Tag Archives: Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week

The Dangers of Cycling in Whistler

Over the last week or so, the Whistler Museum hosted various events as part of our fourth annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week, including a Post-Toonie Retro Bike Show & Shine, a bike maintenance course, a film screening of Ride to the Hills, and talks on the Cheakamus Challenge and bike manufacturing in Whistler.  We’d like to thank everyone who helped with this year’s Mountain Bike Heritage week and all of our amazing sponsors.  With all of this going, it’s no surprise that biking got a little stuck in our heads.

Usually when we discuss the history of mountain biking, we look at events, races and the growing popularity of the sport.  Reading through press clippings from the Squamish Citizen and the Whistler Question from the 1980s, however, a large portion of the reporting on biking covers accidents, injuries and growing concerns for safety.

Constable F. Pinnock runs through the bike safety testing course that he and Constable Gabriel of Pemberton set up at Myrtle Philip Elementary. Contrary to the advise of medical professionals, Pinnock seems to have forgotten to put on a helmet.  Whistler Question Collection, 1981.

A July 1986 article in the Citizen reported on two separate accidents two days apart, both of which caused serious injuries.  In one, a Whistler resident and a Maple Ridge resident collided on the bike path along Nita Lake, resulting in a broken hand and possible concussion for the Maple Ridge resident.  The other claimed that a resident of North Vancouver “lost control of her rented bicycle and careened into a tree,” causing a broken leg and another possible concussion.  Both injured parties were transported to Vancouver.

The RCMP received many complaints of bikers not following the rules of the road and particularly urged riders to carry lights when riding in the dark.  In June 1987, a cyclist was reported to have struck an unidentified object while riding on Highway 99 and was transported to Vancouver for surgery for sever facial injuries.  In an effort to encourage the use of lights, the RCMP began ticketing cyclists who didn’t have any, many of whom were shocked to receive a $75 fine.

By May 1987, it would seem bike accidents were so numerous in Whistler that the Whistler Ambulance Chief Jeff Sopel made a statement appealing to cyclists to “use common sense when using the Valley Trail.”  Part of his appeal included a call to wear helmets and to be aware of their location in case an ambulance had to be called.

These helmets look suspiciously like they may also be used when skiing. Whistler Question Collection, 1984.

The Whistler Medical Clinic, then located in the basement of Municipal Hall, saw quite a bit of business from cyclists over the summer of 1987.  Dr. Ron Stanley collected data from all the bicycle accidents that passed through the clinic between May and September and found that about 50 per cent of the accidents resulted in road lacerations or abrasions (also described as “Road rash – very painful”), 30 per cent caused head and/or facial injuries, 15 per cent resulted in fractures of some kind, 15 per cent of the injuries were serious enough to require a transfer to Vancouver, and 15 per cent of the accidents occurred while the rider was drunk or impaired.

According to Dr. Stanley, there was no obvious pattern to the incidents, which occurred all over Whistler on both roads and trails.  He echoed Sopel’s call, urging riders to use common sense and wear helmets, also adding that wearing adequate clothing (such as shirts, shoes and gloves) would help prevent road rash and noted that the majority of serious injuries occurred when the rider was impaired.

Bike decorating contests for the children of Whistler often accompanied the safety demonstrations put on by the RCMP. Even ET made an appearance. Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

Mountain biking as a sport and bike safety in general have come a long way in the decades since the 1980s (as has the Whistler Medical Clinic, which moved out of the basement and into its current facility in 1994).  One thing we’ve learned from talking about biking all week, however, is that the advise of Sopel and Dr. Stanley still applies today: use common sense and wear your helmet.

Talking Shop: Whistler’s Early Mountain Bike Shops

Not only do we have a trail-rich valley to call home in Whistler, but we are also spoiled with choice when it comes to bike shops.  This wasn’t always the case.

When mountain bikes first hit the logging roads in the valley in the early 1980s, most riders had to head to Vancouver for any mountain-bike-specific parts and maintenance, according to one or our oral history interviews with local mountain bike pioneer Steve Anderson.

