Opinion » The Outsider

An early-season biking checklist

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After a satisfactory finish to winter and a belt of sunburn-inducing weather the last few weeks, it's well and truly time to fire up the two-wheeled activities.

The Whistler Mountain Bike Park opens (drumroll please...) tomorrow! While folks have been pedalling their bikes in Squamish and Pemberton for months now—and talking about it just as much—the bike park opening its gates has long signified the kickoff to mountain-bike season in Whistler. Keeners have already started probing out from the valley floor, some getting rewarded with hero dirt singletrack, some getting skunked with an afternoon of hike-a-biking and soggy shoes. That's spring for you.

It's also the time to be getting your bike in order. For the lucky ones getting new bikes—congratulations! You are now the owner of a depreciating asset. If you've emptied your bank account on the purchase, consider throwing an extra hundred bucks at frame protection. Locally owned RideWrap now have a space in Function Junction where its techs will install custom wrap kits on your bike's frame or you can elect to apply it yourself (personally I've had mediocre results at best with the DIY option). This will help carry the resale value of your bike down the track.

Your frame might be a little beat and still working optimally, but what about the components? There's nothing worse than a sticky drivetrain that skips or ghost-shifts when cranking up Lord of the Squirrels (which isn't open yet, by the way). A good bike tech can usually get your drivetrain shifting smoothly but they will be honest when it's on the way out. Replace the front chainring, chain, cassette at the same time so it all meshes as it wears in or you could be back where you started in a couple of months.

If you want to lighten or liven your bike with a moderate investment for the season, consider a new pair of wheels and/or going tubeless. It took me years to get around to ridding myself of tubes and the inevitable pinch flats, but after coming off the rough-as-guts Pemberton trails flat-free for a season, I'll never go back. Many tubeless riders are now opting for a foam core insert in the rear tire to prevent rim damage from big hits. While not cheap, I'll attest these foam-hoop inserts do work, especially if—like me—you don't always ride the smoothest line through the rock garden. Installing foam cores can be a pain (literally and figuratively) but once you get the trick it's not so hard. YouTube will give you the answers. Seating tubeless tires requires a sudden burst of compressed air to seat the tire bead, so if you don't have a special floor pump with a compression chamber, once you have your tires on the rims, take them to a bike shop and they can inflate with a compressor.

Brakes can be one of the more temperamental components on mountain bikes. You might find after your bike has been hanging up in the shed for the winter that your brakes feel slow and squishy. This is air working itself into your brake lines but is fixed by a quick brake bleed (easier and way less messy for the shop to do it). Check your brake pads and replace them if there is less than half a millimetre of pad left (Shimano recommendation), or total thickness of pad and backing plate is less than 3mm (SRAM recommendation). Letting them wear down more than that will require another brake bleed when you replace the pads. For Whistler riding and especially the bike park, stick to metal (sintered) pads. They whine in the wet but wear longer and fade less on the enormous descents that we're lucky enough to have in this valley.

Lastly, make sure to throw some money at the trails this spring. They don't fix themselves, especially when overzealous bros start hacking into them before they've sufficiently dried out. Even if you don't ride the Toonies, every trail rider in Whistler should buy their WORCA membership ($60 for adults). Not only does it fund trail building and maintenance, WORCA is the lobbying power for Whistler mountain bikers. Without it, we wouldn't have a lot of trails including Lord of the Squirrels or any of the future Sproatt Alpine project. If you want to keep riding new trails and want to see the older ones stay in decent shape over the seasons, 60 bucks really isn't that much to ask.

Speaking of the Toonies, the first race kicks off today! Drop-in registration is now $5 (well overdue, North Shore Mountain Bike Association switched to Fiver nights years ago) but you can still pay $2 per race if you buy a Toonie season pass. A no-brainer for the regulars.

We've had a spectacular prologue to summer. Get your checklists done and start rolling.

Shred well.

Vince Shuley's finances are currently tied up in several mountain bikes. For questions, comments or suggestions for The Outsider email vince@vinceshuley.com or Instagram @whis_vince.