Sea Otter Classic Day 3

The pinnacle day of the Otter dawned warmer and less windy, and stayed that way all day. It was really nice to experience some stereotypically Californian weather for a change, although those of us just emerging from winter layers had to be mindful of the need for sunscreen.

There were so many kids ripping it up around the place. Really encouraging to see.


This was also the day we were to do some test riding. Oh yeah, riding! Over at the Santa Cruz booth, they had reserved a few of their latest creations for us freeloading journalists to try: a carbon fiber version of the Blur LT. While helpful Cruz employee Scott set the bike up for me, I ogled its racy lines. SC had learned some things about working with carbon fiber from their development of the carbon Blur XC released last year, and decided to apply them to its heavier-duty cousin to bring it up to their high expectations of strength and stiffness while losing weight.


Talking to Santa Cruz spokesmodel Mike Ferrentino (above), he mentioned that a lot of bike materials technology originated in the weapons industry. Rather a shame, but the bike industry sure does make it beautiful. This one-piece lay-up front triangle, held by Scott, looked just as sleek and clean on the inside as on the outside:


“Heavy-duty” and “carbon fiber”? Four words that don’t seem to go together, until one considers this bike. It has no rider weight limit, and the tapered head tube can handle longer-travel forks to go with its 140mm rear travel.

It’s the little things that count though: grease ports for lubing the suspension, integrated chainstay protector and chain-slap plate, super-clean cable guides, and a direct-mount front derailleur.

grease_ports.jpg  headtube.jpg  midsection.jpg

At last it was time to ride. Shannon grabbed a bike from British brand Orange and we headed out to do a piece of the cross country course. The last bike I spent significant time on was a 29er, so I was prepared for that initial “whoah, sketchy” transition period I usually get when going back down in wheel size (especially on sand as I had in front of me), but it wasn’t there. Pretty quickly, I settled in to letting the VPP2 suspension do its work, and began to feel that burly-n-fast moto feeling that a good 26”-wheeler can give, blasting over stutter bumps and throwing it in the berms. Despite the Blur’s 69-degree head angle, I didn’t get any of that side-to-side wheel flop in sharp turns. The suspension wasn’t too squishy yet active at the right times, reminiscent of the last time I tried a DW-Link bike. I didn’t feel like I was hauling a whole 27lbs. (approximate weight) up the nasty steep climb at the end of the trail. Yeah, sweet.

That day I also stopped by the DT Swiss booth, where they plied me with chocolate croissants and showed off their new wheels and suspension. Another theme of this year’s Otter goods: carbon fiber. The spoke masters had their XRC 100 Race Ltd., a racy, Swiss-made 100mm-travel fork with a carbon steerer tube, crown and lower that comes in at under 1200g including the remote lockout switch (that’s around two-and-a-half pounds for standard measurers).


For all-mountain rear squish they offer a new M210  shock, featuring external rebound and compression adjustments and platform damping that is tunable to suit different frame designs. It’s notable that DT Swiss has been using spherical eyelets on their shocks for some time with success, and they point out that no motorized toy uses fixed-mount shocks.

The Swiss masters are offering two new wheelsets, an XRC 1350 based on their successful 1250 but less expensive, and an all-mountain EXC 1550.

1350.jpg 1550.jpg

Both wheels have uni-directional carbon fiber rims with a structure that remained secret, no cross-sections to be seen. I wasn’t aware that DT hubs could be converted to different axle styles with available kits – if you’ve got a regular quick-release DT Swiss hub and want to switch to a 20mm thru-axle in the front, for example, it can be done without buying a new wheel. Here’s a cutaway showing their star ratchet engagement system:


I love cutaways – so fascinating!

Later that evening we got to hang out with Billy Savage of Klunkerz fame, as well as the luminaries from the previous evening. Our campsite was a lovely haven of good food, good beer and good company.



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