As I wandered around the Sea Otter Classic this year, a collection of unique-looking bikes all the way at the edge of the expo caught my eye. The noticeable difference between these bikes and most other bikes was the downtube—a curved arc replaced what is normally a straight piece of tubing.
As I stopped to take a closer look, one of the guys manning the booth came over and asked me if I’d like to take it for a test ride. I didn’t have time to go far, but I jumped on the bike and pedaled around the perimeter of the expo. It rode very smoothly—it turns out that the crazy-looking downtube actually acts as a type of suspension, absorbing shock from bumpy roads while also improving pedaling efficiency.
When I got back from my brief ride, I got the lowdown.
In addition to the curved downtube, which Alter Cycles calls the Rider Fit Tube, a specially-designed top tube provides vertical flex while minimizing horizontal movement. Together, the tubes flex as you pedal or encounter bumps.
Alter Cycles also claims that this design improves pedaling efficiency, storing power during the downstroke and releasing it at the bottom of the pedal stroke (normally the “dead zone”). I didn’t spend enough time on the bike to confidently attest or refute that this is the case.
There are four models available, all based around an aluminum frame and a steel Rider Fit Tube. The Reflex line offers three different hybrids with varying components. The top-of-the-line Reflex Elite 500 comes with a carbon fork, Shimano Tiagra and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, while the budget-friendly Reflex Sport 100 is set up with a steel fork, a Shimano Altus 3×8 drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes. Pricing starts at $749 for the Reflex 100 and goes up to $1399 for the Reflex 500.
The Route 400 is a drop bar gravel and road bike featuring an aluminum fork, a Tiagra 2×10 drivetrain and Spyre mechanical disc brakes. It comes in at $1599.
The downtube is customizable, with seven different colors as well as a few patterns. There are also four different flex options of varying stiffness, allowing riders to tune the bike to work optimally for their weight and desired riding style.
Alter Cycles can be ordered online or bought from a number of authorized dealers across the United States.
Keep Reading: Check out more stuff we saw at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic!
Ortlieb has been a reliable pannier bag brand for cyclists for decades, so it wasn’t surprising to see them release a few bikepacking-specific products in 2016.
At the Sea Otter Classic this year, Ortlieb continued that progression by upgrading their Gravel-Pack panniers, seat pack and handlebar bag, and adding couple new items.
The big focus of these bags is reducing the overall size of the bag. This is based on consumer feedback that Ortlieb has conducted and the statistic that when given the option to use more space, most people will use it, but when space is not available, they make-do. When you are riding long distance, multi-day trips, less weight is a good thing.
The Ortlieb Gravel-Pack front panniers are a more compact version of their current Sport-Roller pannier. The Sport-Roller has 25 liters of storage space, while the new Gravel-Pack has 22 liter. The Gravel-Pack features Ortlieb’s signature 3M Scotchlite reflectors on the sides of the bag and double lower mounting hooks for V-shaped racks. The Gravel-Pack will be available this fall and will retail at $170.
And now a little sneak-peek at 2018 products:
The Ortlieb Seat-Pack M is a compact version the currently available Seat-Pack. Both bags offer Ortlieb’s 3M Scotchlite reflectors, honeycomb texture, waterproof with a roll closure, and the air release valve.
The original Seat-Pack is a substantial 16.5 liters while the M is a cozy 11 liters. Because the M is smaller, Ortlieb was able to make the seat post attachment a single velcro strap versus the original’s double. The benefits to a single seat post attachment are that it can now be used on a dropper post and it’s also more usable for petite cyclists who have limited space to attach a bag to the seat post. Price: $145
Another evolved product is the Handlebar-Pack S, again another shrunken version of the original. The S is 15.7 inches wide and 6.7 inches in diameter. Its short length makes it a good candidate for drop bars, with the capacity for up to 9 liters. The S has 3M Scotchlite reflectors, honeycomb texture, and is waterproof with roll closures. Price: $125
Ortlieb also has two brand new bags for 2018. One is the Frame-Pack Top Tube, a narrow frame bag that accommodates water bottle cages or rear shocks. The Frame-Pack is waterproof and offers 4 liters of volume. Price: $135
The second bag is the Cockpit-Pack, a waterproof bag positioned on the top tube to house a few small essentials in an easy-access location. It looks as though it could hold a cell phone, keys and a snack easily. Price: $55
All Ortlieb products come with a 5-year warranty.
Ortlieb also had their no-sew patches on-site. Patches are awesome, but holes in your waterproof gear are not. Thanks for the patch!
Keep Reading: Check out more coverage from the 2017 Sea Otter Classic here.
At Sea Otter Classic this year, Breezer was showing off a new gravel bike that will be available for 2018.
The Doppler bridges the gap between Breezer’s two current drop bar adventure bikes, the Inversion and the Radar. The Inversion is an all-road model while the Radar is more dirt oriented with 29 x 2.1 inch mountain bike tires.
The Doppler is designed for road, gravel and dirt touring and randonneuring, featuring tubeless-ready 27.5 inch wheels with stainless fenders, rack mounts and disc brakes.
There will be three different models available. The top two will be spec’d with traditional drop bars and Shimano Ultegra or Tiagra. The model pictured, called the Doppler Cafe, will feature SRAM Apex 1×11 and a 680 mm wide sweeper bar.
