Sea Otter Classic packs the best stuff cycling has to offer in one magnificent setting.

Air and Land: Popular spectator events at Sea Otter Classic include the big air competition.

The Sea Otter Classic is to cycling what Coachella is to music – a grand meeting point where the spectator and the superstar converge for a weekend of reveling in what they love. In this case, that love is two wheels and a saddle. Gaining more momentum every year (this time around, auto icon Volkswagen is the title sponsor), the SOC is a four-day mecca for cycling enthusiasts. 

Attendance this year is estimated at 50,000, making it the largest cycling expo in North America. For the full experience, festivalgoers are invited to camp on the majestic grounds of Laguna Seca (showers and running water will be available), where morning yoga sessions will get you limber and ready to score prime spots for viewing the day’s events. Kids of all ages are welcome, with a variety of confidence-building, age-appropriate courses and activities available for budding bikers, and a whole toybox of activities so fun it will be hard to get them to leave. 

At Sea Otter Village, about 320 vendors – selling everything from long lasting dry lube and bottom brackets made of bomb-proof steel to suction cup mounted bike racks and multi colored BMX handlebar grips – will be on site with so many types of helmet, specialized clothing, accessories, nutrient-rich bars and goos and everything else fit for two wheels that you’ll think you’ve walked into Lance Armstrong’s personal fantasyland. 

In fact, the expo is like the wider event – too much going on to describe all of it – so below we sample some of the highlights all the four-day event has to offer. For a longer look at festival events, cruise by

Sea Otter Classic Cyclocross – Saturday, April 21 

A cyclist breaks ahead of the pack on the straightaway, only to reach a hill too steep for anyone to ride. He dismounts, hoists his bike over his shoulders and trucks it uphill on foot. More obstacles ensue, including an impossible-to-ride “kitty litter” section and high-speed barriers. Making its debut at the 22nd annual Sea Otter Classic, this amalgamation of traditional racing and only-on-foot obstacles is cyclocross. The event is spectator friendly – a whole leg of the race will go right by the Sierra Nevada Beer Garden – so grab a pale ale and check this one out. Races feature all men’s and women’s professional and amateur divisions, as well as singlespeed, messenger and industry cup races.

3:30pm Sat, starts and finishes on Laguna Seca Raceway. 

SRAM Speed and Style – Friday and Saturday, April 20-21

Back for a second year, this event pairs balls-out speed with technical mastery. Watch as pairs of riders race down dual pump tracks in a mad dash for the finish. Speed will bag points, but riding with style pads the score too, so a well-executed superman by the slower rider may well give them enough points to advance. 

8-10:45am Fri practice sessions, 11am qualifying runs; 2pm Sat finals, near Sierra Nevada Beer & BBQ Garden.

Laguna Seca Invitational Downhill Skateboard Race – Thursday, April 19

Wearing full face helmets, skin-tight speedsuits and very little padding (aerodynamics play a huge role in races about 45 seconds long) these downhill racers look more like motocross riders than skateboarders. Spectators will be able to witness blazing speeds and wheel-to-wheel action as 32 of the fastest downhill skaters in the U.S. speed down a portion of the famous Laguna Seca raceway. International Gravity Sports Association president Marcus Rietema says the event is essentially a drag race with two corners and skaters reaching speeds up to 50 mph. The IGSA Laguna Seca Invitational Downhill Skateboard Race boasts a $5,000 prize fought for over a series of four-man heats, and the limited, invitation-only field ensures the on-track action will be worth watching. 

1pm Thu qualifying heats; 3pm race starts just before the Corkscrew.

The Kenda Mike Steidley Professional Mountain Bike Stunt Show 

Extreme cyclist Mike Steidley will bounce around a custom set of obstacles and ramps to deliver a thrilling show that redefines what you thought possible for a man to do with a mountain bike. While narrating the show with a wireless mic, Steidley uses his bike like a pogo stick to reach heights (and make jumps) most of us wouldn’t even attempt on foot. Steidley’s show is a daily feature at this year’s event, and each show will be followed by an autograph and give-away session.

2pm Thu; 11:30am, 2pm Fri; 11:30am, 2pm, 4pm Sat; 11:30am, 12:30pm Sun, Booth 706.

Big Air Bag

It’s not the fall that hurts, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom. Unless, of course, the bottom is a gigantic air cushion capable of absorbing an otherwise nasty blow. Everyone is invited to grab a bike and launch off a ramp into the sky. No fear in biffing. And a team of coaches stand by to help you learn any trick for which you’ve got the nerves.

10am-4pm daily, inside Expo grounds.

The Volkswagen Sea Otter Classic happens Thursday through Sunday, April 19-22. $12/one-day pass; $34/four-day pass; free/children under 12 and registered athletes. Two passes may be purchased for the price of one by members of the military (active duty or retired) and by members of the same family. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Recreation Area, 1025 Monterey-Salinas Highway (Highway 68), Salinas. 1-800-218-8411,

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