Well I thought hard about this, asked my editor and chief RL Policar, “should we do a best in show” and he said sure why not, this would require  tons of hours combing Sea Otter for a best in show bike and what would be the criteria, do we only count factory race bikes, one off bikes, bikes that use green materials, bikes ridden by that regular racer that put an edge on it to make it just a little cooler, and we can’t forget that funny cool bike that we see and tell ourselves I want that, but really if we had it we probably never ride it.

Sea Otter has such a plethora ( just like that word) of bikes that you will find to choose from.
So the hunt started and while I looked at bikes, listened to people talk about the coolest bike they saw with my ear just over their shoulders,  trying to weasel my way into a team pit to take a pic of a super secret bike up close, or some prototype model.

I still had to ask what is going to be the criteria, how to do this, should it be part tech, style, useability, fun factor, what!


After seeing a lot of bikes the whole week I was there it was a tough choice and you’ll be surprised of my choice.
The bike if choice grabbed quite the attention by all or it could have been the rider on the bike that was receiving high praise.


The Specialized S-WORKS Hot Walk is the choice for “Best in Show”. This little bike caught all the attention as it’s rider pushed along with his dad at Sea Otter. This had to be one of the smallest S-WORKS bikes I have ever seen. I talk to the little tikes dad and found out that he worked for Specialized and dad was at Sea Otter to road race, afterwards son Luca showed off his mad skills pushing along side dad while all the girls couldn’t keep their eye off little Luca looking good. Could be this little future factory rider is on his way with this bike.
Seeing that dad worked for Specialized his bike has the same paint scheme as dad’s road bike. I guess it pays to be in the know.


This little S-WORKS has a custom matching paint scheme with name custom painted on the bike just like the factory guys,  12″ A1 Premium Aluminum frame to stay lite for hours of fun, foot platforms to give sheer stability while hitting the big jumps, alloy blade fork helps keep the weight down, adjustable bar height, lightweight alloy rims for a curb-hopping blast of a time , Specialized Rhythm Lite Sport tires for traction on and off the dirt, and alloy flat bar that come equipped with soft Kraton grips.


Well this was my Sea Otter “Best in Show”. There were many choices and it was a hard pic, but I just had to give it up for this cool custom S-WORKS. Lets see what next year will bring.

Rider Down Fund Raiser BBQ/Raffle

As you have seen, the ride for the BBQ was a huge success. From what I heard from the leader of the pack, there were over 50 riders in total that showed up that morning.

Once the ride was over, it was time to have the BBQ. There were tons of food and drinks and of course, stuff to win from the raffle! We were fortunate enough to have team racer and my country cuh’, Joe Solancho taking photos of the event.

Food! David Sanderson took the first shift of cooking and then I stepped in for the cooking duties.

Wesley “GQ” Castro, on his feet. But he’s got a permanent Gangsta’ Lean from his injury.

We were fortunate enough to have tons of schwag donated by some awesome companies. The one that people REALLY wanted was the Melon Slice.

Once everyone was well fed, David started the raffle.

Big winners, Doc Thunda and Mrs. Thunda.

661 donated a bunch of helmets. Thanks Mr. Neil Adams.

By the end of the raffle, many people were super happy. In fact, my daughter was thrilled that she won the Melon Slice! Wes shared a few words of gratitude towards the sponsors, team mates as well as the mountain biking community that showed their support for him.

MtnBikeRiders.com staff and racers

We’d like to give thanks to the following companies and people who donated goods for the raffle.
Fox Racing, Ergon USA, Ice Toolz Sette USA, Melon Bicycles, Freedom Riders, Stuart of big Dwags Auto Detailing, Specialized, Peace Coffee, Moe Ramirez,The Path Bike Shop, Evomo, and Dainese USA.

Here’s all the photos from the event.

Short video.

