There are two types of wheeling warrior in Whistler in the summer — the weekend variety, and the gladiator. More reason to stay away. Or so I thought, until a very fine Giant Reign rolled into my life and the doors of perception swung open.
“Hard-core performance on a serious diet. 6 inches of all mountain performance, featuring an all-new, lightweight ALUXX SL frameset and balanced Maestro Suspension design for efficient climbing and confidence-inspiring descending.”
Reading bike catalogues now is like logging on to eHarmony.com – a chance to analyze your personality in 29 easy steps, and discover your perfect match without years of gruelling trial and error, and blind dates gone wrong. Up until recently, signing on to a mountain bike affair required a dedicated lack of monogamy (a quiver of bikes in the garage and a maxed out credit card), or a deep and profound commitment to a really specific type of riding. Which kept the mountain bike park full of machismo, the trails full of granola, and girls, for the most part, on the sidelines.
With the advent of the all-mountain bike, lighter frames and improvements in suspension and braking technology, the Equivocator, the Dabbler, the Romantic, now has an option. A one-size-fits-all plaything, that comes up, and goes down, with equal versatility. The One.
Says Rob McSkimming, Whistler Blackcomb’s VP of Business Development, “For a while, we were seeing the best riders’ bikes were getting bigger and bigger, with more and more travel. Now, we’re starting to see the high-end freeriders choosing bikes that are lighter, with milder travel. The high end cross-country rider, too. It’s all actually converging.”
That convergence is opening up experiences like the Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, to a host of newcomers. Kids. Women. Virgins. Peace-lovers. Flow-seekers. Even a late bloomer like me is getting a chance to be on the cutting edge of the new wave.
This week saw the opening of a new trail in the mountain bike park, Ninja Cougar. A blue level run, the trail has been nine months in the making, and was designed to provide a smooth line of turns and berms, some dirt, some wood, all flowing into singletrack that eventually links into Karate Monkey, another new blue trail. Ultimately, it’s the kind of ride that doesn’t require a lot of airtime or a lot of braking. It’s more flow-zone than gnar-bar.
Explains McSkimming, “It’s designed for where the riding style is going. And it’s the kind of trail that would ride really well on a lightweight, medium travel bike.”