We went to Sea Otter Classic and got more than some lousy tshirts and a sunburn. What's a Sea Otter Classic? It's not just a vintage marine mammal; it's a multidisciplinary series of bike races and also what is currently the largest bike expo in North America. We handed out copies of Adventure Cyclist magazine, chatted with members, recruited new ones, played DIY carnival games, and held GDMBR office hours. Here's some gear we saw at the show that stood out to us.
In a July 2022 Adventure Cyclist Waypoint, we ran a story called “Bidon with the Wind” about the problem with plastic bottles in pro cycling, but the problem isn’t really relegated to just the fastest pedalers in the tightest Lycra. Plastic in any form is a scourge on the environment, and bottles can be poor for our health as they can hold onto harmful bacteria (I can’t be the only who has looked into her bottle in dismay to find a layer of black gunk gathered on the bottom). I was thrilled to bump into Bivo at Sea Otter, sent their way by a friend who was raving about the product. It’s an aluminum water bottle that has a traditional rubber mouthpiece, plus a hose that solves the problem of not being able to squeeze the bottle to release water. You just turn it upside down (or otherwise angled to drink from) and it pours. But push the nozzle in the way you would a traditional bottle, and it locks closed so it doesn’t spill. Not only is aluminum longer lasting, easier to keep clean, and better for the environment, it also helps keep beverages cold — a major bonus for a year when it’s already 85 degrees on a Montana May Day. –Carolyne Whelan
If you know me, you’ll know that I will take any opportunity to gush about my home state of Minnesota. Today is no different. Please let me introduce you to the self-proclaimed "most fun bikepacking company in the galaxy," Cedaero. Cedaero’s shop is based in the beautiful town of Two Harbors, Minnesota, where they sew all their packs in-house with 100% U.S. sourced materials. Their plethora of bikepacking bags and accessories — in a multitude of fun colors and textures— pulled me straight into their booth. The booth included everything from frame bags to pogies to a fully Cedaero-outfitted bikepacking-ready rig. The lovely humans working at the booth welcomed me in and told me all about the company ethos and origin story. Luckily, they also appreciated my unsolicited musings about Minnesota. I got myself a bright orange Cedaero top tube bag (pictured here) which perfectly fits my phone, wallet, and a bag of sour patch kids (all equally crucial to all biking adventures). –Brooke Carey
The surprising showstopper of Sea Otter for many was ChapSnap. Prior to the expo, all us media folk received an email from the brand’s founder, Danny Wilson (the former Green Bay Packer), sharing his story and product, with an invitation to stop by his booth. Many of us paid it no mind — we already had our scheduled booked — but throughout the expo I bumped into more writer friends who had found their way to Danny’s booth only to leave with a ChapSnap of their own, purchased simply because it indeed solves a problem many of us have. It didn’t hurt that the salesperson was kind, excited, and downright glowing with positivity. Visitors to the ChapSnap booth were greeted with the unmistakably genuine smile of a person who truly believes in their product. More importantly, though, it works. I didn’t have a chance to snag one of my own, but a friend showed me his, strapped securely to his top tube. It’s a simple mechanism that snaps a stick of lip balm into place when not in use, keeping it handy for a few miles down the road when they may need a refresher. –CW
Friendliness goes a long way. We were fortunate to have QEJA socks as the booth to our left and we enjoyed chatting with them and meeting the couple’s sweet, elderly travel cat back at camp. QEJA socks are designed in Sweden with typical Swedish aesthetic sensibilities and made in Itay. While we haven’t had a chance to do any long-distance cycling with these socks, they feel smooth and lightweight. Since they are 50% organic cotton, these socks are likely best for use in hot weather where evaporative cooling by sweat is the goal. The rest is synthetic, including 10% recycled polyester. –Lauren Hudgins
Moon Shadow's small booth tucked between some major industry players felt similar to our humble Adventure Cycling tent, so I had to stop and say hello. The person at the booth was the marketer, maker, distributor, and tester. What started as a fun side project for craft presents for friends has turned into a sizeable business with a variety of products. While they had a number of salves, electrolyte powders, tinctures, and balms of varied scents and benefits, I was most excited about the orange scented Gooch Balm chamois salve with antimicrobial benefits (I was told it can still be used anywhere for the soothing CBD benefits). CBD is becoming increasingly popular in the cycling community as a natural and mild soother of muscles and mind, and in the increased corporatization it’s nice to see a small company make a serious go at it. Worth noting, the product is topsoil-safe and the packaging is either biodegradable or reusable depending on the product. –CW
I have to admit, it was all for the free coffee. Then it was for the bike. As I cracked open my much-needed cold brew inside the Decathlon booth at Sea Otter, the kind rep guided me through their double wide tent telling me all about the France-originated bicycle brand. Decathlon is huge in the UK, he said, probably the best-known brand across the pond, but no one seems to know about them in the United States. I nodded my head at every bike he Vanna Whited at, brushing his hands up and down the road and mountain bikes, then we arrived at the brand new, 2023 Triban GRVL900, Shimano GRX Titanium frame gravel bike and I nearly spit out my coffee. It was beautiful, already fully loaded with bags and freshly ridden with dried mud splashed on the seat tube. The fact it had so recently been out adventuring made it that much more appealing to me, but the fact that it was titanium and (just a hair) under $4,000 made my jaw drop. Titanium fanatics first know how comfortable, strong, and niche ti bikes are, but they also know how expensive they can be. $4,000 is in no way an everyday affordable bicycle, but it sure is for a well-built, quality component titanium bike. Besides the fact that I’ll only be able to dream about it until my bank account grows a bit, the bike doesn’t have the braze-ons that I personally love and utilize on touring bikes. Lucky for ti tourers though, the bicycle bag industry has a plethora of bolt-less bag options to make this bike prefect for taking you around the United States or maybe even the UK. –Jennaye Derge
