Over the years, Crankworx have become the pinnacle mountain bike events. Crankworx events are now being held both in New Zealand (Rotorua) and France (Les Gets), but it's the original Whistler Canada Crankworx that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and live media coverage. Crankworx isn't just a contest or a trade show, it's now a full blown festival where, over the years, the bike event has grown into an 10-day celebration of everything bike and bike culture.
With there being 14 official Crankworx events on the schedule and dozens of unofficial events, there's more than one thing to do per day. As a seasoned Crankworx veteran, I can tell you that if you don't plan properly the event can be overwhelming. The minute you step into the village, you are quickly swallowed up by a hundred thousand people all rushing to the product booths, free yogurt and energy drink stands, athlete meet-and-greets, races, lunch spots, and I mean, there's an obstacle course where you can drive a full sized Jeep for crying out loud.
If you're new to Whistler Crankworx, let us at BikeRoar help you make the most of your experience with our start-to-finish guide for the entire 10-day event.
What to bring:
Bring the right clothing. Whistler is situated in a coastal temperate rainforest in the mountains, so weather can be extremely unpredictable. 2015 saw heat-stroke inducing weather for the Whip-offs and then torrential downpours a couple days later for Joyride - not nice tropical showers either. The mountains usually get hit with cold, dark rain storms, so bring regular and wet weather riding clothing. You should also bring casual clothing for summer, but with a warm jacket for the evenings.
Bring a water bottle and a travel mug. The need for water and coffee will be high all weekend, but water will be your best friend. Whether it's the hot summer sun or the beverages after dark, you will be dehydrated all week, so always keep water handy. In the mornings, though, coffee, sweet-sweet coffee...
Bring proper footwear. Flip-flops are a terrible idea. Bring real footwear for marching around the mountain during the various events. You will also be on your feet for hours on end in the village pacing the venders booths. None of the events have any kind of seating and you will find yourself climbing all over to get the best view, so bring something sturdy and waterproof. Another good item to bring is a bandana. If it's hot out the bandana can be soaked in water to keep you cool or worn over your face to keep the dust out.
Bring your bike. Or better yet bring all your bikes. With so many people on the lower mountain riding A-Line, the Garbanzo lift is almost empty, leaving Goats Gully, Freight Train, and many others wide open and free. Creekside just opened with a bunch of new trails and I can guarantee that they will be almost empty during Crankworx. There is also a mind numbing amount of XC to ride, so bring your trail bike if possible. Set aside a day or two to just ride XC, it's a great way to get out into the mountains and away from the insanity of the village.
Be EXTRA cautious about bike theft. Watch where you leave your bike during your stay in Whistler. Theft is a serious issue and leaving your bike unattended for a minute is enough time to have it stolen. With there being tens of thousands of people in the village all pushing bikes, finding the guy who's made away with yours is impossible. So, bring multiple locks and use them whenever you step off your bike.
Whistler is 75 miles (120km) north of Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The drive is as scenic as it gets, winding its way from the city along the Pacific Ocean, eventually climbing up into the Coast Mountains before reaching Whistler. Sounds peaceful and ideal doesn't it? Now imagine the other hundred thousand people who are thinking the same thing, who are all stuck on the narrow highway, behind a broken down Volkswagen van loaded full of stinky downhillers from Quebec.
Aside from the normal busy city traffic, the Sea-to-Sky highway is one of the busiest in Canada, so make sure you leave WELL before you would normally expect. If you get there an hour early, then rad, more time to ride! Or if traffic is moving along fine you'll have time to stop and do a quick lap of Full Nelson in Squamish on your way to Whistler.
Greyhound: The Greyhound bus service offers $10 CAD one way trips to Whistler from Vancouver if you don't have a car. The Bus station is located right off the Main St. Science World SkyTrain exit in Vancouver, so even if you fly in you can easily make it to Whistler for roughly $40 round trip. Just make sure to book your bus ticket in advance because you won't be the only person thinking the same thing.
Whistler Shuttle: There is a Whistler shuttle bus that runs from various spots in Vancouver to Whistler village. The rate from the airport is $74 per person and $55 from downtown Vancouver. Bikes are permitted if they are boxed and there's enough space. They do have a 2 bag maximum, so you may be charged extra for your bike. Find more info here.
