October 2006 and I had to go see my doctor for the first time ever. I was an emotional wreck and told the doc I felt like a pair of curtains, he said, ”Pull yourself together man”. In fact I was suffering from chronic depression and Whistler Bike Park was to blame..
Guys this is a long one and hopefully by the end you’ll realise why. This could have been ten times longer with all the experiences that could have been documented down. I’ve tried to capture everything for you to make an informed decision of where in 2007 and beyond you will be holidaying. You really won’t be disappointed, this is the dream ticket..Summer 2006 and I’d already ramped the Descent-World/Gear Van around
the country, with a fuel bill bigger than a third world countries GDP, racing every weekend since mid March with 32 enjoyable weekends on the trot. Racing in the UK is for the committed only, you got to be tough, something inherent if your from Smedrock aka Smethwick..
Holiday time and one week in Bendirom wasn’t on the cards as Judith Charmers would say, the Masters Worlds was located in Sun Peaks Canada why not kill two birds with one stone and check out this Whistler story everyone was harping on about..
To checkout the Masters Worlds review we did:www.descent-world.co.uk
Like you, we have all heard about “A Line”, fifty table tops and berms all linked together, loads of trails and the famous “Bone Yard” we have all seen on the DVDs and the internet especially when Crankworx was in town. Canada it was and before you could say, “Mike Hollywood Miranda”(ask Jon-e Beckett) I was all over the world wide web trying to find the best deal for my hard earned spon-dooleys after rinsing you lot silly at the races for Maxxis Tyres. Now if you are as tall as me you want plenty of leg room, well I uncovered that Fly Zoom offer the longest leg room that’s a god send for all us 5ft 6ins giants.
Now note the best bit, your bike goes F.O.C (Free Of Charge you dumb ass..), just keep her under 30kgs and your laughing. Fly Zoom are a leisure airline and cater for all us sports fans, be it bikes or snowboards, your beast will be in trusted hands. They also fly from the following UK cities:
How about the price though, what’s the damage to the old sky rocket, like me do you have short arms and long pockets? Well I just checked the www today and found Fly Zoom could get me and my bike there and back, safe and sound for under £400. BONUS
: Book through Ticket2RideBC and you get an extra 5% off your flights through Fly Zoom.www.flyzoom.com
One word of warning in regards to Charge Bikes stickers, the ones with the stick of dynamite pictured on them, just like the one on my laptop! UK customs clocked the sticker, the security guard asked me to stand to one side and I was escorted into a secure room with mirrored glass and two cameras. Remember this was just after the big security scare was going on. Please don’t strip search me I thought, as I was shitting myself! 30mins of interrogation, having my hands swabbed, my bike case and Troy Lee kit bag retrieved and emptied I was allowed to carry on. Nick Larsen you have a lot to answer for my son..
It was a tough assignment but someone had to do it, 12 hrs on a plane listening to Irishman Joe Ward telling me over and over and over again how he won the European Masters World Champs (everyone else fell off), given another chance I‘d rather chew my own toes off, though he did help me fall asleep. Talking of the Irish, the flight was early Sunday morning, starting from Glasgow, picking up at Manchester then onto Vancouver. Hence if you and me were flying into Glasgow from Ireland on the Saturday night prior you would of course booked your accommodation for said Saturday night wouldn’t you? Not the Irish Team, oh no.. They booked their hotel in Glasgow for Sunday night. Reminded me of when they all
went to the wrong Moelfre in Wales. Laughing? Did you know that Irishman Jon-e Beckett (Mr Descent-World) is one of Scotland’s top air traffic controllers, many lives in a plane and on the ground are counting on him. “Thank you St. Christopher
Good news was I got to sit next to a living legend, Grand Veteran rider Paul Braithwaite. Well known in the UK DH race scene he tops a unique family, wife Jane is an accomplished horse rider and yet still rides MTB DH and XC and races, as does son Tom for Giant UK in the Elite category. Any rock climber out there will know the name Paul Braithwaite. Together with Nick Estcourt, they solved the problem of the highly technical rock band barring access to Everest’s summit on Sir Chris Bonington’s famous 1975 ‘Everest the Hard Way’ expedition. This proved to be the key to the climb. Paul is also the World's loudest snorer, he is barred from the family motor home on race weekends and sleeps under the awning in his tent with the family dog! He now runs a successful business, anyone with a phobia of heights need not apply for a job here www.verticalaccess.co.uk
So that was the plane sorted, we all like an adventure don’t we but when it comes to riding our big rigs we want to spend maximum time on the hill and zero time fooking about finding accommodation, sorting lift passes and getting the local low down. I only roll with the top outfits and my dollars weren’t going to go to any muppet show. After some extensive research and chatting to some of their UK DH Team riders booked up with Ticket2RideBC main man Scott Lanzi.
