Sea Otter Illustrated

It’s been exactly one week since I got back from Sea Otter Classic and I am already yearning for more like a hooked gearhead back from CES.

We’ve featured a few pieces of gear in a previous post, and here is more about all the other things I saw. Some gear, but mostly photographs that wouldn’t make it into a story otherwise. I guess you can call it my visual journal.

eBike pre-race
As in year’s past I started day one in the Wolf Hill parking lot where most attendees parked their cars. Yeah sure, media parking is a lot closer but I absolutely love the vibe at Wolf Hill, like this guy attaching his race number for the 3rd annual eBike race.
Bike valet Sea Otter Classic
With the first day of Sea Otter being on a Thursday, it was more chill and the valet bike parking was pretty light. Speaking of chill, it was windy and cold and everyone just wanted to pack up, ditch happy hour and go home at 4pm.
Sea Otter Classic Parking lot
If you have never been to Laguna Seca and are planning to visit, bring comfy shoes as your main mode of transportation will be via walking. Lots of walking.
Sea Otter Classic XC-Pro racing Cross Country
It took me 15 minutes to walk from the expo to the XC-Pro race, but it was well worth it to be able to see how smooth and fast these guys are.
Sea Otter Classic XC-Pro racing Cross Country
I shot mostly road races during my limited time last year, so I decided to shoot some XC.
Sea Otter Classic expo
The expo area from afar.
Sea Otter Classic Dogs
Cool dog, cool bike, picture time it is!
Sea Otter Classic Ibis Bow Ti
Still one heck of a bike after all these years.
Sea Otter Classic Salsa Cycles
In case you were wondering what was happening at the Salsa booth…
Sea Otter Classic Rodeo Labs Spork
The biggest takeaway after visiting the Rodeo Labs booth: I love their little details like this embossed spork on its fork.
Sea Otter Classic trials show
No bike festival is complete without a trials show.
Sea Otter Classic Ryder Innovation Nutcracker
Hailed from South Africa, Ryder Innovation’s Nutcracker is a mini tool that combines a valve core remover, a valve core holder, a wrench for the stem nut, and a disc brake pad spreader in one compact package. A must have for those running tubeless.
Sea Otter Classic Structure Cycleworks SCW-1 WTF
With its linkage fork, Structure Cycleworks had perhaps one of the wildest looking bikes at the show. Having said that, I would love to give this 150mm front and rear enduro dualie a try.
Sea Otter Classic fi'Zi:k Transiro Infinito R3
A large vent on the sole of the new fi’Zi:k Transiro Infinito R3 triathlon kicks
Sea Otter Classic Erik Zabel ABUS
Erik Zabel, yes the Erik Zabel, second from right, hanging out with a bunch of guys from ABUS.
Yeti SB130 Lunch Ride Yeti
Sure, Yeti showed off a souped-up SB130 dubbed the SB 130 Lunch Ride here, but all I really cared about was this yeti.
Manual Machine Sea Otter Classic
Manual machines sort of went viral last year… so let’s bring one to Sea Otter. It sure was a popular, not to mention, fun place to just watch.
Sea Otter Classic mannequin
Found that lost mannequin.

My Full Suspension Fatbike One Night Stand

The start of some serious shenanigans.
The start of some serious shenanigans. Photo: Erik Mathy/

As with all things that get out of hand, it started out with a seemingly innocent communication:

Zack Stender – 12:07:35 PST

Hey Erik,

Sorry for the short notice, but wondering if you want to join us for a ride tonight.

We are going to be ripping around on Salsa fat bikes tonight. Let me know if you are into it. Salsa (Cori) will be dropping the bikes off today sometime soon and I can have them drop one for you. We will be riding from here (7pm) to Ireland’s 32 in the Richmond, drinking and then hitting the park, finishing up at Underdogs in the Sunset where Salsa will pick the bikes up and give us our own bikes back. So you would need to let me know your size and Salsa Fat bike or 29er + preference soon. And if you want them to have your own bike to hand off to you at Underdogs, you will need to drop it off with us. Otherwise you can bus it home from there or whatever.

