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Riding in zee Alps, Italian Style

October 4th, 2013
Climbing up the tunnel next to the Mauvoisin Dam

Climbing up the tunnel next to the Mauvoisin Dam

Having recently wrapped up three weeks of guiding Big Mountain Bike Adventures trips in Switzerland, my mind is alight with multiple moments of adventure, almost too many to distill singular experiences from. It’s probably easier to just summarize an entire trip as a whole. And while  I was tempted to do this, there was, indeed, one particular day that stood out amongst all the others.

The stark contrast of this day is not so much about the riding itself. The ride did feature some spectacular singletrack, but the uniqueness of the day was more about how it allowed us to travel with our bikes. Travel in the sense of moving through terrain; achieving numerous objectives over the course of a day while focused on a final destination, one very different from the beginning of the adventure.

The day started cold and clear in Lourtier, our sleepy little homebase tucked into the postcard-perfect Val de Bagnes, Switzerland. I had made the executive decision to postpone this particular outing a couple of days due to a low freezing level and poor weather, and looking out the window at a splitter blue sky, I felt very self congratulatory and guide-like. Taking advantage of this perfect weather window, our group powered back a Swiss breakfast (mostly bread, cheese and meat) and headed out.

The climb begins as quintessentially as a Swiss climb should: in a tunnel. The tunnel bores up through the mountainside next to the Mauvoisin Dam, at 250 meters tall, it is the highest arched dam in Europe. The tunnel is faintly lit, with water seeping through the ceiling. We climb up the narrow dirt track, sporadically sniping sights of the dam and lake below us through small ports in the rock. Finally, the tunnel ends, and we emerge, blinking, into blinding sunlight on the other side, a fantastic view of mountains and water and glaciers and rivers spilling out in front of us. Inspired by the sight we bend into a grinding road climb that eventually gives way to an even more oppressive hike-a-bike that finally relents to a merely painful climb, all of this getting us closer to the Fenetre du Durand, a 2800m col that marks the border between Switzerland and Italy.

Into the merely painful part of the climb. Epic views though!

Into the merely painful part of the climb. Epic views though!

As we climb, the air becomes sharper, distilled by the last few days of freezing temperatures. The crisp air seems to bring out our surroundings in flawless relief. Snow-capped peaks tower above the distinct singletrack that stretches out in front of our tires, and as we crest the col, Italy beckons below, a different landscape perhaps only in perspective, but beckoning us onwards in perfect detail.

Approaching the col, with Mt Gele looming behind.

Approaching the col, with Mt Gele looming behind.

The ride down is a glorious amalgamation of flowy trail, technical rock features, and everything in between. While down is the general direction, we traverse through the valley for a long distance on a perfectly graded “bisse,” or ancient waterway designed to re-direct water from the glaciers to mid-mountain fields and towns. As we descend the air becomes warmer, as one would imagine it would, descending into Italy. It all seems so perfect.

Smooth Italian singletrack.

Smooth Italian singletrack.

The final descent is long and winding, on a rarely visited trail that recently revealed itself thanks to some keen map reading and some valuable local knowledge. We revel in the secrecy of the spot, shredding down the rolling singletrack. At one point the trail points down through a perfectly-spaced group of larch trees, the forest floor nothing but knee-high vibrant green grasses, the trail cutting a straight line through. The afternoon sun dapples the grass, as a light wind creates a wild kaleidoscope of light in front of our tires. Minds blown, we rocket through the trees and exit out on the road far below, coasting down to the Italian town of Aosta for eagerly awaited beers.

After spending the day bundled up in the high mountains, it is an abrupt change to find ourselves in the old town of Aosta. The sun is warm, and as we relax and drink beers we witness a perfect slice of Italian life unfold around us. The striking differences between our morning’s departure and where we are now help to gel the unique experiences of the day together, and we celebrate two-wheeled travel, Italian style.