On landing in Vancouver and heading through security, do not verbal or even make jokes with the gun wielding, stern faced custom dudes. Make sure you have a note with where you are staying and all contact details, they are funny fookers.. Bikes and bags collected we were greeted by Scott of Ticket2RideBC holding up a big board with Descent-World scripted onto it, did he really know what he was in for, I guess not?
We all climbed aboard the big red fun truck for the 2 hour drive out of the modern big city of Vancouver and up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler. What views though of the huge lakes and lush green trees and huge mountains, made this inner city boy open his eyes and mouth wide, wide open. Late afternoon it was when we landed at the base to be greeted by some familiar faces, Seb Ramsey, Steve Felstead, Ian Cochrane, Si Parkinson, Stu Jenkinson, Jon Hadfield, Steve Deas, etc.. This was almost like being in Benidorm!
A quick tour of our base and a secure basement lockup where each bike was locked up put my mind at rest, that said I still popped my Kryptonite New York Chain on her, after all I am from Birmingham. Next to this was a large workshop manned by pro mechanic Steve who used to manage Pro Bike Sport in Inners so you know you were in good hands. As I soon learned after every days riding this facility was invaluable. Hoses to wash off all dust before popping the bike onto one of the numerous bike stands and free use of all the tools and lubes after a hard day for your beauty on the hill. Get into that routine of checking her over, every bolt and spoke as she gets a severe beating every day up there. Then if you find a fault there is a full supply of spares that Steve will fit whilst smashing the top off your knob in the shower before hopping into the Jacuzzi to give your muscles a well earned rest, MINT!
Dinner and breakfast were all part of the package, as much as you could eat before retiring to the lounge to watch cable or a DVD of any persuasion. Wireless internet connection is available for free so you’d be able to stay logged onto your favourite website Descent-World! There was also a nice drinks/candy fridge. Loads of other riders were there, mostly British but some foreigners as well, a good balance of DH and XC/Enduro riders that all gelled together, after all we are all riders. There was a MBR riders holiday in house on vacation, getting in some serious scenic mileage each day, hence spending more time than most in the Jacuzzi and sauna that was available in the T2R Lodge. Security conscious as I am, no issues leaving your laptop, camera, wallet, goggles or gloves lying around. The only disappearances were from the fridge, never leave your bottle of SoBe unattended, Veteran racer Steve Felstead has a serious addiction problem.
Up with the birds and eager to be first in the uplift queue after breakfast. The 7mins ride up to the lifts was definitely not a chore. 4mins in and I dived into the bushes, no not for a piss but to rub my eyes in disbelief. A huge, smoothed, concreted painted snake run bowl that dreams were made of, if only Christian Hosoi had been there with his Jimmy’Z tee and floppy hat on.. Then more.. a fully decked out concrete skate park, rails, fun box, quarters, flat banks, half-pipe, the full monty. Nobody had told me about this, my Third Foot deck would have been packed for sure. OK stop staring and onto the lifts, your wasting time kid. 10 seconds on and the bike and I magically stopped again.. Two sets of dirt jumps, “Are you kidding me?” I said to everyone with a boner in my race pants. They just laughed knowing what was still to come and cum I nearly did..
