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Sea Otter 2024: Are we back?

It’s been more than a few years since Rodeo Labs has exhibited at the Sea Otter festival in Monterrey, California. With the demise of other large industry and consumer festivals, it’s safe to say that Sea Otter has risen to the most prominent position in the domestic US cycling expo scene. With that in mind, I decided to visit it for myself, and on behalf of Rodeo Labs. At the front of my mind the entire time was a simple question: What is the state of the industry, or bikes in general? After a weekend of conversations with so many of our partners, suppliers, and just general industry friends, my feeling is that we’re all wondering the same thing. 

“How are things going for you? Yeah, same here. I can’t believe so-and-so went under. How much longer do you think this will last?” For us sales have been inconsistent and unpredictable, made more so by large spikes in activity followed by erratic slow periods, over and over and over. Even so, we remain cautiously optimistic about our future and the future of the industry.

However, one thing for certain is that it feels like we are safely, or unsafely, past the world we knew during the pandemic. Attendance numbers were higher than they have been in years and conversations catching up with old friends were blooming with excitement, relief even. During the pandemic, product development was stymied due to manufacturers treading water with production windows booking out for years (yes, years). With manufacturing schedules back on track however, there was no shortage of innovation and exciting new products on display this year.

Now that the dust has settled and all of the clickbait ‘hottest tech trends’ articles have been reviewed, I wanted to put together an article of the most exciting things WE saw at the show for Rodeo and all of our like-minded followers.

HydraPak: Filter Bottle

Bikepacking and adventure riding is exciting for us because it provides a nearly endless platform for creativity. How much stuff are you going to bring? How are you going to attach it to your bike? Is there a way to do all that and shed some grams?

Having a way to clean water is a necessary problem to solve with many options currently on the market. Steripens, LifeStraws, squeeze bag systems, pump filters like the Rodeo-preferred MSR Trailshot system… the options are nearly endless with an entire article dedicated to the topic by our friends over at

Enter HydraPak. A long time supplier of bladders and other hydration vestibules, we are no strangers to the brand. However, with their recent acquisition of Polar Bottles based in Boulder, Colorado, HydraPak has seemed to create a new option maximizing the simplicity of a water purifying system. The filter is built right into the lid of the bottle so it’s as simple as filling the bottle from a safe water source, popping the lid back on, and drinking. The flow of water from the bottle was impressive, although it will vary with the cleanliness of the water source. 

Since it’s stored in your bottle cage as part of the bottle, it’s one less thing to pack or forget at a campsite. It doesn’t get much more simple than that.

Project 321: G3 Gravel Hubs

With the launch of our 3.0 rims, our interest in the latest and greatest in the world of hubs has been piqued. While historically weary of gimmicks, we do applaud creative problem solving and the implementation of non-traditional solutions to create a better product. Companies like Onyx have used clutch systems to create a lag-free hub engagement, albeit at a considerable weight penalty.

Enter Project 321, a hub manufacturer based out of the greater Toronto area making all of their hubs in Canada. One of the most frustrating things that can happen while rebuilding a hub or replacing a freehub is dropping a pawl spring on the floor. Project 321 has really thought outside the box here and are actually using small magnets to engage their pawls. Simple and brilliant if you ask us.

We have plans to test these hubs, but Project 321 claims lower coasting resistance without the use of springs. With numerous anodizing options and the possibility to mix and match colors, there doesn’t seem to be much to dislike. At 350-360g per hubset, they aren’t featherweight but are respectably light. Hopefully we’ll have more soon from firsthand experience, but we are now set up to offer these as a build option on our 3.0 rims for those early adapters out there.

Gratuitous Overland Vehicles

Not much to say here. Just look at it in all its glory.

Vittoria: Recycled Tires

Reducing waste is important to us at Rodeo. Anybody that has ever bought a bike from us has likely seen that rather than using virgin materials, we repurpose all of the material that we receive bike parts in to send bikes back out the door. It’s more labor intensive, but it’s a small way for us to keep our dumpsters from getting full outside. We’ve actually been so effective with our recycling that often the recycling truck arrives to a mostly-empty bin when they do come every couple of weeks. Also with our footprint in mind, we insist on repairing bikes whenever possible rather than relegating them to the trash yard like so much of the industry does.

Vittoria has been one of the first tire companies to improve their manufacturing processes to reduce their environmental impact. New factories have been built to minimize their carbon footprint and they have historically taken steps to maximize the use of raw materials. However, Vittoria hasn’t stopped there and is launching a series of tires made entirely out of natural or recycled materials.

What’s more, the new tires were not created to be faster than their traditional tires but just so happened to test faster because of the pliability of the new materials. Three cheers for happy accidents! Vittoria has plans to expand tread options in the line, but we hope to offer their launch model as soon as we can. They also just look awesome in all brown.

5dev: Titanium Cranks and Aero Chainrings

While we often err on the side of value and utility when it comes to parts, we’re never ones to shy away from just plain fancy.

5dev, a machine shop based out of Southern California, used the opportunity to launch their new titanium cranks and aero chainrings targeted at the road and gravel markets.

Weights aren’t the lightest in the industry for a titanium crank, but they may be just about the prettiest, especially with a DLC black coating option (like we’ve seen on chains). Combined with the aero chainring, the pair makes the best looking crank combo we’ve seen in recent memory. We’re also now set up with account to offer these on our builds should you try to get your Donkey or Flaanimal dressed in their Sunday best.

Saris: Modular Hitch System

It’s no secret that we at Rodeo Labs are suckers for utilitarian modularity. Over the last few years, Saris has rolled out more options for their modular hitch system which is based around a single, hitch mounted base which can accept different rack and tray configurations. 

Are you heading to Moab with a group of three? Strap three bike trays on the back. 

Heading up to the mountains for a family weekend camping trip and hoping to slip away for a ride? Mount up a cargo rack and a single bike tray so you don’t have to leave the 160qt cooler at home.

Best Day Brewing: Non-Alcoholic Brews

The objective truth is that the best post, or mid, ride beverage of choice is an ice cold crispy boy. With more and more people opting to go alcohol free, the world of 0.0% and near-beers is growing at a rapid pace. However, flavors can be hit or miss with some just not striking the same chord as a genuine beer.

Best Day Brewing was out at the show providing refreshments and none hit better than the Electro-Lime Cerveza. This was the best non-alcoholic beer we’ve had to date. With tasty lime and salt providing electrolytes, let the recovery hydration begin.

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