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.

21 replies
  1. Nick says:

    I went to Whistler last summer on my V10 and it was a lot of fun but also a lot of work. Hindsight I would have preferred my Bullit with either a 888 or a new 66rc2x. All the trails are awesome and built perfectly so you dont necessarily need a huge bike, though it does help having 8 up front and 10 in the back when we mortals make mistakes.

    Lee we need to get together for a ride soon. Hit me up

  2. trevor says:

    steer clear from all the crazy multi pivot bikes if you are planning to spend a long time in whistler cause you will kill so many bearing it will make you cry. i spent a very hard two weeks in whistler last summer and i killed the bearing in my vp-free and the other people i was riding with on iron horses kill pivots and all sorts!
    go single pivot and get a new orange 224 very nice and works alot better than the 223

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Iron Horse Sundays are notorious for pivot and linkage problems. A buddy of mine who rides VERY hard blew out the main pivots on his VP-Free last summer.

    I’ve never, ever had problems with the pivots, linkages or bearings in my bikes.

  4. Ed says:

    Thanks for answering my question so comprehensively Lee, and the same goes to the feedback crew. I didn’t know about the pivot probs on Sundays, interessant…

    I’m definitely a fan of simple designs over crazy multi-linkage beasts; people’s race results seem equally good on either, so on that basis I think there’s no point going crazy with virtual pivots, floating rear brakes and Bermuda Triangles. At the moment the head suggests that a smaller bike makes more sense (at 5’9″ and 120lbs I’m only a nipper myself), but the heart will always have a special place for a full-bore DH machine. I wonder which will prevail…?

  5. Marz says:

    There must be something in the air, my wife got me a trip to Whistler for Christmas. So I’ll be heading up in June for 6 days of shuttle runs and back country camping. I’ll be dragging my new Turner Six Pack up there just to see how far I can push the thing and myself.
    So if you see a Brit crying by the trail side ‘cos he just wrapped his bike around a tree, that’ll be me.



  6. paul says:

    I’m also planning to head up that way this season:

    -Bullit w/ Fox 36Van works great (this is my current ride). Simple, reliable, proven design. Also, frames can be located fairly cheap/easily. Have the shock tuned professionally though or bob away then bottom out.
    -Sx Trail I/II (Better suspension action from what I’ve seen. Possibly better weight distribution also. More intricate design. Good warranty. Better choice from what I’m hearing)

  7. Nick says:

    Yeah that was the problem with my V10 and my buddies. We both broke linkages while we were in Whistler. Luckily it was easy to get fixed at Revolution, but still sucked to have to sit by and watch everyone else rip down the slopestyle park while your bike was getting fixed. Definitely a good reason to ride a simple bike in Whistler.

  8. Tom Forth says:

    Firstly you lucky sod, I’d give anything to get out of the squidgy UK for 12 months.
    As for the best bike for out there, I honestly think the SX trail is spot on (with Fox 36s of course).I was out there this summer just gone and from one UK rider to another you don’t need a full on 8″-10″ DH rig to ride the park. Some tracks are hard but they are more technical hard rather than blurry eyed, bone shaking upper section of Fort William hard.

    Being out there for that long there is no way your going to just ride the bike park and that’s where the versatility of a slightly shorted travel bike will pay off. It doesn’t have to be the SX trail but it really should be a bike that will be easy to get spare parts for because you will have many mechanicals out there. Good luck.
    (p.s – Bring spare tyres with you from the UK,they cost stupid money in Whistler)

  9. Katie says:

    DH or Short travel…Thats a tough decision. I spent this past summer on a Turner DHR and a Turner Rail.

    Both held up quite well considering the abuse they went through. If you ride the park often it is pretty much expected that you are going to have to replace stuff. I replaced bearings on my DHR a few times. Derailers rip off. Things bend. Its going to happen no matter what you are riding. I wouldnt base my decison on only looking at single pivots. There is quite a variety in the park…and they all get trashed.

    I spent a lot of time on both bikes in the park…more on the DHR. The DHR is wayy more comfortable…you can pin it on everything and you will feel less tired. The Rail was so sick though…it was super steady…like a little rocket and the thing just wanted to pin it…you def feel it more on the little bike though. One thing to keep in mind is there is a ton of riding in the valley which would be wayyy better on a short travel. I guess it depends on what you plan on doing…a little bike makes you a better rider casue you have to work harder!! Just think…you spend a season pinning whistler on a little bike…go home pick up a dh bike…

    hope this helps….im just rambling. i get so excited talking about bike season…..soon.