Sea Otter 2009: Specialized S-Works Carbon HT 29er Quick Ride Review

Tim “Scissors” was able to get some ride time on the new S-Works Carbon 29er HT from Specialized. Here are his thoughts from the short loop we rode:

So here I am on an all new Specialized S-Works Hard tail 29er made from the fiber of the gods, heading to the trail head with Gary Fisher. Why would Gary Fisher be riding with little ol’ me you say? Well, we just happen to be riding at the same time and at the same place at the land of the Dirt Otter. Gary on his, well you know, and me on the badest Specy Hardtail ever made. Yup, that’s right, the not yet released frame rid’n on the not yet released Roval 29er wheel set.

Specialized S-Works Carbon HT 29 with singletrack ready to be ridden

One of my 2 current rides is a 29er hardtail that was geared and is now single speed. This demo is perfect for me since I rode my On-One Scandal geared for a lot longer than it has been a S.S. My Scandal is made from Scandium tubing and the Specy from carbon so an immediate difference in ride characteristics should be noticeable. The Specy was also outfitted with their Fast Track tires in size 29 x 2.0 set up tubeless and mounted on the new Roval 29er wheelset with straight lacing on one side and 2-cross lacing on the brake side. The front fork was a Rock Shox with custom Specialized carbon crown and steer tube. The crank set was a Specy unit with integrated BB; head tube was a 1.5” to 1 1/8”tapered variety, this all made for a very stiff frame laterally.

Integrated BB for stiffness and Specialized’s carbon cranks

Nic, global sales manager for Specialized, took care to make sure I was sized right on the bike adjusting the seat post height and fork air pressure. With everything dialed in, I hit the trail with Jer. We met up with Gary Fisher and Laura and proceeded to ride about 5/6 miles of almost all single track. First thing I notice of course was how compliant the frame is. It absorbed all the little nuances in the trail but remained laterally stiff at all times. This is definitely not a soft tail but this frame rode very well indeed. The bike was very predictable at speed and on rough trails as long as you were smart about how you rode it; ride it smartly and it rewards you with excellent acceleration, predictable handling and a compliant ride that won’t beat you up.

Roval 29er wheels, straight laced on one side, 2-cross on the other

This bike was set up tubeless with the fast rolling Fast Track tires. We got to take home some Fast Traks which will get a full test in the future. I typically prefer a little wider tire than the 2.0’s but I got to say, these tires got the job done without scaring me and the bike went every where I pointed it but remember you have to ride it smartly.

We came to a short but very steep climb. At this point, I was determined to ride it as a S.S. and just see how well it would perform. With Gary Fisher in front of me, I rose out of the saddle and started to hammer. Passing Laura, I continued up the hill where I finally caught Gary at the top resting. I made a comment to him about the bike weighing about 20 lbs and he says “ let me see”, he dismounts his ride and proceeds to pick the Specy up with both hands and says “it weighs a little over 20 lbs”. I guess this comes from years of picking up bikes by hand to determine the weight. Later that on the same ride, while riding next to each other, he looks over at me on the Specy and says “nice bike” with which I return, “ you wanna ride it” he says “no”. I’m not sure why he didn’t want to ride it but, I agree with him, this was a very nice bike indeed!

Ride Report: Whiting Ranch for a Bday Ride

Tim Scissors & I were able to get out for 2 laps at Whiting Ranch this past Saturday. It was a birthday ride but the birthday boy was a little shy so no pictures of the group.

Tim Scissors salutes the beautiful ride, great weather and fun trail

We’ve written about Whiting Ranch a couple of times on this site. It is a nice set of trails about a 30 minute drive from mtnbikeriders.com headquarters. It’s also a very busy set of trails on the weekend especially if the weather is good.

And boy was the weather good this past weekend. Other than the winds it was absolutely gorgeous out with temps when we started the ride in the upper 50s to the low 70s by the time we were done. The winds were a bit gusty but we weren’t exposed to it. It only hit hard on a fireroad climb up to Four Corners, as if Mustard wasn’t enough!

Full Squish Robinson’s first ride on his Specy

We started off a little later than planned but got into a good groove right away. We were 9 strong and only had one mechanical, truly amazing and it has got to be a record somewhere. The mechanical happened to be an easy fix too: a slow leaker on Full Squish Robinson’s front tire. Some air and we were done.

