The Coolest Bike Builds from the 2022 Sea Otter Classic
We caught up with the riders of the most unique bikes at the annual two-wheeled pilgrimage in Monterey, California
If you’re a bike geek, the only place to have been this past weekend was the 2022 Sea Otter Classic, an annual two-wheeled pilgrimage in Monterey, California. This year, the organizers went above and beyond to make the race courses better than ever for all types of riders, from the baggy short-wearing downhillers to the lycra-clad roadies. But if you couldn’t make the trip, don’t despair: we waded through the massive collection of bikes to bring you a unique collection of riders and their rigs.
Norco Sight VLT
When we first spotted this bike, we knew the owner had to be a geek. And sure enough he is. Jason Aven (@coghogyoda) of Morgan Hill, CA collects comic books and figurines and all sorts of geeky comic book paraphernalia. And Aven is obviously also a huge Star Wars fan. So much so that he had his friend at Stikrd wrap his Norco VLT in a vibrant Star Wars theme. (We forgot to ask, but we’re pretty sure this wrap and the “twin suns” decal depicts the skyline of Tatooine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker.)
Aven went for the big battery in his VLT and he is stoked he did—he’s been enjoying piling on the miles and spending more time riding the hills around his home with his mountain bike friends. “I love it,” said Aven. “I just love it.”
Kailen Swain (@the_kailen) and his friends had just finished their road race at Sea Otter and were enjoying an icy beverage when I noticed Swain’s blinged out Specialized Allez Disc road bike. “Most people think it’s custom, but it’s not,” said Swain, 25, a UX Designer from San Francisco, CA. “It’s from the Specialized Artist Series and it is controversial. People either love it or hate it—obviously I love it. It’s like a rainbow trout.” He says his friends can’t help but rib him a little bit about the loud paint scheme. His one friend keeps sending Swain links to a “fish fear me, women love me” baseball cap.
“It’s aluminum, very stiff, and feels like a rocket,” said Swain. “I love the sparkles.” Swain started by commuting to school four or five years ago and when he finished school, he had so much free time he joined a club, then joined the Fatcake race team. He says it’s great for his mental health. “Even during the work day if I’m feeling blocked I just go out for a ride and clear it out a little bit.”
Matthew Accarrino’s car doesn’t have a lot of miles on it and it just sits in his garage. It seems like the only time he drives it is when he has to drive somewhere to ride his bike, he tells us. He pedals more than he walks, mostly because his job as a chef leaves him standing around all the time. “My parents got us BMX bikes for Christmas when we were kids, but we found them sometime in November in the neighbor’s garage and rode them around for a month.” said Accarrino, 44, a professional chef. “And then on Christmas day we acted surprised when we got our new bikes.” We found Accarrino hanging out in the Ventum booth at Sea Otter handing out some of his “World Famous” cookies and pulling shots of espresso.
“I’m riding the Ventum GS1 gravel bike with a SRAM 2X drivetrain setup and an ENVE cockpit. I’m running Panaracer tires, I have Untapped Maple in my bottles and a Form RS cycling saddle, which is the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever ridden.” Ventum is a pretty new brand to the bicycle industry and they have gone with the direct to consumer model, where you can pick all your parts and pieces on the internet and have it delivered to you just about anywhere in the world. “The frames are light and responsive and the geometry is great.”
Evil Reckoning LB
We’re all sitting around our campfire at the Laguna Seca Raceway enjoying a cold beverage when the campground “police” pull up and we’re a little worried we’re being too loud. His patrol car is a sweet Evil Reckoning LB and with a sweet looking mountain bike like that, we figure we can’t be in too much trouble. Turns out Jake Otsuka isn’t so much the police, as he is the welcoming crew. “I’ve been mountain biking for 28 years,” said Otsuka, 46, of Walnut Creek, CA. “I bought my first mountain bike when I was 18 and the bike means a lot to me. It gives me mental clarity.”
Otsuka owns and operates Stix and Stones Mobile Bike Service and the Evil bicycle he is on is decked out with 170 millimeters of travel in the front and 160 in the rear, I9 hubs laced to E13 carbon rims with an XT 12-speed drivetrain and Hope Tech 3 V4 brakes. “It rips. It’s super nimble for a big travel 29er,” he said. “It’s just a fun bike to ride.”
