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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
With that in mind, perhaps I should treat next year’s Sea Otter as if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.
Beer handup gone wrong. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
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
Moto-inspired handguards for #32. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
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
Unfortunately the Yeti had a flat tire. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
Group discussion about the preliminary results. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
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
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.
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.