Whiting starts off with a gradual uphill ride on a trail called Borrego. Not hard climbing, mind you, but just enough uphill to get the blood flowing. Borrego goes for about a mile and half and was in good condition. It had a couple of sand pits but if you’re on a 29er you’ll get through fine.

Test bike, the Kona King Kahuna, made short work of sand pits and baby heads alike

Borrego ends at Mustard which is a short 0.8 miles to Four Corners on an approximately 9% grade. The fun part about Mustard is that it kicks up just a tick the last 15 yards or so. Lots of fun I tell ya.

From there, you can choose a variety of routes including hitting the Luge which adds a 4.5 mile climb before a short bun descent, the Dreaded Hill climb, or a couple of options going downwards. We, of course, pointed our tires downwards and took off on Cactus and a couple of other trails before arriving back at our car for a second lap.

Me, dropping into the Cactus singletrack after a stop at Four Corners.

Two had to bail before our second lap so after bidding adieu, 7 of us took off. The only mishap on the second lap was we lost one of our riders, AV Dan, when we split up at the bottom of Mustard. When we found him he was dying from exhaustion but gamely willing to finish the ride, for the birthday boy. What a trooper, AV Dan.

Overall a good ride. If you’re wondering how the trail conditions in Whiting are, no fear. There are only a couple of sandy areas. The rest of the trail is in good condition and a lot of fun as always.

Southern California: Best Mountain Biking Locale in the World?

A recent press release by the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News website mentioned that Bicycling Mag has decided to move its offices from Burbank to Valencia, California. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Southern California, Burbank is a city just north of downtown Los Angeles while Valencia is a little farther northwest of Burbank, another 25 miles.

Riding next to the beach… +1 for So. Cal riding

Bicycling Mag’s Steve Madden (I thought he made women’s shoes) stated that their reasons for keeping an office in Southern California is because its “important to have a place with access to sunshine.”

Jumping the gap on a So. California trail

That got me thinking: yeah, Southern California is a great mountain biking locale but could it be one of the Best Mountain Biking locales in the world? Could it be THE best Mountain Biking Locale?

Off chamber singletrack with some nice exposure to boot! yum

Here are my thoughts:

1. Diverse trails: You can’t start off any list of best mountain biking spots in the world without a list of what that location has to offer. I live in north Orange County and within one hour of me I have access to literally hundreds of trails. The Santa Monica mountains northwest of me are world renown for their challenging yet beautiful trails. The San Bernardino mountains to the northeast is home to what is widely considered the best singletrack in So. Cal.: San Ana River Trail (SART). To the east are two major race courses in Fontana’s Southridge which runs Cross Country, Downhill and Super D races as well as Temecula known for its Endurance racing. To the south, within an hour and a half drive, there are a ton of trails. I would not be exaggerating if I said that I could ride every Saturday for a year without riding the same trail twice.

Riding SART in the middle of December

The sheer variety of all that is available can make choosing a weekend ride particularly difficult. Want to ride in the mountains? Want to ride in the hills along the beach? Want to do a 100 mile epic? You can find them all in Southern California.

Lance ready to race in early November… notice the beautiful skies

2. Spectacular weather year round:
You can not qualify your locale as the best mountain biking spot in the world if you can not ride on dirt at least 3 seasons of the year. Year round riding gives you another point. Sure there are a ton of great spots in Colorado and Utah to ride but if they’re closed down 6 months of the year for the white stuff then you can’t really stake a claim to being the best. Maybe we’ll give you the title of best mountain biking locale 6 months of the year. 🙂

Think of it this way: I’ve been mountain biking through the last few winters and the coldest its ever been is the high 30s. What did I wear? For my legs: leg warmers & shorts. For my upper body: wicking base layer, long sleeve t-shirt & windbreaker pull over. No parkas, no snow boots, no ear muffs. On the other side of the coin I’ve ridden into the dead of summer with just shorts and tank-top type wicking shirt, no problem. Some guys even ride shirtless… although I’m not sure if that’s a plus or not.