Story and photos by Joe Schwartz, Osprey Athlete

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adventure, Bike Europe, Bikes Around the World, Osprey Athletes, travel , , , , , , , , , , ,

Osprey Quantum Daypack goes to the Tour de France

August 29th, 2013

Of course here at Osprey, we’d always choose to grab one of our packs and carry it with us to any destination, no matter how far off or close to home. But we’re always excited and flattered to know when others pack an Osprey for an adventure of any kind. In this case, the Osprey Quantum pack was picked by Bicycling.com editor Matt Allyn, who carried it with him to the Tour de France. Here’s what he had to say about it!

Prior to leaving for Corsica to cover the 100th running of the Tour de France, I was searching for a backpack that would suit my needs as a one of Bicycling’s videographers for the race. I needed to haul a 15-inch laptop and an assortment of production gear, including my DSLR, microphones, cables, and adaptors. That made the Quantum my top choice. The pack includes plenty of pockets to stow and organize my gear. The zippers have handy pull-tabs that made accessing the main compartment easy. The ridged back panel was comfortable and breathable even with the backpack completely full. The laptop sleeve has a 15.4-inch capacity and it held my 15-inch computer securely. An additional sleeve kept my iPad safe and I used the internal zippered pockets for smaller items like keys, a GoPro camera, and iPhone chargers. A few other travel friendly features: side compression straps to secure small loads, side pockets for water bottles, and a removable waist strap.

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Active Lifestyle, Gear Review, Osprey Life, photos, Travel , , ,

Telluride Jazz Festival: That Just Happened

August 28th, 2013

Everyone has one or two unbelievable experiences in their life that they will remember forever. The kind of experience that makes you look around and think: “Wow, this is actually happening.” In many cases, we may work a lifetime to achieve these moments. Other times, they are completely unpredictable and just sort of happen.

In this case, I’m going to tell you a story of the unpredictable and just sort of happened kind. It all started with an e-mail in my inbox titled “WINNER,” one that I would normally write off as Spam and ignore completely. But this e-mail was from Osprey, who I had recently entered in a Facebook contest with to win a trip to the Telluride Jazz Festival. Things like this never happen to me, I was dreaming. After asking the nearest person to pinch my arm, I read the details and enthusiastically responded to the message. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, flight and lodging confirmations arrived in my inbox and a cardboard bundle of joy containing an Osprey Ozone 22 bag and Comet pack landed on my doorstep. It was real. I was going to the Telluride Jazz Festival.

The days couldn’t go by fast enough. I spent my evenings Googling popular restaurants and searching for nearby hikes, listening to jazz on Pandora and dreaming of the cool Colorado mountain air. August 2nd finally came, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I left my home in Lake Tahoe for a whirlwind weekend in the San Juan Mountains. When I arrived in Denver for a layover and met up with my  plus one, my friend Ashley, the wow, this is actually happening started to take over my entire body. After one final flight to Montrose and a gorgeous car ride into the valley of Telluride, I was in full disbelief.

After a quick geek-out over our epic condo in Mountain Village, we high-tailed it down to the festival; we didn’t want to miss the “Spirits Tasting” or any of the evening entertainment. Five samples of miscellaneous liquor and two Tempter IPAs later, the alpenglow started to simmer on the peaks surrounding our venue and the good vibes started to flow throughout the entire valley. It was my first time to Telluride and I had no idea such a small town could nonchalantly carry so much charisma and personality. There couldn’t be a better setting for such a brilliant event.

The rest of the weekend wasn’t any less incredible. We tasted local food, watched some truly amazing musicians and visited the iconic Bridal Veil Falls. Best of all, we met a bouquet of people from all different walks of life, each with an interesting story and unique reason for finding themselves at Telluride Jazz. When Sunday came around, although I felt completely satisfied and successful with our weekend, I was not ready to wake up from my dream.

Monday morning, I zipped up my pack and quietly stood in the village waiting for our ride to the airport, sipping in my last breaths of Rocky Mountain air and contemplating my good fortune. I still can’t believe that all just happened. Thank you Osprey, Elevation Vacations and the organizers of the Telluride Jazz Festival. I will remember this forever.