Cori mentioned that she may reach out to you as well.

I know what you’re thinking. A fatbike pub crawl. In San Francisco. The thought of that is, at best, silly and at worst, asinine.

Erik Mathy – 12:37:29 PST

Sure!! That’d be a hoot!

Probably a large of whatever nobody else wants. I’m easy. ūüėÄ

I, obviously, have a difference in opinion with you, dear reader. Or, as I told Zack, I’m easy when it comes to bikes. Does it have two wheels? Is it neato? Um, OK then, where do I sign up? Well, with the exception of fixies. Nothing personal, but my knees are too told for that crap. Everything ELSE, though, and I am game.

Four fatbikes, all in a row.
Four fatbikes, all in a row. Photo: Erik Mathy/

After arriving at Huckleberry Bikes, I have to admit to being more than a little bit intimidated by the rig they’d assigned me. A Salsa Bucksaw. And not just any Salsa Bucksaw, but the full on, high dollar, carbon fiber, SRAM¬†XO1 Salsa Bucksaw. All 30lbs of it. To put that in perspective, my Salsa Marrakesh¬†touring bike weighs 32lbs. Think about that for a second. Full suspension. 4″ tires. 30lbs.


The crew at prepare to depart. The sheer amount of rubber in this photo is mind boggling.
The crew at Huckleberry Bikes prepare to depart. The sheer amount of rubber in this photo is mind boggling. Photo: Erik Mathy/

Having never ridden a full suspension mountain bike or a fatbike, I literally stared at the Bucksaw without a single clear idea how to use it. I tried to figure¬†out what to avoid, like the dropper seat post (another item I’ve never used in my life), which way was “Up” and “Down” for the shifters, and attempted to¬†not worry about how in the Hell I’d follow a pack of experienced and no doubt talented bike shop guys. While riding in the dark with a fairly weak headlight. To say I’m not always very smart is, at times, an understatement.

We set out and rolled along Market St after dark, the six¬†fatbikes sounding literally like a squadron of WWII fighter planes.¬†You’d be surprised how much noise a pack of 4″ mountain bike tires makes when you’re riding en masse on¬†pavement. We had dudes driving alongside us, hanging out the window taking video with their smartphones.

Shouting over traffic and fatbike tire noise: “Why are you all on fatbikes?!?!?”

Answer: “Because they are a blast. That and…why NOT ride on fatbikes?!?!?!”

Zack, one of the owners of Huckelberry Bikes, leads everyone up the wiggle and into the wilds of Golden Gate Park.
Zack, one of the owners of Huckelberry Bikes, leads everyone up the wiggle and into the wilds of Golden Gate Park. Photo: Erik Mathy/

In short order we were up the wiggle, into Golden Gate Park and following Zack into some dark singletrack before bombing Ireland 32’s to meet up with Cori¬†from Salsa and some of the crew from Roaring Mouse. Shit was shot. Beers were drunk. As soon as the karaoke started, the entire crew bolted. In short order the now nine strong pack of fatbikes was roaring pell mell through Golden Gate Park. We hit pavement, service roads and singletrack and then more of all the above. All of a sudden, my courage increased (and sense of self preservation decreased) by the beer, silky suspension and fat tires,¬†I found myself doing things I’d never, ever done before.

Beered up and hyped up, I did my best to keep up with everyone. Thankfully they occasionally stopped to regroup so I could catch up. Photo: Erik Mathy/

  • A flight and a half of stairs at full speed? BBBBBRRRRRRRRRRPPPPPPP!!!! Done.
  • A three foot drop off a concrete wall? BAH-BUMP! Sorted, although admittedly by the skin of my teeth and nowhere near as gracefully as everyone else.
  • Riding through loose sand? It was a bit wishy washy but I managed, with one spill on the way out.