Mountain biking steadily became more popular in Whistler from the 1980s but at the beginning there were few shops dedicated to the sport.  Whistler Question Collection.

A couple of shops were starting to pop up around that time.  In the newly constructed village Jim McConkey’s shop sold bikes in the summer months and Doris Burma operated a small bike shop, Summit Cycles, out of a trailer right above the commercial loading zone at the Delta Mountain Inn (today known as the Hilton).  Doris was passionate about mountain bikes and famed for her Cheakamus Challenge precursor race called “See Colours & Puke,” a wild mountain bike race reportedly meant to be completed on mushrooms.

In the autumn of 1985 Backroads Whistler owner Eric Wight opened a bike shop  in the basement of Creekside’s Southside Diner.  A short time later, the shop moved to the first floor of a house in Mons.

The new location was in the centre of the local mountain bike scene at the time, not far from new trails in Emerald and Lost Lake.  The shop sold, fixed, and rented mountain bikes, even building a small trials track outside their door.  Eric admits the shops didn’t make much money in the early days, as most of the clientele were locals who could only afford parts using “local deals.”  Big things were to come, however.

Whistler began hosting bike races in the early 1980s, creating even more demand for maintenance and shops.  Whistler Question Collection.

In 1989 Eric’s shop moved to Whistler Village, finding a spot in the base of the Delta.  The location was off the radar for visitors, however, and the clientele was still all locals.  The shop finally surfaced on the Village Stroll in the spot where Jim McConkey had sold bikes (currently Showcase Snowboards) around the time Backroads began working with Whistler Mountain to begin mountain bike tours down the mountain.  According to Eric, the new shop had a Santa Fe theme, a mechanic shop in the back, rentals and tours, and plenty of snazzy lycra on sale out front.

As mountain biking continued gaining traction the 1990s saw bike shops that are still kicking it today start up shop.

In 1994 John Inglis and Peter Colapinto opened the Whistler Bike Co., also in the underground portion of the Delta, for the summer months.  In 1995 they brought onboard Giant Bicycles and they eventually expanded to Pemberton, the Village Gate location, and, most recently, their Marketplace location to accommodate a growing population of bikers in town.

Molson’s Whistler Bike Race passes through the Whistler Village, where some of the earlier bike shops in town can still be found today.  Whistler Question Collection.

Bike Co. is currently the oldest independent bike shop in town, followed closely by Evolution, which was opened by Jenine Bourbonnais in 1995.  Many more mountain bike shops have opened up as Whistler has become the mountain bike mecca it is today: Summit Sports, Fanatyk Co., Garbanzo Bike & Bean, Coastal Culture Sports, Arbutus Routes, Whistler Village Sports, The Fix, Comor Sports, Fineline, Gateway Bikes – the list is long and continues to grow.  Needless to say, Whistler’s mountain bikers (and their bikes) are now very well serviced.

This week we’ve been celebrating Whistler’s mountain biking history with the museum’s 4th annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week.  You can find a full list of events here and join us for our final event on Wednesday featuring Chris Allen of North Shore Billet and Steve Mathews of Vorsprung.

Whistler MTB Heritage Week 2019

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week

For more than 3 decades mountain biking has woven itself into the fabric of Whistler’s outdoor community. At the same time, our distinct biking scene has increasingly spread its influence throughout the MTB world.

In celebration of the trails, talent, and passion that makes mountain biking in Whistler special, from June 6 – 12 the Whistler Museum will be hosting a series of presentations, film screenings, workshops and more.

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week is produced by the Whistler Museum, with generous support from the RMOW, and in partnership with WORCA.

