To a newbie like myself, entering the world of cycling, the annual Sea Otter Classic can appear a bit intimidating. Jokingly referred to as the Coachella or Comic-Con of cycling due to the enormity of the event, the Sea Otter Classic is the largest consumer bike festival in North America held yearly in Monterey, California. Additionally the festival is hosted inside the iconic Laguna Seca raceway and the course was open for riders to take a test spin on that bike they’ve been eyeing since last racing season. Whether you are a cycling enthusiast, bike industry brand, or somewhere in between like myself, this festival has something to offer everyone.
Small but powerful; the Little Bellas made a big splash at the 2019 Sea Otter Classic. The cycling group made up of girls aged seven to sixteen had crowds parting in respect as the team made their way across the festival. Created by sisters Sabra Davison and cycling Olympian Lea Davison, the Little Bellas were attending Sea Otter Classic to spread their message of #MoreGirlsOnBikes, a movement that aims to introduce and encourage cycling to young girls who may feel that the hobby is not as accessible to them as it is to young boys. In fact the message peddled by Little Bellas delves deeper beyond cycling by nurturing and instilling confidence in these young girls that may have gone untapped without learning the self assurance that comes with cycling. Unfortunately, despite how cool the Little Bellas are, they are not accepting applications from 26 year old males at the moment. Guess I will have to root from the sidelines or at the very least, just get out of their way!
Another major pull of the Sea Otter Classic are the many different race events hosted throughout the duration of the festival. The categories of matches range from cross country, road races, and circuit races to Enduro and Dual Slalom. A particular favorite of mine was the Dual Slalom event due to the sheer insanity of the matches. If, like me, you had never heard of Dual Slalom then it is something that needs to be seen to be fully understood. Competitors take their turns as they compete one on one in a downhill dirt race. During the short course, there are many tabletop jumps, doubles, and bermed turns that send riders in a frenzy through the downhill course in about thirty seconds. However, this wasn’t the only intense mountain bike event that captured the attention of Sea Otter patrons. Additionally, E-MTB races were another interesting category to spectate as this event is relatively newer to the Sea Otter Classic lineup and becomes more interesting every year. E-MTB stands for electric mountain bike and the event consists of racers following a marked trail with their electric motors assisting participants as they fly up and down hills. This event was particularly interesting as Aventon designs and manufactures our own E-Bikes as well. Having ridden an Aventon Pace 500 for the first time recently, which tops out at 28 miles per hour, it was very impressive to see how fast yet controlled these E-MTB cyclists were. Congratulations to all the winners in their category!
If you enjoy free cycling swag from your favorite outdoor brands, then Sea Otter Classic is the festival for you. One of my personal favorite exhibitors was the Hydro Flask booth. Twice a day at 11 AM and 2 PM festival goers would line up for a chance to win a free Hydro Flask. In order to participate patrons would donate a dollar to receive a ball that would then be rolled Skee-Ball style towards an open Hydro Flask. If the wooden ball made it in, the participant would win a bottle of their choice. This event was one of the most popular activities at the festival due to the fact that Hydro Flask was engaging visitors while simultaneously raising money for charity. Luckily I was able to sneak away from our Aventon booth multiple times in order to win a Hydro Flask. After my third attempt and $8 given to a good cause, I won my very own Hydro Flask!
Despite how fun these events were, my favorite activity at Sea Otter Classic was showing our Pace E-Bikes series to festival goers. Many patrons would visit our booth without having ever ridden an E-Bike before and would ask to take one for a test ride. Well these visitors were in luck because they got to ride our E-Bikes on the legendary Laguna Seca raceway. Because the raceway was open for test rides, Pace riders got to take their turn maxing out the throttle and pedal assist on our E-Bikes. This allowed riders to fly 28 miles per hour down the three mile course achieving multiple laps within 30 minutes. Many college students, work commuters, and retired folks took our E-Bikes for a spin and those who were fortunate enough to take advantage of this opportunity returned their E-Bikes to our Aventon booth with a smile ear-to-ear exclaiming how much fun they had on their short ride. Multiple riders came back for a second “test ride” in hopes of getting a couple extra minutes burning rubber on our Pace E-Bikes on the Laguna Seca raceway.
Although Sea Otter Classic has an abundance of activities to offer, there is no wrong way to take on the festival. Whether you have an event scheduled in your itinerary or would like to take it easy while browsing the exhibitors, go at your own pace. Strolling around the show bike watching is a fun activity as many festival goers bring out their unique rides. Perhaps you might bring your own bike to cruise around the fair like I did with our Pace 500 E-Bike. The most important aspect to remember is that Sea Otter Classic is a celebration of cycling that unites people with a similar interest. The excitement that radiates off the event is 100% contagious and will have you booking your trip to Monterey for Sea Otter Classic 2020.
To learn more about the E-Bikes that had our test riders in smiles, check out the video Pete from Electric Bike Report made while he stopped by our booth!