The hills beyond the Laguna Seca Raceway are continually calling your attention during the Sea Otter Classic. On the drive in, the morning fog settles into the valleys allowing the lush green peaks to push through into the bright morning sun. The greens of the hills were deeper and greener than I have ever seen California before. They stood there amongst the peace of the morning sun, taunting us, knowing that we were trapped to the confines of the expo grounds.
On the first day, I wandered to the top of the hill that hosted part of the cross-country course and the venue for the dual slalom course. From the top, you could see across the valley and over to nearby hills. The silhouettes of goats grazing the ridgeline, a spiderweb of trails glistened white under the sun making escape all the more tantalizing.
Alas, there were meetings to conduct, content to create and plenty to see. As I shuffled through the wind and dust of day one, I ran into Stephen from Rodeo Labs as he was recounting a run in with an industry veteran. “Ride bikes?!, nobody has time to rides bikes at Sea Otter man!” he huffed in the best impersonation voice that he could. We all had a chuckle, as I kind of shrugged in agreement but Stephen stated otherwise, “We rode in this morning! From the backside of the property.”
“It was great! Tractor paths and singletrack, we started our day off the best way possible.” He exclaimed.
I walked away through the maze of pop up tents on my way to another meeting hoping that I would find my way into the quiet hills beyond the expo.
It was now Saturday, and we were into the final two days, and the likelihood of getting to sneak away for some two-wheeled meditation was quickly dwindling. I scoured the snacks in the media room for the umpteenth time only to grab another handful of Twizzlers when my phone buzzed. I read the text: “Meet at the Cane Creek both for a ride at 6:30, Cool?” Yes, it was very cool.
A few months back Scott and I visited the Cane Creek facilities down in Brevard, NC to see where and how some of their products were made. We spent the morning watching rear shocks get assembled, tested and hung ready for orders and was given a full break down of the Helm fork with Alex Dawson, their Technical Sales Engineer. We were impressed with its ease of adjustment and serviceability and very much wanted to ride one.
In the time since our visit to Cane Creek, they have teamed up with Colorado-based bike builders Guerilla Gravity. Together Cane Creek has assembled a demo fleet of bikes fixed with all of their suspension products as well as the new E-Wing titanium cranks.
The dust from the day’s main event on the dual slalom course was settling, and many of the vendors had long since escaped to the sanctuary of a frosty beverage and a meal. We met Alex, along with co-workers Andrew Slowey and Colin Reis at their booth inside what was now a ghost town of an expo. The five of us hustled to adjust saddle heights and air pressure and then scurried for the hills to race the setting sun.
Alex and Andrew set the tone for the ride right out of the gate by charging up the steep stairs of one of the flyover bridges, sending everyone into childish laughter. Over the top of the hill past a lot of campers and cars, we descended straight down into the shaded valley below. The whip the wind and a little bump jump of a small lump of dirt erased the fatigue of the week. The trails weaved up an over the rolling green hills, giving way to perfect evening vistas. We stopped to play on a bit of a launch down the trail and stopped again to admire the sky. There were no appointments, no meetings just bikes and a few likeminded individuals to an enjoy an excellent evening on two wheels.
The sky turned a multitude of warm and bright colors as the sun dropped down towards the Pacific and we pedaled back towards the racetrack. There’s a certain mindset on rides like these, a hint mischief, a “one more time.” so if nothing else just to enjoy the ride a little longer before returning. I don’t know who the first person was to ever string together the words “A bike ride fixes everything.” but the accuracy in that statement is dead on.