Sea Otter Classic Highlights Latest Cycling Products
Branded as a celebration of all things cycling, the annual Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, truly delivers something for every type of two-wheeled enthusiast. Road races, mountain bike races, and lots of casual group rides provide ample opportunity to explore the scenic central California landscape, while the expansive Sea Otter Classic expo is ground zero for the latest in technological developments and innovative products and designs. Innovation for Endurance was there for all four days of the festival. Here’s a sampling of the best of the best:
Giro New Road: With a design philosophy focused on creating technical apparel that doesn’t look technical, California-based Giro was on-site promoting its New Road collection. Currently the mid-century-inspired line (think “Mad Men”) includes 14 pieces that range from the merino wool-poly blend casual 5M Overshort, to the windproof, water-shedding Wind Shirt, to the Giro Republic shoes (pictured below), which aim to offer comfort and style on and off the bike.
The 5M shorts, named in part for the five-mile-or-less bike rides they’re intended for, include features such as two-way stretch fabric and specially designed pockets for a smartphone and U-lock. Right now the collection is geared toward men, but expect to see women’s offerings in the near future. “The idea is to create items that are just as comfortable on the road as they are at a restaurant or coffee shop,” explained Giro PR man Mark Riedy. “So it’s technical and functional, but also fun and stylish.”
SRAM Hydraulic Disc Road Brakes: For years disc brakes have been providing stopping power for all manner of vehicles — cars, trucks, motorcycles, mountain bikes, and more. Until recently, though, most road bikes had remained true to traditional technology, utilizing the same basic rim brake mechanisms that have been used for decades. But change is coming quickly. Last year saw a heavy influx of mechanical disc brakes, especially on cyclocross brakes. Now Chicago-based component manufacturer SRAM has unveiled a complete road-specific hydraulic disc brake-equipped drivetrain. While the new slowing system comes with a small weight penalty, that issue is far outweighed by the enhanced braking benefits offered by hydraulics.
During a two-hour test ride at Sea Otter, we found that the brakes provided powerful yet evenly-modulated braking with minimal hand effort. In other words, one finger braking is now possible, even at high speeds or on extremely steep descents. In order to utilize the new system, one must have a bike frame equipped with disc-brake mounts. But if you’ve not made that leap yet, don’t fret. SRAM is also offering a hydraulic rim brake option, which utilizes the advantages of a hydraulic set-up, minus the discs. “With either the rim or disc options, you get increased braking force with less required power input,” explained SRAM spokesman Michael Zellmann. “Bottom line is, it’s going to reduce hand fatigue tremendously, and it works better than traditional rim brakes.”
Trek Project One Mobile Experience: Wisconsin-based bike maker Trek was at Sea Otter showing off its new Project One Mobile Experience. For the uninitiated, Project One allows prospective bike buyers to customize their Trek bike of choice with various parts spec and frame color. Now Trek is taking the program on the road, hitting select cycling events, as well various other happenings across the country. Inside the hardwood-floored studio are examples of the three available frames – Trek’s Domane, Madone, and Speed Concept models – plus a display of the various available parts, frame design samples, and computer kiosks where you can start your own design process. After Sea Otter, the Trek Project One Mobile Experience is headed south for the start of May’s Tour of California pro road race in Escondido, California.
“The idea is to bring a little art and style to cycling events,” explained Trek road brand manager Michael Mayer, who added that the display would also be showing up at music festivals, other sporting events, and at select Trek dealers where there would be beer-and-wine receptions for the shop’s best customers.
As for the number of possible color combinations and designs, Mayer says it’s essentially limitless. There is no cost if you choose a basic Select Series color combination. Pricing rises to $1,200 for more detailed paint work (think hot rod flames) which is all done at Trek’s world headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
Bell Super Helmet: With a nod toward the burgeoning mountain bike racing discipline of enduro, Bell unveiled the new Super helmet at Sea Otter. The moto-inspired brain protector has a subtle retro look, but certainly isn’t lacking in new innovation. The removable visor has 30 degrees of adjustability and an attachment mechanism that’s designed to fail in a crash, lessening the chance for dangerous torque on the wearer’s neck. That same breakaway technology is utilized in the built-in GoPro camera mount, which can be removed when not in use. Increased head coverage increases protection, while specially treated anti-microbial padding combats odor. The Bell Super comes in three sizes and six color designs, including one by up-and-coming artist Taylor Reeve. Retail price is $125.
Scapin Etika RC Road Bike: Italian-made bicycle frames are nothing new, but ones that glow in the dark are worthy of a little extra attention. That’s just one of the selling points behind the Scapin Etika RC road bike, which is being imported to North America by Toronto, Canada-based Stage Race Distribution. The full carbon-fiber, racing-ready Etika RC can be built up with just about any parts your heart desires, and utilizes a special glow-in-the-dark paint scheme that makes it a true head-turner during those late-evening dashes across town. Frame, fork, and seatpost retail for $4,395; fully-built bike costs vary depending on component choices. And if you prefer a more personalized touch, you’ll be interested in the Scapin Ivor frame, a 100-percent Italian-made road steed that’s available in fully customizable geometry, assuring the best possible fit between rider and bike.
Specialized Aero Tandem Bike: No, Specialized is not getting into the aero-tandem bike business. Instead this slick two-person speed machine is simply the tangible musings of the California-based company’s top designer, Robert Egger. Known throughout the cycling world for his envelope-pushing ideas and innovation, Egger loves to tinker and create (he even built his own house). Don’t expect to see this two-person wind cheater on your bike shop’s showroom floor anytime soon. But it is certainly fun to imagine the what-if possibilities — and it looks really cool, too.
Which of these new products do you like best?
— Jason Sumner, Bicycling Reporter
An avid cyclist, Jason has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 2000. He’s covered the Tour de France, two Olympic Games, and numerous international cycling events. He’s also thrown himself into the fray from time to time, penning first-person accounts of adventures in British Columbia, Costa Rica, Peru, and Brazil, among others.
Photos: Jason Sumner: Bell, Giro, Specialized and Trek1; courtesy of manufacturers: Trek2, SRAM, and Scapin