The Sea Otter ‘Show,’ Part I

The Sea Otter ‘Show,’ Part I

At last week’s Sea Otter Classic I saw a lot and very little of it was racing. And that’s not to say I didn’t watch any of the racing; it’s just a testament to how much is going on at the Sea Otter. I’ve yet to hear of another event on the planet that offers races in more different disciplines than does Sea Otter. Yet for all the racing going on (and let’s not forget two gran fondos), the expo has taken on a life of its own. Starting last year I began hearing my contacts wish me a “good show.” And to a certain degree the event is now more a show than a race. The expo used to be a way to distract yourself between races—whether you were watching or competing. Now the expo is so big that the only way one person can visit each exhibitor over the four days of the event is by doing drive-bys. Neither good nor bad, just is.


Sea Otter has become the unofficial spring debutante ball for all products that weren’t ready for Eurobike and Interbike. Some companies, like SRAM and Shimano have realized that from a PR perspective, it’s smart to save some stuff for Sea Otter so that not every new product introduction happens in the same month.

Shimano took this year’s event to introduce the new iteration of its groundbreaking standard bearer Deore XT. Nevermind its 30-plus year history, this is the group that made mountain biking possible, the most popular group in the history of the sport, the one that while pricey has always delivered reliable performance. The new M8000 group takes many of the advancements found in the M9000 XTR group, adds a meal or two and cuts the price into … well, in two, or thereabouts. IMG_9745

Like XTR, Deore XT will be available in both cross country and trail variants. The cross country group will be 1×11 and offer a few parts that are slimmer, like the pedals, while the trail edition will offer both double and triple crank sets and a larger platform around the pedal. IMG_9741

The XT rear derailleur is based on the Saint design and includes an adjustable-tension clutch to reduce or eliminate chain slap and missed shifts that come from it. Clutch tension affects shift force which is why Shimano kept it adjustable. And can we mention just how attractive this group is? They spent some real time on making sure the industrial design on this group kept it looking unified as well as attractive.

The XT brakes are virtually unchanged from the previous iteration. Most of the gains have been relative to the drivetrain. 

M9000 XTR may have introduced the world to the 11-speed 11-40 cassette, but XT goes it one (or two) better with the 11-speed 11-42. That pie plate that’s bigger than most road group’s small ring is forged from titanium, hence the gray color. IMG_9748

Shimano’s other big news at Sea Otter was its new STePS e-bike system. In addition to showing off the new Raleigh model featuring STePS, they showed off some custom rigs that were on display at NAHBS. My nickel opinion on this is that whatever you may have thought about the sustainability of the e-bike market, Shimano’s presence will help legitimize it and increase its reach. IMG_9734

SRAM’s biggest news at Sea Otter was the launch of Force 1 and Rival 1, their new one-by drivetrains that replace last year’s CX1. It’s easy to think this is gimmicky if you live in a place where hills are measured in kilometers, not meters. I’ve ridden in a great many states and I can report that a 50×26 low gear would be plenty low enough for many (though not all) riders in large swaths of the country. IMG_9735

The drivetrain has an obvious application for triathlon and time trial bikes, but while that’s just a niche, I can see many dealers in flattish places (like Memphis) stocking bikes equipped with this group. IMG_9754

The one wheel set. Like Sauron’s ring, Zipp’s new variation on its 30 wheel set does everything but make sandwiches. It’s as aero as a 26mm-deep rim can be, features a 21mm inner width, is disc-specific and tubeless ready. For anyone looking for a road bike wheel for use on unpaved surfaces, this wheel may offer a blend of performance and reliability as yet unmatched.  IMG_9755

Wahoo can’t leave a good thing alone. I’m a big fan of their Bluetooth chest strap, the TICKR. It pairs easily with most Bluetooth devices, but now they have introduced the TICKR X, a $99 chest strap that includes an accelerometer. The accelerometer has the ability to tell your cadence—it’s that sensitive. Imagine, no more pesky magnets or pickups getting whacked by spokes. Also, if you do circuit training, Wahoo purchased the 7-Minute Workout. Pair the TICKR X with your Bluetooth-enabled smart phone and it will track the number of reps you do as you proceed through the circuit of the 7-Minute Workout thanks to the 7 Minute App. The app will give you objective record of your performance. IMG_9749

Pinarello has introduced a new bike, the Dogma K8-S, which you may have seen in action at some of this year’s classics as ridden by Team Sky. IMG_9750

Pinarello says the Dogma Suspension System 1.0 adds about 95 grams to the weight of the frame, which is said to weigh in just under a kilogram for the 56cm size (990g, frame only). The hardware for the shock took up just enough space that the rear brake required a direct mounting on the seatstays. Compared to the F8, the Dogma K8-S features a longer head tube, more trail and a longer wheelbase (longer front center and longer chainstays); as a result, it looks to be more of the grand touring flavor of bikes, which is what Pinarello was always known for.

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  1. Rob

    Didn’t Trek try the rear suspension gig about 12 or 13 years ago? I seem to recall that failed miserably…

    Don’t have high expectations for that Dogma K8-S, even with Sky’s endorsement.

  2. Steevo

    I’ve been using a tckr x to track my commutes and workouts since xmas and I have been really happy with it. I was able to a little objective verification of the cadence over the winter since I ride a single speed when there is ice and snow, using the gps to track my speed and knowing my gear ratio I found the cadence to be within about 5% on smooth pavement but it went all to hell when the surface got rough or if you are descending really fast.

    It is great for running though and the running efficiency metrics it tracks are kind of cool.

  3. Author

    Carson: there won’t be any preload on the suspension to speak of, so I think that hard braking won’t result in any noticeable effect on the suspension. Of course, that’s just conjecture until I ride it.

    Andrew: Well spotted. I meant to double-check that. Fixing in 5, 4, 3….

  4. AusTex

    I’m no engineer but I am skeptical about all of these rear seatstay shock absorber systems. If its a comfort factor its cheaper to put a spring or damper in the seat post and be done with it.

    1. Author

      AusTex: I’ve ridden seatpost shock absorbers. They suck in a way that would make the folks at Hoover marvel. Your distance from the BB is constantly changing and it doesn’t actually result in the wheels following the road surface to any improved degree. As to the comfort point, what you gain in comfort is offset by the bobbing above the BB. Do you remember the Softride stem? That went away for a single, obvious reason; to make a bike handle better, suspending the rider doesn’t help.

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