Pinkbike Took Me To Whistler - Sunday Comics with Taj Mihelich

Sep 29, 2019
by Taj Mihelich  

Flying down A-Line grinning ear-to-ear, I suddenly realized there was someone standing in the middle of the next jump waving their arms wildly. As I hit the brakes the scene on the other side of the jump came into view. A rider was down, curled up into a ball with a handful of other riders gathered round looking worried. I recognized the helmet of the down rider as one of the Pinkbike test riders. As I got closer he was making those miserable sounds that people make while gasping for breath after having the wind knocked out of them. He was also contorted in a scary maybe-hurt-neck kind of way. Someone sped off to get a medic.


As he rebooted his breathing and returned to normal, his memory of the event was still there. The medic arrived and I turned to wondering what had happened. His cassette had somehow come off his test bike and rolled down the landing of the jump. I wondered, “How in the hell does a cassette come off?” Spotting his bike laying off the trail, the chainstay had failed and the rear end had twisted enough that the cassette had actually fallen off the wheel!


I sat outside the emergency room to watch the expensive test bikes. It was only after a few hours of waiting that I realized the hospital had bike locks they loaned out to injured riders. There was so many bike riders going into those doors! The news from inside was that he seemed to be ok but they were going to do some more x-rays and a few stitches. Watching the parade of people going to ER started to seem sickly funny to me. People walking crooked looking bikes in makeshift slings or with visors bent at odd angles on their helmets… there seemed to be a new patient every few minutes. The crash scene from earlier had really shaken my confidence, so rather than going back to riding, I stayed and watched the show.


I’d flown into Vancouver a few days before. The Pinkbike folks were doing this year’s Field Test and I was tagging along to meet the crew and try to think up cartoon ideas. They had a “cabin” on a mountainside in Pemberton that we stayed in. When I arrived a ride was about to head out. Complaining that I felt too tired after the flight and long car drive they put me on an eMTB normally used by the camera crew and up we went. I thought the e-bike was kind of cool, but it also felt clunky and hard to maneuver. Effortlessly climbing next to the much younger and much fitter riders on the steep fire road was surreal. Descending on trails that were a lot steeper than anything I was used to riding on such a heavy bike woke me up. Bombing down chutes where you can’t stop once you drop-in was new to me. It is a fun kind of unplanned looseness and my mind struggled to think fast enough. The old adage of “look ahead” was really important here… slipping into my bad habit of watching my front wheel nearly got me into trouble a few times.


In the evening the whole crew gathered around the dinner table together and the meal was prepared by whoever seemed into cooking that night. Having never met any of the Pinkbike staff in person I quickly started to feel welcomed and comfortable with everyone. They were all really busy with the Field Test and I had nothing to do, so I did the dishes. With a hot tub looking out into the valley and a fridge full of beer (not to mention a bunch of the best bikes and great trails just out the door) I was surprised how diligently everyone focused on work. The film and photo guys were editing and planning out the upcoming shoots. The test riders were washing bikes, setting them up and writing notes about the test rides. They also employed micrometers, digital gauges, and tape measurers to do things with suspension I didn’t understand. Even all the tires on the bikes had been changed to matching sets so that the bikes could be more accurately compared. They all seemed serious about their testing and reviewing. They even asked what I thought of the bikes, though I'm sure describing them as "boingy and springy" was not very helpful.


They took me on a few rides around Pemberton which was good, and then they brought me to Whistler’s bike park. It was SO good. I know everyone says that about Whistler, but really, it was astoundingly amazing! My first run there Luca and Mike Kazimer led me into A-Line and that “trail” is one of the best things I’ve ever ridden. I’d find myself going so much faster than I had ever gone towards a jump. There’d be a couple little flags in the ground to signal that there was a feature and all I could see is a huge jump’s lip with sky behind it. Everyone tells you to "trust the trail" and it will work (and it does) but it is kind of scary those first few runs. Hands off the brakes... it feels like too much speed... trust that the landing will be in the right place.


