Sea Otter Gear You Should Not Miss

The expo at Sea Otter has always been an integral part of the festival where enthusiasts can see, touch, purchase the latest gear, rub elbows with the pros, and score free swag. If you like any of the aforementioned things, then the 2018 edition which happened exactly a week ago with a sold out exhibit space featuring 500 exhibitors, would be right up your alley. It was even better than InterBike to be honest, and here’s a condensed version of what I saw.

Ortlieb

Bikepacking is all the rage now and I spotted this sweet saddlebag from German bag specialist Ortlieb. Besides the use of obligatory waterproof fabrics, the $145, 11-liter, medium sized Seat Pack M features a stiffened bottom for stability while its small footprint is full-suspension and dropper post friendly. It’s got a roll top and bright orange compression straps to keep your content from bouncing around, but Ortlieb upped the game further with the inclusion of a purge valve on the side to enable users to compact it down even more.


GT

Instead of showing a complete lineup of their rigs, GT had this little booth highlighting their history in full-suspension. There was a RTS, LTS, i-Drive, iT1… You know it. This 1998 STS-DH Lobo still looked amazing and oh the memories.


Shimano

Shimano didn’t have a whole lot of new stuff to show, but they did show us their newest Ultegra RX rear derailleur which is basically a road derailleur with a Shadow Plus clutch to combat against chain slap and retention over rough terrains. The target audience? All you cyclocross gravel riders. The $109.99 RD-RX800 mechanical derailleur is compatible with both 1x and 2x 11-speed drivetrains and up to a 11-34 cassette. Available this summer.

Besides the RX derailleur, Shimano also has this purpose-built trail work rig for the organizers of the Trans-Casadia race. Built around a Shimano Steps e-bike system, the custom Sycip bike comes with a rack to carry a chainsaw, extra fuel and battery for the bike, full internal cable routes, and is adorned with more bling bits from ENVE. I just want to take this bike when I go camping.


Goodyear

Goodyear is diving head first into bicycle tires. We’ve covered the road-going Eagle All-Season in detail in another post. And here’s an up close look at their Newton tire intended for aggressive trail, enduro and downhill. The level of detail Goodyear has put in to it from its textured, reinforced casing to the precision-molded knobs is simply amazing. The Newton comes in both 27.5 and 29 from $70-$90 depending on the compound and casing selected.


Fi’Zi:K

Fi’Zi:K is an official sponsor of Team Movistar and it’s nice to see the Italian company offering their top of the line Infinito R1 shoe with Movistar blue trim equally for both men and women. It’s nice to see companies stepping up their efforts in treating women’s pro cycling equally, plus this special edition shoe looked GREAT in person.


Speedplay

Since we’re talking about shoes, Speedplay’s founder Richard Bryne showed me his latest project: An ultra thin carbon outsole. It doesn’t look like much but Bryne told us his latest creation with Shimano SPD-SL cleat is about one centimeter lower than a pair of Shimano shoes with the same cleat. The outsole has just been granted its own patent and while there wasn’t any word on when it would ever hit production, the original Speedplay pedal started out as a personal project too…


Vision

Vision has had the Metron 4D aero handlebar for a while now but the latest version, the Metron 4D Flat M.A.S, is aimed at those who might want to mount a time trial extension from time to time for that one time trial or triathlon. Besides the obvious cable routing for electronic wires and a comfortable aero flat top, Vision engineers added a mounting slot on both ends near the center clamp where one can quickly install the extensions and be done with it. It’s perfect for those who can only have one bike. 


Kask

Kask introduced the $249 Valegro helmet with Team Sky at Tour De France last year and these lightweight lids are finally available in the States. Weighing in at a claimed 180-grams for a size small, it’s generous 37 air vents means your noggin’ will stay cool in the heat of the battle. It also includes antibacterial, fast-drying padding and Kask’s signature eco-leather strap to make every ride a comfortable outing.


Assos

Swiss apparel maker Assos not only showed up in their trademark Mobile Showroom, but they also brought their newest XC collection to show. The XC jersey comes with an earthier color palette and is tailored for riding in a more upright position which mountain and gravel riders are more likely to be in. Say goodbye to road jerseys pulling all over the place.

Assos also showed a pair of their new off-road Rally bib with a more activity-specific cut and an outer panel now interwoven with Dyneema polyethylene fiber to protect against abrasion and be more durable because mishaps on dirt happen way more than we’d like to admit and it sucks to ruin a pair of bibs worth a few Benjamins.