Some of us have an acquired taste for well-designed but non-intuitive gear. The Wolf Tooth Components 6-bit Hex Wrench is far more compact than most on the market. However, I handed the multitool to two mechanically-minded people used to working on their own bikes and neither immediately figured out how to open the tool to access the bits. Nevertheless, the complexity of opening the tool works in your favor. It is not likely to pop open accidentally, spilling your bits into the gravel. The bits are tiny, but secured to their case with a magnet. Although the solution isn’t obvious, once you learn you need to pinch and pull the pin attached to the keychain ring — at the same time — to slide open the bit case, the tool is easy to use. One potential issue: the tool relies on rare earth magnets which will collect ferrous materials — including many kinds of dirt — and become less effective over time. –LH
The first bamboo bikes I saw back in the early 2000s were... full of potential. Not machines I felt confident carrying me through traffic, through the woods, or down a continent, but grand dreams of sustainability I really wanted to believe. Now in 2023, Pampro Bikes is making downright beautiful bikes for gravel, touring, commuting and even mountain biking. These bikes are handmade in rural Ghana, and 15% of sales go to supporting students in the region. More than that, the bikes themselves help build the local economy, develop one the job training for bike builders, and steady income for builders, farmers, and harvesters. –CW
The night before the Sea Otter Classic Expo, I pulled my phone out of my pocket, snagged the case on something, and broke it. It wasn’t catastrophic, but it was enough to make me question fate when I saw the Peak Design’s phone case booth the next day. I was met with an equally excited rep who showed me just how sleek the phone cases are, and their corresponding handlebar mounts for your bicycle. Adventure Cyclist reviewed a similar model in 2021. Having my phone accessible on my bike is a big deal, but also being able to take it off and put it back on easily is also incredibly important. Other mounts feel like trying to shove unmatched puzzle pieces together while you twist and turn the two plastic objects before they click into place. This mount just snapped the phone case right in, which is all due to a magnetic system and two little clips. The rep demonstrated the security with his own phone (containing an adorable photo of his child on the screen), then gave it a tiny little twist, and the phone came off again. It’s a perfect mount system for anyone who likes to use their phone while riding (I like to listen to music on long rides and don’t always have pockets to put my phone), see their screen while in motion, doesn’t want to have to get on and off their bike to take off or snap their phone back in, and in general, just likes being on the go while staying connected. –JD
I first tested a pair of Wild Rye shorts in 2018, when the company was only a couple years old. There was a lot to love about these shorts but the cut wasn’t quite for my body. Fast forward five years, this small company has blossomed into a significant player in the independent market of cycling clothing. This women owned, managed, and operated company has expanded their offerings to include overalls (short and long), bib shorts, cycling shirts, jackets, and so much more (how about a bucket hat, or a camp towel?). They were handing out coupons at the booth and I immediately went home and bought myself an early birthday present. The folks working the booth were also friendly, and every time I walked by they were engaged in meaningful conversation with their fans. At one point during my stop, we were interrupted by a young superfan decked out in head-to-toe Wild Rye gear (all purple to match her purple bike! My inner seven-year-old was very jazzed). –CW
As the longer and warmer days are upon us, I am reminded of my good friend, jean shorts. Jean shorts, or jorts, are a staple in my spring and summer wardrobe, both on and off the bike. I have seen Ripton & Co, a Boulder-based performance denim company, many a time on Instagram and Adventure Cyclist reviewed their Action Shorts 2.0 in 2020. When I passed their booth at Sea Otter, I truly couldn’t resist buying my very own pair of Ripton & Co jorts. Maybe it was the kind folks working the booth, the allure of free in-booth patch attachment, the endless ‘jort’ puns, or probably some combination of all those things, that led to my purchase. I have never been much of a Lycra gal, so jorts made for biking are a welcome addition to my closet. These jorts are some of the stretchiest denim I have worn to date and do indeed contribute to a smooth and comfy ride, and make you look cool while doing it. Could you simply take a pair of scissors to some $5 thrift store dad jeans to make your own jorts? Maybe! But as my friends over at Ripton & Co say, life is jort. Get jorty with it! –BC
We also got a chance to catch up with the nice people at mountainFLOW, makers of plant-based bike maintenance products in sustainable packaging, and they generously gave us a variety pack for the staffers suffering FOMO back at the office. We've already had nice things to say about their Eco-Wax Chain Lube, but we're looking forward to trying the other options in their Bike Maintance Kit. I've never considered that I might need a bike polish, but I'm about to find out. –LH
If you were there, let us know what caught your eye. And if not? You otter be there next year!
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Hello, I am not sure how happy Bivo will be when you called their bottles aluminum when in fact they are stainless steel. I have one and it is a great bottle to drink from and also easy to keep clean.