Bikes, Products, and People from Sea Otter Classic 2023: Part Three and Mega Photo Gallery

Travis and Josh are back today with their third and final report from the 2023 Sea Otter Classic. Continue reading below for another installment of interesting bikes, products, and people from the show, in addition to a mega gallery of images from the three days of sun, fog, rides, and wild times at Laguna Seca Raceway. Did they save the best for last? Read on to find out!

Kool-Stop’s New AT Rim Brake Pads

In a sea of wireless shifting and motorized bicycles, the Kool-Stop booth was a refreshing place to be. They had a batch of brand-new AT internal backbone pads on display and you bet we scooped a set. Yep, that’s right, a new rim brake pad from Kool Stop. The AT features a nice thick pad for predictable and longer-lasting braking, tapered edges for more tire clearance, and comes in a whole bunch of fun colors for a wide range of wheel diameters from 24″ – 29,” while they’ll also work well for 20″ BMX and cargo bike wheels. The folks at Kool-Stop told us that these were made in response to requests from “wheelie boys [people]” looking for a thicker pad that fit more wheel sizes, but we think they’ll be perfect for our vintage builds, too. The AT pads aren’t for sale quite yet, but keep an eye on the Kool-Stop IG for more info.

TRP Evo 12 Groupset

The updated and expanded TRP drivetrain was on full display at this year’s Sea Otter. Touching and feeling it brought a few surprises that have us thinking it may have some legs. The derailleur has been updated from the version introduced in 2019 with a sleeker design and new kinematics that keep it a bit higher off the ground in the big gears. It still has a locking lever that keeps the body from bouncing around the mounting bolt. The thumb-thumb shifter can grab five downshifts at once, but can be limited to only do one at a time for anyone with an e-bike or over-eager thumb. And if your thumb is picky about position, the shifter allows the downshift paddle to be clocked to suit your needs. TRP’s strength-focused carbon and aluminum cranks use a 30mm spindle and connect to the chainring with a Race-Face-style Cinch interface. They made an odd choice to license MRP’s staggered tooth profile instead of the more common wide-narrow approach, but the claim it works well with the chain they designed in collaboration with KMC.

It’s the cassette that got us most excited. It’s designed to fit on a Shimano Micro Spline freehub, but is incredibly easy to install than a Shimano cassette. Instead of stacking and clocking the smaller cogs individually, and picking the right spacer for the right spot, you get two pieces: The cassette and the lockring. The 10-11-13-15-18-21-24-28-32-36-44-52 cassette machines its smallest 10 cogs out of steel and uses aluminum for its largest two. It’ll be interesting to see if TRP becomes a major player in the drivetrain game. Their mothership, Tektro, is already the second-largest brake manufacturer in cycling, so they’ve got inroads to the OEM market. This could get interesting.

Updated Box One Prime 9-Speed Drivetrain from Box Components

In other exciting mechanical drivetrain news, Box Components was showing the updated versions of their top-end 9-speed drivetrain, the Box One Prime 9. While other component brands and bike manufacturers are buzzing about wireless tech and jamming as many cogs onto cassettes as possible, Box is doubling down on its relatively affordable 9-speed group using the slogan “Nine is Fine.” Nearly every part of the group sees refinements this year, including the derailleur, cassette, and shifter.

Starting with the derailleur, it now features a horizontal movement rather than the former slanted geometry with a stronger and cleaner clutch mechanism that reportedly removes the clutch force feel within the shifter. The revised shifter constructed of metal with magnesium levers and match-makers for nearly every bar/brake combo out there. The Box One 11-50T cassette is a solid piece of heat-treated cnc’d steel with updated tooth profiles that claim smoother shifting when paired with Box’s proprietary chain. All of these updates have been made to improve reliability and performance while reducing weight. We’re excited to get one of these drivetrains in for review soon, as we’re curious: Are 9 gears still enough?

