We recently caught up with VVCC Member Mike Raney, at Over the Edge Bike Shop in Sedona.
Thanks for meeting with me, I really appreciate it.
Let’s get to it. Where are you from originally?
I was born in Denver and grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. I came to Northern Arizona for college and loved it ever since.
When did you first come to the Verde Valley?
That would have been when I moved out here as a freshman in college in 2002. Moved out to go to NAU and on my college visiting trip, I brought my bike and thought I’d ride in Flagstaff which was a huge mistake as it was in the middle of winter. Then I came down to Sedona and was totally blown away. I knew right then that NAU was going to be the spot for me. If I could ski and ride in the same day, that seemed like a paradise for me and that’s why I came here.
When did you open Over the Edge?
What did you do before opening OTE?
I took some time and moved to Santa Fe, NM right after college. I was there for about four years. I lived there with my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife. I took a job at Bicycle Technologies International or BTI as it’s more commonly referred to. BTI is a wholesale distributor of bike parts. We imported and sold parts to bike shops. Pretty big operation, they have a huge warehouse, ship all over the country and do a lot in South America. We were importing parts from all over the world, marketing and selling them. It was a pretty sweet job. We loved Santa Fe too. But, I love it here more and had to move.
What gives you the most satisfaction about OTE’s business?
The job before, even though it was in the bike industry was a different beast. It was an office job – more of a corporate life – not exactly, but more in that direction. I wanted to be outside more often. I wanted to share my passion for riding on the ground level. Now, I’m interacting with people who are excited about riding every day. When I go the extra step and help someone get their bike fixed for a ride to meet their friends in half an hour, that just makes me so excited. People come back and tell us how great their ride was every day. That feels really good and is the most rewarding thing.
How many mountain bikes does OTE rent in a year?
Oh boy, I have no idea. Thousands I’m sure. We have about a hundred bikes in our fleet and I don’t know how often they all go out.
How many states/countries are represented by those annual bike rentals?
A lot. People definitely come from all over the world here to Sedona. We certainly see riders from as far away as New Zealand and Australia frequently.
How long have you been producing the Sedona MTB Festival?
How many registrants did you have for the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival this year?
I’m still doing the count. We finished the event on Sunday and packed down the park until it’s dark. Monday return back there and continue packing down the park, pulling fence posts, picking up trash that blew around because we want to return the park in better condition than we found it. There was a crew of us there most of Monday. Then, all of the stuff comes back to Over the Edge where it has to be put in our storage units and locked away. That’s Tuesday. Then Wednesday, I had a wrap up meeting with some of our volunteers and some of our sponsors that were still in town. Here we are today, on Thursday, and I’m back at the bike shop for the first time this week. I still have some totaling to do but I haven’t had a chance to breath yet.
The Festival was bigger this year. From what I’m seeing, we’re going to finish at 4,000 people came to town for the Festival. That’s not nearly how many passes we sell and we don’t want to sell that many passes because we want the demo experience to be good for people. Kind of like when you go skiing, you don’t want a million people on the runs, you want a limited number of tickets sold so you’re not bumping into people all day. We go with the same idea. This year, we stopped selling passes online at 1,200 and we allowed people to register day of and I’m guessing – we’re still counting as it’s all paper based – we had another 300 take advantage of the day of registration. Some sort of pass. That could be a single day, e day, and I definitely don’t have that total yet.
Do you think the Festival will outgrow its current venue?
I think we hit the limits this year of what Posse Ground can handle.
If so, where are you looking to move the festival to?
Posse Ground is such a great venue and I don’t see us changing from it. It’s central to Sedona and is practically dead center on the map of Sedona. We can disperse people to all the trails with shuttles. We have a bike park at Posse Ground and a stage. It would be pretty hard to beat that type of venue. Not looking to move the Festival at this point.
What’s the biggest complaint you get from festival attendees?
People cutting the line. Hands down. We try to have the vendors help us police that. Nobody likes a cutter and if your brand is supporting a cutter that’s not good. A lot of these brands get pointed out in the comments in our surveys. If we could have folks stop jumping the fence, we would, and we had people patrolling the fence this year to cut down on that and we’re going to have a lot more next year.
Exhibitors generally like the Festival. A lot of them want to go home earlier on Sunday. If it’s not busy on Sunday, they’re tired from a long weekend and they want to get out of there and start breaking things down.
Local residents is an interesting one. On our Facebook page, we’ve had a lot of reviews. I had one negative review from a gentleman who lives in Phoenix and was up hiking this weekend. He was pretty vague with about what happened to him but he said that bike riders were not nice to him. I feel like if we can provide a good time for 4,000 people with one bad review, I can deal with that.
I also think we get a lot of locals – I’ve had people yell at me – that we’re ruining the trails. Yet, they don’t hike, bike or otherwise experience the trails, it’s just a preconceived thing that they have filling their heads. Then there’s the complaint that there’s extra traffic and people in town. At the same time, I know we exposed a lot of new people to riding by having the free passes. A lot of people bring their significant other that might not have ever been interested in riding. We’re growing cycling as a sport in a positive way. We also donate to the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund and have the Forest Service presence at the Festival.
What’s the nicest complement you’ve received about the festival?
Jordan Reese met his wife at the Festival. When I first put up the Facebook page, one of the early comments was this is the perfect place to meet your future wife. I thought that was pretty cool.
Any last thoughts?
I’m thankful for everyone who came to the Festival and supports the shop. It takes a village to put on the Festival and I’m really thankful for everyone involved.
5 Minutes With is a running series of articles celebrating VVCC members who are making a difference for bicycling in the Verde Valley. If you know of a VVCC member that fits this description, please send their name to VVCC's Treasurer at firstname.lastname@example.org.