Mountain culture preaches that wealth and possessions should be secondary to lifestyle.
"Give me experiences, not things" and all that. Yet for a community that proudly turns its back on money and material items in exchange for quality of life, we sure do own a lot of expensive toys.
I might be preaching to the choir here, but the Sea to Sky corridor has to have some of the highest big-kid toy ownership per capita in all of Canada. Sleds, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, skis, snowboards, canoes, kayaks, party barges...
And it's not our high cost of living and relatively low income that's the restricting factor. It's the storage. With only the established small per cent of Whistlerites having the luxury of a garage or gear shed, the rest of us make do with stacking bikes and boats in our living room with the requisite sock condom on the end of the handlebar to protect our landlord's wall.
Much like automobiles, toys make terrible financial investments. The payoff comes in the fun we have when subjecting them to all the abuse the mountains want to throw at us. But the inevitable depreciation in resale value doesn't mean we shouldn't look after them properly.
Let's start with the big one that will never stop rearing its ugly head: theft. Every summer dozens of mountain bikes are stolen in Whistler. Wise locals—who've either burned themselves or had it happen to friends—know that if you're in or anywhere near the village, you NEVER take your eyes off the bike. Not to duck into Fat Tony's for a slice, not to sit down for a patio beer where you'll be distracted.
If you do frequent the village or need to leave your multi-thousand-dollar investment somewhere for an extended period, don't rely on a flimsy vinyl-coated cable lock to do the job. And if you don't want to carry around a Mister T-sized unbreakable chain or a cumbersome U-Lock, pick up a folding lock. These are compact, relatively light for their strength and start at about $100. Seems expensive, but that's the price you pay for security and convenience.
Maintenance is a critical part of toy ownership. With winter sliding equipment you can usually get away with regular waxing throughout the season, but don't forget to apply summer storage wax to avoid your bases drying out. Snowmobiles have a whole laundry list of essential maintenance tasks including a "summerize" procedure, but I'll leave those tips to the qualified professionals at your local moto shop.
While mountain bikes are free of complex motor engines, they do have a lot of moving parts that wear out over time. You need to listen for these creaks, whines and rattles and actually do something about them.
Sometimes it's as easy as tightening a linkage bolt or replacing a pair of brake pads, sometimes it isn't. In any case, ignoring such issues can lead to devastatingly expensive repairs in the long run—especially if you ride a lot of bike park. If you're unsure about something, take the initiative to at least get an experienced bike mechanic's opinion on it. And if you ride a lot, don't forget to service your suspension at least once a season.
One of the best ways to protect your mountain-bike investment is to get a frame wrap. A durable, clear film is applied semi-permanently to shield the frame and forks from rock strikes, crashes, cougar attacks and all the other nasty things one encounters on the trails. Cutting and applying the film is a painstakingly slow and meticulous process, but you can always hand over the job to Ride Wrap, a local crew that have made a business out of applying frame wraps. When you go to sell your bike in a few years, peel off the film and your frame should look about as good as the day you bought it.
Our toys are our conduit to fun in the mountains. Let's give them the respect they deserve.
Vince Shuley is contemplating buying a new toy. For questions, comments or suggestions for The Outsider email firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram @whis_vince.