Nick Neuhaus and the Neuhaus Metalworks Prototype All Road

Neuhaus Metalworks always tests new geometries and workflows before unleashing them to the public. For their latest project, they are developing a bike inspired by the Marin County roads and trails where their operation is based. Imagine those iconic steep climbs and rolling descents of Mount Tamalpais with a little bit of singletrack thrown in. This new all-road frameset is essentially a gravel bike with the looks and handling of a classic steel road bike. The prototype is designed for 40mm tires and features NMW’s signature 3D printed Y-yoke, chainstay yoke, and a FM160 chainstay mount. The 40mm tire clearance goes against many current gravel trends but they believe, at a certain point, you’ll have more fun on a hardtail. Plus, they find that the combination of a steel frame and Spinergy’s polymer spokes absorb a surprising amount of chatter. Look for more info on this frame soon in addition to more coverage of Neuhaus Metalworks right here!

Colin’s Rock Lobster ‘Cross and Mike’s GT Karakoram MTB

Believe it or not, one of our favorite aspects of Sea Otter is seeing all of the bikes rolling around the expo grounds. And this doesn’t mean the flashy new bikes on pedestals inside brands’ booths, but rather the personal bikes of event-goers. Some folks attend to be seen with their cherished vintage builds, while others are just finishing one of the MTB or road races checking out new products or hanging with friends, bikes in tow. We appreciate pretty much any opportunity to scope out interesting bikes. Of course, at first sight of Colin and Mike with their super fun Rock Lobster and GT Karakorum cruisers, we had to stop them for a closer look.

Colin’s Rock Lobster

We actually ran into Colin last year who was rolling on a different vintage bike, a 1997 Kona A’HA, which we documented in our event coverage. He was back proudly riding another well-appointed vintage build, a 2006-ish Rock Lobster he described as “shimmery-shiny Santa Cruz steel with Chico machined bits.” While we love seeing applications for the always-attractive Paul Comp Motolite brakes, we’re pretty jealous of Colin’s carbon Ritchey Bullmoose Handlebar which, unfortunately, is no longer in production. Tom and Fergus, if you’re reading this, let’s bring these bars back, eh!?

Mike’s GT Karakoram

During the pandemic, Mike was searching for a daily commuter of his own and his buddy Colin gifted him this Karakoram frameset. Mike promised to build it up into something unique and, voila, here is his fun and functional San Francisco city jammer. It’s equipped with an oversized Wald Basket, 1x drivetrain, cruiser bars, and Brooks C19 saddle for comfort. The bike’s classic paint job has been sun-faded on one side of the frame, so Mike decided to accentuate the GT “inferno” paint job rather than detract with too many colored components. Subtle strategically placed hits of color tie the build together, including the King headset, chainring bolts, and seat collar. The bright frame bag is from Outer Shell and the matching handlebar bag was custom-made by Mike’s local SF friend, Ohio Boots.

Cedaero Fork Lift Pack

Cedaero has developed a robust catalog of on-bike storage options over the years and continues adding to it with thoughtful new product releases. At SOC this year, they debuted a new fork pack called Fork Lift, which attaches to a King Cage Manything via Hypalon sleeve and two lower buckle straps. The pack provides quick and easy zippered access to 3.3 liters of storage capacity, including items that have made their way down to the bottom of the pack. Available in 1000D Cordura Nylon or 15oz Martexin Waxed Canvas in a rainbow of different color options. See more at Cedaero.

Karl from Cedaero and his Vintage Arrow MTB

The Cedareo team traveled all the way to Monterey, CA from their home base north of Duluth, MN with a LOT of products and their well-appointed personal bikes to show off their wares. Karl’s daily driver (er, rider), a vintage Arrow MTB, quickly caught our eye with its interesting component selection and tri-colored dual-zippered custom frame bag. Cedareo offers custom bags for pretty much any application and are quite reasonably priced. Custom full frame bags start at just $199.

Castellano Zorro

This bike was welded by Steve Potts. He rode with Joe Breeze in the 70s and 80s. He co-founded Wilderness Trail Bikes. He’s a legend, which I guess we say about everyone behind the classic handmade bikes covered on The Radavist. But the Castellano Zorro stacks legacy on legend. Although its unified rear triangle has faded from the popular discourse, that concept played a pivotal role in the evolution of suspension. Before the Zorro, John Castellano designed the Szazbo, a unified-rear triangle Ibis made back in its steel days. This was the evolution of (or “son” of) the Szazbo, and is actually less than a decade old. It’s owned by Jake Bayless, vice president of CAMTB, the California Mountain Bike Coalition. Not all Zorros wear capes.