The Bone Yard is the first thing you notice as you stand in the natural ampi theatre looking up along the cable car route with your mouth wide open.. This is unimaginable to describe the feeling, the senses that shoot through your body as your senses try to digest and process the data that they are taking in. You run over to the ticket office and purchase your golden ticket to the ride of a lifetime, forget Alton Towers, no hour long queues here. The most I ever waited was 1-2mins maximum and that is the truth..
Two chair lifts to choose from, the Village Gondola takes you all the way to the top, like Fort Bill Gondolas except you take your bike in there with you. This takes around 25mins to get to the top though you can get off at the top of A line about 1/3rd of the way up the hill. Don’t do this though as you can get up there faster by jumping on the Fitzsimmons Express:
The main lift to use is the Fitzsimmons Express chairlift - bikes (up to 4) go on the lift in-front & are held really securely. You and 3 mates jump on the chairlift behind and follow them up. There’s a fairground style safety bar that lowers down if you feel the need (but this really is for gayers and Welsh man Sion Jones who is petrified of heights, and you definitely won’t get any respect from the locals if you pull it down.) If it rains and it didn’t once when we were there, you can slide a perspex bubble over to protect you from the elements. Also note drinking water is on tap to fill up your hydration pack at the bottom of the lift.
Then prepare for a heart attack. The Bone Yard is spectacular. A huge array of man made sculptured artwork that gets knocked down, designed and rebuilt every year, bigger and better. Clever as they are they obviously get companies to pay for the build of some of the man made obstacles. Fully branded up in corporate colours like big billboards/posters the Kokanee (local beer) fun box, SRAM wall ride, Marzocchi spine and quarter pipe and Mavic drop in box etc..
Those with big kahunas could take any of three drop off's off the huge Mavic box before hitting the Marzocchi spine and picking off jumps as you descended with zero pedals up to the next huge step down, step up, hip jump or doubles. What really stands out is the size of everything, it’s huge! I’m not even going to talk about the Red Bull Elevation dirt jumps, whooo, they were insane, just checkout the extras section on NWD 7 with Paul Roberts commentating on the Bear Claw.
I never actually rode the North Shore drops into the Bone Yard, hell Chicksands North Shore scares me, I’m like Bambi on ice on that shit. News was the main guy who built the central line which drops you into a curved bowl launch kicker hit it and flipped out breaking both his arms!
If that wasn’t enough how about the 4x? Again flat out definitely not a hard tail course, loads of fun on your DH rig for sure. Massive jumps, all roll able but your on holiday so enjoy and get as much air time as you can. The massive finishing step down was the highlight, throwing a few shapes on this was customary to the appreciation of the spectators and riders stood below in that ampi-theater.
If that was all that was there I would have been over the moon, two weeks playing on this still wouldn’t have been enough is what I told the T2R boys, they just laughed at me.
Starting on A Line every morning is a real treat. 50 plus table tops, roll them all first I was told.. After the 2nd one speed is gaining as is the air time and berms as we rail berm after berm, each straight has 1,2, 3, 4-5 table tops that all line up with huge groomed landings.
Dirt Merchant is another A Line style jump track and too much fun. For those of you wanting to keep the wheels on the ground or ride steeper, techy tracks, you’re spoiled for choices there too. How about Schleyer to Lower Whistler Downhill? There’s plenty of shore style trails to hit, like Smoke & Mirrors, oh & did I mention Clown Shoes?
We all got in a nice routine after a few days which worked out well for us and maybe you?
Landing at 10:00a.m for the first lifts we sessioned the bottom of the hill, warming up on A-Line, Dirt Merchant and Schleyer etc.. Come 13:00 we were in the supermarket stocking up on hot soup, baguettes, chicken and juice. We then headed to the Lost Lake which is a little secret kept undercover by the locals a short 10mins ride from town. A huge land locked lake with a lush grass way or imported artificial sand beach to throw your towel down onto and not one German in sight! Take a swim out onto the middle pontoon and get your diving and bombing skills sharpened. Or how about walk around to the nudist part? A secluded pontoon littered with fat old perverts and not one fit bird. Forget these weirdo’s and just walk out in your shorts onto the chained up log.
