Looking Forward To The Sea Otter Classic 2020?
Get More Information on The 2020 Sea Otter Classic Here: www.seaotterclassic.com
The Sea Otter Classic is the annual event that, for cyclists at least, kicks off the official beginning of the spring season. Started in 1991 at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, the event was originally a small mountain bike-specific race called the Laguna Seca Challenge. Over the years it continued to grow in size and significance, and now, nearly three decades later, it is a massive event, drawing some 74,000 people over the four days, as well as 9600 athletes.
The inner expo area features most known bike brands and products. This year the number of companies represented was up a whopping 34 percent over last year, credited partly to the demise of Interbike, the big American bicycle show and convention.
We saw several e-bike trends this year. On the mountain biking side, there were many companies following Fantic’s lead and experimenting with bikes that use a 29-inch front wheel and a 27.5-inch-plus rear wheel. That offers a better angle of attack by the front wheel to surmount obstacles and better grip by the rear wheel. We’ve ridden a few, and so far we have liked the ride.
Another notable addition to the U.S. market is Germany’s Fazua motor. As of this writing, 35 bike companies in Europe run Fazua motors in their e-bikes. The Fazua system integrates the motor and battery in one unit that clicks into the downtube. The whole thing weighs about 8 pounds or less than half that of a traditional motor and battery. In the U.S., the German powerplants are still in need of certification, but the better part of a dozen companies, including Fantic, Bulls, Cube, Look and others are jumping on the bandwagon with some of their models, on everything from commuters to road bikes to gravel bikes.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Spectators can watch some of the top athletes from around the world compete in all the disciplines of road racing and mountain biking—from criterium to circuit to downhill, dual slalom, cross-country and more. There are so many events packed into the four days that it’s a veritable three-ring circus going on all the time.
There are demo bikes from most manufacturers, tracks for kids (even down to balance bike level), a pump track for older kids and adults, an e-bike demo track, a trials show featuring Danny MacAskill and lots of racing. Friday evening is always set aside for the e-bike race, which was knocked up a notch this year as USA Cycling sanctioned the event, meaning points—and cash—were awarded.
There are so many things to see—from new products to free stuff to cycling in every discipline. Four days isn’t enough to take it all in! We were introduced to several new bikes and shown more bikes we had seen but weren’t out yet, so we’re sharing them here.
“There are so many things to see—from new products to free stuff to cycling in every discipline. Four days isn’t enough to take it all in!”
BETWEEN THE TAPE
More bikes, more riders, more cash
For the past four years the Sea Otter Classic has held an e-bike race, which has grown in numbers and popularity each year. This year USA Cycling came on board as the official sanctioning body of the race, which dovetails nicely with the upcoming UCI-sanctioned World Championship e-MTB race to be held this August in conjunction with the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Mont-Saint-Anne in Québec, Canada.
One of the best things about the e-bike race is the industry support that provides participants the chance to race a demo bike. Pre- and post-race bike inspections were handled by officials from the four allowed motor brands; Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and Brose. This is the first time for this, and we think a great step to ensure fairness.
“With the growing popularity of e-bikes and the UCI including the discipline in the World Championships, we are working with events, industry partners and athletes to assist with providing guidelines for e-bike events in the U.S.,” said Chuck Hodge, USA Cycling’s Chief of Racing and Events. Chuck was on hand to observe and learn as the industry strives to ensure a fair playing field.
Probably the biggest news for the weekend was the $3000 pro purse that was split evenly between the men’s and women’s pro fields. Former motorcycle enduro champion Charlie Mullins won the Men’s Pro class, and Caroline Mani won the Women’s Pro class.
The race gets more refined every year. We expect it to grow, especially since it’s now a sanctioned event, and there’s a chance to win a nice paycheck.
THE REAL DEAL
Women’s pro winner Caroline Mani brings the resume
EBA: Of all the riders competing, you undoubtedly have the most racing experience.
Caroline Mani: Yes, I have been racing for a while in mountain bike, road and cyclocross. I am the five-time French national cyclocross champion, and in 2016 I was a silver medalist at the Cyclocross World Championships. I have also medaled at some mountain bike World Cup events
EBA: When was your first electric bike race?
CM: I have been coming to the Sea Otter to race since 2011, and since I love to race, I entered the first e-bike race here three years ago and have won each year.
EBA: You’re from France but now live in Colorado. How did that transition come about?
CM: While I was racing I also went to business school, and I passed all my classes except for the English language class, so I moved to America and interned at Crankbrothers and SRAM.
EBA: Tell us about your bike.
CM: I’m riding the Haibike Xduro AllMtn 6.0 this year, which has a Bosch motor. It is a Class 1 e-bike, so after 20 mph the power assist quits and you’re on your own. I also have a 2018 Haibike XDURO AllMtn 8.0 that has a Yamaha motor. The bike I raced is completely stock. But if I’m able to race the UCI e-Bike World Championships this year, I will make some modifications with lighter pedals, crank and tires.
EBA: What is the best piece of advice you’d give a rider new to riding e-bikes?
CM: If you want to race, you need to practice. An e-bike is much different than a regular mountain bike. You have to learn how to utilize the assistance of the e-motor. The weight is greater, so you can’t jump-pull up the front wheel. For example, if you want to bunny-hop onto the sidewalk, you have to use different timing and skills. And while you have assistance, you still have to be fit to perform.
EBA: How would you describe this year’s Sea Otter course?