Pricing for the Doppler will hit under $900, while the Ultegra-equipped Doppler Team will roll out at just under $2,000 and the Doppler Pro with Tiagra 10 speed will come in at around $1250.
All models will be available this coming fall.
Keep Reading: Check out some other Breezer bikes we’ve covered here or take a look at more Sea Otter Classic 2017 content. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get quality news and stories delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!Tweet Print
The Sea Otter Classic is a huge bike festival held every year in Monterey, California. This year, there were over 400 brands represented in the expo, and while many of them were well-known giants in the bike industry, there were also plenty of the little guys, the family operations and brand new startups. At events like this, I’ve started making it a point to visit some of the lesser-known companies, because they’re often doing some pretty cool stuff. One of these brands was Fairdale Bikes, out of Austin, Texas.
The first thing that caught my eye as I walked by the Fairdale Bikes booth was the cardboard cutout of a rabbit that was strategically placed on a BMX cruiser.
Then I noticed all the cool bikes.
Fairdale specializes in making “simple and reliable bicycles to complement the styles of riding that we love to do because we want to be able to share the joy of a simple ride with you.”
Those styles of riding include long road rides, commuting, touring or just cruising around town. Right now, Fairdale offers nine different bikes, from the aforementioned BMX cruiser to a road bike to several different around-town bikes. At Sea Otter, they were also showing off a brand new gravel bike prototype called the Rockitship. The Rockitship can accommodate 40c tires and includes rack and fender mounts.
The Weekender is a commuter and light touring rig, available with either drop, flat or the Fairdale Archer bars. It’s equipped with a SRAM 9-speed drivetrain, 700c Continental Town Ride tires (or 27.5 inch on small and extra small frames) and Avid brakes built around a chromoly frame with rack and fender mounts.
The Taj is an “adult-sized” BMX bike that can shred some sick jumps but is also comfortable enough to ride around town. It’s designed to be durable and fun, with a steel frame, singlespeed drivetrain and 26 x 2.2 inch tires.
Focused more on ride quality over speed and racing, the Goodship is a steel road bike that’s designed to be ridden often and far. It features an ENVE carbon fork, Shimano Ultegra groupset, FSA components and Continental 25 mm tires.
The Fairdale crew all seemed like super chill, great people, and they even convinced me to walk away with one of their cool water bottles (not an easy feat when I already have too many bottles and limited room in my luggage).
I caught up with Meghan of Nutcase Helmets at this year’s Sea Otter Classic. Although Meghan could not go into detail, it looks like Nutcase is starting to introduce MIPS technology on some of their helmets. We will just have to wait and see how many models adopt this technology.
I also got my hands on The Zone helmet, a full coverage helmet with a bit of flex in the dome to be able to fit any type of head.
Nutcase is all about having fun while protecting your head. The Constellation helmet is a new addition to their fun lineup of helmets. For you stargazers out there, this helmet design features the Northern Hemisphere constellations.
Look for more Sea Otter coverage soon!Tweet Print
The 2015 Sea Otter Classic will be held April 16-19, 2015, at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, California, home to Formula 1 and past MotoGP racing, and the Bicycle Times editorial team will descend to scour the aisles for new product news.
This four-day cycling festival features a full schedule of amateur and professional events, where nearly 10,000 domestic and international athletes compete over four days. The Sea Otter Classic also plays host to the largest consumer bike exposition in North America with 411 exhibitors and 65,000 attendees, but how and when did it begin?
“You guys should put on a mountain bike race.” That simple statement from a Monterey bike shop owner in 1990 was the genesis for the Laguna Seca Challenge, later renamed the Sea Otter Classic.
Co-founders Frank Yohannan and Lou Rudolph hosted the inaugural Laguna Seca Challenge on April 6 and 7, 1991. The event had a total of 350 athletes and 150 spectators. In 1993, the Laguna Seca Challenge was renamed the Sea Otter Classic. By 2010, the Sea Otter Classic had become a four-day celebration of cycling welcoming more than 8,500 athletes and 50,000 fans. The event is now regarded as the bicycle world’s premiere festival and one of the world’s largest. The little mountain bike race has grown up.
Racers make the annual pilgrimage to Sea Otter to participate in cycling’s best competitive and non-competitive events. Nearly 200 classes of amateur road and mountain bike racing for all ages and skill levels will toe the line. Mountain bike races include cross-country, dual slalom, downhill, and more. Road cyclists can choose from road and circuit racing on the world-famous Laguna Seca Raceway. And for those who want to bike in less-competitive fashion, Sea Otter offers the Gran Fondo, with two distance options.
The Sea Otter Village, hub of the event, pulses with free bike demos, stunt shows, and live entertainment, plus kids’ playhouses and special activities for kids 12 and under. Other Village hotspots are an international food court and beer and BBQ garden, and the Sea Otter exposition area. The expo features hundreds of vendors who display new products, give out free samples, and offer terrific bargains. And in the Sea Otter Village, hundreds of professional road and mountain bike athletes are present to share their racing techniques with fans and to sign autographs.
Look for our new product reports here soon!
For more information, visit www.seaotterclassic.com or call (800) 218-8411.