Mondraker Super Foxy R
Jonna Johnsen (@jonnajohnsen) is a professional mountain biker and cancer survivor. “My new Mondraker mountain bike for 2021 arrived when I was just starting chemo,” said Johnsen, 30, who is from Denmark, but living in Mexico. “I got the bike on Tuesday, built it up and then I had to go to the hospital for chemotherapy the rest of the week. When I got home I immediately went for a ride. It wasn’t full on, but it was better than medicine.”
She came to Sea Otter to race the dual slalom and the downhill on her new Super Foxy R. The bike is a 29er with a little longer front triangle, allowing Johnsen to run a short stem while maintaining her preferred riding position. “The little bit of playfulness of this bike is important to me,” she said. “It fits me really well for the kind of riding I do, from pumptrack to dual slalom, a little bit of four-cross to enduro and downhill.”
In a sea of very similar carbon fiber bicycles, just about anyone who loves bikes would know Landon Holbert’s (@landonholbert) custom-made Crust Bombora stands out. When I ask him if it’s custom, he immediately breaks out in a giant grin and tells a backstory: “I won the ENVE All Terrain Challenge and this was my prize,” said Holbert, 26, a packaging designer from Portland, Oregon. “It was an epic challenge. A huge ride at an undisclosed location in Vermont.”
Holbert and four other hearty souls were whisked off to Vermont to complete a 72 miler, with 12,000 feet of climbing through what the challenge called “grave” but what Holbert called chunky, mucky, challenging terrain. “There were many points along the way where all of us were questioning if this was even a good idea,” said Holbert. But he has the beautiful bike, the story, and now he just awaits ENVE to launch the video on its YouTube channel. And now we wait, too.
Airborne Bicycles Slalom
When you spot a grown man wearing leopard print pants waiting to start his practice runs on the dual slalom course, you have to know his story. And thus we chased Jesse Burkes, 47, of Denver, Colorado off the mountain. “I work in IT for Denver Public Schools,” said Burkes. “I’ve had handlebars in my hands since I was two years old.” Burkes was riding one of only two slalom bikes Airborne bicycles has ever made, which he said was gifted to him by a friend when the bike was too big for him. “It’s a little bit different, it’s a mullet. And the front end sticks a lot better.”
A mullet usually refers to a particularly questionable hairstyle, but in this case it refers to a bicycle with two different wheel sizes: a 27.5 inch wheel in the front and a 26 inch wheel in the back for Burkes. “The front end sticks a lot better,” he said. “It is a little bit taller to keep the body position correct.” Burkes only does about two or three slalom races a year. “I’m ultra-competitive and I need somewhere to put it.”
We ran into Kate Wallace, 7, as she was about to start an afternoon of Little Bellas bike training near the dual slalom course. Little Bellas is a non-competitive program designed to make it fun and safe for girls to learn mountain bike skills. Kate has been around bikes with her mom Elise (@elisewallace), and dad, Skyler Wallace (@skylerwallace) of Orange, CA, since she was getting towed behind them at a very young age. At four, they all started going mountain biking together.
Cleary is a company that builds bikes for kids, and the Scout is a miniature version of the bike her parents ride. The Wallaces have decked out and lightened up Kat’s bike with a set of Stan’s Crest 24-inch wheels, Crank Brothers Cobalt Carbon handlebars, a Whisky Carbon Seatpost and Race Face color matched pedals. I like the color of my bike. I like pink.” said Kate. “I like speed.”
Sea Otter is packed with all the latest and greatest bicycles the industry has to offer, regardless of whether you are interested in road bikes, gravel bikes, downhill bikes, or cross country mountain bikes—they’re all here. But one bike seemed to be getting a lot of attention and it was Cyrus Bany’s Rat Rod. Bany, 44, of San Luis Obispo, Ca, was turning heads with his one-off creation built by a buddy of his at Cal-Poly. “I put it together to give it that kind of Old World effect,” said Bany. He’s been coming to the Otter since 1999.
“It’s unique for the D-shape spring in the front end, the downtube moves through two brass bushings and the frame has about an inch of flex. It really cuts a rail when you lean.” As Bany rolled through the expo, heads turned and eyes popped. We didn’t see any industry types clamoring around or running him down to try and copy his design, but he appeared to be having a blast nonetheless.