Event Rundown

June 6: Post-WORCA Toonie Retro Bike Show & Shine

If you’ve been hanging onto your old Stump Jumper, have a frame you used to ride the trails in the 1980s or just have a passion for old bikes, now is your time to shine! Bring out your old retro bikes to the post-Toonie apres in the Creekside parking lot and take a look at how much mountain bikes have changed in the past few decades. Prizes for best retro bike & outfit. This week’s Toonie is hosted by Coastal Culture Sports, Creekside Market, X-treme Organics, Sabre Rentals & Arts Whistler.  Sign In: Interpretive Forest Car Park; Après: Creekside Parking Lot.  Ride starts at 6:30pm.  More info on the ride here. For more information on participating in the Retro Bike Show & Shine give us a call at (604) 932-2019.

June 7: Speaker Series – Think Bike Conversations: Indigenous MTB

As part of Think Bike Whistler, Patrick Lucas (Director, BC Aboriginal Youth MTB Program) and Pat Montani (Founder, Bicycles for Humanity) will be at the museum to discuss indigenous mountain biking on a global scale. At the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 7 pm; talk begins at 7:30 pm.  Entry included in Think Bike registration. Tickets for those not registered with Think Bike will be $5.

June 8: Speaker Series – The Story of the Cheakamus Challenge: Whistler’s Classic MTB Endurance Race (1989 – 2011)

The Cheakamus Challenge ran from 1989 – 2011 and became one of Whistler’s classic mountain bike endurance races.  We’ll be joined by race organizer Grant Lamont and past winners and competitors to explore the stories behind the race.  At the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 6:30 pm; talk begins at 7 pm.  Entry by donation, with all proceeds going to WORCA.

June 9: Film Screening – Ride to the Hills

The Whistler Museum is hosting a screening of Jorli Ricker’s classic mountain bike film Ride to the Hills,  followed by a Q&A with Ricker and door prizes.  At the Whistler Public Library.  Doors open at 6:30 pm; film begins at 7 pm.  Free admission.

June 11: Bike Maintenance Workshop

Whistler Bike Co., Whistler Museum and the Whistler Public Library are teaming up to offer a bike maintenance workshop.  In this two-hour session, we’ll be talking techniques to keep your bike in working order and how to know when a trip to the bike shop is required.  At the Whistler Museum.  Registration is required (registration opens June 1).  Call the Whistler Public Library 604-935-8435.

June 12: Speaker Series – Manufacturing in the Mountains

Ever wondered about where your bike parts come from?  Some of them might be made right here in Whistler.  We’ll be joined by Chris Allen of North Shore Billet and Steve Mathews of Vorsprung to learn about why they believe in manufacturing in Whistler and how they make it work.  At the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 6:30 pm; talk begins at 7 pm.  Entry by donation.

A huge thanks to all our sponsors of these events!
Partners and sponsors include: WORCA, Whistler Bike Co., the Whistler Public Library, Coastal Culture Sports, Pinkbike, Chromag, Vorsprung Suspension, Crankworx, Evolution, Creekside Market, X-treme Organics, Sabre Rentals, Arts Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb and the Province of British Columbia.

That’s A Wrap on This Year’s Mountain Bike Heritage Week

The past week has been a busy one here at the museum as we made our way through five consecutive days of events celebrating, what else, mountain biking in Whistler, during our second annual Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week.

The week started on Tuesday with “Transition: The History & Influence of Crankworx & Gravity Logic Inc.”  This Speaker Series event featured Tom “Pro” Prochazka of Gravity Logic and Nicole Freeman, project manager for Crankworx, talking about the origins of the two institutions in the Whistler Bike Park and how they both came to have international reputations and a global reach.

The Whistler Bike Park, shown here in 2000, has changed a lot in the almost two decades for which it’s been open.

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Nicole Freeman, project manager for Crankworx, speaks to a crowd at the Whistler Museum.

The museum teamed up with Clint Trahan on Wednesday to offer a free photography class focused on capturing your own mountain biking photos and, so we’ve heard, Clint continued the discussion over drinks after class.

Clint Trahan speaks to room full of budding mountain bike photographers.

