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Tips for Sea Otter Classic, a Celebration of Cycling


For our latest post about the

Sea Otter Classic, click here.


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The 2020 Sea Otter Classic was originally scheduled for April 16-19. Due to the global pandemicSOC was temporarily rescheduled for October 1-4, 2020.

On July 1, 2020 SOC announced that the 2020 SOC in-person event was cancelled, since the continuing pandemic did not allow SOC to meet its normal event health and safety standards. They also announced a September 2020 virtual experience, Sea Otter Play.

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The information below has 

not been updated

for 2020, or 2021.

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Sea Otter Classic is Monterey County’s world-renowned Celebration of Cycling that includes pro and amateur racing plus so much more!
For example, if you like to shop by bike, or on foot, and you’re looking for something bike-related, head to the Sea Otter Classic Expo. It’s North America’s largest bicycling exposition.
For a preview of Sea Otter fun, see a 38-photo feature story from Bicycling Monterey, “Scenes and Tales from Sea Otter Classic.

Registration for Sea Otter Classic opens November 1. Register at

On Friday evening of Sea Otter Classic week, most years, a new bicycling movie has a screening in Monterey. See what film was planned for 2020.

10 Tips for Sea Otter Classic

These tips were prepared for 2019; most will remain relevant for 2020.
  1. SOC schedule:
  2. Directions? Refer to
  3. The SOC “About” section includes FAQs, as well as history, weather (more weather tips below too), lost and found, child safety, dog policy and resources, and will-call info:
  4. Stroll through North America’s largest bicycle exposition, also referred to as cycling’s largest consumer trade show. Take a look, and grab Bicycling Monterey’s tips for locating them.
  5. Of course! Participate in or watch racing, from amateurs to world-class professionals. SOC races in 2019 include Pro Racing —Cross-Country, Downhill, Dual Slalom, Enduro, Road, Circuit, Criterium, and eMTB. For Amateur Racing—Cross-Country, Downhill, Dual Slalom, Enduro, Road, Circuit, Criterium, and eMTB.
  6. Enjoy a fully supported recreational ride—SOC’s Gran Fondo and Tour options in 2019 include (choose from four): the 49-mile Gran Fondo Pacifico, 91-mile Gran Fondo Carmelo, 19-mile Mountain Bike Tour, or 29-mile Gravel Grinder Tour. Details:
  7. Sea Otter events and rides in 2019 of particular interest to women, courtesy of Alexis Morgan of Girls Rock Mountain Bike group in Santa Cruz:
  8. Girls age 8-13: Little Bellas Day Camp at the Sea Otter Classic; when registration is full, sign up for wait list:
  9. Boys and girls twelve and under find plenty of activities for kids all four days at the Sea Otter Classic. Start with:
  10. Sea Otter Classic includes everything from yoga classes to a beer and BBQ garden. Here’s a sampling of some of the festival fun:
  11. To contact an SOC team member:

Earth Care at Sea Otter Classic

Bike valet stations are available for those who bike or bike-and-ride. See “Directions by Bike,” “Complimentary Bike Valet,” and other transportation tips in SOC’s “Getting In and Around” section.

Sea Otter Classic encourages making use of refillable water stations to reduce the use of single-use plastic. (Need some motivation? Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s info on plastic pollution.)
Many people bring their own tableware too. Reduce, reuse, recycle bicycle, love your planet!

Sea Otter Classic is a rain or shine event.

Check out our weather tips further down this post too.

Before we go on to more Sea Otter Classic tips, a reminder:

Are you mountain biking, whether training for Sea Otter Classic, or just like to mountain bike for any reason? Please show your love for the land, including when we’re lucky enough to get rain. “Rain is good. Eroded trails aren’t. trail officer Drew Perkins explains how to be a force for good and not evil when mountain biking after rain.”

Welcome to

Monterey County!

One way Monterey County shows its bike-love is by the hundreds of spots countywide that provide discounts, on Thursdays year-round, to people who help HER / Mother Earth by biking. That includes on Sea Otter Classic’s Opening Day!
Here’s the list of all participating businesses and organizations in Monterey County:

9th Anniversary Edition – HER Helmet Thursdays Guide – Participants as of 23 November 2018

Why walk your bike in the pedestrian bridges and such at Sea Otter Classic? Because approximately 75,000 attendees are typically expected.

