In 1994, Troy Rarick had the crazy idea to try to turn Fruita, Colorado, from an old agricultural and refinery town into a mountain biking destination. Rather than pour his energy into building trails or opening up a top-notch retail shop, he took a different approach: he did both. New trails would start attracting riders, the thinking went, and the new shop, which he called Over the Edge Sports, would make sure riders got the most out of their experience so they’d want to return.
The experiment worked. Fruita went from being a bankrupt town off of I-70 to a world-famous mountain biking destination. Word of the transformation spread, and people began seeking out Rarick to learn how they could replicate the experiment in their communities. Today, Rarick has taken this trail/shop philosophy and the Over the Edge name around the world, calling himself a “Mountain Bike Tourism Consultant” and changing the way communities, bureaucrats, and riders work together to grow the sport.
1) BLISTER: When mountain bikers talk about the best places in the world to ride, Fruita, Colorado, always comes up in the discussion. What’s so special about Fruita?
Troy: Depending on how big you draw the circle of “Fruita,” there is wide open public land for 100 miles in every direction. You can ride a mountain bike from here to Moab, Crested Butte, Durango, or darn near Canada. It is the mountain biking hub of the western slope of Colorado. And I never like to lie to people and say that this is a novice place to mountain bike. Fruita is the bastion of singletrack, and it is not a beginner’s paradise. I don’t like to mislead people and say “we have something for everyone.” We probably have something for everyone, but the focus of Fruita has always been enthusiast mountain bike singletrack.
2) BLISTER: So how did Fruita come to be what it is today, and what exactly was your role in that development?
Troy: I had grown up in Grand Junction, Colorado, just next door to Fruita, and 1994 found me here in my hometown waiting to start working at Poison Spider—a bike shop in Moab, Utah. At the time, I was getting a lot of encouragement to do “my own thing,” and it was a scary decision to turn down that awesome job and stay here to start a shop in Fruita. We literally built trails in the afternoons after cleaning out the 100 year-old abandoned building (where Over the Edge Sports would eventually open) during the days. We built trails out of old cow trails and added to old roads and mining leftovers and even painted directions on old water heaters.
3) BLISTER: It’s interesting that Over the Edge opened in Fruita while you were building trails—it’s not as if you built a ton of singletrack and then opened up a shop. Were you that confident that Fruita would become a so-called “destination,” or was that move more of a leap of faith?
Troy: I can’t say I really knew that it would be a good place. I was kinda gambling on a hair-brained idea to try to establish Fruita as the cool mountain bike town instead of a bankrupt agricultural and refinery town. My base idea was that if we had good trails, people would come ride and meet us. Then, if we were awesome once the shop opened, and we served them with a special style and commitment to their life experience, they might just come back and support our fledgling business. We were. They did.
4) BLISTER: When mountain biking really started taking off in Fruita, how were you received by the community that was already there?
Troy: People didn’t really know what to think about bikes. When we started in Fruita, there were only about 10 people riding bikes; there wasn’t much of a mountain bike community. Then, as Fruita started to become known as an mountain bike town, everyone started having opinions. Some “old school” folks hated the “new kids” and would be angry towards us for even having a bike on a car. The Bureau of Land Management largely ignored us at first, but then later, when they had to take notice, they just said, “Stop. Fruita will not be a mountain bike destination.”