Let’s start with what NEMBAfest is. NEMBA stands for New England Mountain Bike Association. They hold a mountain bike festival in Burke, a town located in northeast kingdom Vermont. The trail network in that area is called the Kingdom Trails, and they are easily some of the best in the country. They are very well maintained throughout, most of this is possible because the local landowner’s opened up their land, to allow over 100 miles of trails to be created! Amazing, right?!
Framed Bikes’ home base is located in St. Paul Minnesota. About 1,400 miles from Burke Vermont. With the festival being in a field and with no proper way to ship out all the bikes and gear, driving was the best option. Why not drive it anyway right? I had a chance to hit the road and do some sightseeing and stop at some bike shops along the way. I set my mind and my route and loaded up our company van with 8-10 bikes and some tents, tables, swag and all the goods. With my GPS locked in at 1,463 miles ahead, I set forth on an epic journey!
My plan was to make my way there slow, not to push myself on the drive, and burn myself out before the event. Day one I took it easy, with 6 hours or so of driving, and stopped in Chicago to stay in a hotel for a good night's rest. The tolls began about 40 minutes outside of Chicago and did not let up until nearly the New York-Vermont border. Don’t get me started on tolls!
Day two I made it to Erie, Pennsylvania, which took me around 10 hours with stops. Erie is a nice little town, for obvious reasons located on Lake Erie. Basically a stop for I-90 travelers, with all the hotels and food you could imagine! I checked into a hotel for the night, then back on the road first thing in the morning.
Day three I got to Burke, Vermont after about 11 hours on the road. Finally off the highway and onto some quieter roads. Driving through the lush Green Mountains of Vermont, I couldn’t get the biggest grin off my face! I grew up here and still find its beauty surreal. The people are incredibly friendly and everything is gorgeous this time of year. That feeling of being home, after a long time away.
As I pulled into the location where the festival would be held, I realized I was one of the first companies to arrive. I located the event organizer and he brought me to the location where I would be setting up Framed tents and a demo bike area. He must have liked us because we were right next to the stage where the live music was performed and directly adjacent to the beer garden, perfect spot! I set up my space and got dialed in.
There are quite a few beautiful Bed & Breakfast setups around town, and the Wildflower Inn is right on the trail. For most of the vendors, like myself, camping was the first choice. It gives the whole event just that much more of a story to tell. Sleeping in a tent, in a big prairie overlooking mountains, and one of the best events of the year in the mountain bike world, that’s hard to beat! I set my campsite up, got changed, and went for a well-deserved ride! Now bear with me here, it had been 13 years since I rode these trails. With not much surprise, they have grown tremendously! Such an amazing and fun trail network. There’s trails for all skill levels, something for the whole family. Everything loops back on itself, so there is absolutely no way of getting lost, just expect to climb back out after that epic descent.
The festival was held from June 22-24, Friday-Sunday. Friday the expo doors opened at noon for the public, and with rainy weather on the forecast Saturday and Sunday, everyone was out riding Friday. You wouldn’t guess it though, like they say, wait five minutes in Vermont and the weather will change, the rain did come Saturday for an hour or two, then the sun came out again. Bringing the dust down on the trails and adding even more "shredability," if that’s even possible! With a little sprinkle of rain on Saturday night, Sunday was rain free and beautiful. Framed had a lot of interest, the company tent was full of anxious riders, from open to close all three days. The new Framed Bikes website was a huge help in guiding the riders onto the bike that they’ve always wanted. Letting them know they had free shipping and it would arrive at their front door or their local bike shop, gained Framed a lot of respect. Framed makes it so easy for anyone to purchase a bike Monday and ride by the weekend.
Once the event was over Sunday, I packed up shop and hit the road to my family’s camp about an hour north. I stayed there for a few days. Catching up on lost time and telling stories. To me, family is the most important thing in life so having the chance to see each other, even if short, meant the world to me. I stopped at a few local bike shops in the area, to see how things were going, it was great to see some old industry faces.
The drive back to Minnesota, I was in more of a rush. I wanted to get back to the office and let the team know just how awesome this event was and how we need to be attending this year after year. The drive to Vermont I did in three days, the way back I did it in two. On day one the first stop was in Mentor, Ohio after 11 or so hours on the road. A nice town with everything I would need and still close to the highway. I checked into the hotel, ordered a pizza, devoured it and passed out!
Day two I woke up with one mission. Get back to Minnesota! With about 12 hours behind the wheel, I finally hit the Minnesota border. It was a bittersweet feeling honestly. I dislike, like anyone, when any trip comes to an end. There is always more you want to do or see. On the other hand, with 3600 miles of driving in two weeks, I was ready for it to end!
I have done many, many events over the years. I’ve gone to trade shows and done countless demos, all of them are great in their own way, but NEMBAfest was hands down my personal favorite. Having Vermont be the place I call home, maybe the biggest reason but everyone had such a positive attitude. Just glad to ride the Kingdom Trails, listen to great live music, and have a cold beer with friends. It truly was a celebration of all things mountain bike, and I cannot wait for next year!
A big thanks to Philip Keyes, the NEMBA Executive Director for making all this happen. Without him, the event wouldn’t exist. Also, thank you to the landowners for allowing NEMBA to build the beautiful trails and to all the countless and friendly locals for supporting this event with open doors to their businesses and homes. Thank you all!
-Blake Coderre, Framed Bikes