Cane Creek USA attends the 2017 Sea Otter Classic

Cane Creek USA attends the 2017 Sea Otter Classic

May 08 2017 | Andrew S.

Cane Creek USA attends the 2017 Sea Otter Classic

The first time I went to Sea Otter was in 2013, before I had started working at Cane Creek. I was actually racing one of my first downhill races as a “professional” after driving across the entire country, and I was beyond excited to arrive. It was one of the biggest races I’d participated in to that point and it was my first trip to California. Making my way through the Monterey countryside to the event was quite an experience. I remember instantly thinking to myself how awesome it would be to blast the rolling hills in a sports car or on a motorcycle. It only makes sense to have a racetrack like Laguna Seca built there!

For me, the highlight of the event was being completely overwhelmed by how much time and effort the cycling companies invested in attending this event. The race pits and expo area was filled with semi trucks and looked more like a Supercross event than a bike race.  I rode the shuttle truck with Cedric Gracia , Aaron Gwin, Steve Smith, and Greg Minnaar. Stayed in my cruddy old pop-up trailer at a campground right on the beach, with riding buddies who would become lifelong friends, and I surf and rode every day. I dropped my chain mid race-run and finished mid-pack, but that didn’t matter — I was in paradise.

So back in November, when our President and CEO Brent Graves told me that I would be going back to Sea Otter again, this time as a representative of Cane Creek, it took everything I had to politely say “thank you, I would love to attend” and not jump completely out of my seat with excitement. Since our department was in transition from one director to another, I was going to represent the Cane Creek marketing team.  We were planning to bring several new products to market and I was faced with the logistical challenge of getting all of our people, equipment and product to the other side of the country. But none of that worried me, because I knew the team we would bring together could handle anything. 

Our team included Cane Creek Cycling Components President and CEO Brent Graves, OEM Sales Manager T.R Maloney, Product Manager Sam Anderson, Fork Production Lead Alex Dawson, and myself, representing the Marketing Department.  Having a “good plan with great execution” was emphasized during our early planning meetings and helped to guide our approach. Standout, give riders the chance to ride our suspension, and stay true to our roots is what we set out to accomplish.  

 

Most of our team has traveled to the west coast many times in the past.  But for Sam and Alex this event was their first chance to experience the Golden State’s community, landscape, diverse trail systems, and the excitement of seeing a real life sea otter for the first time! 

 

The plan to stand out among a sea of vendors and bike companies was set in motion weeks in advance of the event.  Sam and Brent ensured the HELM would catch the eye of the passerby, as well as be seen out on the trails, by designating a limited run of a “chartreuse” colorway. (Image) Taylor is prepping the special edition crowns, before hand pressing the fork’s stanchions and steerer tubes.  

 

With the launch of the HELM fork, riders (for the first time ever) have the ability to experience Cane Creek suspension on both on the front and the rear of their bike! This is something that Cane Creek employees have been ecstatic about throughout the testing and development process of the HELM project.  OEM Sales Manager, T.R organized a partnership with Santa Cruz Bicycles for the Sea Otter Classic and secured the use of 12 new 2017 Bronsons and 5010s in sizes ranging from small to extra large.  This gave us the chance to properly set riders up on the appropriate setup and let them experience first hand what makes Cane Creek different. 

Preparation is the key to success, and before heading out to the west coast, we needed to ensure that we identified, analyzed, and acted on any foreseeable obstacle that lie ahead.  Thankfully Michea over at Santa Cruz was able to assist me in acquiring the technical specifications needed.  Everything from shock eye-to-eye and fork steerer lengths, to hub end-cap spacing was needed to be triple checked. (Image) Cane Creek engineer’s Ashton and Mike assisted me in cutting all of the fork steerer tubes to the appropriate sizes.  Installing all of the crown races, star nuts, and shock hardware before arriving at Santa Cruz HQ would keep the suspension installation process as quick as possible.

Alex and I packed light and made arrangements to fly in two days prior to the start of the event.  Taking off on a “red-eye” flight from Asheville, North Carolina and hopefully arriving in San Jose, California before noon. Our goal was to pick up a 15 foot U-Haul box truck, drive to Santa Cruz, unpack our pallet, assembly the 12 bikes, pack the truck, drive to Monterey, and then check-in to the hotel rooms before the rest of the team arrives. 

