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Scenes and Tales from the 2017 Sea Otter Classic

In this post see Monterey County visitors and residents who were among the approximately 70,000 attendees at Sea Otter Classic, a Celebration of Cycling, for the 27th event (April 20-23, 2017). The post includes 38 photos along with news snippets and links to more stories.
Save the dates for the next SOC:

Below: The Clifton family of Salinas—the Monterey County seat and its largest city, birthplace and boyhood home of literary great John Steinbeck— dig Little Bellas!

Volunteers from Velo Club Monterey, and other volunteers, provided bicycle parking service at Subaru’s bike valet station.

People at SOC reduced their use of plastic, thanks to SOC title sponsor Subaru’s water refill stations. Learn more about plastic in Bicycling Monterey’s tips on Monterey County beaches.

Car culture and bicycle culture sometimes seem at odds, but Bicycling Monterey reminds that most of us, at least some of the time, don’t just ride bikes. Most of us do a lot of bike-and-ride, using motor vehicles, too.

At events such as Subaru Sea Otter Classic, Deadend Magazine’s Burrito Bike Rides, and the American Legion Low-Rider Bike Show, car culture and bike culture come together to maximize fun!

In SOC’s Expo…

A partner of Sea Otter, Park Tools, brought “Use Me” bike maintenance stations, which were placed at various locations throughout the Expo. How thoughtful, since bicycle maintenance is vital.

Park Tools were among the items purchased for the Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center bike repair class, which began its 6th year in April 2017. Founded by Bicycling Monterey, the class coordinator since August 2014 is a veteran instructor since July 2012, Luciano Rodriguez.
At SOC 2017, Luciano’s 15th consecutive year to race Sea Otter Classic, he raced cross country and singlespeed. Does Luciano train hard? He rides his bike daily for transportation, one of multiple reasons he received a Transportation for Monterey County Transportation Excellence Award. If it’s an activity with a bicycle, he likes it; he digs bike polo too.

Photo below, of Luciano, provided courtesy of Catherine Flores.

Kids just wanna have fun—on the bike or off. Raleigh Electric and iZip get it. When you’re ready for a break from the saddle, a tabletop game, surrounded by Sea Otter buzz, can be wicked cool.

When I met Conrad of Brompton Bikes, we were in agreement: Bromptons are a great option for a bike-and-ride trip, especially when bike racks on Monterey-Salinas Transit buses are full. (Likewise on any busy public transit when it’s necessary, and allowed, to take a bicycle inside.)
I told Conrad too that I loved Brompton putting on the first “bike fashionistas” ride at SOC in 2016. See Mark C. Anderson’s report in the Monterey County Weekly.

Next photo? It’s the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) booth.  And for a snippet about NICA’s executive director, Austin McInerny, scroll down this post to my soaring bird photo.

When Matt Sizemore of KION phoned me about doing an SOC 2017 interview, I wasn’t available this time. And I was so pleased I could refer him to George Garibay of Palma School.

Here in Monterey County, high school students who benefit from NICA’s advocacy include those on bike teams at Palma and at Salinas High School, as well as home/unschoolers who bike with Monterey Bay Lightfighters Composite. Bicycling Monterey often features those teams; start here for links to my posts: Or just jump to Bicycling Monterey’s 32-section Monterey County bicycling resources directory to grab contact info for each of the teams; see section 7, “High School Cycling Teams.” 

It’s way cool that Matt’s 4/24 KION story, “Sea Otter Classic’s tradition rolls on,” includes Palma student Isaac Thomas. The success of high school mountain bike teams isn’t only due to the energy of those in the saddle. Isaac, a senior at Palma, is the team’s first captain. As George told me, Isaac is a great role model who put his own cycling aspirations aside to lead the team.
It was also a pleasure to refer Matt to pro racer Eamon Lucas, a graduate of Pacific Grove High School. Eamon won the 2017 SOC Crit. He wasn’t available for a prompt  interview, but Eamon is a former resident of Belgium, and guess who else ended up in Matt’s story? Martin Maes of Belgium, a pro racer for GT Factory Racing.