ODI

Longtime grip maker ODI got the usual collection of its Lock-On clamps in all kinds of colors but they also have these grip-inspired drink coozies for your cold one. These $8 sleeves come in 8 colors and grabs just as well as its line of grips. Also works as a joke to tell the unsuspecting that it is a new grip diameter standard.


Mint

These Italian-made Mint socks not only look sharp, but for every pair purchased a dollar goes towards National Interscholastic Cycling Association. Minted plans to release new, one and done designs in limited quantities on a quarterly basis so don’t wait before they’re gone for good, and for a good cause.


VonHof

Steel is still real and New Jersey-based Von Hof showcased the ACX painted in eye-popping orange. Handbuilt in the US with the intention to be a dual cyclocross and gravel adventure machine, the Columbus-steeled ACX features a liberal use of custom-shaped tubes with a racing geometry, 40mm tire clearance, front and rear thru-axle, and then surprised us with a T47 bottom bracket. The $2,395 ACX comes in six standard sizes in two-color paint of your choosing with a matching ENVE CX Disk Fork. If stock sizing is not your thing, VonHof is also happy to make a custom one for you starting at $3,250. 


IRC

IRC is making a comeback to the tire scene and the Boken is the Japanese tiremaker’s latest gravel tire. Available in 36c and 40c, the $80 tire uses a proven diamond center tread for speed with taller knobs on the side for cornering over rough roads. It’s tubeless ready and IRC have decided to go with a single-ply casing to be lighter and conform to the terrain better than multi-ply tires. We were told the tires were a hit at the recent road-heavy Belgian Waffle Ride and can’t wait to try ours. 


Sage

Oregon-based Sage titanium showed off their prototype Flow Motion hardtail. According to owner David Rosen, the Flow Motion will come with a few firsts. It will be Sage’s first mountain frame and first model to be built entirely in-house. Designed to be paired with a 120 to 150mm fork, the long-travel hardtail is what Rosen envisions as a do-it-all dirt bike with room to accommodate up to 27.5x 2.8 or 29x 2.35 tires. The Flow Motion will be available for $3,900 frame only and customers will be able to build their own bikes on Sage’s web configurator. 


Silca

Silca had a relatively small booth this year but they did have a few of their prototype Sicuro titanium bottle cages lying around.


They might look understated but a closer inspection reveals the tidy uniform welds make them look so clean. You can thank a laser welding machine for that. Silca is still figuring out their production plan, so no firm price as of yet but King Cage might finally have a competitor.


Syncros

Syncros almost broke the internet on the first day of Sea Otter with these super lightweight Silverton SL carbon hoops. OK, lightweight carbon hoops, we’ve heard that before, what makes these Syncros so unique, however is that the entire wheel from its 31mm (26mm internal) hookless rim, carbon spoke, and hubshell (with DT Swiss 190 ceramic hub guts) are tensioned and molded as one piece that is said to improve its strength and stiffness. At $3,500 per set, these Centerlock-only puppies sure ain’t cheap but what is $3,500 in the name of marginal gain?


Early Rider

I am a dad now so kids bikes are always on my radar and I couldn’t help myself but to stop and stare at this wooden Early Rider Bonsai balance bike. Besides its one-piece Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified marine ply birch veneer frame, the other visually striking part about the Bonsai is its one-sided rear wheel that makes it almost too gorgeous to be a kids bike. It’s got 12-in Kenda tires rolling on sealed hub bearings, a real 1-1/8 headtube with a real headset, an aluminum cockpit and a classy riveted saddle. It’s also only $159. Here’s a kids bike I actually want to keep around in my house for once.


Continental

Continental might seem comparatively slow in terms of tire development but they are by no means slackers. The German tiremaker takes their time in development and opts to perfect the product and safety instead of just throwing it out there. Tires such as the Grand Prix 4000 is a prime example of how they prefer getting it right the first time and thus remains to be a popular choice all these years. For 2018 they have revamped their mountain bike tires, not one, but four of their bestsellers: The Trail King, Race King, Cross King, and Mountain King. Highlights include updated thread patterns, improved casing with Cordura to eliminate sealant leakage, a less pronounced checker pattern on the sidewalls and finally, thread on the Mountain King (second tire from left) co-developed with fellow compatriot and frequent collaborator Adidas based on the trail running specific Continental rubber outsole. The new tires are available in 27.5, 29 and also 26 because they know many of us still love to ride our “outdated” bikes with 26in wheels.