Ocean Beach, fatbikes. Yes, it's a perfect combination.
Ocean Beach, + fatbikes = A perfect combination. Photo: Erik Mathy/

And, just like that, the damn Bucksaw had me right where Salsa no doubt wanted me: In lust and not caring what anyone thought about it. I’d been seduced by a bike that made up for all my deficiencies. As long as I didn’t think too much¬†and¬†kept the front wheel pointed where I wanted it to go, that bike just sorted out the rest. Now, I know, I know…there are folks who hate fatbikes for this. But I won’t be among that number. In reality,¬†I got to see what riders with actual talent could do with rigs like that as I tried to keep up with the guys from Huckleberry and Roaring Mouse. Full speed BMX style rear wheel whips, charging down stairs, gracefully taking big drops at speed, ripping through trees, ¬†riding over big ass roots that would make you lose your teeth on a 29’er? They did that and more.¬†It was impressive, to say the least.

A literal pile of fatbikes is bound to draw some attention.
A literal pile of fatbikes is bound to draw some attention. This was the last stop of the night, where reality sadly kicked back in. Photo: Erik Mathy/

But, as with any one night stand, sobriety re-asserted itself in all too short an order. It was midnight. The last BART train departed soon and I was all the way up in the Outer Richmond. I had to catch that train, get home, chase some sleep and wake up for work the next day. I hurriedly gave the Bucksaw back to Cori, grabbed my Marrakesh, and rode like a madman to the nearest BART station. With two minutes to spare I made it to the platform, dead sober and wondering what in the world just happened. Had I lost my mind?

Yes, yes I did. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat to ride the Salsa Bucksaw again. Until that lucky day comes along, I’ll cherish the memory of my one night stand with a ¬†weirdly sexy, (moderately) svelte, full suspension, 4″ tired fatbike that made me feel like¬†the mountain bike rider that I wish I was.


Salsa Cycles’ New “Marrakesh” Touring Bike

Spotted on social media, Salsa Cycles new touring bike, Marrakesh, looks rather interesting.
Spotted on social media, Salsa Cycles new touring bike, Marrakesh, looks rather interesting. Photo: Ben Weaver

While wandering around the social media landscape last week I spotted a new, never seen before, Salsa Cycles touring bike. The photo,¬†posted on July 11th by musician Ben Weaver, shows a fully loaded, drop bar, triple crank, disc brake touring bike bearing the Salsa Cycles logo with the name “Marrakesh“.

Closer examination reveals some pretty interesting details:

  • Shimano Deore triple drivetrain with bar end shifters.
  • The brakes are the tried and true Avid¬†BB7’s.
  • Cowchippers appear to be the handlebar of choice here. They are more flared than Salsa’s CX specific Cowbells, but less so than the offroad centric Woodchippers.
  • The WTB rims have no braking surface, and there appears to be no cantilever brake mounts, so this is a disc brake only frame.
  • The tires are beefy Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x38C tires. There is more room to be had for larger tires, but it’s hard to tell from this photo just how much. 700×42 or 700×45 seems to be a safe bet.
  • The saddle is a Brookes C17.
  • The frame has 3 water bottle mounts while the fork has another 2 mounts, which Ben is using for Anything Cages. That’s in line with pretty much Salsa’s entire bike catalog. The fork itself doesn’t appear to be one of their carbon fiber “Firestarter” models, so it’s probably the same fork as the Salsa Vaya.
  • As with the Salsa Vaya, the Marrakesh has mounts for both front and rear racks.

The parts used for build itself could be particular to Mr. Weaver and his preferences, there really is no way to tell. Regardless, a brand new, disc only, drop bar touring bike from Salsa is an interesting move on their part. They currently have three 700cc based models: Colossal, Vaya and Warbird. The Colossal and Warbird fall into a race (or really, really fast touring) category, while the Vaya is aimed directly at touring. Where and how the Marrakesh fits into the grand scheme of things should be interesting to see.

The fit and finish, complete with Salsa branding and name, doesn’t look custom. Salsa typically doesn’t let branded test prototypes out into the public eye to be seen, so that makes this either a final production prototype or the first of a full factory run. I’d bet there will be a new product announcement from Salsa very, very soon.

Should¬†you want to see the “Marrakesh” in person, and catch some great tunes at the same time, Ben is currently touring (by bike, of course) around Lake Superior. You can find his show dates here.