was understandable. Fruita was on hard times. So hard, in fact, that it had recently declared bankruptcy. But Troy had a vision and a plan. And that plan involved far more than a bike shop. John was in.
 
 
“We bought the corner building in town for $26,000 and started refurbishing it,” Troy recalls. “But simultaneously, we’d go north of Fruita and start building trails. We knew people were going to come. We started building trails before we even had a cash register.”
 
What Troy had in mind for OTE was building a community, not a store.
 
“That’s what defines Over The Edge. We built trails, we put on the [Fruita Fat Tire] Festival, we wrote the guidebook, we drew the map. We ran the effort from the ground up.”
 
 
Along for the ride in those early OTE days was George Gatseos. Still in high school back in 1995, one of his early tasks was painting the store’s first sign. Since 2010 he’s run OTE Fruita and the iconic Fruita Fat Tire Festival—now gearing up for its 25th anniversary.
 
With tourism and word of mouth being such a huge driver for business (both for OTE and Fruita in general), a solid rental fleet of bikes was pretty much a must from the very beginning. And as visiting riders increased, so too did the demands for a growing rental fleet—which can come with its own problems. “I was seeing the attrition rate on that early [non Rocky Mountain] rental fleet, and the work of the staff to keep them going,” says Troy. “That turned me to Rocky. The bikes were durable, and they’d had our backs this whole time. John Olden’s been a beautiful friend and mentor to me through this whole process.”
 
In non-pandemic times, visitors show up from California, to New Zealand, to Europe. Day in day out, Instincts and Altitudes get ridden—hard—on Fruita’s now-famous trails by riders hungry for a taste of what’s made Fruita a destination these past two and a half decades.
 
Part of that global appeal is the diversity and breadth of trails themselves. “Wade Simmons could come here and have fun,” says Troy. “So could your kid cousin from Ontario. It brings in a really wide swath of people.” Something for literally everyone, then.
 
 
As destinations crop up as famous as Fruita, it’s perhaps rare that at the core of the destination lies one shop—like OTE. That could be for a range of reasons, but talking with Troy and George, you get the sense that it’s primarily because of a simple ethos: ensuring that every visitor regardless of age or skill level has the chance to “love the ride.” From humble beginnings to international recognition, they still appreciate anyone who takes the time to visit and ride the trails—and folks feel that when they walk in OTE’s doors.
 
“We were just so thankful that anyone would come in at the start,” says George. “We’re still that way. Even though we do a lot more business now, we’re still grateful for every rider who comes in.”
 
Community matters, but with community can sometimes come the risk of exclusion or insider versus outsider ethos. That’s 100% not the case with OTE. Maybe it’s the humble beginnings, maybe it’s the breadth of trails, or maybe it’s just a bi-product of good people loving bikes. Whatever it is, riders across the globe can be thankful for the Whoppers and cold fries that helped make OTE happen way back when. Here’s to more Whoppers, droppers, and good times in Fruita.
 
Previous 40th Anniversary Riding Bikes and Baking Pie with Cycle Solutions What does it take to make a mountain bike shop work in a small logging town, tucked next to the Atlantic on Newfoundland’s West Coast? Ask Cycle Solutions founder Peter Ollerhead, and he’ll come back with two big things: put in the work and bake some good pie.
Next 40th Anniversary That time when my brother and I rode the dry Spanish desert to the lush mountains of Andalusia. Mountain biking and furthermore, mountain culture is embedded in my identity and even in my genome.  From family blood to the town, I grew up in, I have deep roots in mountain culture.