A Sea Otter Retrospective

Last year’s Sea Otter Classic was a breather that I desperately needed and treasured. There was no PressCamp this spring so my schedule has been a bit bare, but as April inched closer, Sea Otter came tugging at my heart saying I should really go. Whether I like to admit or not, attending Sea Otter has turned into a yearly pilgrimage, an excuse to get out of town. Heck, it doesn’t even feel like work (until I have to sit down and type it all out).

This year’s Sea Otter, or Sea Weasel as some like to call it, was in a way more or less the same: Always held on the third week of April at Laguna Seca, lots and lots of walking, the dust bowl. The only difference was that I spent two days there instead of the usual one so I that I could pace myself between checking out gear, trying to get some general photos, and even some racing action.

If next year’s edition is as busy as this year’s then I think I need to be there for its entirety. Here’s a quick, off-the-cuff photo journal of my two days, minus the gear of course.

First, the expo was lit. (Overheard at some point: InterBike’s dead.) I don’t recall seeing that many booths in past years and we were told by the organizers that all the booth spaces were sold out this year. I believe them because I kept getting lost. It was a great workout, but terrible when you have to run to an event or a meeting. You know those wavy flags that booths like to put up so they can be easily found? They don’t work because everybody’s got a few, if they didn’t get blown over by the wind, that is.

Flag or flag-less, however, the place was buzzing. Look, there’s Rebecca Rusch talking about nutrition while cranking out smoothies effortlessly at the Clif booth, kids watching dirt jumps at the always popular Subaru booth.

And how can I forget the happy hour giveaway raffle at Fox? Thankfully, no RC cars or Float 40 were thrown off the roof of the truck, much to the dismay of the bros amongst the huge, energetic crowd (who doesn’t like free stuff?).

2018 Sea Otter Classic
Steel is real and this gorgeous orange Von Hof Cross bike deserved to be placed high up for all to marvel at.

Not far from the Fox crowd, however, was this quiet booth with two whiteboards full of ordnances found on Fort Ord, where Laguna Seca rests upon. Now, the ones shown are obviously inert but they served as a great reminder to stay on them marked trails.

As visitors continued to trickle in on Friday, the number of bikes with for sale signs chained to various fences also increased. Matt, your Demo 8 looks sweet and all but do those roadside ads ever work? Asking for a friend.

Besides the obvious information overload on gear, the riding portion looked good too. Throughout the first two days, I spotted plenty of juniors buzzing around on race courses going faster and being more enthusiastic and more organized in ways I only dreamt of when I was racing in their categories 15 years ago. I wish my parents would have allowed me to take days off from school to go racing, too. Nevertheless, it was an encouraging sight to see.

Sea Otter Classic 2018
The juniors warming up. Together.
Team Swift with the 1-2-3.

Moving on to pro racing. It dawned on me on the second day that Laguna Seca was a rather difficult place to photograph racing since getting from point A to point B “down the road” often means 15 minutes of walking in circles. My schedule was packed as if I were at InterBike, so I was only able to catch the pro women slugging it out on the short track aka criterium on dirt.

Sea Otter Classic 2018
The CLIF Pro Team were all smiles before racing in the Pro Women Short Track event.
Sea Otter Classic 2018
Kate Courtney (Specialized Factory Team) getting ready for her STXC race
Sea Otter Classic 2018
The kids were out to cheer for the women’s short track.
Construction Zone Racing-Scott
2017 US National STXC Champion Erin Huck (Construction Zone Racing-Scott) at the start line.
Sea Otter Classic 2018
19 year-old Sidney McGill (Focus CX Team Canada) in the pain cave.
Specialized Factory Team
But it was Courtney’s teammate Annika Langvad winning the event.
Sea Otter Classic 2018
That’s a lot of racers.

Lastly, don’t forget to pick up a bag of kettle corn from Cliff & Jan’s. Typically located at the bottom of the walk bridge off  Wolf Hill, these two grade-school sweethearts have been steadily popping corns at Sea Otter for the past 12 years and I can’t avoid getting a bag year after year, much like attending Sea Otter itself.


Cobblers On Wheels

Vibram soe factor tour

Whenever I go to bike festivals or trade shows I can always count on seeing a handful of non-bike related booths. Now I am not the one to judge, but over the years I’ve seen booths for USB chargers, massage tools, vacation home rentals, and at this year’s Sea Otter, a recruitment booth for the Highway Patrol. Needless to say, it’s a toss up and the possibilities are endless on that end.