The next day we headed back to Whistler and on our first lap of the day the test bike broke and we had the crash. I guess they’ll cover that more in the Field Test but on a more personal level it was pretty scary and very glad he’s ok. I flew home to Michigan soon after and carefully went through my entire bike before I felt safe riding it. I also found myself googling "how to move to Canada" and looking for way that I could go back to Whistler. I want to ride that every day... but maybe I'll wear pads next time!


91 Comments

  • 125 10
 To many words for Sunday morning...I'll read it tomorrow at work...hahahaha
  • 61 3
 Don't use such nasty four-letter words in a public forum (WORK)
  • 6 54
flag scotttherider (Sep 29, 2019 at 6:41) (Below Threshold)
 @pinnityafairy: almost as bad as using a 3 letter word on this forum that starts with g....ends with n.....
  • 33 1
 @scotttherider: I'm not a big fan of gin either
  • 7 0
 @AWDxTY:
Yeah, I must prefer beer
  • 4 6
 @mitochris: you got it gin and tonics are from the devil.
  • 4 0
 @mitochris: gin juice n work mix nicely
  • 3 0
 @AWDxTY: Gin and lime seltzer with lime wedges. Liquid air conditioning.
  • 1 0
 @scotttherider: @scotttherider: I disagree, Gin is disgusting. Tonic is disgusting. Gin + Tonic however is a magical drink. The best example I can think of of something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Nonetheless I upvoted you to offset the downvotes you got for expressing a harmless opinion. Unless the downvoters work in the gin industry and fear you may harm their profits?
  • 34 1
 Any guesses as to which bike failed? Winner gets a chicken dinner.
  • 33 2
 Yeti
  • 21 3
 Yeti
  • 33 0
 Levy’s old Brodie 8ball ?
  • 7 2
 @dkidd: lol! My name is Chad and I approve of this message
  • 9 5
 Cannondale in this years test? That one would be easy safe bet
  • 3 3
 Yeti
  • 6 2
 Reckon it was a Reign. Have heard of back ends snapping already.
  • 7 1
 The waiting is over. It was a 2010 trek session.
  • 12 1
 @Ron-C: At least it looked like one...
  • 3 1
 Sounds like someone forgot to tighten an axle after putting on the test tires.
  • 1 2
 Trek or cannondake for sure
  • 1 1
 @PaulieAU: Thats what I've been thinking. I remember from initial reviews saying the back end felt flexy and looking at one right now I wouldn't doubt it could happen
  • 3 0
 +1 for cannondale
  • 22 1
 Cool article. This dude can draw, write and ride! Triple threat kinda guy!
  • 5 96
flag pinnityafairy (Sep 29, 2019 at 5:43) (Below Threshold)
 He rode a e moped and bragged about it!
  • 7 9
 Hay negative Nancy's am I more impressed he's brave enough to admit that he rides
  • 28 1
 @pinnityafairy: Taj is a legendary rider, he can ride whatever the hell he wants to.
  • 3 30
flag pinnityafairy (Sep 29, 2019 at 19:09) (Below Threshold)
 @BobbyHillbomb: get a sense of humor you knob and you can laugh at whatever you want to
  • 6 0
 @BobbyHillbomb: A few years ago he was talking about his post bike career and riding a cruiser around due to his fused vertebrae. So it's really good to hear him sending a line. I hope he stays healthy and enjoy his later years with plenty of squish.
  • 22 0
 Must know which bike failed...bit of a pickle for PB
  • 17 1
 We'll tell you in the Field Test videos!

It's not really a pickle. The tech team's job is to test bikes and tell you guys what we think—when things break during testing, we tell you about it.

