The Subaru Sea Otter Classic is an annual gathering in Monterey, Calif., of pro cyclists, bike junkies, and brands. GearJunkie was on the scene last week.
The Sea Otter Classic offers a glimpse at to-be-released bikes and gear from dozens of brands each April. We spent four days snooping for the best products and test-riding bikes for a first look. Here are our top 12 product picks from the 2015 show.
Bike-Packing Rocky Mountain — One of the more anticipated bikes at Sea Otter, Rocky Mountain first showed a prototype version of the Sherpa last year. It’s now ready, and it has 27.5+ wheels, Manitou suspension specifically designed for +size wheels (see below), and a geometry custom-tuned for loaded touring. Available in May for $4,499.
Unbeaten Path Gravel Bike — Gerard Vroomen’s pedigree is firmly established as the founder of Cervelo. With his new company, Open Cycle, Vroomen is still pushing boundaries. Last year it was a super-light 29er mountain bike, and this time at Sea Otter he launched the Unbeaten Path (U.P.). This “gravel grinder without limits,” as he called it, was partially informed by Vroomen’s experiences riding the Almanzo 100 gravel race in Minnesota with the legendary Steve Hed. (R.I.P.)
Handling on the Unbeaten Path is more aggressive than many current gravel offerings. Bonus: The bike’s neatest feature may be its switchable wheels — trade from 700c CX wheels to 27.5 mountain wheels without affecting the bike’s geometry, making this a multi-use, multi-surface stunner. Frame with carbon fork is expected to begin shipping in July, and customers can vote on the frame’s final color, orange or brown. $2,900.
Carbon CX From Foundry — The QBP brand Foundry showed two to-be-released cyclocross bikes at Sea Otter, and they will appeal to the racing and gravel crowd. The Valmont bike has a carbon frame with thru-axle rear mated to the Whisky Parts Co. #9 thru-axle fork. It is offered in two specs (SRAM Force HRD and SRAM Rival). Starts at $3,395.
The second model, the Camrock, is carbon with standard quick-release dropouts and fork and a SRAM Rival 2×11 group. It goes at $2,795. Both Foundry bikes will be available August 1.
Suspension For +Size Wheels — One of the hottest mountain biking trends this spring? 27.5+ and 29+ wheel sizes. The oversize tires improve grip and add stability in loose conditions. Seen on the Rocky Mountain Sherpa and the Trek Stache, Manitou is first out of the gate to offer a +specific suspension fork.
Not simply a widened 29-inch fork, the Magnum will swallow up to 3.4-inch tires, and it uses 110mm front axle spacing to create a stronger wheel. $900.
Narrow-Wide From White — White Industries’ U.S.-made components have a sterling reputation and the brand rarely brings products to market without ample R&D. The introduction of White’s “narrow-wide” or “drop-stop” style chainring is a welcome sign among mountain bikers embracing the 1x drivetrain. It will fit all existing White Industries ENO cranks and be available to buy late summer. $70.
CX Speed For Women — Raleigh has always been a steadfast supporter of cyclocross racing, and the company shows no sign of slowing this year, offering a women-specific lineup. A panel of women, including Raleigh pro rider Caroline Mani, aided in the design, making the company’s RXW series fast and as light as possible.
The bikes use cantilever brakes and shorter-reach brake levers, and, most importantly, they feature geometry and contact points designed and approved by the panel. RXW-aluminum, $1,550; Carbon, $2,750.
BBQ Pedal Wrench — Abbey Bike Tools fall squarely in the “buy it once, use it forever” camp and create a lustful gaze in bike mechanics everywhere. The brand’s BBQ Pedal Wrench is compatible with every pedal standard on the market, including the once traditional 15mm flat on one end, and a 6mm & 8mm hex that swivels on the other.
These are tools your grandson will find in your toolbox in 50 years’ time and mutter, “cool!” Don’t forget to check out the company’s Team Issue titanium hammer! (Pictured above.) BBQ Pedal Wrench is $130.
Road/CX Disc Brakes — Rever (pronounced like Paul Revere) is a new brand, and it offers a dual-piston mechanical disc brake aimed at the road and cross rider looking for premium braking performance without the complexity of a hydraulic system. Included with the MCX1 model brake are compression-less housing and ultra-slick cables. $149 per wheel.
Quarter & Dime Helmets — MIPS technology is built into helmets, and it’s a safety feature that decreases rotational forces on a rider’s brain in certain impacts. The lightweight Giro Quarter helmets are MIPS-equipped, low-profile, offered in several colors, and come in three sizes.
In an almost too-clever naming convention, the Dime model kids version (get it, a Quarter and a Dime…) has all of the same features as the grownup’s lid. $60.
Multi-Wheel Mountain Bike — Trek unveiled the Stache 29+ hardtail, a bike with an elevated drive-side chainstay that has 15mm of adjustment (from 420mm – 405mm). This allows the use of 27.5, 29, or 29+ size wheels. Combined with SRAM’s Boost Technology, which uses wider rear hub spacing for a more durable wheel, the bike looks like it will deliver a super fun trail experience for aggressive riders. Available in three models, starting at $1,780 (up to $3,880 for the Stache 9).
Under Layers For The Ride — Sometimes you don’t want to wear Lycra, and Club Ride’s InnerWear, designed to be worn under your regular shorts, allows that comfort and freedom while still offering support and quick-drying materials.
The padded liners have differing levels of support, based on your estimated ride time (1-4 hours) in both men’s and women’s versions. $34.95 – $89.95.
1978 Subaru Brat — Sea Otter sponsor Subaru Of America had a cherry-red 1978 Brat on display with two equally vintage mountain bikes in the bed, including a Klunker built around a 1936 Schwinn Excelsior frame and a super-rare 1982 Skinner Descender bike, which was the first rear-suspension mountain bike built.
Both bikes were on loan from Portland, Ore., and the Velo Cult bike shop, a major collector of vintage and unique bikes. Can’t tell which got more attention, the bikes or the Brat.
–Tommy Hurl Everstone is a GearJunkie contributor and founder of Cars-R-Coffins. Reporter and contributing writer Randall Dietel also reported at Sea Otter for this article.