MONTEREY—From humble beginnings in 1991 with 350 athletes and 150 spectators, the Sea Otter Classic has grown to be regarded as the world’s premiere cycling festival—and it’s not necessarily what you would expect.
Yes, there were plenty of folks in Lycra with bicycles costing more than their cars and vendors handing out free samples of meals in a squeeze tube—this was a true four-day celebration of cycling.
Located on the world-famous grounds of the Laguna Seca Raceway in the hills of Monterey, the festival celebrated the roots, present, and future of cycling. Bicycles from every era, from the 1800s to future concept bikes, were in action and on display.
Do you remember when you first successfully rode a bike without training wheels or when you and your friends would race around the block? That thrill, adventure, and excitement could be seen in the eyes of competitors soaring through the air, and in the children’s smiles on the mini racetrack.
The Volkswagen Sea Otter Powered by SRAM hosted an exhausting number of events, demonstrations, and activities. From downhill mountain bike racing to coastal road bike rides, from a zip line to a kids’ Sea Otter Egg Hunt. No matter your level of biking experience, this was the place to be. For those with less propensity for bikes—games, bounce houses, slides, food, music, and libations could all be found within the festival grounds.
The Sea Otter team has done well with attracting “normal” folks to the festival. They have focused on engaging the local communities and promoting the love of cycling.
“Each year prior to the event we have a presentation that we do at local schools to get kids curious/intrigued about the Sea Otter Classic,” said Wendy Booher, a spokesperson for Sea Otter Classic.
“We had 9,300 athletes and 65,000 total participants … I’d say we’d consider it a success.”
Children from every walk of life could be seen laughing, cheering, and participating in the events. The Sea Otter carnival was a kid favorite. Bounce houses, slides, racetracks, bike demos, BMX racing, and a bicycle trials event were ubiquitous throughout the maze of bike vendors.
The bike trials demonstration was a major attraction for the initiated and the uninitiated alike. Bike trials is the art of moving through an obstacle course without placing your foot on the ground, also known as “dabbing.” Professional bike trials experts were on hand to demonstrate the discipline by hopping from bench to bench on top of a 12-foot-tall cargo trailer, from the front wheel to the back, leaping to 2-inch-wide railings, all with awe-inspiring control and grace.
Another crowd-pleaser was the BigAirBag jump, wherein riders would hurtle themselves dozens of feet into the air, demonstrate cutting-edge aerial maneuvers, and land on a huge air-filled bag to break their fall. Besides the acrobatic feats, also amazing were the shrills of excitement from the kids in the crowd every time a rider was launched into the stratosphere.
If you are anywhere in the galaxy next spring, stop by Earth for the Sea Otter Classic for an undeniably great festival of bikes.