Then the fun really begins as we challenged each other to do that favourite Canadian pastime of log running. We even went 2 and 3 up with some spectacular results. Make sure you brush yourself down and take some water to rinse the little water mite/bugs off. I turned up at Inners the next week for the SDA race covered in the nastiest rash / bites you have ever seen. Then sit back, relax and catch up on some sun rays, read a book and watch the slim pretty girls go by.
After stuffing our fat bellies, 15:00 and it's time to hit Garbanzo, “Take me to the top”, I said and that's were we went. Cruising above the BoneYard and A line the lift went on and on over two crests. We got to see so many wild bears picking berry's, it was unreal as we silently drifted on by! Once at the top there is a multitude of tracks on the upper bike park which is where its really at though. You have now got a minimum of 20 mins (unless you’re name’s Sam Hill) of non-stop descending on the best tracks you’ve ever ridden. FACT
. Freight Train is like A Line on steroids… Half an hour of tables, berms and drops has to be ridden to be believed. Like things a bit more tech? Original Sin, Goats Gulley, Duff Man… The list goes on.
With the Brits in tow we sessioned the upper bike park as much as we could finding and pinning the most technical and demanding tracks that we could. Forget the racing line, challenge yourself and the others and hit up every rock drop, root section, jump spot and boulder section you could find. Dropping into “Original Sin” and then “Goats Gully” was the most demanding and enjoyable, double black diamond runs you could even make these harder by cutting corners and descending down sections you thought were unbrideable.
The first day Ian Cochrane and Seb Ramsey showed us “Filthy Ape” a 25ft high rock roll that scared the life out of me, this was surely a pro line for the DVD hall of famers, NWD style, was it even ride able? 2 weeks on and every rock roll conquered, well almost (a rock roll is a huge lump of rock that you ride down, must be mega steep/almost vert to be a proper one)!
This thing actually looked possible. Cochrane dialled it first, Ramsey followed, Jules Coventry filmed on as I took seventeen attempts to get my foot on the pedal. The brain just wasn't connecting with the body, it didn't want to do it..
That last day we also found the most amazing wall ride, we'd ridden past it at least three times every day for 2 weeks when Aidan Bishop spotted it. Neil Arnold had the line whilst I had the finger on the camera. That pic made Pink Bike's POD (Picture Of Day). Whistler is full of hidden gems like this, just keep em peeled whilst hacking about guys.
The Money Shot
Check out www.whistlerbike.com
for more info on the Bike Park. From mid June to September, the park is open until 8pm. 8pm! You definitely don’t get that in France.Night Clubs
Typical American style they play loads of Hip Hop and RnB and very little dance. That being said a few sherbets and the Brits rule the dance floor as the Canadians/American Jocks are still stood at the bar drinking their piss weak beer trying to look too cool. Prime time to pull the local flange as they all love our accents, don't forget to tell them you are from Stratford and distantly related to Shakespeare and their knickers will be yours. In there everyone thought I was gay, not the first time but because I was drinking Smirnoff Ice, a girls/puffs drink over there. There are loads of clubs to choose from, seems each night a different club is the one to hit, usually the one with drink offers! Make sure you carry ID at all times, no ID no entry so you have been warned guys and girls
. Not quite Ibiza but they start filling up so come at 23:00 and by 03:00 you are out in the gutter. I found it totally safe zig-zagging up the road, no hassle off anyone, your biggest fear is bumping into a hungry bear on the walk home!
