Each year, Sea Otter marks the de facto coming out party for bike debutantes, from lightweight accessories to trendy builds. That’s why we like to go early. You can see all the new stuff, talk to the vendors, and get a feel for where the industry is headed.
We don’t have any crystal balls around here. But that doesn’t stop us from using our imaginations to conjure up what we’d like to see at Sea Otter 2015, running from April 16 through 19 at the spacious Laguna Seca grounds near Monterey. Here’s our Top 10 wish list:
1. Wide-rim tires. Wide and super wide carbon rims are all the rage, with good reason. They’re stiffer. They offer lower psi for better cornering, climbing and overall traction. They’re more stable and predictable . They look cool. The only problem comes with the tires. Their knob patterns weren’t designed for low pressure and squashed profiles. We’re sure hoping to see a new category of wide-specific tires from leading manufacturers like Schwalbe, Maxxis, Continental and Specialized. Who knows, maybe one of the lesser known brands or even a startup might debut something cool.
2. Customizable Fox rear shock. Fox is being left in the innovative dust by RockShox and Cane Creek, and X-Fusion is coming on strong as a like-for-like competitor. We expect a resounding Fox answer to the DB Inline’s and Monarch DebonAir’s fine-tune capabilities.
3. Longer, lower, slacker 29ers. A huge boost from BIKE magazine’s annual Bible of Tests put Evil’s new Following 29er at the top of the forum buzz list. Early adopters are raving about The Following’s go-big performance characteristics, bringing enduro and even bike park handling to the big hoops. Seattle-based Evil isn’t listed among exhibitors (as of this writing) but we’re hoping it will still have some presence at Otter. Given the ungodly demand, it may be asking too much for bikes in a demo pit, but failing that, at least a Following or two to ogle and drool over.
4. A Santa Cruz Bicycles reboot. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Santa Cruz rocked Otter with the amazingly lightweight, fast, and cool-looking carbon Bronson. It was the bike that lit the fire on 27.5, which today is fast becoming the dominant mountain bike platform. But two whole years in the bike biz, coupled with advances in geometry and shock tech since then, has the Bronson looking a bit long in tooth. Santa Cruz needs an answer to Ibis’ hot new HD3, and a Bronson update seems like the logical path — as would, on the 29er side, a Tallboy refresh. For that matter, the 5010 may get a goose. Or equivalents — Santa Cruz sometimes just comes out with a whole new bike rather than a 2.0 or 3.0.
5. Something big from SRAM. There are a number of possibilities here, and as a Presenting Sponsor SRAM will have huge presence at Otter. Here’s what we’re thinking: Entries into the super-wide carbon wheel category, where SRAM is noticeably absent; a direct-mount chainring setup similar to Race Face’s Cinch technology; a lighter, hollow carbon crankset update of its XX and XO cranks, again in response to Race Face’s Next SL. And SRAM could have something completely new up its sleeve, too. One to watch for sure.
6. Ripley 2. There’s no fanboys like Ibis fanboys, and we’ve been agitating for a longer, lower, slacker Ripley for some time. Like, say, The Following. With Ibis scrambling to fill HD3 backlogs, a Ripley upgrade might not be in the cards. But we’re blue-skying here and would love to see such a thing.
7. Boost 148 axle/hubs. The rapid adoption of 27.5, coupled with continued popularity of 29ers, has the hub folks all in a lather to widen and stiffen axles. Trek already is offering this wider standard, and Industry 9 has a set as well. This one’s a bit controversial, as it poses numerous thorny implications for bike design overall. I mean, I already rub the chain stays too much. But we’re eager to see and maybe even demo the stuff up close.
8. Hemp clothing. Hemp is wool without the pain. You can re-wear it without washing (till it stands upright on its own!), it’s more durable than wool, it’s cheaper and it offers the same insulating qualities (warm in cold weather, cool in hot weather) without getting clammy from sweat. Most of all, it’s a natural fiber. We went over to wool a few seasons back and have dumped all our synthetics. Most cycling garb still is predominantly polyester and we’d love to see hemp get into the bike clothing game.
9. POV camera mounts/selfie help. While we still enjoy mtb videos, minute after minute of a bouncing noodle of dirt has gotten old. We’ll be looking for innovations in camera mounts like the rear axle mount we’ve seen on some recent vids. But what’s really coming on strong is multiple-camera selfies. Multiple cameras allow side shots, trail-level action and other points of view to augment the on-bike footage. (Sure you can use the same camera for different POV but that’s more time and trouble, and we’ve got 3 cams sitting around anyway.) GoPro’s booth is always buzzing at Sea Otter and we’ll be looking for the latest gizmos there. Keep an eye out for drones. We love those overhead shots of mtb crickets bouncing along the landscape!
10. The Unexpected. We can’t imagine what else might turn up in the aisles. But we love surprises and figure the Sea Otter Classic is the place you can most expect the unexpected. See ya there!