NICA will be happy to hear that a high school team will receive a Transportation Agency for Monterey County Golden Helmet Award, part of local Bike Month celebrations: namely, Salinas High School Cowboys Racing MTB Team—including many who raced SOC 2017. (See pg 4: As stated by longtime North Monterey County High School instructor D.L. Johnson, currently TAMC bike-ped committee rep for Carmel: Recognizing a school team will hopefully encourage other schools to support bicycling more too. See Bicycling Monterey’s sampling of biking support for Monterey County’s elementary, middle, and high school students: One thing I dig about our local high school MTB teams: proportion of girls racing continues to go up; see my 2013 post for some history on figures.

Okay, enough about NICA and high school bike teams! Read on for other folks at  SOC 2017.

Lots of people want to help get more kids on bikes. Among them is Scott Fitzgerald, the coauthor with Jannine Fitzgerald of B Is for Bicycles, illustrated by Kathleen Hanson. Hearing of Bicycling Monterey’s support for public libraries, Scott contributed a copy of their book.

Among the various goals of Brian Drayton and Spokes Family Bike Collective, pictured below, is to help educate people about the value of balance bikes for young children.

Here in Monterey County, a new grassroots effort—Family Biking Monterey County—was launched in October 2016 by a husband and wife team who offer balance bike camps and other activities and support. FBMC is among the resources listed in Bicycling Monterey’s 32-section Monterey County bicycling resources directory.

We appreciate there are many different ways that people support children and teens biking.

“But I want to ride your bike,” this little guy tells mountain bike cross country racer Harold Russell.

Monterey Off Road Cycling Association’s booth was manned by MORCA volunteers. MORCA is organizer of Monterey County’s annual Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day in October.  Scroll down to learn more about MORCA.

Michael Baroni and Natasha Baroni-Barriger of Off the Grid pedaled bike-powered smoothies.

Besides being owner of Off the Grid, Mike is owner of Green Pedal Couriers of Monterey, which he established in 2009.

June 3-4, 2017, look for a new Sea Otter Classic presence in Girona, Spain, as this local sign announces.

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Support the Bicycling Monterey work.

Click here for payment options and FAQs.

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Ready, Set, Go

Who is Sea Otter Classic for? Even some local residents have mistaken impressions about Sea Otter Classic. Many think SOC is only about bicycle racing—and beyond that, people often think it’s only about mountain bike racing.
Sea Otter Classic racing is indeed extraordinary, including its mountain bike races, as pro racer Laura Slavin of KTM Factory Racing can attest. At SOC, she’s competing with some of the world’s best.
Chatting with Laura on April 23, 2017 as she was preparing to depart, I learned she’s from New Jersey. When I mentioned having met Ming Goetz of NJ on April 19, her face lit up as she described some of Ming’s skills on the bike. There are indeed incredible racers at Sea Otter Classic!
Nonetheless, as Bicycling Monterey remindsSea Otter Classic is a Celebration of Cycling, a bike festival for people of all ages, shapes, sizes, fitness levels, genders, and abilities. SOC is for all who appreciate bicycles. And people dig bikes for a wide range of reasons!

Below, see Ming Goetz and other early arrivals on April 19th—visitors and locals.

Some were at Laguna Seca (main site of SOC activities) to set up exhibitor booths, set up their campsites, or provide orientation and security monitoring.
And others—well, see for yourself in the photos and intel below, plus some musings on the changing world of bicycles.

For more Sea Otter Classic tips from Bicycling Monterey, click here.

Bicycle Security Tips

Note the unique list in the Tips for Bicycling Monterey County 20-section guide’s bike security section. It features places where you may find it easier to relax and still keep an eye on your bicycle.

Opening Day Tip: On Thursdays year-round, Monterey County has a special “red carpet” for people who bike.
  • The HER Helmet Thursdays Project‘s participating businesses and organizations provide 10-50% discounts for people who bike. See FAQs, map, and more. Where are they? At hundreds of places in 19 Monterey County communities; see all in the Quick Reference Guide, or find many on the map.
  • You don’t have to be going to Sea Otter Classic to get HER Helmet Thursdays discounts. But if you are going to SOC, Bicycling Monterey wouldn’t want to pull you away from a full day of fun there. Outside of SOC’s hours, early or late, keep the fun going by visiting a HER Helmet Thursdays spot.
  • The discount hours, year-round, are Thursdays from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Click here for tips on biking in the dark. 
In a hilltop campground April 19th, I met the Western State Colorado University students pictured above: Andrew Pearson from Idaho, and Ming Goetz, who calls New Jersey home. This is their first year at Sea Otter Classic, and they’ll both be racing: Andrew, downhill and enduro; Ming, downhill. Best wishes with your races, Andrew and Ming.
Enjoy Monterey County’s special welcome on Sea Otter’s Opening Day!