Most of the companies that loan bikes for testing (and definitely all of the ones we accept for the Field Test) understand that reviews are high-risk-high-reward things.
  • 6 0
 @brianpark: When do they come out?
  • 6 0
 @valhallascott: early November.
  • 1 1
 @brianpark: Thanks for responding, I can still see this as being a tough one for both PB and the MFG . If their bike does break (a la yeti) it hurts said MFG's bottom line, which could hurt PB's advertising revenue. I believe you when you say that they understand that these reviews are high risk/ high reward, but if they get more risk than reward, will they be less willing to pay for ad space in the future ?
  • 2 0
 @DGWW: I don't know, but that's up to them.
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: early November was a bad emo band from the early 2006's, I dare you to take a listen. Lock up your razor first.
  • 20 1
 Thanks for the writing. It's always fun to "see" our local trails through the eyes of visitors. And well-written prose (plus the hand drawn pictures) is a refreshing change from the usual PB articles
  • 16 0
 Everyone who spends enough time doing this sport pays their dues sooner or later
  • 4 1
 Like stealing.. do it enough...you’ll get caught
  • 4 5
 @pargolf8: and hopefully when you do they cut your arm off for it
  • 17 0
 Love how you depict yourself in the drawings as the rabbit lol
  • 14 1
 I remember sitting on the fence at the bottom of the lift waiting for some friends and seeing that broken bike! I wondered how the hell it ended up getting so cooked. Glad to have some back story and to know everyone involved was OK.
  • 4 0
 So...what bike was it?
  • 4 0
 @waffleShirt What bike was it?
  • 3 0
 What bike?
  • 3 0
 Don't hold out on us @waffleShirt.
  • 2 0
 But seriously.... which bike!?
  • 9 0
 I imagine Waffle here has an internet gun to his head as to not spill anymore information
  • 7 0
 Lol I saw it earlier, I screen capped it. You’re just to late to see before it was cleaned up. He most definitely has an internet gun to his head, not the phrasing I’d normally choose but it works lol
  • 5 0
 Rather than a gun it's whatever the natural enemy of the waffle is. Fat kid with a fork?
  • 5 0
 @Hardtailhooligan: yep lol got deleted but honestly sorta makes a little sense... not enough popcorn in the world once the PB horde finds out Wink lol
  • 2 0
 @mtbikeaddict: lol we’re all like a bunch of high school girls when it comes to bike gossip so I understand not wanting to ruin the story!
  • 6 0
 Sounds like waffleShirt must have gotten waffle stomped.
  • 1 0
 #censored
  • 8 0
 @l-JP-l: we've asked people to hold off naming names until we've finished testing on our end and the video comes out. We will absolutely tell you which bike failed, our thoughts on it before it failed, the company's response, etc.
  • 16 0
 A-line : Check.
Crash : Check.
Emergency centre : Check.
Googling how to move to Canada : Check.
  • 17 1
 So bike companies are just sending death machines to you guys?
  • 9 2
 All bikes are death machines if you don't maintain them.
  • 2 0
 To be fair, all bikes even properly maintained ones can be death machines. I’ve had my fair share of falls and most of them were from rider error. I feel like even the best riders push it a little to hard sometimes and have a nasty fall. Maybe I’m just saying that to make myself and my lack of talent feel better lmao
  • 12 0
 @Hardtailhooligan: I've never had a cassette fall off because a rear triangle fell apart. That's next level bullshit.
  • 15 0
 It was just an early prototype, don't worry.
  • 7 0
 @chriskneeland: The cassette surely didn't fell off the freewheel. It's the freewheel of some types of hubs (like Dt Swiss) that can be removed quite easily if the rear triangle is not pressing both sides together.
  • 8 0
 I really enjoyed the combination of narrative and cartoon. I am sure every week's activities will not provide sufficient material to recreate this, but I hope when it does you'll do something like this again.

The sincerity of the storytelling was refreshing.

