Mountain Biking Back in Time

In the spirit of Crankworx and mountain bike culture in Whistler in general, we thought we’d dig up some vintage mountain bike footage. Here’s a video from the Cactus Cup Mountain Bike Competition in 1995:

Although we no longer hold the Cactus Cup, Whistler is home to the exciting and popular Crankworx, happening right now. Recently, our Assistant Archivist, Alyssa Bruijns, spent some time digging through the archives here at the museum to get to the root of mountain bike culture in Whistler. Below, Alyssa takes us back to the 90s to the origins of some of Whistler’s most popular trails, the bike park and Crankworx’s Redbull Joyride.

Cranking Through the Decades 

By Alyssa Bruijns

With Crankworx in full swing, all of Whistler has mountain biking on the mind. Whistler Museum and Archives is no exception: lately we’ve been reflecting on the history of the sport in Whistler.

The first trails in the area were built and cleared by riders themselves in the mid-80s, many of them incorporating gravel access roads and decommissioned logging roads where necessary. A 1993 article from our archives identifies Cut Yer Bars, Northwest Passage, Black Tusk climb, A River Runs Through It, and Lost Lake Park as ideal spots for riders who wanted to venture off-road at the time. A few mountain biking enthusiasts began running tours up Whistler Mountain  under the name Backroads Whistler. Some of the trails they rode were incorporated into the bike park we know today: for instance, Ripping Rutebaga formed the skeleton for what is now Dirt Merchant.

Since mountain biking had to be put on hold on the mountain while the new Roundhouse was being built in 1998, the employees of Whistler Blackcomb used the opportunity to pitch the idea for an more intensified bike park to Whistler Blackcomb. Despite some hesitance, Whistler Blackcomb agreed to begin building, although many trails were quite difficult for the average rider from the outset. As technology and rider ability caught up to trail difficulty, the sport burgeoned in Whistler, and Whistler’s trail-builders rose to the challenge in order to create new machine-built features and trails each season. It is from this base of expertise that Gravity Logic was born, a company that has contributed to trail design and building in bike parks around the world since its inception.

As mountain biking gained popularity into the 2000s, Whistler became known as a world-class venue due to the amount of overseas visitors, global media recognition, its plethora of bike shops and media blitzes. Whistler Mountain Bike Park is now a prime destination in the mountain biking world, and A-line has become one of the most well-known downhill trails worldwide, having grown to signify a style of trail including flowy dirt jumps and berms. In 2003, Richie Schley pushed Whistler to host a slopestyle type of competition that would use many freeride elements to form one show-stopping contest course. Upon approval, Schley designed the first Slopestyle Expression Session which would allow riders to choose their own lines and tricks. Now called the Redbull Joyride, this contest has become one of the favourite events of Crankworx for riders and spectators alike, especially with Sea-to-Sky resident Brandon Semenuk clinching podium spots nearly every year competing.

Crankworx has grown not only as a sporting event but also as an event central to Whistler’s culture. The film portions of the festival, the live music, the cheese-rolling competition, and the fan-fuelled spirit of Heckler’s Rock on the downhill course make Crankworx so much more than a mountain biking festival. As the birthplace of slopestyle and a yearly mountain biking bonanza, it is no surprise that Crankworx has engrained itself in Whistler’s history and culture. Certainly, summer is no longer ‘off-season.’

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