The happy winner of our Telluride Jazz Festival Contest, Margo Stoney, wrote this aprés-Fest blog post. Margo works as a graphic designer at Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe where she eats, breathes and lives the mountain culture. She fills her days (and nights) with snowboarding, longboarding, mountain biking, camping, beer, huevos rancheros, hanging with her dingo dog and, of course, long walks on the beach. Follow Margo on Twitter and Instagram @highmtncreative.

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adventure, contest, Events, Music Festivals, Osprey Culture, Southwest Colorado, travel , , , ,

A Snippet of Singletrack: The BC Bike Race

August 8th, 2013

Eagles soar overhead, and I fixate on countless coves I wish to build my dream cabin on as we sail across the scenic Strait of Georgia to the isolated northern Sunshine Coast on the BC Ferries Queen of Burnaby. Powell River is a town that has ridden the tumultuous wave of boom and bust for years, starting when the first pulp mill was built there in 1908. With the last downturn in BC’s forestry industry, the town saw significant job cuts, and another cycle of depression. More recently, Powell River has turned to other forms of industry, such as eco-tourism. The BC Bike Race is the perfect fit, as proven by our reception upon arrival. We depart the ferry on foot, walking up the main street toward the start line, crowds of locals cheering us on. Tiny cheerleading squads toss each other in the air while teenage boys smash out rhythms on drums. Storeowners hand out watermelon to racers, while bagpipers stand at attention on a street corner. We make our way to the start line, which is also our campsite for the evening, located right beside the ocean on the green grass of the town park.

The singletrack of the day’s stage proves to be equally welcoming. We quickly dive into flowy singletrack winding through the temperate rainforest surrounding Powell River. The riding demands full concentration, but whenever I raise my focus from the task at hand I am rewarded with a beautiful view of a pristine lake, river or some other natural wonder. The community spirit overflows onto the trails as well. On the first of two timed Enduro sections of the day, hundreds of people line the freshly-built track called Death Rattle, yelling encouragement and smashing cowbells. There’s even one fellow railing out rock anthems on his guitar and battery-powered amp. The energy is electric as I rail turns down the mountain, carving up berms of dark coastal dirt, cascading my way through some of the most enjoyable trail I have ever ridden. The stage ends right where it began, next to the ocean, and many racers take advantage of that fact, soaking tired muscles in the cool waters of the Pacific.

That evening we convene for dinner at the local sports complex. The hockey rink is devoid of ice, and now features cloth-covered tables and silverware, complete with candles and decorative white lights adorning the sides of the rink. Girls on rollerskates float around serving local craft beer and wine while we dig into barbequed pork roast, shrimp and asparagus pasta, local organic veggies and caramel-glazed cake for dessert. While we loosen our belts and sit groaning from the herculean amounts of food we have just ingested, local talents hit the stage for the evening’s entertainment. The night is capped off when an awkward, chubby teenager shuffles on stage to sing. He starts off with Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” and has the crowd on its feet cheering incredulously after the first few pitch-perfect notes, like a scene out of an American Idol audition. Later, as the sun sets over the ocean, and I fall asleep to the sound of waves on the shore, I marvel over how this was just one of seven amazing days of this race. Each day is an experience unto itself, and the whole week an incredible adventure.

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Electric Forest: Where Weird is Just the Norm

July 16th, 2013
http://www.vimeo.com/70165556

Some call it the modern Woodstock of our electronically-entranced generation; we saw it as a weekend to ditch your current day job and personal worries in exchange for wearing the brightest and most ridiculous clothes you could find and dancing with the hundreds of thousands of strangers from across the nation.

For the Electric Forest Festival, people from all walks of life gather from all regions across North America (Canada included) to the tiny (435-person) town of Rothbury, Michigan. There, they come together for weekend to become whoever they may want to be and to enjoy the constant and wide-range of music from a variety of timeless and new artists alike. By day, the temporary inhabitants of this festival would lounge in hammocks, ride the Ferris wheel or watch the bluegrass shows from underneath the shade of the towering trees. It’s not until 10 PM, when the sun sets, that the forest becomes illuminated by the thousands of electrified colors, sounds and people. Then, the going gets weird, and in the depths of the Sherwood forest you’ll experience things entirely anew: a trading post with time-traveling cowboys from the 1800s, a silent disco of live performances that can only be heard with headphones and large neon lights that give the trees life during these witching hours of Festival.

