Gravel Grinder News: Sea Otter ’18

 Gravel Grinder News: Sea Otter ’18- by Grannygear

The annual Sea Otter bicycle festival occurred over the weekend and our own Ben and Grannygear were in attendance. Ben will have a couple podcast interviews which should get posted on the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch here. Meanwhile Grannygear was roaming the scene with his camera in hand and here are his images and comments.

This stunner caused a LOT of conversation on our Facebook page.

 Gravel/Adventure was certainly a big deal at Sea Otter this year, so I was surrounded by a lot of that. Stunner of the show was the unrideable,  mock-up, concept rig by Niner, the MCR 9 RDO. With a reduced travel Rock Shox fork and a familiar looking CVA link in the rear, it is interesting but not convincing to me. At some point this type of bike begins to be just a lousy mountain bike with drop bars. Not sure where that line is. Still, kudos to Niner for starting the conversation.

It was also really great to see them there after all the drama of the company re-org and sale. I have a soft spot in my heart for Niner and I just picked up a previous gen S.I.R 9 frame in glorious candy red for my wife to exercise the dog with…yeah! Lucky gal.

The Silca Titanium cage. 

The Titanium cages from Silca are very nice to look at and handle….grace and elegance in a plastic injected world. They seem stiff enough to handle bottle holding duties and the long slots in the braze-on tabs allow for some positioning of the cage.

Breezer adventure bikes as seen at Sea Otter

After the press release announcing Breezer bikes having some all road and gravel models in steel, I was pretty interested to see what Joe Breeze had inspired. I have to say I was disappointed in the look of the bikes. Not that they might not perform well…that head tube is lovely I have to say…but the graphics were deadly dull and the overall look was just very pedestrian. ‘Breezer’ should be in elegant script. Take me back to the old days, Joe. No one came over to talk to me as I was poking around them, so I did not get any feedback from them at the show.

The Light & Motion Rando light can be recharged by a generator on the fly.

I stopped by the Light and Motion booth to follow up on our light reviews and ran into the new Rando Light. A mix of the biggest capacity battery they have in this size and a limit of 500 lumens makes for some darn long run times. Biggest news though? It will trickle charge as you ride, either from a dynamo hub or a separate power cell like a portable battery charger thing. There are some limits as I understand it will only operate in ‘low’ mode when charging, still you could charge it all day when on a safety light mode and then run it at night. Not quite a true dynamo light, but an interesting hybrid. Guitar Ted is slated for one of these, so stay tuned.


Litespeed cuts right to the chase with there names here. It’s the Gravel. Yea Verily.


SKS makes this little widget called the Airchecker. I live by that gadget as it makes finding air pressure settings within a 1/2 PSI possible. I do wish the presta port sealed a bit better, but still, it’s a peach. Now they have a bigger, fancier version. Might have to get me one. Their Air Menius with the biggy gauge is my fave non-mtb pump.


Orange Seal Endurance is all I use anymore after a long time of mixing my own. It does not clump and it seals well, even at tubeless road pressures. Seems to coat the inner bits of the tire well and is all-a-round bueno. They have a nifty presta valve kit that has changeable grommets to find the best fit of the rim shape and removable valves. And the presta nuts come in lovely colors including orange which we all know is the fastest color.


FSA was the first company I saw doing adventure based crank gearing (with apologies to Sun Tour) and they continue to offer options for on-bike winching when things go vertical. It makes sense in many ways, although I confess none of the gearing combos quite make me swoon. Picky, I am.

They have a new line of wheels that are very gravel bike friendly, the AGX series…which I think was Adventure/Gravel/Cross. In carbon and aluminum options, weights are good and the look in carbon is pretty with the weave showing. I have been running the Afterburner wheels for a couple of years now, a wheel set that was originally a 29er wheel before MTB rims went wide, with pretty much the same build as the AGX alu version, and they have been completely solid.

They also have a new H-bar bend with a nice flare to it. And it is orange in this example and we all know about orange…yes. Orange means speed. Think I have an orange bike at my house? Yes, yes I do. A couple as a matter of fact. Bias alert.


