Ideal bike for Whistler (and elsewhere)

A terrain-starved Brit is heading to Whistler to buy a new bike and ride his brains out. But what should he get?

Mmm … A-Line. Curtis Keene, V10 style.

Hello Lee- I came across your site as a result of Googling for articles on Whistler and have since read from virtual cover to virtual cover, top work!

The reason for my Googling was an impending 12-month trip to the mountain bike mecca: I’ve had a enough of rainy, flat England, and want to get some decent riding done for once… at present I ride a Santa Cruz Super 8 which does me very nicely, however I was thinking of upgrading for my Whistler trip should I manage to scrape together the dollar in time. As there are a number of manufacturers (Rocky Mtn, Devinci and Norco to name but three) I’d quite like to take advantage of the strong Brit pound and ‘buy local’ once I arrive. I’ve already developed a soft spot for the Devinci Wilson, but thought I’d pick your brains. As someone who’s evidently spent a fair amount of time riding Whistler, what would be your ultimate bike for that neck of the woods? Putting manufacturers aside for a second, what travel, gears, geometry etc. would you look for when trying to set yourself up for Whistler’s terrain?

Thanks in advance for any help — and keep an eye out for a Brit sketching his way down the trails from June onwards …



Hi Ed.

For Whistler I’d suggest two classes of bike. Choose your style.

Downhill/heavy duty freeride

If you have the skill, strength and gumption, it’s hard to beat a DH bike for full-on WHEEEE! factor. Brandon Sloan wonders whether he’ll ever beat me at a Sea Otter downhill.

Travel: 8+ inches with dual crown fork

Drive train: Single front ring with tight-ratio cassette

Weight: 40-45+ pounds

Great: Just freakin’ pinning it. At Whistler you can be very happy with a pure downhill bike. The gnarliest DH trails are much sweeter, and all of the smooth stuff — A-Line, Freight Train, etc. — is like butter.

Not so great: Any traversing and climbing. Big bikes require big effort. Believe it or not, if you’re pinning it over technical terrain, they’re much more work than smalle bikes. When you get home full DH bikes aren’t super practical.

Who’s it for: Downhill racers; you MUST train on your race bike. Dudes who actually ride very fast and maybe go huge too. Slow guys who drive really big pickup trucks.

Specimens: Specialized Demo, Santa Cruz V10, Kona Stab, Rocky Mountain RMX, Norco VPX, Iron Horse Sunday, Devinci Wilson

Scoop: I’ve ridden slalom, all-mountain and downhill bikes at Whistler, and last time I went I only brought one: My Demo 8, and it was great. But remember I race downhill on that guy.

Light freeride

Jeff on his 6″ SX-Trail: “This is the best bike I’ve ever ridden.” Do you go that big? I think not.

Travel: 6-8 inches with single crown fork

Drive train: Double or single rings with wide-ratio cassette

Weight: 33-38 pounds

Great: General aggressive riding. You can go almost as fast as a DH bike on all but the gnarliest trails. They pedal much better and are more fun for “real-world” riding. More agile than DH bikes, but still very strong.

Not so great: If you really want to pin it, they’re not quite as burly and surefooted as downhill bikes.

Who’s it for: All-purpose MTB goof-offs. Smooth riders who value a nimble, adaptable bike. Most mortals. When you out-ride your 888 or 40 fork, let me know.

Specimens: Specialized SX Trail, Santa Cruz VP-Free, Kona Stinky, Rocky Mountain Switch, Norco Shore, Iron Horse 7Point, Devinci doesn’t have one like this

The scoop: The B.C. locals are getting away from ultra-big bikes in favor of these tools. No wonder more serious manufacturers are filling this niche. In Whistler last fall, Richie Schley was riding a Rocky Mountain Switch, and our friend Jeff was rocking very hard on a Specialized SX Trail. BTW, you could take one of those bikes on A River Runs Through It — a very cool XC trail with stunts galore.

The bottom line

It’s a matter of personal style, but I think most people are best served with one of the new light freeride bikes. Probably at Whistler, and definitely at home.

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