The ALPEN team made it out to scenic Monterey, California in early April for our inaugural Sea Otter Classic. For those not in the bike world, Sea Otter welcomes 80,000 self proclaimed bike nerds and industry folks to the infield of Laguna Seca Raceway for four days of expo and events.
As the largest bike expo in the U.S., anyone who’s anyone in the bike industry is there: exhibitors included all the top brands from bikes, components, tires, accessories, apparel, racks, helmets and, now, bike storage. The weekend also features pro and amateur road riders winding around the race track, some epic gravel and mountain bike cross-country racing on the nearby trails and even a downhill mountain bike dual slalom event that was absolutely bonkers.
As for ALPEN, we were consistently swamped with visitors and we came home stoked with the reception from our peers in the industry and from the hundreds of guests with whom we had the pleasure of speaking. If you stopped by the booth, we want to say thank you! And we hope you’re enjoying the schwag.
For those not in attendance, we wanted to share a few of our personal experiences and takeaways from our first, but surely not our last, Sea Otter Classic. See y’all next year!
Bike Storage and Safety is Top of Mind
With the huge increase in participation fueled by stay-at-home orders given during the pandemic there’s a whole segment of new cyclists entering the market who are dealing with issues many of us have been battling for a long time now: how do I ride safely and where do I store/park my bike when I arrive at my home/destination?
Our product garnered a lot of attention since it was such an attractive and novel solution to this issue. One 30-year Sea Otter veteran and bike industry insider even stated it was the most innovative product he saw at the show this year.
We spoke to many customers fighting bike theft in their communities, heard from families who say the drop off line at their children’s school is a “parade” of e-cargo bikes, cycling advocates from local bicycle coalitions, as well as college students who desperately want their bikes out of the tiny dorms but only have inadequate bike racks as an option.
So what did we learn? A LOT! There’s a desperate need for our product in the marketplace in order to enable a safer cycling experience for everyone. While the Classic has been a hit with consumers, we’re stoked that our newest product, Basecamp, will open even more doors for the commercial real estate space so that there’s a safe place to park while you’re not at home.
In conversation after conversation, we were validated in our approach to facilitating the cycling community in a more comprehensive manner with our “connected” products. Moreover, e-bikes are the commuting future so let’s really focus there. While so many companies are clamoring to service EV’s and ‘electrify’ America’s roads, ALPEN strives to be the equivalent for e-bikes at a local level.
There’s such a huge opportunity here and we’re excited to be providing solutions that cyclists want, with real world implications on the health and happiness of so many.
E-Bikes are HERE
It’s safe to say that e-bikes are here, in a big way. While this was a pretty hardcore crowd of cyclists who would have poo-poo’d these bikes as “cheating” a few years ago, opinions felt markedly positive! And of the exhibitors, we noticed that nearly every name-brand bike manufacturer had at least one e-bike in their line-up and there were many boutique e-bike brands in attendance.
The attractiveness of e-bikes is undeniable and as prices come down - or government rebates come to more cities and states - even greater adoption is inevitable. We think that once you get on an e-bike it’s very hard to go back. Take the example of the parents dropping their kids off at school on a cargo bike: this is typically a short trip to a school that is now accomplished without breaking a sweat and it’s fun for parents and kids. Those parents may now extend their trip to the coffee shop, or grocery store, and then return home … all on an e-bike.
What we don’t want to see is these users falling victim to theft or accident. That’s a surefire way to get folks back in cars (not good). So as ALPEN grows, we see this as a vitally important segment.
“Acoustic” Bikes are STILL HERE
Okay fine, a motor on your bike sure sounds fun, but there’s always going to be a place in the quiver for a good old fashioned pedal bike.
The good news for the purists is that there’s certainly no lack of innovation and stoke in the bike market. The suffer fest is still alive and kicking for gravel and we see that as a really fun intersection of roadie masochism and dirt bag mountain bike fun (include this author in this group).
Best of all, there’s a bike for literally everything and anything these days. I guess someone figured out that not everyone needs a 150mm travel and full carbon everything to have a good time on your local trails! Alloy is back, hard-tails are cool again, hybrid bikes with multiple tire configurations and accessory mounting points are getting a new look, bike packing is raging and flat bars are being put on gravel bikes to provide a more comfortable and nimble ride on techy trails.
Safe to say that it’s harder than ever to choose a great new bike, and we love having all the options.
It’s About Fun
And bringing this longer than average post to a conclusion: bikes are fun! Being around all the positive energy at Sea Otter was infectious. We were (more than) a little jealous of the attendees getting out and riding the glorious Monterey trails while we were “working”. We loved seeing all of the smiling faces. The camaraderie and reverie post-show was unmistakable. We met tons of cool people and had an absolute blast.
Overall, we walked away with the unmistakable feeling that we were in the midst of 80,000 people that all believed bikes can change the world. And that’s a fun place to be.