Bolle has a new helmet that is interesting. THE ONE has a set of removable covers and swappable liners that let it be used across seasons from summer to winter. The hard plastic covers snap in and out from the main vents and the liner for winter is said to take up the same room as the net liner for summer. Claimed 280g. I have one for review along with some transitional riding glasses with a trick new lens material. Stay tuned.


Easton debuted their reduced tooth count adventure chainrings before Sea Otter and they look nice. As I was told, they fit either a Race Face crank of the Easton crank only. Still, nice to have more options along this line of thinking.


This is the Hutchinson Overide in a 38c size. Hucthinson says they cannot keep them in stock. It’s pretty poofy for a 38c tire and looks darn fast for smooth, hard dirt or gravel.


Loved hanging with the Redshift guys. Their new suspension seat post is pretty cool and actually is not an eyesore like many are. Simple to adjust, the coil springs are swappable and there is a preload adjustment. It swings in a backwards, level arc, so saddle tilt does not change. It felt pretty effective on the test-rollers they had set up. I predict a win here. I recently added their stem to my Lynskey and so far I am impressed. Editor’s Note: Riding Gravel will be getting a ShockStop seat post in for review soon. Stay tuned…..


WTB was not showing anything new at Sea Otter, but they did have this limited edition Volt that supports the Nor Cal NICA league. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Buddy Newman Scholarship Fund. Check with WTB for details. There are only 100 of these so when they are gone they are gone!

 I have a new set of minimalist gloves from Lizard Skins (and some grips for MTB) that I will be writing about, but I am always impressed but the width of the options they offer in light weight gloves and bar tapes. It’s good stuff.

I stopped by Time to see the newer ATAC pedal with a broader cage around it. The ATAC Enduro pedal retains the excellent mud shedding and float of the ATAC system with more pedal surface to love. Could be swell for adventure based stuff.

Never heard of Hunt Wheels? UK based, these guys swam over across the pond with crates of wheels on their backs to show us at Sea Otter what British enthusiasm and engineering passion can do. I have three sets of their wheels (purchased at retail with my cash) in carbon for road and gravel, and I really have been pleased with them overall. I will be writing about the Carbon Gravel wheels soon. It was great to meet the owner and chat for some time…passionate and fun folks.

Shown here is the latest thing for gravel, the 650b Dynamo wheel set. They recently introduced trail bike MTB wheels as well.

Rolf wheels have always puzzled me. They look like a really bad idea, yet they have been around for ages and get solid reviews and comments from owners. Something must be working right for that to happen and discussing with Rolf the process of building, truing, and de-stressing the wheel…

Impressive, really, and it all happens in Eugene, Oregon. They are some cool looking wheels. Rolf Prima is a system based wheel meaning you cannot just buy a rim. So, they added Astral, which is a traditional wheel in spoke count, etc, and is available as a rim only or a wheel in various types.

Astral is made to order with White Industries hubs, they are not a cheap wheel, but high quality seldom is. The Wanderlust is their alloy disc wheel for gravel/adventure, 28 spoke, 1570g (450g rim). Carbon models as well.

Aside from all this, I did have many conversations with manufacturers about gravel based products and to a man (or woman) they all were keen to pick my brain. From Pirelli tires (look for gravel tires from them in time) to clothing companies to wheel makers…gravel or adventure is hot right now and it deserves to be.

Well that was my one day, whirlwind tour or Sea Otter, but no means exhaustive and admittedly a bit eclectic, still and all, it was fun. The next day I went riding. Road ride, but still. You get what you can. Note the orange bike. Mmmmm.


That’s all from Grannygear and for our images from Sea Otter 2018. Stay tuned for some reviews that were arranged during this festival, some of which were teased here, but there will be others.

ResoluteAbout The Author: Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for in his spare time.



Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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13 thoughts on “Gravel Grinder News: Sea Otter ’18

  1. GG, Nice report thanks, would like to see more bikes though. Verde sounds better but it is the Overide by Hutchinson. Nice tire fast when pumped up and compliant when not.

  2. @RoverAI…Yes, I was really there to catch up with old friends more than do all the biz. But then I got into semi-reporter mode and well, there you go. I only paid attention to what caught my eye. The ‘stuff’ tends to blur together after a while. I came home and realized that I was amiss in the bike shots. I had one day there due to life’s demands and those images are the result of a 9:00 AM till 5:30 PM day with no chair time at all. I did have some lovely pizza and practiced my Italian in the Pirelli booth though.

