The Santa Cruz MTB Fest Rides Again

The Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival gears up for its return to downtown Santa Cruz and its singletrack roots.

Story by Traci Hukill/Photos courtesy MBoSC

April 7, 2015—What do you do if you're the first-time director of a festival that just lost a world-class spectacle that made it famous and drew mobs of fans from all over the region?

If you're Justin Beck, and you're in charge of the first Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival without the Post Office Jumps, you get back to basics. You find a super-convenient event site near the best network of singletrack in three counties (or the world, depending on who you're talking to). You have loads of manufacturers—15, the most the festival's ever hosted—offering free demos. You buff up the kids' section with a rodeo for the tots and a bike course for the older kids. You bring in more clinics, including two days of instruction for the groms. You bring in more music for that happy festival feeling.

"We're getting back to the trails and getting the next generation involved in the festival," says Beck, whose day job is Recreation Program Specialist for the City of San Jose.

Read the 2015 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival — Saturday schedule
Read the 2015 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival — Sunday schedule

This weekend, April 11-12, the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival will take over San Lorenzo Park in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. The location puts the festival a 10-minute ride via the bike path on the levee from the Emma McCrary Trail and the vast network of Wilder Ranch and UCSC singletrack, sanctioned and not, to which it connects—a far cry from the fire road of Nisene Marks and smattering of singletrack south of the steel bridge. And while Beck notes that some people will be upset over the loss of the Post Office jumps, it was always the plan for Barry Swenson Builders to eventually close the jumps and begin construction on a long-anticipated mixed-use development.

Besides, let's face it—most mountain bikers ride single track, not giant, terrifying dirt jumps, thrilling as they are to watch.

"We really looked at who are the people that enjoyed our festival and what are the biggest demographics, and really it's families with kids," says Beck. "A lot of times it's the mountain biking parents who are getting their kids into it, and it's not necessarily pump tracks and dirt jumps. It's a leisurely ride on the levee and then maybe some singletrack."

Beck says that in addition to the Kids Rodeo—the tiny, adorable obstacle course for tots, many of whom are still on push bikes—this festival will have a built-out bike park section generously constructed by the Monterey Off-Road Cycling Association and Trips for Kids. "Because of the geography, we have a slight elevation and even a little slalom riding through the trees," he says, "plus some disc golf goals and some foot trails we can play with."

Read about the 2014 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival
Read about the local mountain biking app Granite Maps
Read about the Velocity Bike Park planned for Felton

The SCMBF actually started in Santa Cruz, at Depot Park in 2009, before moving to Aptos. But that was before everyone's favorite flow trail had been built. Proximity to the Emma McCrary has inspired some changes for the 2015 SCMBF. This year the festival is offering a lot more in the way of clinics. Former World Cup downhiller Scott Sharples and Canadian national downhill champ Lorraine Blancher are leading clinics on Saturday, and Shine leads a ladies-only FUNdamentals clinic on Sunday, as well as a no-drop women's ride on Saturday. Also new this year are classes each day for kids led by Festival favorite Kat Sweet of Sweetlines. She'll take kids 6-8 from 10am to noon on both days (they'll work at the park), then take the bigger kids (ages 9-14) to Emma McCrary from 12:30pm to 2pm. Learn more about the bike skills clinics at the 2015 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival.

A fun Poker Ride on Saturday involving cards and selfies in a scavenger hunt-style affair will reward winners with sweet prizes like a Fox 36" fork and a weekend getaway for two courtesy Santa Cruz Bicycles.

Which brings us to the demos. Oh yes, there will be demos. In addition to local favorites like Santa Cruz, Ibis, Specialized and Trek, you'll see Cannondale, Pivot, Liv, Giant and a few who don't make the demo rounds quite so often like Rocky Mountain, Breezer and Intense. SRAM, Light and Motion, Scott, BMC, GT and Industry Nine will be on hand as well. And the rest of the Expo area—well, let us just advise you to prepare yourself for fabulousness as local and regional companies woo you with schwag.

And by the way, it's not as if there's no adrenaline at this party. Mt Hermon/Velocity Bike Parks will have its air bag set up at the north end of the park, with all manner of aerial wizardry happening overhead all day, both days. Try it yourself for $5 a pop or get the all-day daredevil pass for $30.

All the excitement requires fuel, so there'll be food trucks on hand and eight breweries (most of them local). And this year there will be more music, too: reggae and classic rock starting at noon on Saturday and the totally bitchen music of the '80s (ironic and not) starting at noon on Sunday.

As always, this event is brought to the public courtesy the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz and a whole lot of volunteers. So show up, buy a few raffle tickets, demo a bike, ride some single track and support your local bike club!

San Lorenzo Park, Santa Cruz. Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 9am-4pm. Free. Learn more at the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival website. Map to San Lorenzo Park.

2015 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival — Saturday schedule
2015 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival — Sunday schedule