CM: It was not super technical and it was super fast, so you hit the Class 1 e-bike’s 20-mph capacity quickly.
EBA: Where do you see the future of e-bike racing?
CM: I see both sides as a racer and as a bike shop employee. The growth of the e-bike market is pretty impressive. If we can put more people on bicycles by using e-bikes, then I think that’s great. Is it better to be on the couch doing nothing or buy an e-bike? For some people, the fitness needed for a regular mountain bike is too much or for older people whose health requires assistance to exercise.
EBA: How much training do you do?
CM: Never enough, right? When I was racing full-time, it was of course easy to get in all the miles, but now that I have to pay the bills and work full-time, it’s much harder. Luckily the bike shop is cool with me taking time off to travel to the races, but when I’m here, it comes down to fitting in what I can. In addition to on the bike training, I try to run 10–16 miles a week, and I also commute to work. I have backpack on and look like a tourist, but you have to do it.
A THROTTLE TWISTER JUMPS IN
Charlie Mullins brings his winning ways to the e-bike circuit
EBA: What do you do for a living?
Charlie Mullins: I actually have my hand in a lot of things. We have a family-owned bicycle shop, and we’re heavily involved in the motorcycle industry with MotoTees that produces event merchandise for the AMA Outdoor National Series and the Grand National Cross-Country Series. I race bikes on the side, and I also work as the trainer for the Factory KTM off-road guys and Aldon Baker on the dirt bike side of things.
EBA: What is your competitive background?
CM: I rode for the Factory KTM off-road team as a professional dirt bike racer for 10 years, and then had a career-ending injury in 2014. I broke both my wrists and spent a couple of years trying to get back to race form on the dirt bike, but my wrists were just too bad, so I had to retire from dirt bike racing. I was always into cycling and mountain biking for my cross-training, and it was just a good transition. I love racing mountain bikes.
EBA: What is your best traditional cycling achievement?
CM: I won Category 1 cross-country at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in 2017 at Snowshoe, West Virginia.
EBA: When was your first electric bike race?
CM: I did a few AMA GNCC races that included some e-bike races at their motorcycle events last year. For this year, since I already go to all the GNCC races and Specialized has now signed on as a presenting series sponsor, it all kind of came together. The first race this year was in March in Georgia, and two weeks before Sea Otter, there was a race in North Carolina. I ended up winning both, so I already had a few races under my belt before Sea Otter.
I feel like e-bike racing is natural for me. It’s still a bicycle, but I think there’s a bit of technique needed—being in the right gear and being set up properly. I enjoy the e-bike, which goes a bit faster than a non-assist mountain bike, especially at a GNCC.
EBA: How many times a week do you ride your e-bike versus a traditional bike?
CM: Honestly, I don’t really ride a mountain bike or my Specialized Levo. I do all my training on the road or a few reasons: I’ve worked with a cycling coach for a few years, and as busy and hectic as my work and family schedule can be, it’s just convenient. I spend roughly 10–12 hours per week on the bike. As far as bike skill, I don’t really worry about given my dirt bike background. I don’t lack any technical or downhill ability, so I just focus on getting good and productive workouts.
EBA: How would you describe the Sea Otter e-bike event?
CM: Sea Otter was a lot different than a GNCC. We rode on the paved circuit, so there were a lot of flat sections. A GNCC isn’t even like a regular XC MTB race; it’s more of a rugged off-road—roots, rocks and pretty gnarly terrain. The speeds at a GNCC are a little slower, so you can utilize the power of the e-bike more. For me at Sea Otter, I wasn’t really focusing on cadence or even heart rate. It was such a short race, it was kind of an all-out sprint. I was trying to push as hard as I could, especially up the hills trying to get the bike up to 20 mph wherever I could. I had a lot of fun with it.
EBA: What is the best piece of advice you’d give a rider new to electric bike riding?
CM: It’s all about finding balance between your power and the bike’s power. A Class 1 e-bike’s motor shuts off at 20 mph, so it’s almost better to hover at that 20-mph mark instead of trying to push past it.
EBA: What race organizing body do you feel should be overseeing electric bicycle racing, the UCI/USA Cycling or FIM/AMA?
CM: I think it’s pretty cool that the AMA and GNCC were the first to recognize e-bikes with a national championship. I don’t know all the legalities, but I think there is the potential to have a USA Cycling National Championship, and it’s cool to see them getting on board. For me, this year’s big goal is to win the UCI World Championship e-bike event at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
EBA: Do you think e-bikes are better suited to compete on the same courses as regular XC mountain bikes or courses intended for off-road motorcycles?
CM: I think more technical terrain that has a lot of rocks and roots, like a traditional dirt bike trail, is more fun on an e-bike. Even more fun than the Sea Otter MTB XC course, which I also raced on my regular mountain bike on Sunday. But, I’ve always found California to not be that technical. Being from the East Coast, I like big boulder rocks and slippery roots—and I think that’s really where the e-bike can shine with its beefier suspension and tires. You can really charge and go fast, almost like a dirt bike pace.
EBA: Where do you see the future of e-bike racing?
CM: The hardcore [traditional] cyclists seem to have issues with e-bikes. I’m not really sure why. I think they’re fun. And, I feel like I actually work harder riding the e-bike than I do my regular bike. But for the long-term, I’d like to see it recognized as a bigger thing around the world. At Sea Otter this year, the e-bike vibe seemed really positive, and there were a lot of pros and amateurs racing.
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