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2006 Sea Otter Expo @ Laguna (-not-so-) Seca

April 21, 2006 – Here’s our “better late than never” report on what we saw at Sea Otters’ Expo 2006: Nostalgia, Hoopla, and Pink Power? From the Expo booths full of merchandise and meals there were a few themes worth mentioning:.

Specialized was not putting forth any new glimpses into ’07 products, but focusing on the past for good reason and thinking pink. Eric Horton gave me his docent tour thru the tented Specialized museum dedicated soley to the 25th anniversary of their legendary mountain bike, the Treehugger (ooops, that’s what I did on it); actually, it’s the original Stumpjumper. In honor of this very Specialized year, some of the men’s and women’s MTB teams wore the old jerseys from 1981 and sporting the original color of the men’s bikes back then, yep pink! Though at Sea Otter ’06, their supported teams didn’t stay stuck in nostalgia with those old pink stallions of yesteryear and rethought the pink Stumpjumper almost unrecognizable from it’s beginnings.

Specialized wasn’t the only team flexing pink: Chrissy Penny, a local 16-year-old flaunted her pink goggles and mini skirt while representing her newly formed cycling club called the Pink squad. She roared downhill thru the jumps and mud recognizable even despite the new mud makeover. I also noticed a pink Bianchi boothside that was very pink and made no excuses for it (fotos of pink squad and pussy bike).

Hooplah: The Sea Otter Classic IS a place for adults to act like kids, apparently even in front of them, and that was most apparent at the expo’s wildest booth with a Hawaiian candy colored Kona team. I caught both Pro cyclists and Dave Verrecchia, (co-designer for Vanderkitten “clothing for women who kick ass”), disco pointing to “Shake your Booty” right there in plain day-humilation-light, while other female pro cyclists were full bent on getting hip with the Kona Hoola hoops.

Likewise, SRAM, the lead sponsor for this year’s SOC, made a splash with savvy PR in hiring “the Umbrella girls” (umbrellagirls.com) clad in china-doll pink wigs, jeans and bobby socks posing in front of a very clean muscle car that got overlooked for obvious reasons – besides, who wants to look at a car at a bike Expo?? Yet despite all the disco abandon and Demi Moore-esque distractions amongst the serious gear heads and mud-slogged dirt riders, there were ’07 product gems worth saving your Spring/Summer paychecks for at the Expo.

R U ready for a SRAMNATION? It’s not all SRAM cheerleaders and sexy sound-bite tee-shirts: SRAM has been doing its homework with the new Force road gruppo collection, a road warriors’ dream. With the slant lever ergonomics with a shorter reach and 25% lighter shifters than the competition, it’s ready for your close-up. Sprinters will get happy splinters from this news: Finally, there is a better way to go from rocket launch#1 to full throttle burst without losing that crucial torque and time while shifting for the right gears. The double tap technology delivers rapid upshifting from the hoods coupled with a specially designed lever that’s activated so you can hold it against the hoods and release it at will. That means that with a little flick of the fingers, you can actually go up or down the cogs and when you need to bring on the burst you just release the finger and voila, you have control for a fast and crisp change from the hoods, the drops or in full sprints without reaching. It should be out by August 2006 with a price point of of around $1,800 US for the FORCE gruppo. Look for their components now on continental teams like Orbea and Kodakgallery.com/SierraNevada.

Hey Hermano, it’s all about Shimano. Shimano gear-heads would have been in heaven here with most of their latest ’07 prototypes on display – and ready to greet you later this year. Shimano XTR rapidfire system plus shifters and dual-control levers, and a lot more, were being tested by Walker Ferguson and other pros in the races. There were over a dozen Shimano engineers from Japan experiencing the riders’ comments while trying out the product with their ‘s kunk development team’ for almost a year. Shimano’s marketing promo man Dustin Brady gave Pedalmag the rapid-fire lowdown on what’s coming down the pipe in late Spring for 2007.

Starting with the Rapidfire plus shift levers, what’s new with their tried and tested system? Look for Shimano raising the bar with 4 new features: Instant release shifting, Muti-release shifting, Two-way release, Variable positioning.

Even the dual control levers have enhanced ergonomics and a significant weight reduction. Shimano pedals, wheels and and rear derailleurs are all fresh and will be reviewed in further Pedalmag.com editions, so take a look here at what they look like, and stay tuned for further info coming out on May 1 and June 1.

Yakima (Freed-up) SpaceS aka the new frontier. From car rack and storage, to storing all your biking needs at home, Yakima takes care of such perennial problems with new options in ’07 that will get you on the bike with more time to ride with less hassle on lighter yet more rigged sleek designs for your car and garage.

Car racks: The sprocket rocket has a quick release adjustment system easier than previous models with the sliding taco, a quick adjustment for different sized bikes with ratchets on BOTH sides for faster bike removal on either side; and stepping up a notch, there’s the high roller which has the same sliding taco and ratchet features with a collapsible rail system which pops up and catches the back and front part the tires with a micro adjustment knob to lock in the tires on both ends without the second guessing hassles. Very solid design with great locking system.

SkyboxPro: For car luggage racks the skybox pro is on the right path with various sizes. Inside a new pad and elastic cargo net comes with caribiners and petzol headlamps that pop into the top so you can reach anything in the box at night while camping. Also, new reinforcements creating a more rigged box, so you don’t get a lot of wobble or buck. Skis, camping equipment, even baby strollers all fit and it’s UV and scratch resistant with four sizes of 12, 16, 18 and 21 cubic feet of storage. A durable frame with practical features, I actually tested it out by ‘s leeping’ in it while it rained that day (leak proof and comfy with a sleeping bag!).

“Ground control” unit, come in please: This muti-use storage rack can be extended out or wrapped around it’s corners, using BOTH sides – you can use wall side with 10 inches free space and 800 lbs capacity load (though tested at 1,600 lbs and no problems). Uses include storage for skis, bikes, the skybox pro on top, snowboards, packs and gear) Base unit is $250 plus accessories. Available now at REI and other stores with loads of accessories including gear boxes. I would love something like this for my wall – I’d probably even hang up my jackets from that buried chair in the corner of my room.

And finally, a brief encounter with Rockshox ’07: These shocks are ready to take any Punish-mint you can dish out. Alongside the Rockshox booth were a few of the test riders lathered up in mud and chilling out after a big wet workout hillside. What were they most enthused about? The Argyle 409 that’s not only flashy as a forerunner in gnarly green (called punish-mint, ho ho), but can stand up to a hammering with 32mm 4130 taper wall steel upper tubes = the best combo of stiffness and strength to weight. Get shox’d and go green!

And lastly, a notable mention to my favorite all-around jersey designers, Primal, for going less hard-core rocker shocker jerseys and getting more in touch with their funky, wild side.

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