The Angry Singlespeeder: Has Sea Otter gotten too big?
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at email@example.com. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Sea Otter Classic. What started in 1991 as a local mountain bike race has grown into a festival of all things bicycle, including road, cyclocross, BMX, freestyle, cross-country, downhill, dual slalom, gran fondo (road and dirt), the increasingly popular enduro, and more. If it has two wheels and is pedal powered, chances are there’s a competition going on at Sea Otter that features it.
In addition to the multi-faceted parade of competition, Sea Otter is growing into a “must-attend” event for cycling industry brands. Thanks to its mid-April date, Sea Otter has become the de facto festival that kicks off the cycling season, welcoming more than 60,000 attendees over the course of four days.
For gearheads interested in seeing the latest and greatest ways to empty a bank account, Sea Otter has it all on display. Even my buddy Steve, who isn’t into cycling at all, loves hanging out at Sea Otter purely for the spectacle. When I asked him what he thought about his first Sea Otter experience, he just shook his head and said, “You white people sure are crazy about your bicycles.” More than a couple white people have mistaken Steve for Barry Bonds, who’s regularly seen strolling around Sea Otter.
In recent years, bigger brands have reduced their presence at Interbike (North America’s No. 1 cycling industry trade show, held annually in Las Vegas). But most of those companies still show up in force for Sea Otter. Thanks to an agreeable climate, a legendary outdoor venue at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and thousands of acres of BLM land abutting the venue, Sea Otter is everything that Interbike is not. It’s an industry event and bike festival wrapped into one where people can park their car, camp with friends, and never have to leave the venue all weekend. Plus, did I mention it’s not in Las Vegas.
Although the organizers behind Sea Otter have done an outstanding job of gathering consumers, athletes, celebrities and the industry in one picturesque venue only a few miles east of Monterey, I believe that there are some glaring issues that may threaten its future success.
Like any growing event, too much growth can be a bad thing. The main limitation with Sea Otter is Laguna Seca is only so big, and it can only accommodate so many people before it becomes a complete cluster. Simply looking at the week’s schedule of events shows how crammed matters are getting. It seems Sea Otter has acquired a bit of event ADD, with so much going on all at the same time, it’s impossible to focus on any one thing.
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