Just an aside but why would you send products to test in places that are packed down by snow 6 months of the year? Unless you’ve got a mountain biking product made for extremely cold weather most products sent in the fall/winter can’t or shouldn’t be tested until spring/summer in those areas. Do you want your mountain bike getting ridden in conditions most mountain bikers wouldn’t venture out in? OK, now I’m just being selfish. 😉

Early MARCH race at Bonelli with temps in the low 70s

3. Tons of Local Bike Shops: If having choices are good then having a ton of choices is even better right? A few weeks ago, I visited 4 different bikes shops to check out there 29er collections. These four shops were within 5 miles of each other, not “as the crow flies” but actual driving miles. In Southern California you are not limited to the one LBS in town. Don’t like one place’s service or bikes? Stroll down the street and see if the next LBS doesn’t do better.

Not only are there a ton of LBS’s but some great big name e-tailers such as pricepoint.com & jensonusa.com are located in Southern California. Why is that good? Because if you buy something from them and select ground shipping, many times you can get your purchase the next day! No need to pay for expensive overnight shipping if you live here.

Pricepoint is almost down the street in Gardena, CA.

Jensonusa not only has quick shipping to So. California residents it also has two brick & mortar stores. Can’t wait until tomorrow to pick up your order? Roll on over to their store and pick up orders that you make from their online store.

4. Huge mountain biking community. I’m not a fan of riding solo, but that’s usually not a problem with such a large mountain biking community. The strengths of this is not just meeting friends and riding together, it also has fringe benefits. Having a large mountain biking community means demos are always swinging by. Just last week Specialized, Pivot and Rocky Mtn had demos going. This weekend Giant will be doing demos in So. Cal.

Demoing the KHS Flagstaff

Another fringe benefit to having a huge mountain biking community is that there are a lot of bike companies who have offices in Southern California. How is this a plus? Well, you can’t spend 24/7 mountain biking, right? You’re going to have to work sometime to pay the bills and what better place to work, for the mountain biker, than for a bike company? Niner, Intense, KHS, Felt, Shimano, Giant, Turner, etc. all have offices or are headquartered in So. Cal.

OK, enough bragging. Now I want to hear your arguments. Why do you think your location should be considered the best mountain biking locale in the world?

Quick Survey… 29ers at your LBS?

I recently went out to four nearby Local Bike Shops (LBS) to check out the 29er scene. I was particularly interested in what manufacturers the LBS carried and if the LBS carried 29ers from those manufacturers.

Specialized FSR 29

My realization? 29ers have definitely come a long way in a short period of time. Every shop I went to had at least one 29er on their sales floor. This probably would not have been the case just a year ago. The popularity of 29ers has caught the attention of many big name manufacturers and because of this many of them have added their own 29er for their lineup.

The first shop I visited is a high end bike shop. They carry smaller bike brands like Salsa & Felt. At this shop 29ers were very commonplace and the sales people were very familiar with 29ers. They consistently recommended them for mountain biking to many of their customers. I came away pretty stoked because the 29ers were holding their own at the shop.

The next shop I visited was significantly larger. It had a ton of bikes from different manufacturers and 29ers were still well represented there. The 29ers they had were by Redline and Specialized. Only a short year ago this shop wasn’t even carrying any 29ers. Why? Because they didn’t carry Redline bikes and Specialized was still dragging its feet in coming out with their 29ers. Now Specialized got on board and added a hard tail plus a full suspension 29er to their lineup. The shop, likewise, did the same to their sales floor. Redline had a strong showing here multiple Mono 9’s, Monocogs & Monocog Flights.

The 3rd shop on my list was a Trek/Gary Fisher dealer. I knew this bike shop would be filled with 29ers but I was surprised when I walked in and only a few 29ers were on their sales floor. I inquired about this and was told that their supply couldn’t keep up with the demand for 29ers and the 29ers were flying off the floor as soon as they were built!

