The Bike Fest Cometh

Two little words—“fat tires"—spell big fun this weekend at the 4th annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival held in Aptos.

The two-day festival, designed for both spectators and participants, is organized by the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz. It's expected to draw more than 6,000 visitors during the course of the weekend, according to festival director Mark Davidson.

“There are three things I am really excited about for this year’s event,” says Davidson, who's also the president of MBoSC, the county’s largest mountain bike recreation and advocacy group. “First, it’s a family-friendly event, and we expect to draw even more kids by having an expanded kids’ rodeo, where kids can safely ride their bikes. Second, we are striving to make this a zero-waste event because even though we have a big event, we don’t want to generate a lot of garbage and have a big carbon footprint. So we will be using solar power and won’t be selling plastic water bottles. Instead, we’ll provide free filtered water.

"And third," he continues, "we are really happy that we have 11 bike companies and two bike component manufacturers coming to the festival. That means amazing opportunities for people to try out bikes for free.”

With no admission fee, cycling fans of all ages can wander among the vendors and exhibitions, plus watch the action at the pump track (an enclosed area consisting of a dirt course with twists, turns and berms) and the short track, a course that runs around the perimeter of the festival. There also will be shuttle buses, courtesy Shuttle Smith Adventures, ferrying folks to the top of Soquel Demonstration Forest. The cost of the shuttle is $25 per person; each bus holds nine people. (Photo by Karen Kefauver)

The biggest crowds are expected on Sunday afternoon for the breathtaking display of aerial stunts known as the Bell 831 Pro Jump Jam at the “Post Office” jumps. This year may be especially spectacular, because this spot is set to be leveled and developed in the near future—thereby closing a chapter on a generation of famous dirt jumpers who cut their teeth there, including Santa Cruz native Cameron McCaul. McCaul will be one of the judges of the pro contest.

In addition to competitions, there are also cycling skills clinics (some for women only, some co-ed). Pre-registration for clinics is required.

New this year is the Sugar Showdown, presented by Seattle-based mountain bike coach Kat Sweet of Sweetlines. A combination clinic/competition, the Showdown invites women to take part in the first women-only competition Sunday on the jumps. They also have the option to take only the skills clinic.

Arrive early to snag a choice spot for viewing the Jump Jam, since thousands are expected to line the course. And don’t worry about food and drink; a beer garden and local food vendors will be on hand to keep you going.

However you choose to spend your quality Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival time, just remember the mountain biker's slogan: “Fat tires rule!”

The 4th Annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival is Saturday, April 13, 9am-7pm and Sunday, April 14, 9am-4pm at the Aptos Pump Track and Post Office Jumps in Aptos, next to Epicenter Cycling. Free. For more info visit

Karen Kefauver ( is a freelance writer and social media consultant based in Santa Cruz. She enjoys bicycling, yoga and travel.