Before we get into anything, I’d like to announce that instead of breaking down the 2017 Sea Otter Classic, A Celebration Of The Bicycle®™© into three posts as I have in years past, I’m squeezing them into two. The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that I will be leaving town again on Thursday for a secret quest which I most likely will unveil on Monday the first of May. It’s a super secret quest. Like, super, duper secret, the fruits of which will only matter to about two people. If that’s not enough to pique our interest, then I don’t know what would. That said, let’s begin.
I have returned from the lands of rolling hills of the central coast, (glistening green with an epic super bloom of poison oak) with tales to tell, and waning energy with which to tell them. I managed to combine three days worth of hangovers into one, which happens to be what I’m being crushed beneath as I hunt and peck out these words.
This marks my umpteenth (or potentially twentieth/twenty-first?) Sea Otter Classic, A Celebration Of The Bicycle®™©, and armed with this perspective, I hope I can offer a not entirely completely jaded glimpse into what went down.
My compatriot for the weekend was Sally, formerly of Raleigh/Kona Bikes, currently of Hodala, who had driven down from his empire’s home base of Seattle. After a restful night’s sleep in Oakland, we bailed out at the crack of 10:00 and began the journey southward. Upon our arrival we made our way to pick up our media credentials (because apparently they’ll literally give those away to just about anybody these days), and got cracking on making the rounds looking at some stuff, but mostly seeing the people;
Like for example John, who when we first met twenty years ago was one of the damned fastest coffee jockey/one speeders Flagstaff had to offer. Now days he’s doing time with a company called inGamba;
I suggest you spend some time poking around that site, so on the chance a time comes when your budget exceeds that of a dirtbag with a backpack full of beer, (and one day it will, for all of us), I suspect inGamba would be a suitable place to throw some dough.
Then I got a warm greeting from my boss Mo over there at Dirt Rag Magazine;
After escaping from his embrace, we then saddled up at the Giro tent with Mr. Blacksocks, Amanda, and some spanky new goods;
It was around this time I also crossed paths with Marly from the Sierra Buttes Trails Stewardship who immediately started with a rapid fire assault of jokes relating to buying twelve inches, and getting a half an inch for free, or my own personal favorite- Donating to the stewardship and getting twelve and a half inches of soft wood;
We caught Greg from True Overdrive;
Jack, who is now gainfully employed with Cinelli, thereby establishing him as the one true King Of All Hipsters;
Chipps from Singletrack Magazine;
-and then finally one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Amanda from Kona Bikes who at the exact moment I shot this photo was just told that Sally and I would be crashing dinner that evening at the Kona house;
Having caused as much damage as we could in the first few hours at the venue, it was time to get to skedaddling, after which time we arrived just as food was being served;
With our bellies and hearts topped off, Sally and I slinked into the darkness and rested weary heads in what would be our home for the following three nights;
(Hashtag) Brokeass Mountain.
Upon extracting ourselves from the truck bed the following morning, we took on a load of breakfast and got in line with the throngs of humanity who were preparing themselves for a day of Celebrating The Bicycle®™©;
Apparently it still takes a lot of cars to race bikes.
Once at the venue I began snapping an array of shots of a few more bells, whistles, and people that caught my attention.
It would seem as though not only are e-bikes an ever-increasing focus of the Sea Otter, but lots more e-shifting setups were displayed as well. Like for example, this one from FSA;
Naturally, I couldn’t very well broach this subject without also mentioning the Shimano XT;
-and XTR electronic groups;
I’ve not messed around with any of this anywhere aside their booth, and not only that, but I don’t even know anyone who owns it.
I suspect that it would be really fun to play with, but with a price tag of more money than I’ve ever seen in my life, the prospect will have to remain a fantasy.
From there, I moved on to Fox Suspension to take a look at their new AX fork;
The purist in me, (the one who has declared absolutely no to disk brakes on road and cross bikes) thinks this is a travesty.
However, the part of me who has ridden a cross bike in place of a mountain bike for eighteen years, and thought that the Rock Shox Ruby was one of the raddest and weirdest bits of technology to ever get applied to skinny tired bikes thinks this is exceptional. I chatted with a bloke in the company’s employ who said there are murmurings within the office that I might end up with one to try. First Sea Otter Classic, A Celebration Of The Bicycle®™© willingly offers me media credentials, and now Fox actually values my perspective enough to even conceive of such an idea? Clearly my middle school guidance counselor didn’t know what he was talking about when he said I’d never amount to anything.
I realize the naysayers will say nay.
But I’m quite looking forward to getting my hands on one, should the Fox principals see their way to making it happen.
The other rad thing about the bike depicted up there was the fact that the engineer who owns it, somehow configured the left e-shifter to activate the dropper post;
It was at that exact moment when I realized I have absolutely no idea how to work on bikes anymore.
As I said previously, (in this post, as well as most of last year’s) e-bikes have been a huge focus at this event, which I think is garbage. If you are a capable human being, I think you should have some self respect and pedal your goddamned bike. But this year I saw a couple of applications I wasn’t immediately repelled by. Like for example, this Trail Boss equipped trail fixing rig that was displayed by The S;
I wanna hate it, but I can’t.
Another thing I wanna hate, but can’t seem to find my way to is Velofix;
It’s hard to be grumpy around a cool van with a fully functioning shop in the back.
With visions of cool tools dancing in my head, it was an appropriate transition from there to the tent of Abbey Bike Tools;
Abbey owner Jason Quade (pictured above, who despite appearances was not asking me ‘whachu talkin’ ’bout Willis?’) walked me through their line, and cemented their place in my heart with the presentation of this decal;
From that point, I felt like I handled a fair amount of business, and then just randomly began shooting photos of people and things for no particular reason aside from that they give me joy;
If you ever hear from anyone that Katie from Feedback Sports isn’t an absolute delight of a human being, punch them in their goddamned lying mouth;
I swung by Praxis Works to see what they had cooking, and it turns out there was a lot. If you’re not familiar with their line, give them a look-see. To paraphrase somebody who’s far smarter than I am, Praxis Works is creating solutions to unfuck that which the bicycle industry and their race towards multiple ‘standards’ have fucked;
Then I palled around with more pals;
This is Katy. She and I have known one another first virtually, and then actually for a long time, and she is one of my favorite enigmas in the industry. She is what I would call a quiet storm, and not only is she one of the hardest working women in the bike biz, she’s no slouch with a sewing machine. Here she presents a pen roll she made me, which I carry with me everywhere;
“Why is she covering her face?” you maybe just didn’t ask?
I don’t know, and I didn’t ask. I’d reckon it’s because that one cannot remain an enigma if one willingly allows one’s image to be splattered all over the internet.
We talked about kittens, and life and work, and a number of other topic unrelated to bikes, and continued on our separate ways where I slapped a few more hands;
At this stage in the game Sally and I headed back to the Kona house where upon our arrival were forcefully fed several shots of bourbon in rapid succession, which concluded with a wrestling match, none of which I documented, as I was the one being wrestled.
Upon the conclusion of being battered, and having an avocado smashed on my person, we then opted to melt back into the safe confines of Sally’s truck for another night’s rest before waking up and doing it all over again, which as I said at the start, we’ll cover on Wednesday.
Thanks for toughing out yet another wordy perspective of the bicycle industry’s season opener. And as we say our so longs, always remember and never forget, you can’t feel ashamed if you had no shame to begin with.