Electric Forest Festival is metamorphic experience because for just one weekend, nothing is as it seems and weird is totally the state of norm. Our Osprey crew who attended Electric enjoyed the diverse crowds, the incredible installations of the forest and the memorizing performances by the artists. We appreciate anyone who stopped by our booth to say hello, buy a pack or grab a free coozie. We hope to see you there next year! In the meantime, here are a few of our favorite snapshots from the weird weekend of Electric Forest.

All photos were shot and edited by Pat de Souza, fellow festival attendee

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Events, Music Festivals, Osprey Culture, photos, Uncategorized, video , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrate Music, Art and the Outdoors at Electric Forest 2013

June 25th, 2013

Electric Forest is a music festival of epic proportions; it’s a celebration consisting of live music performances and life-size art installations set in the depths of the woods amid the trees, which are lit up with an electric, glowing light once night falls. We’re proud to be a part of such a unique festival, which takes place in the Sherwood Forest in Rothbury, Michingan this weekend, from June 27th through the 30th. Check out the music lineup – and buy tickets here. Here’s what you can expect from the Fest in general, from the Electric Forest Website:

By day, the Sherwood Forest is a place to relax in one of the many hammocks that swing between the trees, explore the art installations sprinkled throughout the woods and meander down paths to discover plenty of surprises. At night, the Sherwood Forest comes alive! Witness the extravagant light display, stumble into surprise performances and parties in the depths of the woods, and gather with friends to enjoy the party. Make sure to check out the Forest Stage with live music and performances day and night, as well as unannounced surprise sets!

And here’s what you can expect from us throughout the Festival:

  • 20% off sale offsite via retail partner Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus throughout the event and through the following weekend in celebration of Electric Forest
  • Free onsite sizing and fittings as well as expert advice by Osprey professionals
  • Full display of all that is new for Spring 2013 as well as a preview of what to expect for Fall 2013
  • Daily Pack Giveaways: Take our three-minute Electric Forest Festival event survey and automatically be entered win a new Osprey Pack — stop by the booth for full details
  • All sorts of Festival giveaways including: Epecially created Osprey/Joshua Tree Electric Forest Rum and Pina Colada lip balms with spf 18 to keep your festival lips happy, Osprey Eco Coolies to keep your festival beverages cold and all sorts of cool Osprey stickers!
  • the Electric Forest Ultimate Camp Contest: Contestant submits their ultimate camp plans online for the best campsite infrastructure. Ten semi-finalists will be chosen to build their campsite in various premium locations spread throughout the campgrounds. The best camp infrastructure wins a performance by an Electric Forest provided artist in their campsite, Osprey Packs and other various prizes. Full details here!

The Electric Forest mobile app is exploding with information on everything EF from contests and workshops to food, retail, GOOD LIFE updates and VIP information. Also, this year you can use the EF camera to snap photos to upload to social media as well as create your own schedule and set notifications so that you don’t miss your favorite acts and see what’s happening on  Twitter and Instagram!

Hashtags for the weekend: #ospreypacks#ElectricForest #EF13

There’s so much to be seen and heard at the Fest, and we couldn’t be more excited to sponsor this incredible event. We’ll see you there!

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adventure, Events, Music Festivals, Osprey Culture, Outdoor Activities, video , , , , ,

I Hate Road Trips

June 20th, 2013

Das Rad Haus owner Christine ripping on Xanadu in Leavenworth

I hate road trips. Especially trips to awesome new zones to go bike riding. They are a blur of teases: quick, sneaky peeks into great scenes that you previously didn’t even know existed. One short day of checking the area out, maybe a few if you’re lucky, and you are on to the next spot, fantasizing about pulling up stakes, quitting your job and moving to your new-found riding center of the universe. And if the road trip is anything like the one I just got back from, the next little haven you pull into will have the same effect, making you wonder just what life would be like if you never left this freshly-discovered Shangri-La of bicycling.

