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.

EBike Racing: You Still Have to Pedal, Dude

Beer handup gone wrong. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Beer handup gone wrong. Photo: Stephen Lam/


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/

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

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

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

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


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/

'merica. Photo: Stephen Lam/

'merica. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Unfortunately the Yeti had a flat tire.

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

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

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


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

Waiting for the award ceremony. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Waiting for the award ceremony. Photo: Stephen Lam/


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

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

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.