Sea Otter is one of the largest gatherings of bicycle brands and cyclists in North America. Here’s the news that was buzzing at the show.
Sea Otter might be my favorite place where brands launch new products. It’s no stuffy trade show in the basement of a convention center. It’s an outdoor event with bike brands, journalists, pro athletes, and loads of consumers. People who just love to ride bikes, see new products, race, buy and sell, camp, and hang out get together and have fun.
I spotted Danny MacAskill signing posters at the Five Ten booth demoing his skills. I popped into a vegan nutrition clinic with racer Sonya Looney and stopped in at the SRAM/Liv panel discussion on diversity in the cycling industry with Ayesha McGowan, Sam Scorpio, and Eliot Jackson.
Then, I swung by the Yeti Cycles booth for a beer with owners Chris and Hoog — the ginormous, hairy yeti posted there and posing for photos made the booth easy to find. All the while, racers hammered laps, and crowds cheered for them and for swag.
My focus was the gear (I’m writing for GearJunkie, after all). Here are the trends, categories, and products you should keep an eye on this season.
E-Bikes Are Everywhere
E-bikes were so prevalent at Sea Otter that if we didn’t know better we could have mistaken it for an e-bike demo and show. And it’s not just the usual suspects making e-bikes, like Haibike and Bulls, making pedal-assist bikes for commuters.
E-mountain bikes have arrived in force, from brands like Yamaha, which focuses on pedal-assist across the board, and Specialized, which has been making eMTBs for years. And core mountain bike brands like Rocky Mountain, Focus, Canyon, Trek, LaPierre, and Kona are all making eMTBs now, presumably inspired by demand from European customers.
We guarantee we’ll see these on the trail this summer in force, and riders are going to be working their way in bigger numbers into terrain where previously only motos had access.
Giant impressed me with its entirely revamped shoe line. Its new XC ready Charge Pro has an updated version of Giant’s Motion Efficiency System with a visible center “beam” running the length of the sole, and a foot closure that makes the shoe stiff in the forefoot for driving power.
But that also gives it flex zones so the foot moves more naturally than in a rigid carbon sole shoe. That reduces lower leg strain. It also makes it easier to walk. The flat pedal Enduro Flat has sticky rubber where your pedal and shoe interface, and more durable rubber in the forefoot and heel, which was better for walking. The Shuttle Flat’s light weight also impressed us. I got to try these and give them the thumbs-up.
Ride Concepts showed us its new line of D30 padded mountain bike footwear. D30 hardens on impact. In Ride Concept shoes, it protects the rider’s ankle and is also in the insole, preventing bruising. D30 is commonly used in mountain bike kneepads and elbow pads, and we’re stoked to try it in Ride Concept shoes.
Pretty much every company now does gravel bikes, like Look’s race-bred, predictable, high-modulus carbon 765 gravel bike and its Fazua motor-equipped 765-e gravel e-bike.
Both were eye-catching. Fazua has a sleek, integrated motor and battery that can be replaced with a click by a dummy, dropping 7.5 pounds from the bike and turning your gravel e-bike into a non-assisted gravel bike.
Read about Niner’s Magic Carpet Ride, the first full-suspension gravel bike, here.
I also saw e-bike-specific tires from Vittoria (see videos below) and e*thirteen drivetrain components strong enough to manage the heavy torque of battery-powered bicycles. Seattle-based boutique brand Noble debuted its new GX1 gravel bike. And Bulls bike was showing gravel e-bikes with both Bosch and Fazua motors.
We saw several bikes and accessories under embargo. In the bike industry, often brands won’t let us write about what’s coming until it’s already shipped to dealers and customers can buy it. Suffice it to say, there are more gravel bikes coming soon. And DH bikes will also be big in 2019. Stay tuned for more information as embargos lift!
Tires just took a quantum leap in awesomeness. Vittoria’s Graphene 2.0 is letting the company tune for the characteristics it wants — speed, grip in wet conditions, durability, and puncture resistance — by tire type. Pirelli has narrowed its tire line to four styles to make it easy for the rider to choose the right tire based on the terrain they ride and the size they need.
While all four of the tire treads we saw look the same, each is individually engineered. Hutchinson unveiled the Griffus, the first tire in the company’s new Hutchinson Racing Lab range. The brand says it has the fastest rolling performance and the best lateral grip in dry conditions: dust, rocks, and roots.
Bike bags are slimming down for riders who like to carry just the essentials. Osprey teamed up with Troy Lee on a collaborative limited release of the Seral Lumbar Pack and Siskin 8 backpack. Get yours now or they’ll be gone.
Evoc’s new frame bags are minimalist. The Top Tube Bag ($40) is designed to be mounted behind the stem — it can hold a cellphone and maybe some snacks. The Multi Frame Pack ($45-50) mounts in a joint of a frame; it’s big enough for a tube, tool, and inflator. The Race Belt ($45) is a stripped-down hip belt that can hold an inflator, tools, and gloves for enduro riders who don’t want to carry anything on their back. It uses Evoc’s high-end Airo Flex waist belt with a hook-and-loop attachment.
Fancy Bikes From Budget Brands
We’ve all read about Walmart’s entrée into expensive bikes with its house Viathon brand. Schwinn, which frequently sells at Walmart and other big-box stores, is also dipping its toes into the higher-end bike market. It’s releasing the $3,300 Paramount Force road bike.
The Paramount was one of Schwinn’s top race machines back when it was a core bike brand in the late ’80s. The new release rocks some nice components: SRAM Force e-tap on a carbon disc frame and fork with SRAM hydraulic disc brakes, a Vision disc wheelset, FSA bar and stem, and Fizik Antares R5 Versus Evo saddle.
Spend the Night
Winnebago, Mercedes, Escapod, and VanDOit all showed up at Sea Otter to tout the convenience of having your home with you. Sadly, Winnebago didn’t bring its new Boldt camper van — we were hoping to check it out in person. We did get to see new VanDOit configurations, including a van set up with bunk beds, loads of room for gear, and all the control panels and electronics in the back. This may be the one designed for sales reps. Rumor has it that VanDOit’s sales rep configuration will be called “Risky Business.”
I love its business model: The family-owned company leases vans to schools and churches, takes them back after a year or two, strips them, outfits them for adventure, and sells them cheaper than most other options out there. Escapod’s tow-behind Topos teardrops are drool-worthy. These easy-to-tow, Utah-built tiny trailers have exceptionally well-designed storage and a cool kitchen out the back. Best of all, they’re light enough that most vehicles can tow them.