Image below excerpted from the “Riding Your Bike” section. © 2017 Sea Otter Classic, Inc., all rights reserved.

Who else did I see

on Wednesday, April 19th?

Near the Media Center, I happened upon the people above. “We’re from Hood River [Oregon], but I used to live in Monterey,” the woman said, as she and her friends were organizing their gear.
When it comes to avoiding theft, bicycle security tips can help—and so can the presence of watchful eyes, including law enforcement professionals.

At Sea Otter to assist the Salinas Police Department Explorers, who are helping at the SOC campgrounds, I saw the familiar face of one of the Monterey County cops I most admire: Raul Rosales of Salinas PD.  I first met Raul on the beat in the Alisal / East Salinas.

The Alisal is a part of the Monterey County seat and its largest city, Salinas, that includes economic poverty and is also culturally rich. It is one of my favorite urban places to bike.

Soon after seeing Raul, I came upon one of those helpful Explorers:
Alisal High School student José Alfaro.

Soon I saw José again: He was welcoming Sean O’Donnell of Minnesota.
Sean will be racing SOC downhill and dual slalom.

Henrietta Stern of Monterey Off Road Cycling Association (MORCA), was out biking with Joe Gallagher. From watching their uphill pedal power, I won’t be surprised if they’re both racing in multiple events.

[Update: Read about Henrietta in Julie Jag’s evening report, “Sea Otter Classic: Mountain bikers get down with enduro,” in the 4/20/17  Santa Cruz Sentinel.]

Henrietta, and perhaps Joe too, will also likely be found volunteering at MORCA’s tent in the Sea Otter Expo; you can find MORCA and all of SOC’s exhibitors by booth number (e.g., MORCA will be at Booth 241). As pictured in “Scenes from Sea Otter Classic 2016,” look for MORCA’s tent, next to International Mountain Bicycling Association / IMBA with which they’re affiliated (ask MORCA for details).
Which reminds me, regarding caring for the land here:
  • Please respect and follow the recommendations of our local mountain biking community leaders about how to protect and love the land, how to ride courteously on shared trails, and more. Some guidelines are linked in Bicycling Monterey’s rain, cold temps tips (click here, then scroll to “Specific to mountain biking”).
  • Who are the local MTB leaders? The two organizations I recommend regarding mountain biking in the Monterey Bay region are (1) MORCA in Monterey County; and (2) Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz in our neighboring Santa Cruz County.
  • You’ll find among MORCA and MBOSC members some excellent role models for how to mountain bike responsibly and more sustainably here. Their most dedicated, longtime members—people such as Henrietta Stern and other leadership of MORCA, and Mark Davidson and other leaders of MBOSC—will be happy to answer your questions or refer you to other resources.
  • Do you mountain bike in the other county of our Monterey Bay tri-county region, San Benito County? I’m not personally acquainted with any of the MTB leaders there, so please check with MORCA and MBOSC for referrals, or ask one of Bicycling Monterey’s general San Benito County bicycling resources.

On a related note, you may enjoy a 3/28/17 Santa Cruz Good Times story by Geoff Drake about the work of MBOSC, “How Mountain Bikers Beat Heroin Hill.”

Below: Henrietta Stern of MORCA

Of course, Velo Club Monterey, Naval Postgraduate School Foundation Cycling Club, and other Monterey County bike community leaders will be at Sea Otter too. Check out our bike community in Bicycling Monterey’s 32-section directory of Monterey County bicycling resources. You may meet some of those folks at the expo, racing, volunteering, or otherwise involved in SOC.
After leaving Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (the main SOC venue)…
I spotted the young racer below at nearby Stone Creek Village, a small shopping center in Del Rey Oaks, at the intersection of Canyon del Rey / Hwy 218 and Monterey-Salinas Highway / Hwy 68.

Carson Beard of Montpellier, Vermont has been to SOC before and is glad to be returning for 2017 as a cross country junior racer. Carson also wants to race enduro. He and his dad are aware he has a challenge: Carson’s race age is 14, and they hadn’t found an SOC enduro option for racers younger than 15. 

Challenges are meant to be overcome, yes?

Hmmm…Kinda looks 15.