Moe & his KHS Solo-One

The last bike shop I visited is a little shop that I’ve been frequenting off and on for the last few months. For mountain bikes they carry Santa Cruz, KHS, Cannondale and Trek. Although half of those manufacturers carry 29ers the LBS had only one 29er on the floor, a lonesome KHS Solo-One (not kidding… a “solo” “one”). I was a little bummed that this shop didn’t have more 29ers especially from KHS who has wholeheartedly supported the 29er movement with rigid, hardtail and recently full suspension 29ers. When I inquired as to why they stocked only one 29er the owner mentioned that he had not ridden a 29er yet. Ahhh… I get it now. In my opinion you really can’t realize the benefits of the 29er unless you’ve had some seat time. His reasoning for carrying the Solo-One is that if any of his customers were interested in trying a 29er the cost would not be prohibitive to get onto one. Valid point.

So, are 29ers coming around? In my neck of the woods I would have to answer with a resounding “yes?. All of the LBS’s I visited carried at least one 29er and many of them had 29ers from different manufacturers. For some of these LBS’s the 29ers were a strong part of their bottom line. Music to my ears!

What about for you? Have you started to see more 29ers out on the trails and in your LBS?

Random Company Product Updates

B.R.A.I.N. has an article about different manufacturers releasing new products in anticipation of Sea Otter 2008. Some of the manufacturers mentioned in the B.R.A.I.N article include Rock Shox, Thule & Specialized. Here’s a blurb from the release:

Event sponsor SRAM will be releasing many new products at Sea Otter. In advance of the event, here are a few details to savor about the new offerings from SRAM brands RockShox and Avid…

Avid throws a splash of color into the mix with the Juicy Ultimate brakeset. Juicy Ultimate will be offered in both white and blue color options. These new Avid colors will complement other SRAM products like the new RockShox SID.

Click here for the rest of the article.

“S� Shaped Downtube

Maybe I’m late to the party, but I’ve been noticing a lot more “S� and almost “S� shaped downtubes recently. Giant has begun to use them on their Trance & Reign models after their 2007 models just had the conventional straight downtube.

2007 Giant Trance with a conventional “straight� downtube

2008 Giant Reign with a new almost “S� Shaped downtube

Specialized, too, has been doing this for a while now to their full lineup although some are a little more pronounced (think Enduro) than others.

Yes, it’s a dual crown fork so clearance isn’t an issue, but if a conventional downtube had been used, the shock and unconventional top tube would have meant no water bottle cage

This particular design has been around the past few years but now it seems that more people are using it and with good reason: it helps with fork crown clearance and allows you to keep a water bottle cage in FS bikes. In the 29er world the “S� shaped downtube should be used more judiciously than the 26″ world because of the taller wheels.

With the 29er wheels being slightly taller than 26″ wheels, standover height starts to become an issue. To get a lower standover height, you need to lower the top tube but, lowering the top tube means having to lower the downtube too. This in turns can cause an issue with the fork crown clearance.

The “S� shaped downtube solves this problem though. The “S� starts at the headtube. By taking advantage of the flatter angle for the top of the downtube, you can still lower the toptube and have the fork crown clear the downtube in case you’re in an accident and the front wheel turns underneath the bike. Rather have that happen than having the fork crown damage the bike frame or vice versa, right?

Another dilemma ensues if you have a FS with a shock in the front triangle. When you lower the toptube and use a traditional downtube you run the risk of not being able to fit in a water bottle cage on the downtube. But with an “S� shaped downtube, the middle portion of the “S� downtube drops at a steeper angle than a conventional downtube allowing you to still put in a water bottle cage even if a shock takes up a good portion of the space available in the front triangle. This works because the “S� then flattens out at the bottom before reaching the bottom bracket allowing the shock to still have its space.

Brand new Stumpjumper 29er with a very pronounced “S� downtube

Lenz Sport uses an almost “S� shaped downtube for many of their bikes including this 29er, the Leviathan