3 Seaside teens - walk your bike (2)

Where is Sea Otter Classic?

In case you missed it: Sea Otter’s primary venue (where most events take place) was renamed in 2018:

“Hey, I thought we were going to Mazda Raceway!”

“Nope. It’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.”

What’s up with that? Effective April 2018, “Laguna Seca Racetrack — home of world-renowned bicycle, motorcycle, and automobile events —was renamed WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Find helpful tips on this website? Make a contribution.

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Links above  were updated for 2019. For any later updates or changes, go to
Advisory: was redesigned by their new IT team for the 2017 season. On this and many other websites, any links below to SOC’s website may now lead to pages that first appear irrelevant, or to “no longer found” results. How to deal with that?
(1) If using the search window, you may find that—as with the example directly below—a search hit there first appears irrelevant. However, if you scroll down the “hit” page, you’ll usually find the desired info on a subpage.

For example, the page formerly known as “Visit Monterey County” was now under SOC’s “Riding Your Bike” info. Once there, it’s necessary to scroll down to the subpage dubbed “Riding Monterey Trails & Backroads,” where you’ll find SOC’s tips formerly titled “Visit Monterey County.” 

(2) Instead of SOC’s search window, you may get better results using a search engine, such as Google or Duck Duck Go. If so, type + whatever you’re searching for.

For example, if you’re looking for info about dogs at Sea Otter Classic, type: dogs

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Sea Otter Classic

Monterey County’s world-renowned

Celebration of Cycling!

Sea Otter Classic isn’t just about racing. Far from it! Read on…

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For some of Bicycling Monterey’s posts from previous years at Sea Otter Classic, click here. You must might see someone you know!

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Are Sea Otter Classic’s festival passes beyond your family’s budget?

Contact the Sea Otter Classic Foundation about volunteer opportunities. Wonder if they have enough volunteer spots? A Sea Otter Classic 25th anniversary newsletter stated, “People who donated their time to volunteer at Sea Otter in 2014: 2,000.”

Throughout your stay in Monterey County, when you’re looking for bike-related resources, start with Among this site’s 660+ posts and pages are a 33-section Monterey County Bicycling Resources directory and a 20-section Tips for Bicycling Monterey County guide.
Monterey County does not yet have a bicycling coalition, and the Bicycling Monterey site serves as the county’s bike information hub. See About Bicycling Monterey to learn more about this grassroots effort. To contribute, and for FAQs, click here.

Who ya gonna call?

For questions about Sea Otter Classic, contact an SOC team member:

Questions about biking Monterey County?

Contact Bicycling Monterey founder Mari Lynch, a Monterey County resident and local business owner since 1981. Phone Mari anytime with questions or for additional info.

Can’t reach Mari immediately and have an urgent question? Other reliable help is available from Jan Valencia, the Velo Club Monterey Answer Man. Contact Jan via the VCM website: You can sometimes catch Jan on Twitter too: @jvalen – 

Jan Valencia

For additional contacts, refer to Monterey County Bicycling Resources and Bike Community Leaders.


Local news sources

Besides Bicycling Monterey, where else to look for bicycling and other news?

What’s the buzz? 

The solar-powered, local, independent Monterey County Weekly is the largest circulation newspaper in the county. It comes out late Wednesday nights and is available free at newsstands, on the Weekly’s website, and in a mobile edition. You’ll find SOC stories such as Nic Coury’s “Behind the scenes at races, mechanics work to tweak bikes to their fastest and safest,” and Asaf Shalev’s “Skepticism about racing can help you choose the right bike and actually enjoy riding it.”

Voices of Monterey Bay is nonprofit, multicultural news source launched by veteran local journalists Mary Duan, Joe Livernois, and Julie Reynolds Martinez in October 2017.

Monterey County Herald is a daily, a Digital First paper in print and online.

The Salinas Californian is a Gannett paper, in print and online; Gannett also publishes the weekly Off 68 and the Spanish-language El Sol.

Carmel Magazine65 Degrees, and the weekly newspaper Carmel Pine Cone are available free on newstands. They also have online editions.

Additional Monterey County Visitor Information

The Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau provides the See Monterey website and As their “Top Ten Bike Rides” post indicates, “For more information on bicycling in Monterey County, visit Bicycling” (a.k.a.