My girlfriend Rachel and I left from our home in Vancouver on a trip into Washington with four bikes and one goal: ride a lot. The plan was to minimize the driving by staying in one small corner of Washington State, and riding our road bikes and mountain bikes everyday in a new area. The loop we planned took us through the North Cascades National Park, through Winthrop, down the arid and beautiful Okanogan and Columbia River valleys, up over to Leavenworth, detouring over Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie, and finally back up to Bellingham to end off the six day excursion. No one day did we drive more than two hours, and every day we got in a scenic road ride and a sweet mountain bike ride (or two). In other words, six days of being teased and tantalized by some amazing areas in this part of the state.

The Loop

The path of most resistance.

Our schedule was simple: Wake up in our new locale, go for a morning road ride, eat breakfast, go for a mountain bike ride, eat a late lunch and head off to our next destination, usually making plans for the next time we found ourselves passing through that area again.

The roads in America are great, often much better than in Canada. Where we have a decrepit, pot-holed forestry road, Americans have a smooth winding strip of asphalt through some amazing country. We took advantage of this fact on the uber-scenic North Cascades drive, and on some memorable road rides through miles of orchards and vineyards in Chelan and Leavenworth, and along quiet country highways along the Methow and Snoqualmie Rivers.

Tuscany?

Nope, the rolling hills and smooth pavement of Lake Chelan.

Rachel is relatively new to mountain biking, and I have had mixed success with introducing her to the joys of riding. One decent pedal in Squamish is quickly overshadowed by a horror-fest of technical roots and rocks on the Shore, or a crazed B-Liner running her off a berm on his personal race to Strava glory. Washington gave up the goods for her, with a variety of trails that were a lot of fun for the both of us. Highlights included the Sun Mountain trails in Winthrop, the amazing variety of the Duthie Hill Bike Park near Seattle, the long climb but epic descent of Fruend Canyon in Leavenworth and the flowy goodness of Galbraith Mountain in Bellingham. I got out on a couple shreds as well, on a super cool ridgeline DH off of Chelan Butte, and a sweet rip down Xanadu in Leavenworth with some locals.

The towns beguiled us with their charms as well. Winthrop has gone with the Western theme, but pulled it off in fine style. As we walked up the main street taking in the views, Rachel noted: “Even the gas station is adorable!” Can’t argue with that. We had a quick peek into the potential of the Methow Valley, but barely scratched the surface. The fellows at Methow Cycle and Sport (a fine Kona dealer) alluded to many more singletrack epics up in the surrounding hills above Mazama and Winthrop. But, like any road trip, we shelved those ideas for later, and carried on.

Taking in the views on Echo Ridge, Chelan.

With my F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) disorder going into overdrive from all the epic spots we were merely sampling, I almost blew a gasket once we arrived in Leavenworth. Two weeks, let alone our two days (actually only one night and a day) would not be enough to experience everything this town has to offer, once you look past the kitschy Bavarian theme that pervades every element of the main drag, including the McDonalds sign. It would take me at least a few days just to get through the menu at South, an amazing Mexican restaurant in town. Trails abound here, leading out of every corner of this alpen town. Rivers cascade out of the tight mountain valleys, climbable rock spires reach for the sky, and friendly locals (like the ones at Kona dealer Das Rad Haus) point visitors in the direction of the singletrack goods (while probably saving a few secret nuggets for themselves).

Ridge Ride

Taking in the views from the top of Xanadu

Fantasizing about our new lives in Leavenworth, we carried on our way, spoiling ourselves for a couple nights at the fancy Salish Lodge and Spa near Snoqualmie (thanks Groupon Getaway deal!) and riding the very unique and super fun Duthie Hill Bike Park, which is located just minutes from the Lodge. Coming to terms with the realization that we could not live in the Lodge full-time, we drove up to Bellingham to end off the trip with some fun exploration of the Galbraith Mountain trails, with a side trip to Boundary Bay Brewery for some eats, and Trader Joe’s to stock up on some cheap cheese and Two Buck Chuck.

So, like I mentioned, I hate road trips. Especially when they are as awesome as this one was.

