Bike Intelligencer » sea otter classic All bike, all the time Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:20:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 New Exciting Things We Hope for Sea Otter Classic 2015 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:05:13 +0000 See ya there!




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!

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Wahoo Fitness at Sea Otter Classic 2013 Sun, 21 Apr 2013 03:54:39 +0000

Have you checked out what’s going on over at Wahoo Fitness? We had the chance to stop by the Atlanta-based company’s booth at the Sea Otter Classic 2013 and get the full rundown from Eric Stobin, national sales manager. (See video below.)

If you train seriously, you know how important numbers become. Heartbeat. VO2 max. Caloric output. RPM. MPH. Distance. Time. Comparables.

All these things are quantifiable. But it can be a real pain to track them.

Wahoo Fitness is cracking that nut. Using not separate dedicated devices but instead recent iterations of the iPhone, iPad or iPad mini, Wahoo Fitness melds data from its own devices and apps with other smart device apps to provide a comprehensive statistical overview of your workout or training sessions. Examples of compatible apps include Strava, iRunner, MapMyWalk, MapMyDOGWALK, MotionX GPS, TargetWeight and on and on. (The Wahoo Fitness Web site provides a slew of them.)

Wahoo Fitness covers the gamut of athletic activities: Cycling, running, walking, hiking. There’s even a “Balance Smartphone Scale” that tracks weight loss or gain and BMI. (As Bicycling magazine put it, the bathroom scale trumps all other data points.)

Wahoo makes a variety of iDevice, bluetooth-capable devices for monitoring fitness. Including: the “RFLKT” bike computer (mountable on handlebars). The KICKR PowerTrainer featured in the video below. The SmartPhone Scale. An armband, a heart rate strap and a speed/cadence sensor.

We’re still taking in the incredible array of Wahoo Fitness capabilities. But recalling the days of clunky monochromatic displays and awkward bike rollers or stationary cycles, where the number of soaked towels was the best indicator of workout effectiveness, we can appreciate how digital technology in Wahoo’s ingenious hands is creating a whole new world for managing fitness athletics.

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Jill Kintner and the Lure of Downhill Wed, 21 Apr 2010 14:54:53 +0000

In recent races Seattle native Jill Kintner’s name has shown up on the women’s downhill roster as well as her signature event, the dual slalom.

We’ve suggested this means Jill may be looking for bigger vistas. Jill herself won’t confirm or deny the extent of her downhill ambitions, although in a new blog post she suggests she’s seriously pursuing DH.

And there it was again, at the Sea Otter Classic. After wearing out the field in the dual slalom and taking home the gold, Jill threw in her lot with the downhillers the following day.

The result was quite respectable: Sixth, about 5 seconds off the smoking hot pace of Melissa Buhl. Interestingly, Buhly had an off day in the dual slalom, at fourth, after narrowly beating Jill in last year’s Sea Otter slalom matchup.

More significant from our perspective was the fact that Jill finished ahead of some real high rollers, including Fionn Griffiths, Kathy Pruitt and Katie Holden. And she was just a hair off the paces of Sabrina Jonnier and the ageless wonder, Leigh Donovan.

These results translate simply into one factor: Experience. Jill has been honing her downhill skills under the tutelage of Aussie boyfriend Bryn Atkinson, a world class downhiller himself. If she can get more downhill racing under her belt, there’s no reason she can’t contend for World Cup titles.

Why bother with downhill at all, when you’re so good at dual slalom? Any champion wants to push her envelope and keep testing herself. Having medaled in the Olympics in BMX, Jill is pretty much the gold standard in dual slalom. And in the competitive arena, downhill racing is still the ultimate challenge. The downhillers get all the glory — disproportionately so, perhaps, but deserved as well.

The only question is whether downhill could hurt Jill’s campaign for the world title in dual slalom this year. You don’t find someone at No. 1 in both disciplines at the same time, for a variety of reasons starting with, as Jill acknowledged to Brett Tippie (scroll down for video interview), being too whupped winning the slalom to face a second day of racing.

But the one quality you have to love with Jill is she really believes anything is possible. You can see the steely determination when she rides — it translates from her body language right through the goggles and jump suit. And any interview I’ve seen with her shows an uncommon resolve to follow through on her goals.

Kintner may at this point be undecided about pursuing downhill. It’s still early in the season. But we’d sure love to see her rock in the Big Dance!

Full race

Mountain Bike Action recap.

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News Cycle: Cyclists Otter Ride Bikes! Fri, 16 Apr 2010 15:21:08 +0000 Going to a bike festival … by bike? Everyone’s twittering about arriving at Sea Otter for the big bike fest … all by car. Over at, Richard Masoner had a better idea.

Also at Otter, the Banshee Spitfire, 2010’s best new-bike name so far, is caught on video by PinkBike.

Ned Overend, the ageless one, is at Sea Otter as well.

For some time we’ve been following catastrophic failures of Thule’s T2 rack, which we think should be officially recalled. Looking for a good alternative? Here’s the Kuat NV, reviewed on

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Sea Otter Starts to Crank Up the Buzz…Good Luck Jill! Fri, 09 Apr 2010 18:47:23 +0000 It’s the Sea Otter Classic’s 20th anniversary!

Seattle native and slalom champion Jill Kintner will be there on her new ride. Jill will be out to avenge her narrow loss last year, and won’t be making this mistake:

One thing undoubtedly contributed: Not having been pressed all day, she may have been playing it too cautious, counting as much on something going wrong for Buhl as seizing the opportunity to put down the hammer from the start.