Make Sea Otter a part of your family’s history

The local family pictured below even made racing Sea Otter part of their homeschooling graduation requirements.  Dad also helped prepare the track in 1991 for the first Sea Otter Classic, then called Laguna Seca Challenge.

Kira, Aaron, and Sieg Magenheim

At the 10th Anniversary Sea Otter Classic, 2000. 

For an update on the family, click here.

Photo courtesy of Kay Magenheim

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NOTE: Although most of the information below is relevant for any year, it has not all been updated for 2019.

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Sea Otter Classic week is a fantastic time to visit Monterey County, and for locals as well as tourists to feast on the biking scene! You’ve heard about the county’s Car Week? Well, this is Bicycle Week, with Sea Otter Classic and Bicycle Leadership Conference both taking place this week.
Sea Otter Classic is a Celebration of Cycling for people of all ages interested in all types of bicycling. You thought Sea Otter Classic was just about racing? Incredible races, sure—including about 9,600 pro and amateur athletes. But Sea Otter also has festival activities for all ages (yup, kids too), recreational rides, North America’s largest bike exposition, and more. With about 75,000 attendees, you might think of it as one big bike party! Below are dozens of tips for Sea Otter Classic as well as tips on CA bike laws, Monterey County sidewalk biking ordinances, and much more to help make SOC week a great time for all!

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For the latest information, visit —including SOC’s newsletters in the media section. Sea Otter is also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Tips below were for 2016, but most will still remain relevant for (keeping in mind the advisory above about SOC’s website redesign in 2017 resulting in some broken links).
Click here for a few Expo scenes from April 17, 2015.
Below: “Thanks, Dad, and I can see just fine:  I see the world will be a better place when more people bike!”

Anneka Esborg often comes with her father, Erik Esborg, of People for Bikes.

Find useful info here? Contributions in any amount are appreciated.

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Kira, Aaron, Sieg 2000 SO racers

Things to know

about Sea Otter Classic

Advisory: The list below was last updated in 2016. In addition to any changes in activities, etc. for subsequent years, be aware that—as mentioned earlier in this post—SOC redesigned their website in 2017, resulting in many broken links on this and other websites. Make use of the updated list above, 10 Tips for SOC 2019.
  • Sea Otter reports that one of the top SOC hotline questions is “How do I get there.” Here ya go: directions, parking, and tips for those who prefer to ditch the car.
  • Festival hours, including the Expo, are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thurs, Fri, and Sat; and 9-4 on Sun. A very few Sea Otter activities may be scheduled to begin shortly after 5; click here for detailed schedules on the Sea Otter Classic website.
  • A new smartphone app debuted at SOC in 2015. Read about it in the 3/19/15 Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN). See “Sea Otter goes high tech with smartphone app,” and note the closing remarks about Monterey County Parks infrastructure updates and public WiFi. (To save time and data, it’s recommended to download the app before coming to Laguna Seca.)
  • Races? Oh, yeah! Amateurs as well as pros may register to participate in most races. You may be curious to read some stats about the evolution of Sea Otter racing; click here.
  • Not a racer? SOC races are exciting for spectators too. Check registered riders lists, such as Women’s Downhill, to watch your favorites–both amateurs and world-class professionals. You can see who’s participating in the Gran Fondo recreational rides too.
  • Recreational riders: Participate in Sea Otter’s Gran Fondos,   fully supported recreational rides. The Gran Fondo is for adults, and, when accompanied by parent or guardian, all routes may be appropriate for riders ages 12-17 as well. 
  • Recreational riders: New in 2016 is the Raleigh Open Road Tour.
  • Girls age 8-13 can register for one, two, or three days of Little Bellas Day Camp at the Sea Otter Classic, led by pro rider Lea Davison and her sister Sabra Davison.  Scholarships available–don’t delay.
  • Women’s outreach has become integral to Sea Otter. Click here to stay up on 2016 outreach to girls and women who bike.
  • Boys and girls age 12 and under find plenty of free activities for kids all four days at the Sea Otter Classic. Check the Kids Outreach section.
  • The Festival & Expo section of the Sea Otter Classic website includes everything from free yoga classes to the Sierra Nevada Beer & BBQ Garden.
  • Dog Policy and tips on kennels, pet-friendly lodging, and dog-friendly beaches are included on the Sea Otter website.
  • Have questions? Sea Otter has answers.
  • If you are participating as an athlete for the first time, see Lee McCormack’s  tips, “Your First Sea Otter:  What to Expect.”
  • SOC recognizes the growing interest in electric and electric-assist bicycles. New for 2016 are e-bike races. (And if you’re riding an e-bike elsewhere in Monterey County, refer to local regulations in Bicycling Monterey’s bike rentals section; click here, then scroll to “What about non people-powered bikes?”)
  • In 2016, SOC races are not all about lycra! Check out the Brompton World Championships. Men and women will race “in sport jackets, ties, and collared shirts (or the equivalent).” Also new in 2016 is the first-ever at SOC eBike racing.
  • As of 3/24/16, there are already 419 exhibitors registered for SOC’s Expo.