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adventure, Osprey Athletes, Travel , , , , , , , , , ,

Forcing Nature at the Whistler Bike Park

May 23rd, 2013

I usually try to avoid the opening weekend of the Whistler Bike Park. Some reasons for my refusal to participate in this annual event are paltry, being that there are just a few muddy trails open, huge lines and the fact that other Sea to Sky venues are in mint shape this time of year, including, well, everywhere else.

All of that aside, I went this year. I think the Whistler Corp would like to hear that it was because of their barrage of marketing prior to the lifts firing up. Not really, although I did enjoy the first Force of Nature Video released before opening, featuring their motley bunch of bike athletes. The video shows riders carving perfect corners and lofting sculpted lips in what looks like epic mid-season conditions. Pretty convincing stuff, but the deciding factor for me was some good ‘ol fashioned arm-twisting by a group of buddies. A deal was struck where we worked out a balance of park and pedal, in a few Sea to Sky locations, over this Canadian long weekend.

It was a good decision. The bike park was all-time. The trail crew put in their due diligence, preparing almost every lower mountain trail in time for the gates to drop. The dirt was tacky and the riding was heroic. We had a casual start to the day, nothing like the kids who waited in line from 3 a.m. in order to secure first chair. The casual start was no hindrance though, as we were greeted by mellow lift lines that grew progressively larger over the afternoon. The wait in line was welcome though, as I could rest my cramping hands and catch up with friends. “How was your winter?” and “Epic conditions, eh?” were refrains echoing through the queue.

I had my own “Force of Nature” Friday night after a questionable chicken burrito wreaked havoc on my guts for the next 36 hours. I almost pulled the plug and hightailed back to Vancouver to recuperate, but the weekend was heading into high gear, so I decided hang around to see if things would improve.

The next day dawned wet and rainy, and my guts were still churning something fierce, so we abandoned the “official” opening day of the Park for a pedal in Squamish. A lush rainforest met us there, along with some fun new trails that magically sprung up over the winter, not unlike the mass proliferation of green undergrowth that appears with the spring rain.

The weekend was a blur of riding, eating and sleeping. My food poisoning waned, so with renewed energy I sampled more bike park, usually riding the lifts in the morning until the lift line got too oppressive, and then trading bikes for a pedal in the Whistler Valley or Pemberton. An amazing way to spend this Victoria Day long weekend!

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Pack Meets Trail

May 9th, 2013

We are so utterly grateful for the incredible shots our Osprey fans share with us on a daily basis on Facebook because we love seeing where your packs get to go! Here’s one of many, many awesome shots shared with us most recently (above).

Keep ‘em coming, Osprey friends!

Thanks to Brian Buckle for sharing!

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Active Lifestyle, adventure, Osprey Life, photos , , , , , , , ,

Bike Expo New York: A Roadie’s Paradise!

May 3rd, 2013

If you are in the Big Apple May 3rd and 4th, don’t miss the chance to attend the Bike Expo New York as there will be more than 60 vendors attending, one of them being yours truly, Osprey Packs! This event is great for road bike aficionados, and we’ll be showcasing and selling our recently redesigned line of hydration packs.

Over 50,000 spectators are expected to attend and admission is free and open to the general public. Hours of the show will be from Friday, May 3rd from 10 a.m. -8 p.m. as well as on Saturday, May 19th 9 a.m.-7 p.m., so come after work and check out the product tonight or head over first thing tomorrow. The event takes place at the Pier 36, 299 South Street, Basketball City, New York, NY.

Want to know a little bit more about what to expect? Here’s the rundown from last year’s awesome Expo:

In keeping with its mission to provide free bicycle education in New York City, Bike New York held several of its signature Learn to Ride classes throughout the event. Garnering more than 43,000 attendees, Bike Expo New York 2012 presented by Eastern Mountain Sports was the most attended inaugural consumer bike expo in the country.  BE NY carried an unmistakable New York flair with street signs, carpeted bike lanes and even a massive Verrazano Bridge suspended from the ceiling.

We hope to see you this year!

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