Then there was this giant black RV with an unmistakable yellow Vibram logo parked behind the foot bridge that the majority of visitors had to use. No, the iconic Italian rubber outsole maker is not branching out into the RV business, nor are they sponsoring a racing team. Instead, they converted their RV into a mobile shoe repair lab and sent it out on a tour around the country looking to breathe new life into your otherwise tired and boring shoes.

Vibram soe factor tour

They called themselves the Vibram Sole Factor. I’d liken them to cobblers on wheels. Vibram invited us over for a visit and I thought, hey that’s something different to photograph besides yet another piece of carbon fiber. Here’s an inside look.

e_SOC18SL0638

Step one: Pick your outsole. There are plenty of outsoles in different shapes and colors to choose from and the friendly staff is there to help you choose the right one.

e_SOC18SL0752

The old outsole is then painstakingly removed like slicing a giant piece ham. Gone are the days where shoes are expected to be repaired, but the Vibram wiz cobblers can put a new outsole onto various shoe types and brands. The cobblers also enjoy the challenge presented by each repair as they all come with their own personalities.

e_SOC18SL0663

Remnants of the old outsole are then ground away and leveled.

e_SOC18SL0680

Master cobbler Gino Conti, right, inspects a shaved down Blundstone. The Bronx native is a second generation cobbler who has been in the business for 50 years and runs Warwick Cobbler in Warwick, New York.

e_SOC18SL0651

Cobbler Gino Gentile hard at work preparing a new outsole for gluing. Gentile is a 40-year veteran cobbler who normally runs Anthony’s Shoe Service in San Francisco.

e_SOC18SL0696

A cramped, but organized work bench where they can churn out 20+ daily repairs.

e_SOC18SL0787

Some of the tools used by the three cobblers

e_SOC18SL0780

Shawn the apprentice brushes adhesives onto an outsole as the two Ginos talk about a repair.

e_SOC18SL0715

Foot lasts of various shapes and sizes

e_SOC18SL0779

Gino shows how the vacuum shoe press works.

e_SOC18SL0772

A well-worn Five Ten getting some much needed TLC.

e_SOC18SL0668

Gino in between repairs.

e_SOC18SL1971

Gluing a new outsole onto a Birkenstock sandal

e_SOC18SL1992

Trimming the excess outsole with a cutter

e_SOC18SL2011

And finish the trimming manually with a knife and some elbow grease.

e_SOC18SL0765

The cobblers on wheels.

Vibram Sole Factor Tour


A Sierra Shredder In The Making

Paul Component Engineering Sierra Nevada Shredder collab

Paul Component Engineering loves Sierra Nevada.

Paul Camp Sierra Nevada Bike

As a matter of fact, founder Paul Price loves it so much that not only does he has his own personal mug on standby at the brewery. He also took a whole a bunch of us on a tour while attending Paul Camp last year. Needless to say, I drank a lot of Sierra Nevada that weekend.

Paul Camp Sierra Nevada Brewery
Turing the brewhouse into a bike showroom…

So it’s no surprise Paul is partnering with the legendary brewery (at last) for an one-off show bike featuring the best of NorCal creativity and American manufacturing… a idea conceived while brainstorming for the most fun way to go on a beer run… yes, a brainstorming sesh about a beer run.

Paul Component Engineering Sierra Nevada Shredder collab Squid Shred to Ed's
In the beginning…

The bike is built on a Squid Shred To Ed’s BMX frame custom-painted by Squid, with a White Industries drivetrain and anodized Sierra Nevada Pale-Ale green components by Paul, of course.

Measuring Tools

Measurement tools at Paul

Sierra Nevada once had a successful cycling team in the early 2000s and they continue to be a huge supporter of the sport.

Painting (10)

Squid Bikes co-founder Chris Namba workin it.

Masking (2)

Squid Bikes co-founder Emily Kachorek masks the frame in between paints

Rim Joining

Rim joining at the Velocity factory

Masking (3)

Almost there...

The final build will be unveiled at Sea Otter Classic in Monterey this coming April so stay tuned for updates!

Paul Component Engineering Sierra Nevada Shredder collab Squid Shred to Ed's

Sea Otter was a much needed breather

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I thought hard about whether I should make a trip to Sea Otter this year.

