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Gravel bikes have always felt like they’re heavily influenced by the mountain bike world, and that influence only seems to be growing. First, it was bigger tires, disc brakes, and single-chainring drivetrains — and now it’s proper front and rear suspension, and dropper seatposts. At what point does the line become so fuzzy that it no longer exists?
That line is quite fuzzy, indeed, at least when it comes to Niner’s new MCR RDO gravel bike, which features a Fox suspension fork up front and the company’s own dual-link suspension design out back, a dropper seatpost, and remote levers for both the seatpost and the rear shock.
Regardless of what you think about this next step in gravel bike development, a big part of the fun when it comes to the gravel segment is heading off to parts unknown for new adventures, and Orucase is making that aspect easier than ever with its new b2 travel case, which falls just afoul of most airlines’ oversized baggage guidelines, but projects a trimmer-than-you’d-think profile thanks to its unique shape. That shape also helps it fit bigger bikes than the company’s original case design, while four casters make it easier to schlep the thing through the airport terminal, too.
Also featured in this gallery from the Sea Otter Classic are new wheels from Boyd Cycling, a wireless-specific titanium bike from Why Cycles, snacks from Clif Bar, sleek new helmets from Smith Optics and Lazer, and a few other neat-looking items that you might find useful for your next ride — on-road, or off.
Niner really wants to show you the world on this Magic Carpet Ride. The MCR 9 RDO is a full-suspension gravel bike with clearance for 700x50c or 650bx2.0 tires.
The MCR 9 RDO utilizes Niner’s Constantly Varying Arc suspension design, delivering 50mm of rear travel.
To accomodate the short chainstays, the lower link is placed under the bottom bracket. The shock is mounted behind the seat tube to provide a clean aesthetic, and an integrated rear fender protects it from the elements.
40mm of travel in the front is just enough to help you navigate some rough terrain, and maybe save you some fatigue.
The Niner MCR 9 RDO offers a removable front derailleur mount should you want to set it up as a 1x.
Not everyone may need a dropper on their gravel bike, but if you’re going to be running a full-suspension bike, it only seems right to integrate a dropper.
The remote dropper lever is tucked in next to the brake hood.
The rear shock can be locked out if desired.
There are 11 fixed mounting points for frame bags, bottles, fenders, and more.
Orucase strives to get your bike safely from point A to point B, all while avoiding airline fees. The new B2 bike case measures 65 linear inches and weighs only 13 pounds. Technically speaking, that makes it just slightly oversized by most airlines’ standards, but the shape helps it appear smaller at the check-in counter. Available around August, the B2 will cost about US$600.
A first for Orucase is the inclusion of four casters, which can also be locked to keep the case from rolling away.
The B2 packs down for easy storage and transport once you’re at your destination.
Orucase has taken the next step in making it easier to travel with your bike. Each piece of its new reusable padding kit is clearly labeled, and easily applied using Velcro straps. Worried about that rear dropout? Don’t worry – there’s also a dropout protector included. The set will cost around US$129.
The padding can be trimmed to custom fit your bike.
Trek showed off its carbon gravel bike, the Checkpoint SL 5, during the event, complete with the new Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels.
Bontrager has expanded the Aeolus wheel line with the Aeolus Pro 3V TLR Disc. The rims are built using the company’s proven OCLV Pro Carbon construction, while the rear hub features quick-engaging Rapid Drive 108 internals. With a 25mm internal width the rims provide extra support for higher-volume tires. For optimal performance, Bontrager recommends pairing these wheels with tires 700×32 or larger, and are available in disc only with 12mm thru-axles.
Also new from Bontrager is a lineup of Aeolus short-nose saddles, which include the Pro, Elite, and Comp models. The Elite (pictured here) comes with hollow “austenite” rails, and slightly more padding compared to its top-tier counterpart, the Pro, which has OCLV carbon rails, and minimal padding to keep weight down.
