Seeking the Creative at Sea Otter

Gear Sea Otter Classic

In search of the most creative inventions at this year’s Sea Otter Classic

My mission for the first official day of the Sea Otter Classic was to seek those creative inventor types, the ones who have an innovative or unique idea that clearly stands out from the rest of the crowd. As I began my tour of the Expo on this gorgeous April day in Monterey, I expected to find at least a handful of interesting and even crazy inventions. But after walking for hours, I could only find two ideas that were truly unique.

With special cork padding inside the helmet, the Tree Piece lid absorbs sweat while providing superior impact protection.

Tree Piece Natural Fiber Helmets

Dan Coyle hails from Corvallis, Oregon, where trees are grown and harvested in abundance; the perfect place to source materials for his bike helmets. That’s right, his helmets are made of wood. What started as a hobby making helmets for whitewater kayaking slowly grew into eyeglasses and kayaking paddles, shaping them with nothing more than a chainsaw and grinder.

In 2010 Coyle moved into bicycle helmets, but instead of firing up a chainsaw, he decided to use a CNC router to shape them.  Using 100 percent sustainable materials including cork and a variety of softwoods and hardwoods, Coyle’s Tree Piece Natural Fiber Helmets are fully customizable for any head shape, using CAD software to set dimensions. Custom visors and venting can also be incorporated to the user’s exact specifications.

The Madrone pricetag isn’t cheap, but you’ll be guaranteed to have the most unique and stylish helmet ever made.

The inside of each shell features a Polyurea coating also used in the military to enhance energy absorption from impact to crack or crush without fragmenting or blowing apart. The renewable and recyclable sheets of cork are laser cut for padded inserts, not only helping cushion impact, but also providing non-allergenic, antimicrobial and antifungal sweat absorption and all-day comfort. Every helmet is hand-sanded and sealed with three coats of epoxy and Linear Polyurethane for durability and UV protection that far exceeds the life of foam and plastic helmets.

So yeah, of course they look super cool and unique, but the big question is, are they safe? Wood and cork are natural open-cell materials that can crush and deform to absorb impact rather than transferring energy. To prove the safety of his helmets, Coyle sent his helmets to ACT Lab, a CPSC accredited testing facility that is considered the standard in safety testing for not only bicycle helmets, but also composite bicycle frames for leading brands like Trek, Giant, Cervelo and Fuji.

Dan Coyle explains the engineering and craftsmanship behind the Tree Piece Natural Fiber Helmet.

Coyle’s helmets have passed every test without exception, with ACT technicians regarding the performance of the cork as “fantastic”. The only reason Coyle cannot receive certification for his design is because there are no current standards for certifying a non mass-produced, custom-built helmet of any kind regardless of material. Rest assured, these helmets are not only stylin’, but they’re also completely safe to wear. But like traditional helmets, Coyle’s works of are only good for one impact.

Of course, like any handmade American product, quality is exceptionally high and price is not cheap. Expect to pay anywhere from $375 to $550+ depending on options and wood, but rest assured, you’re going to have one of the most unique, comfortable and beautiful handmade helmets ever created that will perform as well as any high-performance helmet from the big name brands.

Visit Dan Coyle at his Sea Otter Booth and get more information at

The Adaptrac system features patented hubs designed to hold air pressure lines.

Adaptrac Adjustable Traction Control System

One of the most overlooked yet most crucial elements to effective handling and traction on a mountain bike is tire pressure. In many cases proper tire pressure can be the difference between cleaning a rocky, loose climb and having to walk it. Adaptrac makes proper tire pressure as simple as the flick of a switch, featuring an on-the-fly adjustable tire pressurization system that can inflate or deflate both front and rear tires while you ride.

Much like the pressurization system on military HUMVEEs, the Adaptrac system features a multi-part system with patent pending rear 142x12mm and front 15mm front through-axle hubs threaded for pressurized air lines, a dual control valve, a regulator and a bottle of CO2 good for 10 complete cycles from 20 to 50 psi (26”x2.35” tires) from a 12 ounce tank. An air hose connects from the hub to the Presta valve on the rim for inflation and deflation. Two analog tire pressure gauges mounted next to the inflation/deflation switches on the handlebars tell you exactly what pressure the tires are at.

The Adaptrac system features tire pressure gauges and two switches for inflation and deflation of the front and rear tires.

Inflation time from 20-50 psi is a mere seven seconds, and in 20 seconds the tires can deflate from 50 to 20 psi. Total system weight is only about 1.5 pounds with an empty 9 ounce CO2 tank.

Flicking the switches and hearing the air automatically pump up the tires as you ride is an incredible sensation, and for owners of fat bikes who ride pavement to the snow, the Adaptrac system is absolutely killer. Ride high pressure on pavement or hard pack, and once you hit snow or sand, drop the pressure to four psi and get your fat on. When it’s time to head back home, forget the hand pump. Just flick the switch and the Adaptec system re-inflates your tires to street pressure. For people familiar with four-wheeling, it’s like having your own onboard air system.

Brandt Weibezahn standing with his fully suspension fatbike creation – The Zeppelin.

The man behind Adaptrac, Brandt Weibezahn, is clearly a man who can turn ideas into reality. Not only did he design the entire Adaptrac system, but he even designed and welded up his own custom full-suspension fat bike for Sea Otter dubbed The Zeppelin under the Devise Cycles brand. The Zeppelin features a triple crown front fork with pressure dials on the top crown, a sealed down tube that serves as an expansion tank for the Adaptrac system for faster fill times and a light and efficient SRAM XX1 drivetrain.

Although this system will probably never see the mainstream, especially with weight weenies who don’t want the extra 1.5 pounds of mass on their bikes, for downhill rigs and especially fat bikes, the Adaptrac system could very well be a huge hit. It works awesome, looks super trick and serves a very functional and useful purpose for those not as concerned about overall weight. Visit them at their Sea Otter booth and get more info at

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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