From the Depths of Sea Otter (Part 1)
In our first report from the sweltering and vibrant landscape of the 2022 Sea Otter Classic, Evan Christenson unearths some interesting finds, including a new universal rack, some beautiful titanium bikes, a rad vintage 26” Bianchi, and shares stories of adaptive riders and folks who pedaled 1,000+ miles to get to the event…
With a lot going on this spring, instead of burning jet fuel to make the trek from the East Coast and beyond, we hired Californian contributor Evan Christenson to cover Sea Otter in his signature style. He made it to the event via train and bike and will be posting reports over the next few days. Here’s the first one:
It was a sweltering and chaotic first day at the 2022 Sea Otter Classic. This is the first April, in-person event since the pandemic started, and it was an exciting return to, if I dare call it, “normalcy??” I spent most of the day catching up with old friends and teammates in the shady bits of the pit. In between the chaos, I managed to find a couple slick bikes, inspiring stories, and new pieces of kit.
The coolest story I found today was tucked away near the back entrance of the entire circus. I met Christian Bagg, co-founder of Bowhead. Based out of Calgary, Christian was an avid mountain biker until 1996, when a snowboard accident left him with a broken T10 and without the ability to use his legs. “If I was a billionaire back then I couldn’t have bought myself back into mountain biking. So I made it.” With a history in design, he spent 20 years prototyping until finally launching in 2015. The company now makes two models, the RX hand-pedal/electric-assist bike, and the Reach, an electric-only adaptive mountain bike. They’re both built on a massive titanium chassis with telescoping front suspension and a moto-style rear swingarm. They’re suspended, stopped, and driven via traditional mountain bike components.
The best part? Christian is taking one on the Baja Divide this winter.
Learn more at Bowheadcorp.com
In neighboring booths were Dan Wolfe, professional enduro racer for Polygon, and Cody Chouinard, VP of Black Heart Bikes. Both rode to Sea Otter—Dan riding 1,200 miles down Highway 1 from Seattle and Cody riding up the same highway from LA. Both are new to long-distance riding, and this ride was Dan’s first overnighter. Coming from international enduro racing, 15 days on a gravel bike proved to be remarkably different. “Getting older, time has gotten weird. Entire years pass without realizing.” His Irish accent was thick and he still seemed exhausted thinking of it. “Man, that trip time was this whole other thing. I kept going “We started from where today?!”
Cody rode his titanium Black Heart Gravel bike with a pair of shorts, a shirt, and some flip flops stashed in SLO for the ride back down. Dan rode an aluminum Polygon Bend gravel bike with a tent and stove. His best friend Nick joined too, and they all say there’s definitely more to come.
The Ti Beauties
Lurking in the booths, I found several beautiful handmade hardtail beauties. First up was a Mosaic GT-1X, complemented by a set of bags handmade in San Diego by Orucase. The second was a Why cycles El Jefe, and the third, a beautiful Moots Routt ESC decked out in a shiny White Industries build kit.
The Rider’s Bikes
I was starstruck to meet Calvin, the main guy behind the Park Tool YouTube series, who has certainly saved my bikes more times than I care to count. He was rolling around on the Park Tool pit bike, a 26” Bianchi mountain bike with way more stickers than gears and a big basket—I assume to ferry broken derailleurs around the pits.
I also met Shawn, the demo mechanic for Surly, who was riding his refreshingly casual Ogre. He calls it a road bike, which, positioned next to dozens of shiny 12-pound, $10k road bikes, makes me laugh thinking how the industry has a very different understanding of each category. I then chatted with Dave with his new Bombtrack Beyond+, who’s getting ready to give a shot at the Great Divide this summer.
Old Man Mountain Elkhorn Rack
Old Man Mountain was showing off a new minimalist rack they target as universal and great for full-suspension mountain bikes. The new Elkhorn, which retails for $148, comes with three-pack mounts on the side, and with an additional kit, can mount straight to a thru-axle. They were also displaying a prototype basket that looked intriguing.
Find more at oldmanmountain.com
New Gore Trail Line
Gore had a sweating rep showcase their new Lupra, a mountain bike-specific rain jacket built with Gore-Tex Infinium and a comfy stretch fabric. It packs small enough and seems to move well. It retails for $180. They were also showing their “shake-dry” 1985 rain shell that packs into the palm of my hand. This one retails for $300 and does not include a hood.
Find more at Gorewear.com
The 90s called, and it appears Chris Chance answered the phone. Over the past five years, he’s been reviving Fat Chance Bikes from the dead. Handmade in Medford, Oregon, their Yo Eddy hardtail mountain bike looks great, and with their in-house rigid fork and option of adding any number of zits ($8 a braze-on), it could become a quick-handling and quirky one-off bikepacking rig.
Find more at fatchance.bike
Stay tuned for more coverage from the 2022 Sea Otter Classic, and find some links to our coverage from 2019 below…
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