People have a wide variety of reasons for going to Sea Otter Classic. You may enjoy racing as an amateur or pro, watching world-renowned races, shopping or browsing North America’s largest bicycling exposition (480 registered expo exhibitors), riding in a Gran Fondo fully-supported recreational ride or a MTB tour, taking children to Sea Otter’s festival activities for kids, or just hanging out—perhaps in the Food Court, Beer Garden, or elsewhere—spending time with longtime friends or making new friends.
Whatever you enjoy most about SOC, Bicycling Monterey wishes you a safe, fun, and inspiring time at Monterey County’s Celebration of Cycling.

Out county is washed clean from many recent rains.

There’s a lush, green sanctuary for Sea Otter yoga.

And lupines, poppies, and more are blooming on many a landscape.

Happy Sea Otter Classic!

Bicycling Monterey’s 9th year begins May 2017. If you find this website and other Bicycling Monterey projects of value, you may wish to make a contribution. If just a fraction of the thousands of monthly visitors to this website made a one-time contribution of even $5, it would make a big difference. Thank you to those who have already contributed financially and/or contributed project supplies.

Click here for payment options and FAQs.

Thank you.

Do you soar through the hills of Laguna Seca

nearly as easily as this bird that I watched today?

Wish I did! Back in May 2009, when I founded the website and other Bicycling Monterey projects, I was enjoying steep rural climbs such as this one 5-6 days every week. My fitness level was excellent, and as my physician remarked, my legs were strong!

Then, ironically, I let bike advocacy cut too deeply into my personal saddle time. Every year I thought I’d get that back into balance, yet didn’t make the necessary changes. I know others can relate, to varying degrees.

Many bike advocates experience a mistaken assumption about what we do—that we get to spend most of our days out biking. One day a comment got my attention. It was made by Austin McInerny, executive director of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (an org I became familiar with because of our local high school  mountain bike teams). 

Although Austin does put a lot of miles on his bike, his empathetic words, made with his typically cheery tone, expressed something like: “Biking all day? I was in meetings all day.”

Lots of bike advocates find much of our time goes to virtual meetings, webinars, answering emails, social media communications, and the many other sedentary tasks that today’s technology has so increased. Does that sound like many of your days also—too much screen time—whether you’re earning money or working as an unpaid volunteer? I can imagine many of you saying, “Yes. Too much sitting. We’d rather be biking!”

Direct outreach by bike is truly my favorite bike advocacy role—whether biking the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail or biking the AlisalCarmel, Castroville, Greenfield, Pebble BeachSalinas, Seaside, or elsewhere. I love being out on my bike, which is how Bicycling Monterey began—helping people on the bikeways.

Over the past eight years, of my own volition, I’ve put well over ten thousand, all-volunteer hours into advocating for bicycling—providing this website and other Bicycling Monterey projects. While it was a worthy cause, sprung from my joy in biking and commitment to earth care / environmental sustainability, how could ten thousand hours not cut into one’s personal saddle time!

The path to reclaiming my earlier fitness level will soon include a first: giving up my former “electric bicycles snobbery” to test out an e-assist bike.

Surprisingly, even though I am committed to earth stewardship, including more sustainable transportation choices, I’ve been in the e-bike snobs’ camp. That is, until the positive, respectful approach of  iZip_ebikes first got my attention at the Bicycle Leadership Conference. Then his tweets got my attention too, including resources he shared about e-bikes. Over time, my opinion about e-bikes shifted. In May, I’ll begin using a Raleigh Superbe iE as an alternate ride.

I imagine my faithful steed, a Giant well-worn since this photo was taken at the time of Ray LaHood’s visit in 2012, will still get many miles of pedal power.

An e-assist, though, could give me the boost I need to get past my personal barriers. In Bicycling Monterey’s 9th year, I anticipate coming back out on top of my favorite peaks.

Raleigh Electric bicycles and other e-bikes are among demos at Sea Otter Classic 2017
As with the rest of the world, the bike world is changing. Thanks to Sea Otter for having e-bike vendors, demos, races, and sponsors, all helping bring us up to speed on another sustainable transportation option.

Stay tuned to Bicycling Monterey through the rest of 2017 to learn whether I like my experiences with an e-assist. Just as Sea Otter Classic recognized the benefits of e-bikes, I have a feeling that I will too.

4/26/17 update: Among other local media coverage on Sea Otter Classic 2017

This post was published on 20 April 2017. One or more changes last made to this post on 10 April 2024.

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