Sea Otter Report: Friday

There is an overwhelming amount of things to see and do here at Sea Otter. What’s really cool is that this is true for everybody, not just us freeloading journalists. Granted I’m typing this from the warm, wind-free comfort of the media center, free cup of hot tea by my side, but that’s only because I’m slaving away to document the goings-on.

Despite warnings of traditionally nasty weather, Friday was relatively warm and sunny (although ironically not nearly as warm as it was back in Pittsburgh).

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While walking to the booth I spotted Norco pro Ryan Leech doing a trials demo, one of three per day, on a custom set of steel bar obstacles. His moves were so fluid and confident, it looked almost easy enough for anyone to try, if it weren’t for the threat of an awfully hard landing.

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The bar he’s balancing on below is more narrow than the tires on his bike.

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The groms, sporting helmets newly decorated by Maurice himself, were impressed and lined up for autographs.

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Next I attended a presentation by the SRAM folks of some new things they’ve got coming out soon. (Is it 2009 already?) Chief among them is their new Elixir brake set, meant to offer more power than the Juicy with lighter weight than the Code. They had a nifty machined Plexiglass model of the Elixir’s lever (sorry, my photo of it didn’t come out well), showing its innovative master cylinder design that uses an abbreviated-cone-shaped push rod moving in a tapered guide for gradual, modulated engagement.

Also news: the Reba lineup gets an overhaul with SID-style redesign of the chassis and internals, and incorporating the new Maxle Light quick-release thru-axle system, which will be an option on Reba forks including the 29er version. The Maxle Light should be a nice complement to the Reba’s new 120mm travel option. The Revelation forks have been upgraded to 140mm of travel and will have the Maxle Light option too. Seems that thru-axle QRs are the wave of the future, with Fox debuting their own lighter-weight cross country version as well… This is a good thing in my opinion, as traditional quick releases are just not beefy enough for the limits being tested by the latest lightweight, long-travel bikes.

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Also spotted: the latest bling from Truvativ, as modeled here by the legendary Greg “H-Ball” Herbold himself. It seems I can finally dig my anodized green barends out of the closet.

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During the SRAM presentation we were distracted by crazy motor sounds coming from nearby, so afterward we walked over with Eric Schutt, SRAM’s PR dude extraordinaire, to see what the ruckus was. Magura was hosting a demonstration by Aaron Colton, a 16-year-old streetbike freestyle wonder, riding a (full-size!) Kawasaki equipped with Magura brakes. Holy crap was this insane—the laws of physics seemed to be bent.

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I missed getting a good shot of the insane nose wheelies about six times (you can see Aaron’s foot just behind the helmeted spectator below.) Gives you some idea of how tight the space was that he was operating in. And that chain-link fence sure didn’t look all that sturdy…

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Toward the end of the day I spotted Trips for Kids’ booth, where they are selling donated items to raise money for their awesome programs. If you’re not already familiar, check out their site and get involved. Good stuff.

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At the end of the day, I scored a coveted spot at SRAM’s famous hosting of hot laps on the racetrack with drivers from Skip Barber’s Racing School. We took turns donning big helmets and piling in to Mazdas for a couple loops around Laguna Seca’s twisty-turny course. During the first lap I was sure we were all going to die – the infuriatingly cavalier driver took the turns at such wheel-squealing velocity it seemed there was no way we’d avoid doing one of those spectacular multi-flip crashes, but miraculously, he kept the rubber side down (although we lost quite a bit of that rubber on the course). The track’s infamous corkscrew didn’t seem possible to navigate at such speed, even while we were screaming through it. On the second lap I relaxed enough to marvel at the driver’s skill, and wanted to ask a couple questions, but decided not to distract him. I had to apologize for my shouted expletives but nobody seemed to mind. (Probably not the first or the last the driver heard that day.) Sorry, no photos here either, as my hands were shaking too badly afterward to even unzip the camera case.

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