/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

It's electric! Mountain bike racing gets recharged

Now in its second year, the Sea Otter Classic's eMTB race sent riders through a sand bog, over boulders and up steep hills.

stephenshankland.jpg
Stephen Shankland
sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-28.jpg
1 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Neil Shirley, riding a Focus e-mountain bike, makes it look easy to navigate the deep sand of the eMTB race Friday at the Sea Otter Classic in the hills near Monterey, California.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-12.jpg
2 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Tyler Pattullo soars over the rock garden at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race as spectators cheer him on. He finished the race in 44:29.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-16.jpg
3 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Monterey cyclist Chris Toplarski thought the Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race would be fun -- but then the competitive instincts kicked in.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-05.jpg
4 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

German bike maker Haibike was one of the early entrants into the e-mountain bike market. This full-suspension Xduro AllMtn 8.0 costs $8,000 and has a 500Wh battery and 350W motor from Bosch.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-20.jpg
5 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

E-mountain bikes make climbing much easier. Here, Cole Cherpak leads Neil Donoghue up a steep ascent. Even with the battery boost, strong lungs and legs were essential for winning the race.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-11.jpg
6 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

The ultimate winner of the Sea Otter Classic eMTB race, Xavier Marovelli, bumps down the rock garden.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-03.jpg
7 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

The Focus Jam2 e-mountain bike is a rarity sporting new battery and motor technology from cycling component giant Shimano.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-04.jpg
8 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

The Focus Jam2 e-mountain bike has two batteries, one built into the down tube behind the front wheel and another that can be locked onto the outside of the down tube. If you're going on a shorter trip, you only need one. The internal one can be replaced by removing the motor -- a complicated operation most likely done by a shop.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-09.jpg
9 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Janel Holcomb rides across the highest-elevation point of the Sea Otter Classic's eMTB race. She finished the course in 50 minutes, 26 seconds.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-25.jpg
10 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

An e-mountain bike racer gets a kick from his motor as he navigates the mushy sand at the Sea Otter Classic eMTB race.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-07.jpg
11 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

The Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race made four 2.9-mile loops over the hills of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California. Much of the course was the same as that ridden by pros on the cross-country race with conventional mountain bikes.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-18.jpg
12 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

E-mountain bikes in races are limited to models that amplify your pedal stroke -- no throttles allowed -- and whose motors cut out once you're going faster than 20mph. This racer was disqualified because his bike had a more powerful motor.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-13.jpg
13 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Neil Donoghue, winner of the men's 30-39 category at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race, lofts his Giant electric mountain bike over the rock garden.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-14.jpg
14 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Electric motors help riders run fatter tires that are heavy but perform better. This is Andrew Slater bumping over the Sea Otter Classic eMTB race's rock garden.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-06.jpg
15 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Alan Harris of Hayward, California, bought a used Santa Cruz bike and retrofitted it with a Kranked e-bike motor and battery.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-10.jpg
16 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

E-mountain bike racers had to navigate this boulder-studded descent at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race. Big tires and long-travel suspension helps.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-22.jpg
17 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

A sand bog on the 2017 Sea Otter Classic was an opportunity for riders to benefit from an electric motor.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-15.jpg
18 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Not everyone took the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race super seriously. Along with this racer dressed as a butterfly was an Easter bunny and very sweaty yeti.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-08.jpg
19 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Pro bike racer Ben Goyette, a video game programmer by day, was at the Sea Otter Classic to race his conventional mountain bike. But he's fine with e-mountain bikes, and says riding them is like a really good day on a conventional bike.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-17.jpg
20 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Electric mountain bikes come in many forms. Most have full suspension, but wheel size is variable. This is a 29-inch model.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-19.jpg
21 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Racers at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race had to ride up long switchbacks.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-21.jpg
22 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

An e-mountain bike racer rides a level section above dozens of booths from bike and equipment makers at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-01.jpg
23 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Trek, one of the biggest bike makers around, showed off this sleeker commuter bike at the Sea Otter Classic. Many e-mountain bikes have more ungainly battery mounts and motors.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-02.jpg
24 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

This Trek commuter e-bike still has a removable battery. It's made by Bosch, the dominant supplier of e-bike battery-motor components.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-23.jpg
25 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Some e-mountain bikes are sleeker than others. This Specialized model has a battery built into the down tube behind the front wheel.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-24.jpg
26 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

The sand bog claims two victims who couldn't ride through at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race. These racers are Gil Norman, left, and John Miller.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-26.jpg
27 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Electric motors are helpful for cargo bikes, too.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-27.jpg
28 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Michael Pannone churns through the sand on a Haibike e-mountain bike. Haibike, a German bike maker early to the eMTB market, was a sponsor of the Sea Otter Classic's eMTB race.

sea-otter-classic-e-mountain-bike-race-29.jpg
29 of 29 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sea Otter Classic e-mountain bike race

Monterey cyclist Chris Toplarski finished second in the men's 50-59 category for the 2017 Sea Otter Classic eMTB race. It was the race's second year in existence.

More Galleries

The best games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The best games on Nintendo Switch

41 Photos
The 23 best Christmas movies and where to watch them

More Galleries

The 23 best Christmas movies and where to watch them

23 Photos
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

More Galleries

Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

67 Photos
2021 best new TV shows to watch, stream, obsess about

More Galleries

2021 best new TV shows to watch, stream, obsess about

65 Photos
The 51 best VR games

More Galleries

The 51 best VR games

53 Photos
Best dating apps of 2021

More Galleries

Best dating apps of 2021

13 Photos
Meet Roadshow's long-term 2021 Acura TLX Type S

More Galleries

Meet Roadshow's long-term 2021 Acura TLX Type S

29 Photos