An available Blendr mount allows for clean integration with any Bontrager Flare rear light.
Bontrager’s revamped R3 Hard-Case Lite road tires promise a 75% increase in tread life relative to the previous version thanks to a new TR-Speed rubber compound. The casings feel more flexible and supple than before, too, which should translate into lower rolling resistance.
Bontrager not only increased the tread life on the new R3 tires, but also a claimed 22% increase in puncture resistance thanks to a new nylon breaker belt.
The Bontrager Bat Cage continues to be manufactured in Wisconsin, and is arguably one of the most undersung cages on the market. Retail price is a modest US$15.
Bontrager has been using the same molds for the Bat Cage since at least 2002, which is when this logo was last used (and when it was sold under the Trek brand name, not Bontrager). These days, the plastics used are derived from recycled fishing nets.
After falling subject to a few dog growls, Herman the Sheep decided it was time to throw on the new Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet.
Lazer celebrates 100 years of expertise with the release of the new Century helmet and Twist Cap technology.
I’ll have the Century helmet, three ways, please. The Century utilizes Lazer’s proprietary Twist Cap design, which allows the rider to choose between aerodynamic performance or more ventilation.
Being seen is increasingly becoming a priority when riding. The rear of the Lazer Century helmet features a rechargeable LED light to help keep you safe.
Hank the Tank has grown up a bit since Interbike, and he’s now attended his first Sea Otter. As you can see, he couldn’t be more thrilled.
Luckily for Hank, he gets to ride in a side car around the show. I tried to join but he made it clear he wasn’t sharing his space.
After releasing the Pinnacle series of extra-wide carbon wheels in 2018, which included the 36mm road disc, Boyd Cycling expanded its offerings by announcing a 55mm-deep road disc wheelset. The set weighs in around 1,700 grams, and the MSRP is US$1,700.
The Pinnacle 55mm road disc will come with Quest hubs, which have six pawls and a five-degree engagement speed. The freehub bodies can also be swapped tool-free from one wheelset to another, meaning you can have multiple cassettes pre-installed for quick ratio changes, or just an easier time when service is needed.
Clif offered up something new and tasty called Cubes. These date-based bites are filled with nut butter, and are pre-cut for quick grabbing during rides.
Clif Cubes come in three flavors: Strawberry Banana, Tart Cherry, and Double Peanut.
Smith is releasing a limited edition Trace helmet and Trackstand sunglasses to help raise money for the AIDS/LifeCycle Foundation. Smith athlete Gus Kenworthy will be riding in the ALC ride from June 2-8, with half of the proceeds being donated to the foundation. Both products will be available closer to the event at the end of May.
Just in case you get bored of the bike stuff at Sea Otter, some booths had some neat distractions to divert your attention.
Carbondale, Colorado-based titanium frame manufacturer Why Cycles has released a new PR (Pure Road) road bike that only accommodates SRAM eTap in the hopes that this will be the last road bike you will ever need.
Available in two builds, the PR is available as a SRAM Red eTap AXS 2x Enve Kit for US$9,999 and the same build as a 1x for US$9,499.
The PR frame’s only cable holes are for the rear brake, and features clearance for 700c tires up to 32mm-wide.
The Why Cycles R+ gravel bike got a few updates in this third iteration, which now includes more bottle cage and accessory mounts, plus internal routing for a dropper post.
Why Cycles wonders why everyone isn’t riding titanium bikes, seeing as how the material is said to be 43% lighter than steel, it has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum, and is more resistant to crash damage than carbon fiber.
Why Cycles uses Grade 9 3/2.5 titanium for frame tubing and 6/4 titanium for the head tube, bottom bracket shell, and all machined bits.
Union Sport is a new saddle company based in Pasadena, California. Interesting-sounding technologies include cell-like hollow padding under the sit bones, upturned tails that supposedly improve power transmission, and sides that move independently for better biomechanics.