The crowds flow through the village like a river, a stream of humanity broken by dusty downhill bikes and flashy booths and as tumultuous as a waterfall.
Excited young groms hunt for anything free, decked out riders push their bikes through lift-lines, and irritated employees serve up extra-large plates of poutine. Flip-flop bedecked spectators carry cameras, searching out the best spots to watch the flips, whips and sending.
Whatever their purpose, everyone’s eyes bounce between the general buzz of the village and the Jumbotrons above. This is Crankworx Whistler, the world’s biggest mountain biking competition, and no one wants to miss the show. We ventured into the village to meet the people that make up the collective community of Crankworx Whistler.
Over the course of its 10 days, Crankworx Whistler sees some 150,000 people, encompassing everyone from hardcore riders to excited spectators to random tourists asking, “What’s with all the bikes?” Some have flown overs oceans to be here, driven across North America, or hitchhiked from all parts of the Pacific Northwest. Some are families who booked vacations with no idea that the largest mountain bike festival in the world will be taking place the same week.
The stoke of Crankworks is visible everywhere. Back-woodsy zealots rev chain-less chainsaws on the sidelines of Joyride, young kids get their foreheads signed by Brett Rheeder, and people raise signs as high as they can while dangling from trees on the sidelines of the World Whip-Offs. The gondola sees as much foot-traffic as bikes, and the number of selfie-sticks has reached a whole new level. Some of the spectators have never ridden a mountain bike themselves, but they’re cheering all the same.
It’s a mutualistic relationship that Crankworx has developed with its crowd. Spectators scream their lungs out at the top of Heckler’s Rock, their vocal intimidation pushing racers by with even greater speed. Colorful hooligans wave flags and signs along Crabapple Hits, a living, cheering barrier that inspires riders to get a little more sideways during the Whip-Off Championship.
At the top of the Joyride course, the week’s most iconic event, competitors suppress butterflies—there are no other podiums as highly prized, and progression is necessary with every trick. As mountain bike icon and two-time Joyride winner Cam Zink puts it, ““There’s nothing else that compares. It’s the big show. Game day. How crazy the crowd is, how excited the riders are—I’ve had some of the best times of my life there.”
So while that mass of humanity feeling the village is made up of everyone from complete outsiders of the sport to living legends of the mountain bike world, it’s important to remember that everyone is there for the same reason…or rather, stoked for the same reason. Mountain biking is fun, whether you’re enjoying riding your bike or watching others enjoy riding theirs.
These are the people—hardcore, casual or unintentional—that have elevated Crankworx to the world stage that it is. Whatever their origins, everyone is part of the experience, and their collective roars are deafening.