    A lot of it was long conversations with vendors on things like what makes for a great gravel bike wheel? Can they be too stiff? Does aero matter when you have a 42mm tire on there? Can we make more compliant handlebars or is that silly? What about 650b? Who is doing that and liking it? Clothing for gravel? What would that even look like? Etc. Good fun.

    I have a list of corrections for Guitar Ted that are pending. I know it is not Verde. I know it is Override. I know I discussed this at Sea Otter with the Hutchinson guy. I know I came home and typed Verde. I know that I am a dunce. I and do not know, but suspect, that any graphic/label on a product that is this hard to decode needs to go away or at least be limited to the back window of lifted diesel trucks with motos in them and the front of flat billed hats…tilted a bit of course.


  3. @RoverAI….no but I did chat with the old Raleigh marketing person. We were discussing how Raleigh came in and pretty much tossed out any momentum they had going for a while there. The gravel bikes were really good. Ahead of their time. I guess they still have a couple of those models but I hardly think of them anymore.


    1. @Grannygear & @RoverAl, The momentum is still alive! Stay tuned for Ben’s podcast from Sea Otter with a new start up company Noble Bikes. Some old Raleigh guys who just couldn’t let that torch die. #nobleiscoming 😉

  4. It seems like these subcompact cranksets all continue to be based on the same 30mm spindle size and 110 BCD. It’s a shame no one makes them for BSA / 68mm bottom brackets that don’t cost a large fortune/weigh a ton/look like vintage cranks from the beginning of the last century.

  5. As someone who rides a Breezer Radar I can say that the looks do not matter and the value was amazing. Sure, parts are going to get replaced in fits and starts but the overall package was solid. Some of us still like external headset cups, threaded bottom brackets, and Shimano UN-55s.

  6. @Jim Bovinet…Looks may not matter to you, but I expect more from something that says Breezer on it. This might as well have said Giant on the logo or, well…Fuji. My bias.

    Functionally speaking, I imagine it is up to the task and I am glad you are enjoying the bike. Threaded BBs are back big time and with good reason.


    1. I think that when taken in total that there is something classic about the way that the Breezer adventure bikes look. The arched seatstays into classic Breezer dropouts and the understated colors. It reminds me of what Bianchi used to be about before the brand became a clone of everything else and lost its identity along with the dominance of celeste as a color.

      Then again this is the reason why there are so many brands and styles to choose from…to each his/her own.

  7. I was quite surprised that there was no new product announcement from SRAM. Various online sources of repute had all but declared that a 1 x 12 ‘gravel’ group, already seen out in the world, was about to officially drop, and perhaps an etap version as well.

  8. I just got myself one of those FSA Energy Modular adventure cranksets in the 46/30 option. Just needed a little lower end.
    I am hoping with my 11-32 cassette I will be able to climb just about anything.
    Weight came in at 730 grams for the crankset and an additional 22 grams for the spacers that I needed for it to fit my BB30.
    It ended up adding about 55 grams over the Cannondale SI crankset that it replaced but with the 5 hole 110 crank I was at its limit running a 34 small chainring.
    I am eager to get out this weekend to give it a try.

  9. @Dennis…very cool. I am curious if you will notice something. I suspect that, with such a small inner ring, that you will end up using the bottom end of the cassette more often AND being in the 46T crossed over more often with that 30T inner. It’s a pretty small CR for anything not going steeply uphill.

    Just wondering. let me know how that works out.

    Right now I have a 46/36 Cross set-up with an 11-36. I have considered going to a 1x with a 38T by 11-40 and I would only give up a bit of top end. But doubles are nice in many ways. I do want to go one step lower in gearing though. It is likely I will run an 11-40 with the current crank set up and just swap to a longer rear der.


    1. I run 1x with a 38t and an 11-42 on my monstercrosser with 29×2.25s. It does me fine for all my riding and I can still pedal it out to just over 50kmh.

      I have a 30t up front on my ECR and with my normal commute I pretty much spend all my time in the bottom 4 gears. But when fully loaded the 30t comes into it’s own.

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