Friday is the day that the racing kicks in, for amateurs and pros alike, and there was a sense of excitement and urgency among the kitted-up people riding around the venue. It turns out we were camping with one such racer: Adrian Studdiford, son of our west-coast-host-with-the-most Robert Studdiford of TwoFish Unlimited. Some backstory: this year, as in most years, Robert drove up from El Cerrito carrying a lot of our goods along with his own, as well as the makings of a kick-ass campsite, complete with a wood stove made out of an old Weber grill. It has been really sweet to sit comfortably by the stove as the fog rolls in at night. (Left to right: Mia from Momentum Magazine, some dude named Gary Fisher, Laura also from Momentum, Robert cooking up a storm, and Adrian.)
Anyway, Adrian is a freshman at El Cerrito High, a school that participates in the excellent NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League. Sea Otter is not an official race in the series, but he was racing anyway as a Dirt Rag rogue. Having heard a lot about the NorCal league, I asked Adrian about what itâ€™s like to participate; he says that itâ€™s so much fun he plans to continue racing with the League all the way through his senior year. â€œEveryoneâ€™s really nice, and it gives me an excuse to get out. Itâ€™s much better than football.â€ The team practices in December, then races from late February to early May. On this day Adrian suffered through his chain dropping and getting caught behind the chainrings, and still managed to place mid-pack, in only his fourth race.
Itâ€™s become somewhat of a tradition at Sea Otter that SRAM will have a large and well-orchestrated presentation of new shiny bits. This year, the bits were extra shiny, and colorful â€“ sense a theme here? Weâ€™re going back to the days of decorating a bike in matching (or clashing) anodized bits. Personally, Iâ€™m into it. SRAMâ€™s contribution is the Select collection of X.0 derailleurs and shifters, Noir cranks, and PG-990 cassettes in five color options: red, orange, gold, green and pink.
SRAM also made it known that RockShox is staying in the rear shock game. Expect to see more of their shock offerings as original equipment on bikes, the higher-end Monarch (notable on new Santa Cruz Blurs) and the midrange Ario line. The Arios in particular have been revamped to have the same quality internals as the Monarchs, just fewer bells and whistles (e.g. external adjustments).
For the front end, RockShox is taking cues from other forks to spruce up the Revelation to make it the lightest and stiffest all-mountain fork around: â€œPower Bulgesâ€ to reinforce the bushing area from the Lyric, weight-saving shorter upper tubes from the SID, and a travel increase to 150mm. The Revelation will have options for regular QR or 20mm Maxle Light thru-axles, and 1-1/8â€ or tapered (1-1/8â€ to 1-1/2â€) steerer tube options. The latter tapered style is showing up on many more bikes; various stress tests show that most of the bad kind of front-end force, whatâ€™s not absorbed by the shock itself, is transferred into the lower half of the head tube, so itâ€™s a good idea to make it larger.
One interesting development is that Avidâ€™s Juicy brakes are making way for more versions of the awesome Elixir brakes. New at the top of the line, replacing the Juicy Ultimate, is the Elixir CR Mag â€“ it has a forged magnesium lever body, a carbon fiber lever with a larger pivot, and a new master cylinder, among other tidbits. For a cool retro touch this brake also has a U-clamp that pays homage to that of the original Speed Dial brakes. Also notable is the fact that Avid will now offer Centerlock-style rotors â€“ although they are not allowed to sell the necessary lockrings due to â€œshenanigansâ€ (but those lockrings usually come with the hubs).
After this presentation, the plan was to go riding on some Commencal bikes with Cedric Gracia, but I had not been properly hydrating myself all day and had developed a killer headache, so Shannon and Eric went off in my place. Turns out C.G. was recovering from an injury and couldnâ€™t ride either. So I made my way back to the Dirt Rag booth and spent some time behind the counter, peddling goods and subscriptions. We did a brisk business, especially considering it was only Friday. Tires from Continental, totes from SealLine, and hydration products from Platypus helped entice people to sign up for subscriptions.
Next door to the Dirt Rag booth were some crazy-looking bikes I had seen online, the Delta 7 Arantix mountain bike and Ascend road bike.
This one had been raced for a win in XC just a while before, thus the dust and the medal adorning it. Iâ€™ll admit that after seeing some photos, these weird carbon fiber and Kevlar matrix creations seemed a bit… well, hokey. Plus the initial retail price â€“ an astounding $12,000 â€“ was a deterrent to serious inquiry on my part. Well, oftentimes in the bike business, one forms a different opinion of a product after meeting the rational, friendly and quite passionate people behind it, and this is the case with the Arantix. For one thing, Delta 7 has dropped the price down a few levels in the stratosphere to $8500. (This is still intended to be a very-high-end bike, and the company only plans on producing around a hundred a year.) For another thing, the explanation of how the frame works actually makes sense. Itâ€™s a result of engineering research at Brigham Young University concerning the ultimate combination of strength and weight in structural pieces; the IsoTruss structure, consisting of carbon fiber wound with Kevlar into a tube made up of isosceles triangles (a grossly oversimplified description), is what they came up with.
Wanting to put it to a real-world test, the engineers decided on using it in a bicycle frame, as the structure has to be hand-made and thus isnâ€™t ideal for larger creations. Delta 7â€™s parent company, Advanced Composite Solutions, is also looking into using this structure in other applications. We may end up with a bike to test pretty soon, so weâ€™ll go into more detail then.
Weâ€™ve got a lot more on tap for the second half of this bike gathering. In the meantime, check out our Gallery of photos, to which weâ€™ll be adding in the next few days. Right now, it’s time for dinner!