Every year Cyclocross Magazine hits up the Sea Otter Classic to see the latest in cyclocross bikes and gear. While most cycling publications will be there looking at the new road and mountain offerings and covering the expected embargo-controlled product announcements, you can count on your friends at CXM to sift through the fat and skinny and find the good stuff that you care about.
We’ll be roaming around the infields of Laguna Seca’s race track for the next few days, and if there’s something you’re dying to see or get our opinion of, drop a comment below. But here’s a quick preview on some of the items we expect to see in the next few days, based on previous announcements, rumors or our many years of experience doing this (okay, now we sound old).
New 2015 Cyclocross and Gravel Bikes:
Every year it’s a crapshoot as to whether a company will have its new 2015 cyclocross bikes read for Sea Otter. Being able to show off new bikes at Sea Otter indicates that things look good for the new line to be ready for cyclocross season. As we saw with All City Cycles and Foundry at Frost Bike 2014, some of the QBP brands have their models already locked and loaded for 2015, assuming some new componentry (think single ring, hydraulic disc brakes and new 11-speed groups) also arrive in time.
Historically, Raleigh, Redline and Felt have been the leaders in showing off their upcoming model year cyclocross bikes at Sea Otter, and we foresee all three brands showcasing new models this year. We’re expecting a new carbon frameset from Raleigh, with a revised geometry that follows the changes made to its excellent aluminum RX1 and RX2 bikes.
Redline celebrates its 20th anniversary of its first Redline Conquest cyclocross frameset, and should be showing off its commemorative 2015 Redline Conquest Flight ’cross frame to celebrate this occasion, with perhaps some tweaks to its carbon frame.
Focus showed off a few of its new redesigned Mares cyclocross bikes around Worlds, and will showcase them in the States at Sea Otter.
Marin, KHS, Norco Lapierre and Diamond Back should also all be showing their cyclocross bikes, perhaps with 2015 specs.
With Foundry, Van Dessel and Focus leading the way, will we see more 2015 cyclocross bikes adopt thru axle forks and rear dropouts? We like being able to use our current wheels, but the difference in steering precision with thru axles are noticeable (see our Whisky No. 9 thru-axle fork review in Issue 24). Stay tuned.
While Shimano has already announced its 105 group is inheriting 11 speeds, and that it is expanding its road/cyclocross hydraulic brake and brake lever options with the new RS785 components, we expect to learn more about other new Shimano products on the horizon. You don’t have to be an industry insider to know that XTR is about due for an overhaul, and rumors have been swirling for months about a possible move to 11-speeds.
Any potential XTR updates will get plenty of mainstream media coverage, but we’re mostly interested in seeing if the XTR M980 pedals will be redesigned to feature the modifications made by Sven Nys to improve mud clearance, and if any possible 11-speed mountain components will be compatible with cyclocross/road components. Wider range cassettes and clutch rear derailleurs (perhaps in combination with single ring options) could add more Shimano options for going single ring. But would moving to 11-speeds require new freehubs or wheels on our fat tire rides? We hope not. Stay tuned.
SRAM already announced its single ring CX1 setup that we already rode and reviewed, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar announcement to Shimano’s 105 11-speed announcement with the competitive Rival component group. Eleven speeds may not be what cyclocrossers are demanding, but it’s the way everything is going, but with the excellent Force22 still quite new, will SRAM wait a bit longer to make this move?
Wheels and Tires
Every year we spot a few new tires and treads of interest to the cyclocrosser and gravel racer, and if Frost Bike was any indication, we’ll likely see more tubeless and gravel tires unveiled at the Monterey-based expo.
Tubeless wheels are popping up everywhere, and that’s a trend that will continue for sure as many companies tout the dual-duty nature of their 29er XC wheels that will accept either quick releases or thru axles, but will the trend towards beefy, wide bullet proof carbon rims make the hefty carbon price tag not worth it for a run-with-your-bike cyclocrosser? NoTubes bucks this trend with the Valor carbon rim wheelset that it will be showcasing at Sea Otter, but we got our hands on an early NoTubes Valor cyclocross-oriented set and there certainly isn’t a weight penalty.
For the third year in a row, the Sea Otter Classic will host cyclocross racing on Saturday evening. In the past we’ve seen big names like Ryan Trebon, Ben Berden, Jonathan Page and Justin Lindine contest the off-season cyclocross event. We’ll have two photographers at the race to capture the April racing action.
Check back for all the new cyclocross bikes, gear and racing action starting on Thursday.