Thursday Toonie Race drew over 250 WORCA members for the weekly ride.

The bright pink was an easy choice for best retro gear outfit.

Thursday’s Retro Toonie Ride was a great time with over 250 riders.  Hosted with the Whistler Golf Club, Summit Sport, Whistler.com and the Whistler Bike Park, it didn’t feature quite as many vintage bikes as last year’s (not surprising given the course involved biking up and then down part of the bike park) but those riders that brought out their retro bikes and gear were all the more impressive for their commitment to the theme.

 

A classic Whistler jersey promoting The Cheakamus Challenge, a 70 km race between Squamish and Whistler, that first ran in 1989.

It’s not that often you see bikes like this one in the bike park these days.

Our winner for Best Overall retro ride & outfit.  It might have been the first time a bike with a milk crate has gone down Karate Monkey in the Whistler Bike Park.

On Friday the museum and the amazing team at Forlisë held a screening of The Collective, the 2004 film that continues to influence the ways mountain bike films are made today.  Jamie Houssian was on hand to discuss how and why The Collective was different than other films coming out at the time, as well as the challenges of using actual film (changing the film magazine every 2.5 minutes).

Filmmaker and producer Jamie Houssian.

The screening of The Collective at Forlisë included a discussion of the film with filmmaker Jamie Houssian.

The Whistler Public Library, Bike Co. and the museum offered a free bike maintenance class on Saturday afternoon (which luckily was bright, sunny and dry) which quickly filled up early in the week.  Part of anything you do is taking care of and maintaining your own equipment and mountain biking is no different.

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Bike maintenance workshop.

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As part of Mountain Bike Heritage week we also installed some temporary exhibits in Whistler Village.

Thanks to everyone who supported the week, by partnering, sponsoring, speaking or attending!  We’re already looking forward to our third Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week next year.

Sponsors & Partner Organization:

Resort Municipality of Whistler, GO Fest, WORCA, Whistler Bike Co., the Whistler Public Library, Forlisë, the Whistler Golf Club, Summit Sport, Whistler.com, Arts Whistler, Whistler Bike Park, Pinkbike, Chromag, Vorsprung Suspension, Coast Mountain Brewing, DavidsTea, the Province of British Columbia

 

Mountain Bike Heritage Week 2017

For the second year the Whistler Museum is hosting Mountain Bike Heritage Week, a full series of daily events to celebrate Whistler’s distinct biking scene.  Over the last three decades, mountain biking in Whistler has grown to become not only a large part of Whistler’s business but also a large part of our town’s culture and identity.

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week is produced by the Whistler Museum, with generous support from the RMOW, and in partnership with GO Fest.  Partners and sponsors include: WORCA, Whistler Bike Co., the Whistler Public Library, Forlisë, the Whistler Golf Club, Summit Sport, Whistler.com, Arts Whistler, Whistler Bike Park, Pinkbike, Chromag, Vorsprung Suspension, Coast Mountain Brewing, DavidsTea and the Province of British Columbia.

Event Rundown:
Speaker Series – Transition: The History and Influence of Crankworx and Gravity Logic Inc.
Nicole Freeman of Crankworx and Tom Prochazka of Gravity Logic Inc. will be joining us to discuss the origins and growth of two globally recognized mountain bike institutions with Whistler roots.
May 16 at the Whistler Museum
Doors at 6pm; Show at 7pm
Tickets $5

Photography Class – Shoot Like a Pro: MTB Photography with Clint Trahan
Photographer Clint Trahan will be providing techniques and tips to select and compose your own mountain biking photos.  Clint Trahan has been shooting mountain biking and more for over a decade, including events such as Crankworx and Enduro World Series.
May 17 at Maury Young Arts Centre (Arts Whistler)
Starts at 7pm
Free admission

Retro WORCA Toonie Race
Hosted by Summit Sport, the Whistler Golf Course, Whistler.com and the Whistler Museum, this week’s Toonie Ride includes prizes for best retro ride and outfit.
May 18  Sign in: Summit Sport; Après: Whistler Golf Club
Ride starts at 6:30pm
http://www.worca.com/toonie-ride-schedule/