Ergon GDH Team

Yes, Ergon found a way to combine waffles, squares, diamonds and bumps into an entirely new grip. The GDH Team was soft-launched at this year’s Sea Otter, but it’s not just another option in Ergon’s diverse catalog. The GDH Teams will be one of a handful of grips to be made in their native Germany. And there are plans to follow suit with several more. But beyond that, the grip itself is pretty impressive. The raised checkerboard under the palm makes for a positive, stable feel, but is soft enough to not feel like it’ll cause a hot spot. And the raised strips under the fingertips have perpendicular reinforcements, so they resist folding over under twisting load. It’s yet more proof that Ergon grips have come a long way since wings and stubby bar ends.

Gabe’s Steelman Cycles

You know this story. You see a kid riding a ten-to-twenty-year-old bike that’s slightly or severely too big for them. Then, riding patiently ahead or behind, you see mom or dad on a blinged-out Santa Cruz. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, it prolongs the nostalgia value of otherwise forgotten bikes for another generation. 12-year-old Gabe here has probably made some memories on this 25-year-old Steelman that used to belong to his mom. But he probably doesn’t know about its builder, Brent Steelman. He doesn’t know Steelman made the bikes for Gary Fisher’s race team fourty years ago. He definitely doesn’t know Steelman has gotten out of the framebuilding business and now curates and sells vintage rugs with his wife, Katryn. But he does know that the elastomers in his Judy XC fork have collapsed. It’s the first thing he mentioned when we asked to take a photo. But he didn’t seem to mind. And neither did we.

Old Man Mountain Ponderosa Pannier and Juniper Trunk Bag

Old Man Mountain had previously expanded into the bag market in partnership with Portland’s North St. Bags. But they just announced they’ll be launching their own line, with the Ponderosa Pannier and Juniper Trunk. Designed to fit on OMM’s Divide racks, the new bags have a compact commuter-style form factor, but were built with bikepacking in mind. They’re not quick-release, they’re not shopping bags (though the pannier does feature an alternate closure that doubles as a top-handle). They were made to hold fast to the bike and stay quiet and compact.

The panniers can be compressed as they empty, and feature thin but stiff framesheet (which doubles as a charcuterie board) on both inboard and outboard sides to minimize bellowing out as you cinch. Both bags feature roll-top closure and are fully waterproof and seam-welded. In the hand, they feel somewhere between hard-wearing and ultra-light. Buckles are aluminum, material feels robust, but there’s no real excess anywhere. You can even strip down some of the quality-of-life features on the panniers for a 475g weight, or go full luxury at 560g. Trunk bag weights 365g. Even the branding is minimal, embedded into the Velcro patch panels, ready to be covered up by the embroidered statement of your choice. Pannier volume is 13L, trunk bag is 10L, and prices are TBD.

Aeroe Prototype Pannier Mount and Double-Bottle Mount

Hailing from New Zealand, Aero makes especially easy-to-use rack solutions for bikes that have nothing but rack problems like road bikes and full-suspension bikes. Their strap-based seatstay and fork mounts are meant to carry large cylinder bags in multiple configurations. And at this year’s Sea Otter, they had a few other ideas they’ve been playing with on display. One introduced a traditional flat-top rack complete with pannier-friendly mechanisms on the side for those who want to stick with their regular square dry bags. And in an earlier stage of development was a double-cage mount if you want to pack lightly and drink heavily. No word on when these may be hitting the market or their pricing.

Better Bolts

Bolts are small. And the weight savings of titanium bolts is also small. You kinda need to use a lot of them to make any real impact. And measuring the length, diameter, pitch and head of every bolt on your bike is a daunting task. But California-based Better Bolts is trying to make that process … better. They now offer a service where you email them some details and photos of your bike, and they’ll do the rest. You can also shop by component or frame type. Much of their site is organized by brand, and you search for what brand stem, brake, fork or frame you have, and they’ve got a kit that will replace all the fasteners with titanium in subtle silver or a number of colors. But they’re not anodized.

Better Bolts uses a process they prefer called Physical Vapor Deposition or PVD. They claim it’s longer lasting and maintains the bolt’s surface integrity. In addition to their fasteners, Better Bolts was on the scene with custom colorized damper knobs for Fox forks and full pre-packaged frame pivot and bolt kits. But if you still want to go piece-by-piece, Better Bolts has a guide for how to measure them.

