Last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday was the 27th running of the Sea Otter Classic. It’s held in and around the Laguna Seca Raceway, located in Monterey County, California.
The Otter has riding and racing for all cyclists, plus the largest consumer bike expo of the year with a couple hundred companies displaying their newest goodies. While I was actually helping man our Praxis Works Bicycle Components booth, I did take a couple of laps around the expo looking for items of interest. Here’s a quick look at some of the things that captured my fancy.
Please visit the company websites for additional information, such as current pricing, nearby stocking bike retailers and online sales (if available).
Park Tool supports Otter athletes http://www.parktool.com/
If you’ve been watching their YouTube channel, you know that Park Tool is serious about sharing their bike repair knowledge. So serious that they drove 2,000-plus miles from their Saint Paul, Minnesota, home to Sea Otter and set up a giant booth, plus bike repair stations around the venue so that cyclists could repair their bikes for free. Park’s pro mechanics were on hand to help, too. Super cool.
Yakima SlimShady awning https://www.yakima.com/
Now you don’t have to take along and laboriously set up that heavy, oversized folding easy-up to get out of the sun! Instead add Yakima’s SlimShady roll-out fairing to the base of your roof rack and enjoy 36 square feet of protection from the sun and rain thanks to its weather-resistant 210D nylon fabric. It also doesn’t affect the bike carrying capacity of the rack. I wonder why no one thought of this before? It weighs 20 pounds and costs $259.
Natti Banana energy bar https://www.nattibar.com/
The Natti Banana Bar is actually nothing more than dehydrated bananas so you get all the goodness and nutrition of one banana in a tiny bar. That way you can carry a whole lot more bananas in your jersey pocket, not get weighed down by the real thing and never smash one, either. Yes, the bars cost more than the real thing at $1.50 per bar, but it may be worth it to you for the convenience. The texture is close to a banana’s and they taste great to me.
Hollywood Racks Rack Valet http://www.hollywoodracks.com/bike-racks/hitch-racks/rack-valet
Please look at the item beneath the hitch rack in the photo. It's a bit hard to make out, but it’s Hollywood’s Rack Valet, an ingenious idea long overdue in my opinion. Hitch racks of all brands and sizes simply slip into the Valet’s receiver (fits 1-1/4- and 2-inch receivers) and can then easily be rolled into a corner and out of the way. It's basically a rolling frame that receives your rack. You can also roll the rack out to your vehicle for easier rack loading. No more lugging your heavy hitch rack around when it’s in the way, which is all the time in our garage. Also shown is Hollywood’s new-for-2017 TRS (Tire Retention System) Rack, which holds bikes by the tires so that nothing comes in contact with the bike frame ($329.99).
Islabikes rides for kids https://www.islabikes.com/
It used to be that you couldn’t find nice road bicycles in sizes to fit smaller humans, AKA kids. Enter Islabikes that offers a wide range of bicycles for younger riders, including the Luaths shown (Luath is Gaelic for swift). These are quality lightweight road bikes for $799.99 with frames and wheels sized appropriately for kids from eight to young adult. Islabikes also offers balance bikes and pedal bikes for tots as young as two to three along with mountain models. With the availability of bikes like this, future generations are getting a head start on cycling, which is great.
Feedback Sports Omni folding roller trainer https://www.feedbacksports.com/
I’ve been hearing about a new portable roller trainer that packs small for easily taking it to bike events for warming up and down. I found it at the Feedback Sports booth. A few racers were actually using it in their booth before and after races. It was impressively stable, smooth and small. It even comes with a nice carrying case for more convenience. Feedback also showed a couple of nice portable bike toolkits with zip cases, a great way to ensure you have everything you need.
Hiplok locks http://www.hiplok.com/
A few years back I told you about the Hiplok after seeing it at the Interbike Show. I’ve been using it for years now and still like it a lot. It’s essentially a super secure chain lock that doubles as a belt so that it’s easy to carry and convenient to use. Now they have new models that are even more secure and feature full reflective covers for safety. Also, they’ve come up with an oversize zip-tie-like lock called the Z Loc for locking your front wheel to the bike or securing your bike to something when you’re in a hurry. It’s small, light, quick and easy to use, affordable and one more thing to slow down thieves.
Winnebago at the Otter https://winnebagoind.com/
RV legend Winnebago had a huge setup at the Otter because they feel that cyclists and the biking lifestyle is a perfect match for RVing. From 15-foot trailers to 43-foot diesel pushers, ranging from $18K up to $450K, they’ve got an RV for everyone. This is the first time I’ve seen an RV company at a bike show and as a biking RVer myself, I am convinced they’re onto a great idea. In fact, there were Sea Otter attendees camped in RVs all over the place because it’s so much easier than having to drive in and out of the bustling venue every day.
Fabric cageless bottle http://fabric.cc/shop/waterbottle/
If you’d like to ditch the looks, weight and push/pull of standard bottle cages, Fabric’s Cageless bottles are for you. Simply install the raised studs on the frame bottle bosses (you get two sets with each bottle) and the unique easy-on/off and BPA-free Fabric bottles lend a custom cageless look to a bike. But don’t lose both your Fabric cageless bottles on a ride, or you’ll have to find another way to carry water until you can replace them. About $14, which includes a 20-ounce bottle and the four mounting studs.
Abbey Bike Tools Saddle Fit Kit https://www.abbeybiketools.com/
Always interested in cool new tools, I got a quick look at Abbey Tools’ Saddle Fit Kit. You strap this platform atop your saddle and it allows exact measurements so that you can duplicate a saddle position or fine tune your height and fore/aft to perfection. It includes magnetic crank adapters to securely hold a tape measure in place and it makes for a flat platform for easier seat leveling. They say it will sell for about $150. It’s not shown on their website yet.
I first saw the Oi bell on Knog’s Kickstarter campaign. I liked that it takes up hardly any handlebar space and sits almost flush with the bar. Yet, the Kickstarter video didn’t capture the bell’s sound at all. Hearing it at Sea Otter literally stopped me in my tracks. It pierced the crowd noise and race announcer’s blare so I’m sure it will alert pedestrians to your approach - but in a good way. And as effective as it is, it’s remarkably small, low-profile and affordable at about $20. It comes in four colors and sizes to fit all bar diameters. (RBR has a full-scale review of the Knog Oi in the pipeline. Look for that soon.)
Jim Langley is RBR's Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim's full bio.