Classic Film Screening – The Collective: A 16mm Mountain Bike Film (2004)
The Whistler Museum and Forlisë are hosting a screening of the influential first film from The Collective with a filmmaker Q&A and door prizes.
May 19 at Forlisë
Doors at 7:30pm
Entry by donation, with all proceeds going to WORCA trail maintenance

Bike Maintenance Workshop
Whistler Bike Co., Whistler Museum and the Whistler Public Library are teaming up to offer a bike maintenance workshop.  In this two-hour session, we’ll be talking techniques to keep your bike in working order and how to know when a trip to the bike shop is required.
May 20 at the Whistler Public Library
Starts at 4 pm Registration is required, opens May 1
Call the Whistler Public Library 604 935 8435 to reserve a spot

MTB History Exhibits
Learn about Whistler’s early mountain bike history through a series of small exhibits in the Whistler Village.
May 18 – 22
Located at Mountain Square, Whistler Village

We’ll see you there!

#WhistlerMTBWeek wrap-up

Life is finally getting back to normal here at the museum, after the whirlwind that was last week’s “Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week.” This was our first time ever running this event, and it amounted to the largest coordinated event series the Whistler Museum had run since the “100 Years of Dreams” festival in 2011, which celebrated the centennial anniversary of Myrtle & Alex Philip’s first visit to Alta Lake.

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The Speaker Series kicked off with an evening discussion of trail-building through the decades, with Eric Wight (and friends) talking about the early days of Whistler Backroads and the first purpose-built trails for lift-accessed mountain biking on Whistler Mountain in the early 1990s, then Jerome David sharing his experiences and insights gained through many years as trail director and then president of WORCA, and concluded with current trail-builder extraordinaire Dan Raymond talking about his process, and giving some sneak peeks into his magnum opus, “Lord of the Squirrels.”

At the “Building a Community” talk, Charlie Doyle and Grant Lamont paid tribute to the many characters who helped mountain biking thrive in the early days, before it became sanctioned, legitimized and recognized as big business, then Chris Kent spoke of one of the great events of these early days, the Garibaldi Gruel.

In “Whistler MTB Gone Global” Paul Howard explained how being based in Whistler helped him create a global MTB coaching standard, Sarah Leishman shared stories from Ethiopia to the Enduro World Series, and Mike Crowe celebrated the Whistler Bike Park as a global phenomenon like no other.

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The Whistler Mountain Bike Park has come a long way since it’s origins in the early 1990s. Greg Griffith Collection.

The Kranked 3 film screening with filmmakers Bjorn Enga and Christian Begin made for wonderful reminiscing about this seminal time in freeride mountain biking. And, of course, Brett Tippie brought the party.

The retro Toonie Ride was a wonderful time and showcased some incredible vintage bikes and gear:

The photography show at the Maury Young Arts Centre (still up until June 14th) showcased the many facets of local riding through the lenses of some of the most talented photographers in the MTB world. The photos can still be purchased through online auction at http://www.32auctions.com/mtbweek

It was a wonderful time reaching out to a massive part of our community, and we’re glad we did. Mountain biking has contributed a lot to Whistler, and vice versa, but the biggest takeaway from the long weekend was the strong sense of community amongst the thousands of dedicated bikers in this town.

Thanks everybody who partnered, sponsored, spoke, attended, or otherwise supported the week! We look forward to repeating this event in 2017.

That includes (but is certainly not limited to):

Sponsors & Partner Organizations:

WORCA, Whistler Arts Council, Forlise Whistler, GoFest Whistler, Resort Municipality of Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, Whistler Bike Co., Chromag,  Deep Cove Brewing, Vorsprung Suspension, Whistler Roasting, David’s Tea, Whistler Film Festival Society, Province of British Columbia

 

Panelists/Speakers:

Eric Wight, Jerome David, Dan Raymond, Bjorn Enga, Christian Begin, Brett Tippie, Ryan Leech, Charlie Doyle, Grant Lamont, Chris Kent, Paul Howard, Sarah Leishman, Mike Crowe.