No doubt last year’s inaugural e-bike race at one of America’s premier bike festivals was fun, but I could really use a day off, especially after what turned out to be an intense Saturday in Berkeley.

So I somewhat reluctantly made the drive down to Laguna Seca and in the end, I am glad I did.

As I walked toward the entrance, a friend I haven’t seen since InterBike came out of nowhere and we spent 10 minutes catching up as we treaded closer to the blue overpass. The conversation ranged from kids, life, and a bit of bikes.

Pretty spontaneous but it felt like family.

Once over the blue overpass, my initial plan of attack was to fly under the radar around the expo as long as I could. However, just like my previous conversation, my hopes of staying down low was all but evaporated within five minutes into the expo when I walked by the Boyd booth.

Old pal Richard was there showing them hoops with a couple of Factor O2s, industry chatters…

Want. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Somewhere along the way, test rides were offered but since I only had a day there, that just couldn’t happen. With more than 400 exhibitors, even quick drive-by booth visits quickly added up to a significant chunk of time as I jumped between the seemingly sprawling booths and race venues that littered within and outside the famed corkscrew race course.

As cheery racers went to claim their podiums from the day’s criterium and enduro races one after another, I slowly came to realize that Sea Otter is more than racing and new products.

Up and personal. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

It’s a family gathering of all disciplines where little rippers can share pump track tips with their older brother-in-arms of whom they’ve only seen in YouTube videos; Where aspiring cross-country racers in USA Talent ID jerseys rub shoulders with GT’s Anneke Beerten as Brett Tippie goofs around while filming his latest Just The Tip segment; And eBikes getting along with just about everyone, including them electric surfboards.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

In it, I find myself a brief reprieve from the constant barrage of what’s happening around the world.  The feeling where you’re so thirsty and suddenly the GU booth just magically appears like a desert oasis on the horizon, along with all the food samples and drinks you can have.

And I am not even mad about falling into one of the many gopher holes, or, as one of my teammates joked, bomb holes that lined the dual slalom course.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

With that in mind, perhaps I should treat next year’s Sea Otter as if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.

Until next year. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

A quick Sea Otter pictorial

I could write more about Sea Otter but pictures are way better than words. Enjoy the partly random, partly happy snaps along the way!

If it weren’t for these guys, parking on Wolf Hill would have been a giant mess. Thanks! Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
It’s all calm here but I saw one raging off road later in the afternoon. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
One of the handful of Factor O2’s currently in the U.S. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Kogel Bearings and their impressive lineup of bearings, pulleys, and bottom brackets. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
3D-printed Spoke Fins from Null Winds Technology are said to reduce drag on your existing wheels by as much as 67%. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
This HPC Revolution e-downhill bike is hand-welded one by one in Los Angeles, fully customizable including a drivetrain capable of going as fast as 60mph and a high-capacity battery cell for up to 100miles in one charge. Ultimate beast mode? Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
This Easton Cinch spindle power meter system sure got everyone talking. With the power measurement unit fully contained within the spindle, the $600, 65-gram power meter spindle will be compatible with existing Cinch crank arms and all the chain ring combos such at these here. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Sure, the 875g (paint included) Specialized S-Works Epic Hardtail in the back of this photo is jaw-droppingly light, but I like this one better. Just think of all the history behind this bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
WTB dropped some new treads at Sea Otter too. Here’s their new Byway Road Plus TCS tire for the growing 650 gravel road crowd. Decent amount of side knobs for traction while the smooth rolling center keeps the ride on the trail way more tolerable. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Hydrate or die. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Emily Batty out doing her course recon. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Secretly stashed inside the bus booth was the only GameChanger aero helmet in the U.S. It’s only available in Europe for the time being but they may just bring it stateside before you know it. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Enduro practice session. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Just when you think there’s nothing else new with taillights, Cateye dropped this Rapid X2 Kinetic (left) with a built-in accelerometer that automatically changes from blinking to solid red whenever deceleration is detected. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Prominently displayed at the OneUp Components booth was their new EDC tool system that utilizes all that space within your oversized (alloy) steer tube. With a very well thought out minitool that comes with 8mm which is relatively rare for a tool that size, chain, tire tools and option of either a pump or a CO2, what’s not to like? Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
At first glance, these gloves from Showers Pass looked similar to your normal liner gloves. But no, they are waterproof and plush without being excessively bulky. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
There were a good number of eBikes at Sea Otter again this year but there was a lot to be liked on this e-Cargo bike from Riese & Müller: Full suspension for comfort and additional traction, integrated Abus lock, the ability to mount a second battery to double its range, and a variety of options to customize the cargo area from double child seats to a higher sidewall for hauling more groceries. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Normally it’s hard to sit and write about kids bikes but Islabikes caught my attention with their new Pro line of high-performance kids bikes. Here, the Cnoc 16 came stock with a carbon fork, TRP v-brakes, titanium-spindled pedals, 185tpi folding tires, smaller-diameter grips and brakes for the little one. And weighing in at a little over 10lbs, the Cnoc will probably save the lower backs of many parents, too. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
#quoteoftheday Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Fat Chance is back! Fresh at the show was Chris’ new model, the Chris Cross. It’s Chris’ utilitarian take on cross, gravel, and bike packing. The beautifully-painted steel frame uses a mix of Columbus and Reynolds tubings and it’s handmade one by one in the U.S. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
The all-new Ibis Ripley LS, now with longer travel along with the usual sharp paint job. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Dubbed as an inner-tire suspension system, the CushCore is a circular-shaped engineering foam that goes inside your tire and is said to improve traction and stability while providing a layer of protection against flats. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Love the paint job on this Santa Cruz Hightower. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
See ya next year! Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

