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Sea Otter 2022: Prototypes, high-tech bits and recycled apparel from Laguna Seca

The best new and upcoming apparel and components from California

Sea Otter is back in a big way, crowding the Laguna Seca Raceway’s infield with rows of booths filled with the latest and greatest from brands from all over the world.

Here’s a selection of the best we saw at Sea Otter 2022, from prototypes to new ultra-light protection and high-tech drivetrain goods. There were also a ton of new tires on display, so don’t miss those.

Norco’s golden Range

Norco didn’t have anything new in its booth, but it was showing off its most recent success: the Range enduro (and downhill) bike. A golden Range celebrated the bike’s many positive reviews. Four prototype frames from various stages of development opened a window into how the bike was designed. If you want to know more, Norco went into detail of the three-year process for the bike’s launch.

RELATED: Sea Otter 2022: Tread tales

Smith adds Wildcat options

Smith showed off three new frame designs at Sea Otter, each in a range of colours and patterns. Many riders will be stoked to see the Bobcat, a smaller version of Smith’s popular Wildcat frame to bring that design to smaller faces. The Boomtown (which I can only hope is a reference to the Letterkenny character of the same name) mixes lifestyle and performance for a frame you can wear on and off the bike. The Resolve is a classic minimalist sports look. All three use Smith’s ChromaPop lenses.

Sombrio’s new looks

Vancouver brand Sombrio is back with a new line of more technical riding apparel. The brand always mixes more casual looks with performance-minded options. The new Vanquish line is on the performance side, using DWR-coated pants and shorts, cut to fit pads comfortably. Vanquish jerseys are also cut to fit while wearing pads in a riding position. It’s still a more casual look than some more moto-inspired brands, but it is not flannel. The shorts and jersey will be in women’s cut while the pants are just a single design.

After releasing its first bike last year, the Shovel, Sombrio is following up with a line of youth bikes. The Bobsled comes in 20, 24 and 27-inch wheel sizes.

Giro’s new Mips and green apparel line

Giro has big new things going on. The Merit Spherical brings MIPS new rotational impact protection system down from the top-end line to a more affordable helmet. The new ball-in-socket design allows for better venting than some other concussion protection systems.

On the apparel side the Renew apparel line is, as its name suggests, made entirely from recycled material. Giro uses reclaimed fishnets for Renew materials and will be making everything from casual and performance jerseys to its staple D’n’D glove from recycled material in 2022.

Ceramic Speed is not about big pulley wheels

Anyone who spends time on the road will recognize Ceramic Speed’s oversized pully wheels. The gigantic pulley wheels and carbon-coated cages have been available for a couple of years, and now in blue, but that’s not really what Ceramic Speed’s excited about on the mountain bike side.

The brand is making bottom brackets, headsets and suspension pivot bearings, all of which come with a lifetime warranty. It uses a Solid Lubrication Technology (SLT) design, where bearings are encapsulated in a porous solid plastic polymer that creates a self-lubricating, corrosion-resistant design that requires minimal maintenance. Ceramic Speed’s so confident in the design, it’s offering lifetime warrantys on all bearings and BBs, though the brand doesn’t expect you to need a replacement. Ever.

661: Goggles and women’s armour

A long-standing name in mountain bike armour, 661 is currently bigger in Europe than North America but looking to change that. There are several exciting products the brand is hoping will help. First is the new Recon line of trail pads. Using the new D3O Ghost insert, a lighter more flexible version of the original D3O that provides the same level of impact protection, 661 makes a very lightweight pad designed for all-day pedalling. 661 also uses D3O’s original material, including in its more affordable DBO line. That makes 661 one of the few brands making pads with D3O in a more budget-friendly pad. DBO knee pads start at US$75.00.

661 also has a women’s specific model of its EVO compression jacked and shorts. It is, as far as we know, the first women’s specific compression jacket designed for mountain biking, as opposed to carried over from a motocross line.  There’s more women’s specific mountain bike apparel in the works, too. The brand’s working with female athletes, like Elladee Brown and the Commencal-Muc Off team, to design pads that work for different leg dimensions.

661 already produces the Radia goggle, mixing price-conscious and performance with a Cylindrically injection moulded polycarbonate lenses for US$50. The lenses are injection moulded into a 4-base curve, not bent to fit the goggle, so you don’t get distortion in your field of view. A new high performance version is coming soon, using a six-base curve for better peripheral vision, different foam and a fit designed for more helmets.

Finally, 661 had a new Terra dirt jump helmet. It uses in-mould construction, instead of a glue construction, with a low profile not seen in many dirt jump helmets. It adds a dial fit adjust and will come in two sizes with heat-sealed pads. All for US$50.