Brian Mullin’s Walkabout – Sea Otter 2013

27.5 29er Forks Gear Helmets Hydration Sea Otter Classic Tires

This is a short synopsis of my wanderings during the Sea otter 2013 festival, and captures some products that I found interesting, including the WTB Vigilante tire, White Brothers Brototype fork, Bar Fly 2.0 computer mount, Hydrapak Bishop pack, KS LEV Carbon dropper post, Focus Raven 27.5″ bike, QAK Thump headphones and O-Tus speakers.

WTB Vigilante
The new WTB Vigilante is a 2.3″ Enduro tire, that comes in 26″, 650B and 29″ sizes. The All Mountain beef Meister uses an aggressive open block tread design, is TCS (Tubeless Compatible System), and utilizes their Dual DNA compound. It has a special nylon sidewall treatment for extra protection, and weighs around 940 grams and will start at $64.95. The combination of the tough, thick and durable sidewalls and softer tread, should make for an excellent tire for Enduro racing and frequent muddy and rocky infused conditions.

In person, this is one big tire, and the tread has a soft and pliable feel, with tough abrasion-resistant sidewalls. I am looking forward to trying this tire when it comes out this May.

Bar Fly
Tate Labs the bike computer mount company, hasn’t rested on its laurels, and from feedback of their Bar Fly 1.0 and 1.1 models, they designed the impressive new Bar Fly 2.0. The made in the USA 2.0 mount, which is meant for the Garmin Edge bike computers, has been lowered to be more inline with the stem, and has dual position slots for more flexibility, retails for $24.99, and the bottom can be integrated with the Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS modules.

I have been testing the 2.0, and it’s easy to install the one bolt clamp over the bars, and my Garmin Edge 800 sits in an ideal location for viewing.

White Brothers
According to the Urban dictionary Brototype means “a first or preliminary model of a bro, from which other bros are developed or copied,” but in this case it’s a just a play on White Brothers and Prototype. White Brothers is jumping full force into the big wheel fork category with the Brototype, and the preliminary plans, though not quite finalized, is to have a 27.5″ fork with 170mm of travel and a 29er with 150mm. The air sprung fork will have 34mm stanchions, adjustable compression and spring ramp, and will come with their QTaper 15mm TA. Some other trick features, which will hopefully make it to production, are a Molybdenum Disulfide coating and internally adjustable travel.

Over on the MRP side of the company, they showed me a new stealth black color for their SRAM compatible Bling Rings.

Hydrapak
The prototype Bishop is a top-secret hydration pack from Hydrapak, and they weren’t passing along much information. The top of the line pack has a lot of attention to detail, and uses heavier and more durable materials, upgraded zipper pulls, and an outer helmet and armor and apparel pouch. The most interesting aspect was the new molded back panel, that is raised up somewhat, has lots of ventilation ports and nicely padded. This same sort of system is also carried into the shoulder straps and waist belt, although on a much smaller and thinner scale. The inside has some nice additions that I can’t go into much, but this should be an excellent evolution to their burgeoning pack lineup. I am looking forward to seeing a more final version of the pack.

Kind Shock
The KS LEV is a superb infinitely adjustable hydraulic seatpost, with a plush and silky-smooth stroke, and it sports an innovative zero cable movement design. The LEV currently comes in two versions, the normal externally actuated LEV and bottom actuated LEV Integra, the latter having the remotes cable coming up inside the seattube. The two models are soon to be joined by the prototype LEV Carbon, which uses a carbon fiber main post. The LEV Carbon is oriented towards x-country racing and shorter travel bikes, and has 65mm of travel, only will come in 30.9mm and 31.6 diameters, and has a preliminary weight of 325 grams, and a rather hefty price close to $600.

Focus
The German bike company Focus is jumping into the 27.5 bandwagon with the Raven 650B 1.0, which follows on the heels of its 26″ and 29″ carbon hardtail brethren. The gorgeous frame, has swooping lines, triangulated shaped and bridgeless seatstays, internally routed cabling, and a fully kitted bike will retail for $3,950, and weigh around 24 lbs. The kit includes a Shimano XT build, their own Concept rims with SLX hubs, a Concept cockpit, and RockShox Revelation fork. Refer to a test ride that Kurt took here.

QAK
The QAK (Quality Accessories are Key) company is based out of Boulder Colorado, and they had some interesting wireless headphones on display. Their two main products are the Thump Blu (shown) and the Thump P3 wireless headsets. Both systems use a behind-the-head design, with the speakers lightly resting in your ears, and are supposed to allow one to hear ambient queues in your environment and have conversations. With the Thump P3, you load songs into its 1GB or 2GB of memory, $79 and $99 respectively, and you’re ready to go. The Thump Blu at $79 uses a Bluetooth connection to wirelessly converse with your mobile device. The Thump Blu works quite nicely, and the sound reproduction was decent. I am testing out the Thump Blu, and after getting used to the unit, I could switch songs using a button on the side of the headset and take calls if required, so it had quite a few features packed into its small package.

O-Tus
The O-tus system takes a different approach to music reproduction while on a ride, and they use mini speakers that attach to your helmet right next to your ears. The O-tus uses a 15 watt near-ear speaker, which retails for $42.00, and definitely allows you to hear ambient background sounds and converse with people. The speakers are small and quiet enough that you’re the only one that hears the music. I am looking forward to some long term testing with this system, as it meets my requirements for having music and still letting me hear the world.

Brian Mullin’s Walkabout – Sea Otter 2013 Gallery
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O-tus - Near Ear Speakers

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QAK - Thump Blu Headphones

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Focus - Raven 27.5" Bike

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KS LEV Dropper Post Lineup

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Hydrapak Bishop - hydration pack

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White Brothers - Brototype fork

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Tate Labs - Bar Fly Bike Computer mounts

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WTB Vigilante tire

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Trail Monkey says:

    Brain… I think it’s time for a QAK-thump / O-Tus / AfterShokz tune off !!!! May the best system win !

  • Chase says:

    I disagree on the earbuds NONO.
    I have a set of Bluebuds X BT headphones. They transform a boring 2 track slog up hills to a symphony of rockin’ out motivation. I can always pull one if I need to hear others and I rarely see anyone anyway.
    On trail…YES! On street…NO!

  • Ed says:

    I have used O-tus for a year, love them.

  • d.peper says:

    I rode with earbuds but have moved to a bluetooth powered speaker HDMX Jam. I run that baby up and pump the tunes! It is safer for those that I’m overtaking and fun for those that are chasing me:) In a group ride we can still talk and visit as well as hear what my bike is doing. I have a big Galaxy phone with a lot of battery:) and a dope fanny pak if that is even possible?

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