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  • Volunteers: Want a free 4-day Festival Pass, and other benefits? Contact the Sea Otter Classic Foundation about volunteer opportunities. Wonder if they have enough volunteer spots? In 2014, for example, there were two thousand volunteers! 
  • Children: Sea Otter very much welcomes children; besides the fun of outreach to kids activities, children 12 and under are free every day.
  • Military: Are you a military veteran recovering from a service-related disability, a retired veteran, or active duty personnel? Check out Sea Otter’s Veterans Program regarding discounted or complimentary passes for you and your family members every day.
  • Athletes: If you’re registered as an amateur or pro racer at Sea Otter, or to participate in a recreational ride (i.e., Gran Fondo, Mountain Bike Tour, or Open Road Tour), your admission is free every day.
  • And of course, you may purchase a one-day or four-day Festival Pass.

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Help Sea Otter walk more lightly on the land, and sea

Sea Otter encourages you to reduce, reuse, recycle–including by bringing a reusable mug, cloth napkin, etc. to reduce use of disposables.  See the  Food Court and Sierra Nevada Beer & BBQ Garden pages.IMG_0076

In case you missed it in the Expo notes above: Bring a reusable bag to haul your swag. Single-use plastic bags are no longer allowed in most of Monterey County, including unincorporated areas of the county, e.g., Laguna Seca. This reduces litter and helps keep plastic out of the Monterey Bay and other waterways. (Hey, we don’t want any sea otters choking on plastic!) Ask local White House Champion of Change Sarah Mae Nelson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium if you’d like to learn more. Sarah is on Twitter @snelson4618.

Sea Otter wants to help you bike to or around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, if your schedule and stamina permit.  How? Visit SOC’s Ditch the Car webpage for tips.   And the Parking page includes tips for bikes as well as vehicles. 

Every mile of biking beats a mile of driving! That’s true for the health of our planet, as well as for personal health.  Like Sea Otter, the City of Monterey and other local cities encourage transportation alternatives.  Check out Monterey’s info on the environmental impact of cars.

If you’re able, please bike or bike-and-ride as much as possible throughout the four-day festival and your entire time in Monterey County.  Sea Otter knows:  This is an especially fabulous time for bike-lovers to visit Monterey County, including enjoying the bikeability of the neighborhoods surrounding many popular attractions.Vera of VCM 12 Nov 2012 2439 (2)

While your biking is benefiting the Earth, there are other benefits to you, among them:  Visiting history spots, farmers markets, and shopping districts by bicycle means you can avoid any traffic jams, get free and close parking, and have much more fun.


  • Big Air Bag

Monterey County support for people who bike

One way we show our love for people who bike is providing Tips for Bicycling Monterey County.

Another way is by providing additional resources to help you and your buddies stay safe and legal while having fun!

Cath and Jan at SOC 4-17-11 DSC00238

And remember: Monterey County’s special “red carpet” for people who bike will be out on Thursday, Sea Otter Classic’s Opening Day.

Hundreds of Monterey County businesses and organizations—participants in The HER Helmet Thursdays Project—encourage bicycling by offering discounts, on Thursdays year-round, to people who bike. And you bet. That includes on Sea Otter’s Opening Day. We wouldn’t think of making that day a restricted date!
Download the list of participating spots: 9th Anniversary Edition – HER Helmet Thursdays Guide – Participants as of 23 November 2018 (For the most current list anytime, visit the Listings/FAQs page.)
What’s The HER Helmet Thursdays Project? It was created and launched in Monterey County, as a public service, in 2009. This long-term ecology-economy sustainability project is also appropriate for other geographic locations. It is the first such discounts-for-bicyclists project in the U.S. and remains the nation’s largest. Click here to learn more.