Alex and I packed light and made arrangements to fly in two days prior to the start of the event.  Taking off on a “red-eye” flight from Asheville, North Carolina and hopefully arriving in San Jose, California before noon. Our goal was to pick up a 15 foot U-Haul box truck, drive to Santa Cruz, unpack our pallet, assembly the 12 bikes, pack the truck, drive to Monterey, and then check-in to the hotel rooms before the rest of the team arrives. 

 

We decided not to focus on the problem, but rather on the solution.  Santa Cruz’s Michea M. quickly introduced us to John and Curtis, two of their top techs, who assisted us in preparing the five of the twelve bikes we had available.  This turned out to be a great opportunity!  Alex whom is our Fork Production Lead was able to provide a first hand technical seminar of the machined internal components that differentiate the HELM, as well as thoroughly explain our fork’s air spring setup procedure and axle system.  After making friends, sharing a tool bench, and going back-and-forth on decades of MTB suspension technology, Alex and I had to get back on the road.  But John and Curtis agreed to help us out — The 7 bikes we needed were re-allocated and they finished setting them up without us and then personally drove down to Sea Otter. THANK YOU again guys!

Alex and I were psyched on the new friendships and connections we made and thought we were in the clear as we held a constant 55 miles an hour down the beautiful south bound coastal highway. All that was left to complete on our first day in California was to check-in to our team’s hotel rooms; which sounds easy enough.  Hungry, jetlagged, and (I’ll say it) stinky, Alex and I approached the front desk of the hotel where we booked all of the rooms required.  With the confirmation number and email in hand, the hotel staff informed us that there had been a mistake with the reservations and that the hotel was completely booked up for the entire week.  45 minutes of phone calls back and forth with online representatives and managers of hotels in surrounding areas left us nowhere.  It was 7 o’clock at night after a long day of travel and wrenching on bikes and Alex and I were still without a place to sleep... that is until our luck turned around.  Just as we began to lose hope, a guest that was staying at the hotel and was planning on attending the entire Sea Otter Classic was called back to the office, freeing up a room for the exact amount of nights we needed! Alex and I quickly reserved that room and got some much-needed rest.

The days before the Sea Otter Classic opens to the public is quite a scene, with nearly 500 different cycling companies being represented. There are literally armies of personnel assembling tents, teardrops, and demo fleets.  (image) Alex cleaning our tent after a dust storm.

The Sea Otter Classic is a place where companies can showcase new product, interact with customers, and talk to representatives from global distributors. One of the highlights was when some of our friends from Cosmic Sports / Germany surprised us! We have communicated throughout the year via emails and Skype calls.  But it was great to meet Daniel, Gerhard, and Tibor in person. We set them up on a pair of new Santa Cruz Bronsons decked out with HELM forks, DB Air [IL] shock’s, set the sag, went over the new products first hand, and away they went.  CC Product Manager Sam Anderson and Tibor hitting a fun feature out on the meadow trails.

 

With all the different types of racing going on, we were prepared to offer some rider support.  We replaced contaminated bearings, worn DU bushings, and helped dial in suspension settings all weekend.  Alex was even able to help a young rider get his rear shocks set up minutes before his first ever downhill race!

Our good friend Sebastian drove over 5 hours one way from Jenson USA‘s headquarters just to meet up and ride with us up and down the valleys of Monterey. Great seeing you Sebastian!

“Smiles for miles” - Having your bike’s initial suspension set up professionally done before hitting the trails was a first for most of the riders who signed up for our demo.  And you could easily tell by the faces of returning riders, that it makes all the difference!

“Smiles for miles” - Having your bike’s initial suspension set up professionally done before hitting the trails was a first for most of the riders who signed up for our demo.  And you could easily tell by the faces of returning riders, that it makes all the difference!

To conclude our first ever Cane Creek HELM demo event, we raffled off a brand new Launch Edition HELM to one lucky rider!

 

The second time at Sea Otter…. and it was an AWESOME experience again! We worked as a team, had the chance to talk with riders about riding, and even got out to rip up the trails ourselves.  The honest, face-to-face, real world connections we made with people whom are excited about cycling are so valuable to us as a small component manufacturer.  Because when it comes down to it, the group of individuals at Cane Creek Cycling Components truly care about what they do everyday.  No matter if it’s enduro racing or your daily commute, helping to improve the riding experience is the name of the game.  We can’t wait for the next adventure! Thank you everyone who helped out along the way and especially everyone at Santa Cruz bikes for the hospitality and local trail guidance.  I can’t wait till next year!

 

 

 

 

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