You’ll be able to see Jill aboard her spankin’ new Transition Double at the Sea Otter Classic next weekend in Monterey. (Race schedule here.)

This is quite an upgrade from the old Double.

For mutual moral support, there’s an all-girls mountain bike program.

Banshee Bikes, which is busting out with upgrades and new bikes in 2010, also will be there with its new Spitfire.

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News Cycle: Bike laws, Ghost bikers in the sky, XC at 70, Sea Otter Buzz Beginneth Sun, 10 Jan 2010 10:01:42 +0000 Indianapolis has a set of new bike laws, including 3-feet-please. Florida law says bikes get the whole friggin’ lane, thank you very much! Now if we could just get that “vulnerable user” legislation passed in the Washington State legislature.

Have you checked out the Ghost Bikes Film project’s blog? Cool stuff…

Guy turns 70, decides it’s time he rode across the country.

Yeah, it’s January. It’s in the 30s and 40s out there, and mud everywhere. It’s another three and a half months till the Sea Otter Classic April 15-18 outside of sunny Monterey, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to build the buzz.

Here’s a worthy cause that’ll etch you or your message in posterity. Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance is selling engraved tiles for a facade outside Duthie Hill mountain biking park near Issaquah. Funds go to paying for all the great work at the park. More on the Evergreen site.

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Daily Roundup: Bike sharing, Sea Otter, Robb on Why Ride? Sat, 18 Apr 2009 03:25:57 +0000 Bike sharing in Denver? From Bicycle Retailer: “Will 65 kiosks housing 1,000 bikes alter this sprawling Western city’s attitude toward bicycles and commuting?” Bike sharing clearly is a popular idea, the main challenge being “shrinkage” (theft). Even when the bikes are painted yellow, as in Portland, or used in densely urban areas, as in Paris, they tend to just go away. Trek is putting up the bikes for this experiment, and at 35 to 40 pounds they’re clearly not sexy items. It will be interesting to see how they fare.

One thing that could aid in promoting bike sharing, which basically involves paying a fee to take a bike from a rack, then returning the bike to a rack at the rider’s destination, is transponder technology. Transponders are satellite or other wireless-enabled devices that provide tracking capability for their hosts. The tech may not be quite there for bikes (in terms of power source, robustness and protection against disabling or removal), but is improving all the time. If there were a way to monitor independently the movements of shared bikes, the shrinkage rate might diminish. At the very least, abandoned bikes could be recovered.

Some good sources for Sea Otter coverage. has its own queue, Cyclelicious has the wonderfully named Yokota Fritz on the case (altho she was a bit, ahem, on the fritz last night), Velo News is out and about and of course the site’s own news team is all over. And there’s this from the Monterey County Herald.

Don’t forget the Sea Otter hash at Twitter, #seaotter. I’m twittering as well from @BikeIntel.

Why ride? Robb at Mountain Biking by 109 says it all. Wish you were here at Sea Otter bro!

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Sea Otter sheds the jinx? Wed, 15 Apr 2009 22:00:41 +0000 It looks like the Sea Otter Classic may finally have shed its age-old jinx. For years it didn’t matter what the Sea Otter producers did, you could count on one thing: The weather would suck.

The first couple of days would be pouring rain. Freezing riders would slog through mud the likes of peanut butter crossed with molasses. Then the skies would part and be cloudy or clear, but still unruly. Finally on the last day, or maybe for Saturday and Sunday, the sun would come out and quickly bake the ground back to hardpan, and a decent race day or so would ensue.

Sponsors tried moving the date of the event earlier, then later, then back to its traditional mid-March slate. Nothing worked. It was as though the gods were toying with the traditional cycling season kickoff and its thousands of attendees: Sorry, you can run but you cannot hide.

The saying became, “If it didn’t rain the first two days, it wouldn’t be Sea Otter.”

But behold the 2009 version of the Classic. Perhaps sympathizing with sponsors facing a sagging economy, bankrupt bike makers and brutal retail numbers, the gods are smiling. Forecasts call for sunshine throughout, with spectacular weather for the big Saturday and Sunday schedule.

Or maybe moving to mid-April did the trick. In any case, it’s a good thing, because attendance predictions have Sea Otter producers harboring high expectations.

It will be a bit cooler than usual, in the mid-60s rather than the normal 70s, but racers are not going to complain about that. As for any Seattleites like me visiting the Classic, mid-60s feels like July to our winter-battered souls.

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Today's Ride: I Heart Santa Cruz! Sun, 12 Apr 2009 17:14:39 +0000 Friends tell me it's raining in Seattle

Friends tell me it's raining in Seattle

A mainstay on any trip to Cali is the Wilder Ranch compound just north of Santa Cruz. Yeah I’ve ridden it so many times I could do it backwards upside down, but there’s nothing like panoramic ocean views, clear blue skies and UC Santa Cruz stunts to stir the soul of a mountain biking addict. The only omission is my riding buddy Jim, stuck in the cold and dark of Seattle. One of these days we’ll get him down here to sample the local treats.

The other nice thing about the Wilder ride, which usually runs 2 to 3 hours, is that it’s a good toner for muscles long atrophied by cruel Northwest winters. A few Wilder runs under the belt leaves you ready for the bigger assaults in Nisene Marks, Aptos and beyond.

Sea Otter starts in just a few days!

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On the road to Sea Otter Thu, 09 Apr 2009 17:00:01 +0000 Sorry to have been dark lately, but I’m traveling to Monterey by bike and car to attend the Sea Otter Classic. Not sure what the communications setup will be but I’ll be filing as available. Tracking many new trends and the competition is always a great time, accentuated in recent years by the jump and style contests. More to come…

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