Our reporters are on the ground at Sea Otter Classic 2018, scoping out all the new and cool bike tech in Monterey, California. Here’s our daily debrief from Saturday’s outing.
The day’s top tech
MilKit’s Tubeless Booster ended up being a lot cooler than expected. There are two key components to the system: a metal water bottle (which comes with a cap) that’s been high-pressure-tested, and the inflator that screws into the top of the bottle.
Once the inflator is screwed into the bottle, you simply inflate it (up to 160psi) using a floor pump or hand pump attached to the Presta valve on top, then press the inflator hole onto your tire’s valve. The Booster inflates the tire within seconds. It’s almost immediate, in fact.
MilKit says you can use the inflator with other metal bottles, but its bottle has been fatigue-tested so you can rest assured it won’t fail while you’re pumping it up to pressure.
Given how many kiddos were ripping through the Sea Otter mountain bike courses and the concourses between tents, it’s no surprise there were some rad bikes for kids on display. Woom Bikes has a line for kids ranging from kick bikes all the way up to pedal bikes for bigger kids.
But what’s really surprising about them is the weight: They’re made from quality aluminum, so the bikes are much lighter than your standard big-box kid’s bike. The bikes also come with color-coded brake levers so your grom can learn which brake does what.
Even better, Woom has a buyback program that allows you to trade up when your little ripper grows out of his or her current Woom bike.
Niner’s MCR (Magic Carpet Ride) certainly had people talking, for better or worse. We showed you some photos of this bike in yesterday’s debrief, but here are a few more details from Niner’s Chris Sugai
The company hopes to have the full-suspension gravel bike available in 2019. The prototype displayed at Sea Otter had throngs of gawkers constantly surrounding it, with some walking away impressed and others shaking their heads about the bike’s true usefulness.
Sugai wasn’t ready to divulge just how much travel the bike has, but it’s very clearly a short-travel bike. The rear suspension shares its design with Niner’s mountain bikes; it’s called CVA suspension, or Constant Varying Arc. But the suspension system has been redesigned specifically for gravel: the kinematics react differently to compensate for the amount of time gravel riders are likely to spend sitting in the saddle over impacts, rather than that of mountain bikers.
The MCR has clearance for 50mm tires, and it can run a 1X or 2X drivetrain. But beyond that, Sugai was tight-lipped about other details because the bike is still in the prototype phase.
If nothing else, the MCR brings up a point of discussion about the rapidly changing gravel market: What exactly should a gravel bike be expected to do? At what point does the gravel bike simply become a mountain bike? Has gravel jumped the shark already, or is it just starting to come into its own? Everyone was talking about it, which is undeniably a victory for Niner.
Is XC back? Yeti launched its SB100, a short-travel mountain bike aimed at cross-country riders. Rotor showed off its new XC crank, the Kapic. Fox’s 32 Step-Cast fork hung proudly among the company’s burlier and more glamorous trail and enduro forks. Syncros unveiled a one-piece, ultra-lightweight carbon wheelset designed especially for cross-country racing and its marquee rider, Nino Schurter. And a handful of other companies had clothing and gear aimed at the spandex trail crowd.
And perhaps even more telling, a healthy crop of XC racers took to the racecourse at Laguna Seca on both the women’s and men’s side. While it’s certainly not the NORBA days of yore, it is clear that short-travel, lightweight, fast bikes are making a comeback. While they’re still not on par with the more popular trail and enduro categories, it’s safe to say there’s renewed interest in XC. What’s old is new again.
Largely absent: road bikes. Ever-present: road bikers. Sea Otter has made its name primarily as a mountain bike event, though there are plenty of roadies weaving their way up the undulating hills toward Laguna Seca every morning. And a steady stream of them whipped around the racecourse throughout the event. In other words, road cyclists were well represented.
Road bicycles and technology — not so much. Only a small handful of exhibitors had road bikes on display. Instead, manufacturers seem to be turning their attention to gravel since many riders in the U.S. are looking to get away from cars and onto quieter roads. And it was hard to ignore the ubiquity of e-bikes just about everywhere you looked.
But rumors of the road bike’s demise are greatly exaggerated. There’s no doubt interest is in a bit of a trough. But as the endless traffic-jam stream of cars inched along the narrow road to the wide parking fields outside of Laguna Seca Raceway, it was heartening to watch road cyclists pedal past, onward to the starting line or simply to the concourses to get a glimpse of what was new and cool. My prediction: road bikes will return. Every road biker worth his salt knows that after every ripping descent, there’s a climb back to the top.
Photo of the day
Just one day after the news broke that the Landis-Armstrong saga was over, Floyd appeared at Sea Otter to throw his support behind Floyd’s of Leadville CBD products. Landis and Dave Zabriskie wandered the grass around the Floyd’s of Leadville booth and eventually caught up with the Queen of Pain herself, Rebecca Rusch.
Quote(s) of the Day
“You’re not a dog person. You’re, like, cat-plus.
“We prescribe the BYOBB model: Bring Your Own Bottom Bracket.”
—Lori Barrett, Rotor Components