Freedom Coast

Next to Better Bolts was a small machining firm called Freedom Coast. There were a few products on display, including shorter-reach, more ergonomic lever blades for TRP and Magura brakes. But what stood out were these storage mounts. Aimed at van-lifers and van-cationers, the Freedom Coast bike-rack system relies on something called Logistics Track or “L Track.” It’s the dotted lines that airplane seats are often bolted to. Sorta like tie-down loops on the side of a truck bed, you drop them into the track, slide them a bit to the side, tighten them, and they stay.

But it’s way cleaner, quicker, and easier than adjusting truck-bed tie-downs. It feels aircraft-quality. And above those L Tracks are either fork or front-wheel mounts that are a lot cleaner than the thru-axle adaptors that stay on your roof rack’s old Thule trays. There’s an adjustable fork mount for $159 that can be clocked forward or backwards, or a simpler lower fixed one for $119. Both can store two “reducers” to fit the fork configuration of your choice, from 9×100 QR to 20×110 DH. There’s also a front-wheel-on version that works like a 1UP rack, but is somehow even more jewelry-like. It’s $499 a bike, but that’s no surprise when you see it in person.

Nukeproof Dissent Carbon 290

Ok, so hear us out. We don’t expect you to want a Nukeproof Dissent. Frankly, Nukeproof probably doesn’t expect you to want one. But that’s exactly the reason we wanted to talk about it. Or, rather one of the reasons. After all, it is a Nukeproof. No, it’s not the exactly same Nukeproof from the nineties, founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan with their cool titanium skewers or exposed braided carbon hub shells. But that Nukeproof was purchased in 2004 by Northern Irish downhill racer, Michael Cowan who had as much nostalgia for the brand as we and you probably do. So, in an indirect way, this bike is already a classic.

Also, the brand makes some pretty cool non-downhill bikes. And they happen to take a size-specific approach to effective seat tube angles that appeals to one particular 6’2” Radavist gear tester who may be talking about himself in the third person right now. But back to the bike. Making a bike this niche out of carbon in 2023 seemed like an odd choice, but Nukeproof told us that carbon has become an easy way to experiment during development. Tweaks to weight, durability and feel can be done far more easily with carbon panels than with aluminum tubes. This bike may not have happened any other way. The fact that it even exists reflects the passion the people behind it had for the brand and its legacy. Too bad we’ll probably never get a chance to ride one.

Paul Component X Sierra Nevada X Monē Bikes Sierra Recycler

While we published a full gallery on the Sierra Recycler last week, it was pretty special to run into the man behind the bike, Mr. Monē himself, and have him stand in front of the bike. The Sierra Recycler is, as you likely already know, the 6th collaboration build between Sierra Nevada Brewing and Paul Component Engineering to be displayed at Sea Otter and raise money for a nonprofit. This year, they are supporting Outdoor Alliance and there’s still plenty of time (until May 31) to donate for a chance to win the bike! Head over to Outdoor Alliance for more info.

That’s a Wrap

It’s an odd thing, the end of a Sea Otter. For some, it could not be over quickly enough. It’s an unpaid working weekend full of early mornings and skipped lunches. As soon as the clock strikes 2:00 on Sunday, the pop-up tents start dropping like crypto traders. Displays, samples, and swag are hastily packed into boxes to be sorted later, or mothballed until next year. As 5:00 hits, the Sprinter vans and U-Hauls are allowed in, creeping carefully to retrieve bulky items long after smaller exhibitors have migrated out on foot. Anything disposable is left behind, and eventually swept up once the circus has left town.

But for most of the tens of thousands of people who come to Sea Otter, the end is something far more romantic. It sees them leaving more inspired, more stoked, more in love with bikes than they may be all year. It is a shot in the arm to the entire world of cycling. Stories are told. Champions are made. Knowledge is shared. And that’s what brings us back. All of us. Including those of us who came here to work, woke up early, and didn’t have time for lunch. The people who help make Sea Otter what it is should be proud. And we’re proud to have brought some of its stories to you. Because if it weren’t for you, Sea Otter wouldn’t have become the phenomenon it is. It’s an enormous, messy, beautiful thing. We can’t wait until next year.