 

Photographers/Artists:

Reuben Krabbe, Robin O’Neill, Brian Finestone, Nic Teichrob, Greg Griffith, Patrick Hui, Sean St. Denis, Mattias Fredriksson, Margus Riga, Vanessa Stark, Eric Poulin, Vince Shuley, Thomas Rasek, Mason Mashon, Ben Lees, Sterling Lorence.

Now that it’s done us museum staff are really excited about all the spare time we suddenly have to go ride our bikes!

The Garibaldi Gruel

One of the motivations behind our just-wrapped-up Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week was to connect with the local mountain bike community so that we can better celebrate what has become the leading summer pastime for the majority of Whistlerites.

We had a serious dearth of photographs, artifacts, and oral histories about the history of mountain biking in our community, and we are glad to say that this is now beginning to improve.

Among the few historical biking photographs we did already possess was a collection of mountain bike photos taken by local photography legend Greg Griffith from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Most of them were from a promotional shoot that showcased the riding of the day, including several gorgeous alpine shots high up on Blackcomb Mountain.

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This is why Lakeside Bowl on Blackcomb has its name. These trails are now part of the alpine hiking trail network on Blackcomb, but biking is not permitted. Greg Griffith Collection.

Also included were several shots from what looked like an epic competition that we knew very little about — until last Saturday night at our Speaker Series “Whistler MTB: Building a Community.” The evening began with local biking pioneers Grant Lamont and Charlie Doyle sharing stories about the early days, and paying tribute to the numerous individuals who were instrumental in the growth of Whistler into a mountain bike stronghold.

They were followed by Chris Kent, best known for his many feats on skis, but also an avid and long-time mountain biker. Chris also happened to be the organizer of the race in the Griffith photos, the Garibaldi Gruel.

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The last stretch of the opening bike leg, coming into the Roundhouse plateau on Whistler. WMAS, Greg Griffith Collection.

First held in September 1994, the race was ahead of its time and almost like a predecessor to today’s wildly popular Enduro race format, in that it required competitors to complete major climbs and descend massive vertical in serious terrain. On top of that, there was also a leg of alpine trail-running, nowadays tagged with the trendy name of “Sky-running,” sandwiched in the middle.

The course climbed more than 1,100 vertical metres on service roads from the Village up to the Roundhouse Lodge, followed by an 8km run over to Harmony and back. Riders then got back on their bikes, climbed Pika’s Traverse to the Peak, then descended Highway 86 all the way back down to the valley. The course was so gruelling that Chris wasn’t certain that anyone would even bother entering.

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The Last Stretch – Mathew’s Traverse, took riders from The Saddle to Whistler Peak, with the classic view of Black Tusk on their left hopefully distracting them (a little) from their physical suffering. Greg Griffith Collection.

His fears proved unfounded, with 120 entrants the first year — and roughly the same amount of volunteers. Kevin Titus, local marathon runner and multi-sport athlete won in an astonishing time of well under three hours, Mick Peatfield and Paul Fournier rounded out the podium.

The first year they enjoyed gloriously sunny weather, but the second running of the event was a different story. Heavy rain in the valley transitioned to full-on blizzard in the alpine. The weather forced the organizers to alter the route and forgo the climb up to Whistler Peak, and several competitors were forced to bow out early with hypothermia. Kevin Titus repeated as champion.

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The mass start kicked up more than a little dust on a hot September day. Greg Griffith Collection.

Unfortunately the event only lasted those two summers, but for those who participated the Garibaldi Gruel is fondly remembered as a challenging race that helped push the boundaries of what was possible on bikes in Whistler.

Have more MTB photos, memorabilia, or stories to share? We want to hear from you!