The Sea Otter Classic, Part I

The Sea Otter Classic, Part I

Holy cow. With the demise of Interbike and a complete inability to get on my motel’s (or Starbucks) wifi, I’m faced with reviewing the entirety of my experience at Laguna Seca in several hundred photos. The expo, which now seems to dwarf the racing, grew by 30 percent over last year, making for such a big event that even the average attendee would have trouble visiting all the exhibitors, even if they didn’t stop to speak with anyone.

I’m going to start with the biggest news of the event and work backward from there.

So we’re going to begin with the new Niner full-suspension gravel bike. The Niner MCR RDO is the first production full-suspension gravel bike. It features 50mm of Niner’s CVA suspension paired with Fox’s AX 40mm fork. The bike is exceptionally thorough in design. In addition to full-sleeve internal cable routing for shifter cables and rear brake hose, there’s also a sleeve for a dropper post for full internal routing of the cable. The MCR shares much of its geometry with the RLT; I’m told it will handle much like its sister.

I’m sad to say some people have already criticized the bike for pushing technology on suffering masses. I think it’s a terrific concept and one I’m very excited to ride. Forgetting for a moment the needs and desires of racers, if we just consider what suspension is meant to do in its purest form—that is, to keep the wheels in better contact with the ground—this bike is likely to increase control and thereby confidence, for any rider who gives it a try.

There is a lockout for the rear suspension, as well as a switch on the fork that seems like it will be pretty easy to reach. And the remote for the dropper post is in a dynamite location. Cheers to KS on that little innovation.

The next most impressive item I saw was a new fitting system coming out of Italy. It won’t be cheap—in the neighborhood of $30k—but its ability to help a shop achieve a solid fit quickly wowed me. The system is called ID Match and starts with motion capture from a video game system. No reflective pads or anything are necessary, which eliminates the opportunity for error on the part of the fitter. The system captures several different poses of the rider before putting them on the fit bike. While the bottom bracket is fixed, the saddle and handlebar move in a quick and fluid motion. One of the challenges of working with more static systems, like the original Serotta fit cycle was that after you had the rider climb off the bike and you moved everything and put them back on, they often couldn’t tell which position felt better because five minutes had passed since they’d last pedaled.

The system evaluates flexibility and takes into account things like back or shoulder pain. It also analyzes how the knee tracks and can indicate if a rider needs wedges in or below their shoes.

The system is cloud-based and includes an incredible database of bikes with the stack and reach for each size. It also includes other factors that affect fit like the saddle, bar and stem, so that once it has scanned a rider, it will recommend the best size in a Specialized Tarmac or a Santa Cruz Stigmata.

A system like this isn’t going to replace a first-rate fitter. It will never be as smart as a knowledgeable human being with 10 or 15 years of experience. However, I’ve received so many bad fits from alleged fit experts that I see this system as something that has the potential to reliably establish a good fit for a rider, and do it quickly. Speed is attractive for time-crunched clients and for shops that want to make fitting more affordable so they can provide it to more clients.

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