The Subaru Sea Otter Classic, the largest outdoor sports/cycling/mountain biking festival on the West Coast, is fielding entries for their first electric bike race, which is to be held in April 2016. The race will offer electric mountain bike riders the chance to see who is quickest on a varied course that includes road descents, single track trails, challenging distance, and a bit of climbing.
Unlike the festival’s regular cycling events, however, the Sea Otter Classic’s electric mountain bike race will not be sanctioned by USA Cycling. This could be a good thing for participants in the race because if the race were sanctioned, then professional riders would be more likely to enter, so this year’s race will probably be less cutthroat and hence more fun for everyone involved.
The only comparable electric bike racing event is the famous Rad Am Ring, a 24-hour team endurance race which takes place on Germany’s famed Nurburgring racetrack. The Sea Otter Classic’s eMTB race will be quite different than Nürburg’s Rad Am Ring, since the Rad Am Ring is confined to paved asphalt and the Sea Otter Classic features off-road elements, and the Sea Otter Classic’s race only lasts 60 minutes. Interestingly enough, the Sea Otter Classic would be the perfect venue to create a North American version of the Rad Am Ring, as the Sea Otter Classic takes place just steps from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which is one of North America’s most famous racetracks.
The organizers have space for 500 eMTB riders to race one another for glory in a number of age categories, and entry fees are a reasonable $55. There is currently no list of restrictions for competing e-bikes, but since it’s an hour-long race, endurance and long range will surely be a prerequisite for any competitive entry – unless battery swaps are allowed, that is!
Since electric bike racing is in its infancy and the industry as a whole needs more public exposure, it’s a very positive sign to see support from a major regional event like the Sea Otter Classic. The increased exposure for electric bikes could result in more sales and better distribution, and could lead to the establishment of a popular annual e-bike race or perhaps even a national e-bike racing series.