Bike shops, this myth about them being cheap isn’t always true. Yes if you are buying Canadian products like Norco, Chromag, Cove and Sombrio, just don’t expect Descent-Gear prices on other stuff. The guys at T2R have a fully stocked workshop with tyres (much cheaper than in the village,) tubes, cables, chains and mechs, but it’s a good idea to bring a mech hanger at the very least, especially if you ride a European bike. To save a ride back to your accommodation, the bike shops at the bottom of the hill have a full selection of tools chained up if required and the service is top notch, everyone calls you sir and nothing is too much trouble for anyone. Before you even head out make sure your ride is in top condition as any niggles will become more than apparent Canadian track side.Words of wisdom
Take it easy the first few days at Whistler, 80% of accidents happen on the first day due to the combination of jet lag and not knowing the terrain resulting in 25 broken bones a day on average. Every time you get on that lift, at some point guaranteed you will see a big red 4x4 ambulance with a spanked bike on the front bumper rack with a fatality in the back. I won’t start a debate on body armour, for me I wanted to ride the whole 2 weeks at Whistler and spend zero time in A&E, so again thanks to Mr Dainese..
You're not racing at Whistler so to guarantee 100% ride time fit the thickest DH tubes you can buy. Upfront I would recommend a Maxxis Minion in 2.7 Super Tacky. That wide tyre will give you ultimate grip in that compound as well on the dry, dusty and rocky trails. On the rear I would again run a 2.5 at least, if not a 2.7 and go for a Maxxis Minion Rear (or Front) in the harder 60a compound. This will roll fast and the size will still offer good grip and give you even less chance of puncturing. I ran this for 2 weeks trouble free changing my rear worn out tyre after week one, almost guaranteeing that I never had to ride with a restricting ruck sack full of tubes, pumps and tools. Be prepared and buy your tyres over here before flying, please believe me when I say they are $80-90 Canadian dollars each over there!
If you are carrying a back pack and there are a few of you then maybe worthwhile investing in walkie talkies? Carry your camera at all times as you never know who you will see on the trails or what you will come across. We saw wild Bears, Brian Lopes testing a proto type GT, Peaty, Hill, Gracia as well as many Canadian huckers and even bumped into some movie makers shooting. Make sure your hydration pack is full of juice, carry allen keys right up to crank size, spare tube, something to bodge inside a ripped tyre side wall, chain tool and tyre levers.
For the full 2 weeks we were there we enjoyed 30 degree sunny weather, I’m not complaining it was too hot, but it was, just make sure you pick up some sun tan lotion. Ibuprofen in a king sized bottle with maximum mmgs of the stuff is also worth packing along with plasters and that skin tape stuff for your knuckles. Like everyone else I really suffered with agonising pain at my knuckles and the main hinge on my fingers after a few days battering down the hill. Just imagine riding down Fort Bill 10 times a day for 2 weeks, maybe worthwhile getting a dentists check up before you come out for any loose fillings and doing plenty of wrist exercises lads!To summarise her up
If you are a mountain biker and you must be if you are reading this then at some point in your life you gotta hit up Whistler as this really is the dream location if you ride fat tyres. My experience of a life time was around Down Hill, that said if you are a XC or Freerider you too will have a wealth of terrain to ride and an unforgettable time. I did go and hit Pemberton and Squamish trails mid week as a rest from the DH abuse I was punishing myself with. Loaning one of Ticket2Rides Giant Faiths from their loan pool we hit up some epic single track trails with views to die for with their experienced guider and local Brummie John Hadfield.
Don't worry you don't have to be a superstar DH or XC rider to get around, remember you're on holiday and Whistler is a holiday park so it caters to every kind of rider. Don't be surprised to see Mom and Dad on board their $500 Norco jumping on the uplift donning a piss pot. All runs are marked at the top to ensure you don't venture anywhere beyond your capabilities.
One thing you will notice on your return is how much your riding will have improved. After riding all the steep, rocky and technical sections, landing back track side in the UK nothing will phase you out at all. You'll ride faster and harder, jumping further and riding with extra confidence guaranteed. What can I say? I'm returning mid summer, you really should be joining me!
Many thanks to Ticket2Ride
who looked after me throughout, don't waste your money or time with anyone else, hook these boys up as I can't recommend them more highly.info@Ticket2Ridebc.com