EBike Racing: You Still Have to Pedal, Dude

Beer handup gone wrong. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Beer handup gone wrong. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

SOC041416SL356

Still need the skills to know how to ride an eBike, and you can get a solid workout riding one, just like hardcore commuting. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

In case you're wondering. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

In case you're wondering. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Moto-inspired handguards for #32. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Moto-inspired handguards for #32. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

SOC041416SL367

Carl Decker of the Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team racing opted to do the eMTB race on a regular bike. No big deal. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

'merica. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

'merica. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Unfortunately the Yeti had a flat tire.

Unfortunately the Yeti had a flat tire. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Group discussion on the preliminary results. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Group discussion about the preliminary results. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

SOC041416SL476

Christoph Sauser getting high-fives at the finish after winning the inaugural Sea Otter Classic eMTB race. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Waiting for the award ceremony. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Waiting for the award ceremony. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

SOC041416SL615

Turns out the best photo spot at Sea Otter was the parking lot. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

“Hey the gas station is right over there!” screams one heckler at the inaugural  Sea Otter Classic eMTB bike race.

As polarizing as the opinions of eBikes are here in the States, I honestly thought the eMTB race was highly entertaining … What’s not to love when people are racing their brains out for an hour trying to put in as many laps as they could?

Plus, it dawned on me that eBike racing is very much like cyclocross of years past: Some thought Cross was silly, a European thing. Races weren’t sanctioned and super hip.

No one laughs at cyclocross now. Heck, there’s even a Cross race at Sea Otter, months after the regular cross season had ended. It’s that popular.

But let’s go back to the scene of the eMTB race. On the serious end of business, Christoph Sauser won the race. Yes, the former world cross country champ Sauser from Switzerland riding a brand new Specialized Turbo Levo FSR. Gorgeous looking bike.

A new Specialized Turbo Levo FSR on course. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A new Specialized Turbo Levo FSR on course. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

The best part of the race, though, were the characters involved: The guy riding an e-downhill bike in what is essentially a cross-country criterium; another rider with motocross-inspired hand guards; racers in full spandex/racers in jeans and t-shirts; Yuri Hauswald racing the industry challenge in a furry Yeti suit; and a shoutout to Carl Decker (Giant Factory Off-Road Racing Team) who was competing on a regular bike.

And it was a blast for the over 100 registered racers and the handful of spectators (some offering beer handups to the riders). Sure, there were a bunch of mechanicals ranging from a busted chain, flats, and someone complaining about not being able to turn on his bike’s turbo assist mode. But the vibe was just like cyclocross in the early days: minimal rules and a whole lot of fun.

That, my friend, is a whole new racing category in its infancy. Similar to enduro, whether or not you agree with the concept of eBikes (or eBike racing), it’s a matter of time that your local race will have a dedicated eBike category.

Which brings the question of why all the hate and pushback? If we can accept full suspension, new axle standards every other month and embrace enduro/gravel so quickly then why can’t we accept eBike into the family?

eBike is not going to take over the world. And just like commuter bikes, they’re not for everyone. Road/trail access will get sorted out and someone will always be unhappy, but such is life.

So don’t knock it until you tried one.