Would you consider using the same material and doing to cartoons from a more satirical outsider looking in pov?
  • 10 0
 I wake up sunday to read your comics. Then I go ride. These are great, keep up the good work.
  • 10 4
 Sitting in YVR right now on my way home from Whistler and can completely relate to this article. Whistler resets the bar for fun trails and steep tech. Even better, we got schooled by our waitress at dinner one night when she explained that the double black diamonds we were riding in the park weren't really double blacks compared to what is outside the park. None of us had any doubt that she would have crushed us both up and down despite her being over 50. Only in Whistler do you get served dinner by a multi time Canadian champion. Now I am trying to figure out how to get my wife to move up here and let me work as a lift operator instead of being a VP with my current company....
  • 9 0
 Is that the Stig lying on the ground in the 1st drawing?
  • 30 0
 Some say he lives on a diet of maple syrup, and that his favourite deodorant is 'Old-growth Red Cedar' He's not the Stig, he's the Stig's mountain biking cousin
  • 2 0
 Same thing came to my mind when I saw the first draw. I was like "Stig ride a MTB!!?" Big Grin
  • 2 0
 @AlexRob: Thank you for that!!!!!
  • 1 0
 @AlexRob: And that he says "about" like a true Canadian.
  • 2 0
 @AlexRob: He’s the fastest rider








In the world!
  • 3 0
 " Everyone tells you to "trust the trail" and it will work (and it does) but it is kind of scary those first few runs. Hands off the brakes... it feels like too much speed... trust that the landing will be in the right place. "

I had this feeling the entire time I was there - when I finally let it go of that fear I started to enjoy it so much more - but those first few times it's super scary..........

........... I'm not sure about moving to Whistler myself......... visit it again sometime in the future ( if I decide to sacrifice 3-4 trips in europe for the same money..... ) Big Grin
  • 2 0
 I really like this illustrated post! The narrative provided insight as to what to do, and what's available, during a bad incident. Please add this style to your weekly article on a more frequent basis. I think you have a way with words and pictures that will transcend the temporal.
  • 6 0
 I really dig the article + cartoon format!
  • 2 0
 Hey Taj. I live in Michigan. I am an artist/ designer for the auto industry. I make the pilgrimage to Whistler once a year. I have visited the ER there also. I can relate to your entire article, especially the part of wanting to ride there everyday.
  • 2 0
 I enjoy the comics and the perspective, thanks.
I also thought whistler was pretty fun when I rode there. If you go don't miss the "not lift accessed" trails that are also there.
  • 3 0
 LOL @Tajlucas I know the sentiment... that one's boingy, that one's sproingy, and this one's doingy. Huey Duey and Louie of bikes... lol
  • 3 0
 Now I could totally be wrong, but if the frame twisted couldn't that imply alloy?
  • 1 0
 Drive side chainstay breaks at the dropout. The hub is like a DT or Stans with a free axle. Axle stays with the frame but wheel slides to the left and there goes the cassette with hubdriver attached, oops.
  • 2 0
 That description of the emergency room sounds like would make a funny TV series: "ER Whistler Edition".
  • 3 0
 Oh man that's one I wouldn't watch. I've seen some bad ones up there. Had one myself that was next level but lied (said my knee was "sprained") to avoid the ER.

What WOULD be funny is a YouTube video of the entire seasons worth of bikers dancing around at the gates trying to figure out how to get their passes to scan.
  • 3 0
 I couldn't identify the broken bike from the drawing. I tried...
  • 1 0
 This cartoon and article content from Taj is the bet. More of this please Pinkbike!
  • 2 0
 Hey Taj! really liking these! Thanks!
  • 1 0
 I said it before and I will say it again...these designs should be on t-shirts!
  • 1 0
 You're a Michigander? If your ever in the northern lower peninsula there are some trails to be had
  • 1 0
 Tomahawk on table of tools, broken chainstay, hmm
  • 1 3
 Hope tester guy is ok. Remember Minnaar’s V10. Wonder if was carbon or aluminum. Must have been a bad landing angle.

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