Overnight lodging and camping, plus showers for day visitors:

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Coming early? Staying after? More things to do

  • Master Calendar for Bicycling Monterey County includes activities and events for visitors and locals of all ages.
  • Going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium? MBA encourages you to bike to reach the Aquarium.
  • The National Steinbeck Center is in Salinas, the Monterey County seat and its largest city. The nearby Steinbeck House is a HER Helmet Thursdays participant; this boyhood home of John Steinbeck is a special place for lunch or tea.
  • Among Bicycling Monterey’s tips are specific tips for biking local communities, such as Carmel and Carmel Valley, Castroville, Greenfield, Pebble Beach, Salinas–including the Alisal/East Salinas, and Seaside.
  • For more local attractions, and the bikeability of surrounding neighborhoods, scroll down the 2017 SOC’s “Riding Your Bike” page to “Riding Monterey Trails & Backroads” [a misnomer for that page]; there you’ll find SOC’s outline of Monterey County tips.  And on the Bicycling Monterey website, you might start with Where to Bike.
  • Consider a side trip to Pinnacles National Park on the Wednesday before or Monday after Sea Otter. Pinnacles is just east of the Salinas Valley, and the park’s west entrance is in Monterey County. Click for FAQs. You can bike at Pinnacles on surface roads or in the campgrounds; the trails are for hiking only. Spring is a favorite time to hike, rock climb, or just sit and meditate with beautiful panoramic views.  During Sea Otter week, you’ll likely still see spring wildflowers.
  • In Bicycling Monterey’s bike maps section, you’ll find a variety of local (and other) bike maps. These include the newly updated in 2016 countywide bike map from Transportation Agency for Monterey County. And here’s a unique map for people who bike in Monterey County;  click on any of those hundreds of HER Helmet Thursdays spots to access bike-there tips for many of these hot spots for people who bike.
  • Use Bicycling Monterey’s bike-and-ride tips if you’re using a transportation booster like the Monterey-Salinas Transit buses, the Monterey Airbus, Amtrak, or even your own vehicle’s bike rack to reach your Monterey County destinations. 
  • Monterey Regional Airport tips.
  • For more fun things to do, check the media and other resources at the end of this post, or contact me.

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Tips for Bicycling Monterey County–a comprehensive guide

Refer to Tips for Bicycling Monterey County, a 20-section guide, including these and more:

Sea Otter Classic is for all ages

Sea Otter Classic is for singles, couples, and families of all sorts. It’s for a gal pal getaway, for hanging with the guys, for rallying your fitness buddies for renewed inspiration, or for kicking back with your neighbors for some party time. Many even make it a family reunion destination. Why not? Locals know SOC promises an action-packed four-day festival, and bike-loving visitors find it a great time to visit Monterey County!

SOC has activities of interest for toddlers to elders. Examples: Sea Otter Village activities. Click here for pictures of children at Sea Otter, and click here for moms and babies at Sea Otter. What? You think elders don’t bike? Monterey County has plenty of evidence to the contrary. Click here for examples–and know that you’ll find many of those faces at SOC too.


Weather updates – National Weather Service Bay Area:

Monterey County Office of Emergency Services:

Also for weather:

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Bicycle Leadership Conference

We know you’re looking in on the Sea Otter tips, planning to enjoy SOC while you’re in town too! And we have tips for Bicycle Leadership Conference attendees as well.

Feel free to phone Bicycling Monterey with questions.

The Bicycling Monterey website and projects were established May 2009 and are still an entirely volunteer gig for Bicycling Monterey’s founder as 2019 begins.  Contributions and volunteers are welcome and appreciated.

Some of the info in this post was first published in 2012 and was last updated in 2016. The early portion of this post includes info updated for 2019—including updated links. This post was republished on November 17, 2020 to alert readers to the tentative Sea Otter Classic 2021 dates announced this week.

This post was published on 17 November 2020. One or more changes last made to this post on 15 April 2023.

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