The Sea Otter Classic is now in its 30th year. During this period, the multi-day bicycle festival evolved – as did the bicycle itself. In 1991, when it first started, mountain bikes looked and behaved very differently. Remember the specialty Stumpjumpers that were popular back then? They were semi-rigid (meaning they had no suspension to absorb bumps); they had three sets instead of the now popular one or two; they had rim brakes instead of disc brakes; they had a straighter angle on the head tube (which wasn’t so good on steep descents); and they featured 26-inch wheels compared to the 29 or 27.5-inch wheels more common today.
The festival has grown and changed too. Back when the Sea Otter Classic, created by Frank Yohannan and Lou Rudolph, debuted in April 1991, it was all about mountain biking races and drew 350 riders and 150 spectators to Laguna Seca. Today, it has grown into one of the largest cycling festivals in the world, bringing together more than 9,800 riders and 74,000 spectators in a range of events and a large exhibition.
Another change: In August, Lifetime, Inc., a health and fitness events company, acquired the event (and renamed it, Lifetime Sea Otter Classic).
The postponement of the Sea Otter Classic 2021, which was postponed from May due to Covid-19, is proving timely for bicycle companies. The event usually takes place in the spring as a big showcase of new season gear for bike makers. But with a global bicycle shortage and shipping industry chaos linked to the pandemic, the later date is useful for bicycle buyers.
The bicycle industry has grown wildly during the pandemic, representing a form of outdoor recreation accessible to all ages and fitness levels while gyms are closed. E-bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, city bikes, and kids’ bikes all get people out in the fresh air. Bikes represent freedom, whether you’re riding a trail, hitting the grocery store or beyond.
Whether you’re one of those keen on getting around on two wheels or you’re already a seasoned bike enthusiast, a great way to experience bikes – and the latest equipment – is to take part in bike demonstrations at Sea Otter expo. . Head to the Ride Zone (see the festival guide for details) with your helmet on and have fun testing out your potential new attraction. And it’s not just an ordinary test occasion: you can take the bikes for a ride on the famous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, including the corkscrew.
Do not miss
RACE ON CIRCUIT: Road races can be difficult to watch because the bikes go by so fast. The circuit race remains on the Laguna Seca track with several laps, which greatly facilitates viewing. Hike up to the famous corkscrew for quick descents, or experience the climb before the corkscrew to see thrilling sprints with the attempt to pass.
DOUBLE SLALOM: The big show takes place downhill on two parallel tracks with high curves and big jumps, where the riders roll simultaneously. Crowds line the track waving flags, cheering on favorite runners and sipping cold Sierra Nevadas.
SHORT TRACK: This is a mountain bike race on a short hilly single track course with several laps. Pick a spot to watch near a sharp bend for the most exciting viewing. This event will feature fast races with insane passes, sprints in open areas and close failures in turns.
GRAVEL RACING (new this year): Gravel bikes recently hit the top of the bike popularity charts. Simply put, gravel bikes are a cross between road bikes and mountain bikes, and ride well on dirt and pavement. Classes start and end at Sea Otter Bridge and head to Fort Ord National Monument, a gravel biker paradise.
DOWNHILL: Just like the title suggests, runners run downhill. The course is full of jumps and berms for more excitement in high speed competition. Position yourself close to the stepping stones (but not too close – keep out of the way of fast cyclists) along the course for better visibility.