    You are coming here for 12 monthes? Are you planning on staying in Whis the whole time or going other places? Are you going to work?? There is quite a crew from the uk…it gets bigger and bigger each year…you arnt going to want to leave.

  10. stu says:

    was there last year and bought a big hit.

    excellent bike and half the price.

    loads of good prices, also if you time it right buy an ex hire bike at a fraction of the price.

    mates bought stabs, should have been £3500 but cost £600!!

  11. Ed says:

    Thanks again one and all- having been through all the options one bike really stands out, the ’06 Spec. SX Trail 2. It looks like a bike designed with the Bike Park solely in mind (I’ll have to grow a mullet and learn tailwhips if I want to do its Crankworx heritage justice!), and there’s not a thing on the spec. that I’d change. Add all that to the fact that I can buy the bike for a (relative) snip once I convert £GBP to $CAN, and it’s time to start saving…

  12. leelikesbikes says:

    I just got a note from Jeff Bryson, the ripper I met and photographed in Whistler. Seems he’s rocking his SX at the New Zealand national DH series.

    Hey Ya Lee

    Checkin out the site. didnt think it was that big. Right now im in NZ on a working holiday. I ended up signing up for the national series. Its half way through and im in 1st place in seinor expert. Im doing the series on the sx trail. The same one i was riding when with you up in whistler. I decided to tie up my shoes for race day. I still think its the sickes bike around. You should see the looks i get with all the triple clamps around.


  13. chris says:

    Hi Lee – now I have a dilemna!!
    I ride a Demo 9, and have been thinking for a while that it’s too much bike. After reading the article, I’m wondering whether an SX trail might not be a better tool, but my macho ego says “Stick with the big boy”
    I ride downhill tracks and trails, and am planning on spending a couple of weeks in Les Gets this year. Will the SX be man enough?
    PS – the new look site rocks!

  14. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Chris.

    That SX Trail is a whole lot of bike. It’s definitely up to the task. It becomes a matter of style:

    Demo – Pin the gnarliest downhills 100% and suffer elsewhere

    SX Trail – Rail the downhills and enjoy the other stuff too.

    As Jeff Bryson mentioned above, he’s leading the expert DH series in New Zealand on his SX Trail.

  15. ted,indian boy says:

    bought a Giant Reighn 1 looking forward to my trip to Whistler this July with 3 or 4 buddys, see how the Reighn stands up!!!

  16. tyler risdon says:

    I think tht the perfect whistler bike is a norco storm because it has up to 4 inches of travel 6 inch disc brakes 24 gears to choose from for climbing and for sepeed and u can put the seat really high so its easy to pedal for your legs so they dont get cramped up like mine always do! please add me to msn and tell me wat u think about my whistler dream bike at

  17. Graeme says:

    I spent the summer in whistler in 2006, my advice is get a bike with a good warranty, i snapped a swingarm and a headtube there on a bike with a rubbish warranty and so had to pay for it.

    for me there are only 2 companies worth looking at Specialized and Giant, get a glory for whistler you’ll not regret it. Both of these companies have LIFETIME warranties on their frames.

    Trails like A-line i’m sure were designed as bike breakers, you can’t ride there all season and not get a few landings wrong, and when you do it’ll be goodbye frame, and goodbye bike when you realise that companies like Rocky Mountain only offer a 6 month warranty.

    if you’re goign for the season, take tyres and a spare rim from home and a couple of spare rear mech’s as each of these items listed is $100 a pop out there, money that could be better spent on beer lets face it.

    have a great trip, but get a bike with a great warranty. in all honesty you could have fun on any bike in whistler.

  18. Slyfink says:

    I’ll add a little something to the mix here… if anyone is planning on spending any amount of time in Whistler (say more than 1 week …), then you should do yourself a favour and check out the riding around Whistler… with Pemberton, Squamish, the Sunshine Coast, and North Van all so close by, you’ll be blown away with the quality of riding there.

    I did a trip there last summer and spent 4 days at Whistler Bike Park, a day at Pemberton, a day at Squamish and a day in North Van. I had my A-Line. While it was great at WBP, I found it waaaay to heavy anywhere else and would have loved a lighter, more nimble ride for the traverses, jumps, skinnies etc… next time, I’ll be bringing a smaller bike…

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