Rental Car: Lots of people prefer to rent a car and head up the Whis. This is a pretty good idea as it allows you the freedom to explore at your own leisure. With that being said, there are some issues with having a car in Whistler. Parking is a nightmare and it's expensive. Your hotel or condo is likely to charge you $20-30 per day just for parking and the general parking lots are jam packed. You almost always end up parking a long way from your accommodation, leaving you to make multiple trips to lug all your gear to your room. Theft is also a big problem during Crankworx. With so many unattended vehicles left for long periods of time, thieves have their pick at all the items left in your vehicle during your stay.
I suggest renting a panel van instead of a car. Panel vans tend to be cheaper than cars and they keep all your bikes and items safe and hidden inside. Plus, if you find yourself unable to return to your room you can always just sleep in the van.
This is a big one. Poor accommodations can leave you broke or make it impossible for you to get a wink of sleep. Typical accommodation takes the form of hotels, condos, and the occasional house rental, all of which can be found in the Whistler village itself, in Blackcomb, Creekside, or in any of the dozens of subdivisions in the general area. The main things to consider are: do you want to be close to the village? Do you want it to be quiet? And most importantly - How secure is their bike storage?
There are plenty of hotels and condos found right in the village that give you full access to the madness that is Crankworx. These are great if you don't have a vehicle or if you just want to park it and forget it. Most do have some underground parking, but like I said they charge you a day rate to park there. The village is nuts, it's one big party from day one, so if you have kids or you're competing and need your beauty sleep, I suggest looking for a place elsewhere.
If you absolutely have to stay in the village, but want at least a little reprieve from the noise, book a hotel room on the opposite side of the hotel as the village. These rooms usually cost more, but they can be worth it.
Blackcomb is within walking distance of the village, but is usually quiet. This is a good spot for those who want to be close, just not too close. Creekside and the other subdivisions are where you will find more condo and house rentals, but these are all a solid drive from the village. This is great for those who want to be away from the chaos, but you'll need a car. The buses in Whistler are free, so with some planning you can take advantage of those.
A lot of the condos in Whistler are owned by people who live in another country and have no idea how big mountain biking is. This means they have a more affordable summer rate that is a fraction of the usual winter one. While hotels are jacking their prices for Crankworx, these condos are a steal of a deal. If you have a bunch of friends or multiple families going it, might be best to check VRBO, AIRBNB, or any other similar site ASAP. There are good deals out there, but they get snatched up 8-12 months in advance. You typically will have to rent for no less than 3 days and put down a hefty damage deposit, but the overall savings make these extra precautions worth it.
The events can be broken down into two categories: Official and un-official. The official events list can be found here and the broader general schedule of events found here. Decide what you want to go to, but know events like Joyride, Speed and Style, Whip-offs, and Pump Track challenge are a must. Get to these events early, like really early, and find the best seat possible. Events like Joyride attract more spectators than you can ever imagine - the entire hillside is shoulder to shoulder with people all trying to see the most action, so go early, especially if you have kids.
For Joyride, either find a good place on the top of a little hill to be above most of the crowds, or be a good distance from the jumbo-tron to ensure you are able to see the most action. I recommend going about 2/3 the way up the Joyride course; this allows you to see most of the course and the mid-course jumbo-tron. This is true for Speed and Style as well.
Pump-Track Challenge is a great family event that's fast paced and intimate. The race happens at night at the far end of the village. Get there early and bring warm clothing for when the sun goes down. It's easy to get a spot right up front if you go early, which means your kids get to see the pros up close. You will also find yourself in the background of every photo taken of the event.
The Official Whip-off World Champs on Crabapple Hits once started as an underground, un-official event. Now it's an action-packed party on the hill. Every year there are spur-of-the-moment events that can be a blast, so keep your ears open. I've heard rumblings of a long-jump contest on the Dirt Merchant step-up for a couple years now, and maybe this will be the year it happens, and trust me you do not want to miss it!
Deep Summer Photo Challenge is a fantastic way to spend an evening. The event features a number of selected photographers who have the task of creating a theme based slide show of photos taken in Whistler during the Crankworx week. This event is a super way to relax after a hard day of riding and it gives you a fantastic look into Whistler and Crankworx culture. Bring a blanket and your favorite beverage and snacks.
The Go Pro Dirt Diaries are the video version of Deep Summer, so it's another one to put on your list. The Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival also takes place in Whistler during Crankworx and it's a hilariously good time. There are also athlete signings, parties, video premiers, raffles, and all sorts of other events that happen every day and night during Crankworx. Make sure you spend the first couple days figuring out what's happening and where so you don't miss any of the after-hours festivities.
Like previously mentioned, the village is nuts! You can be caught doing a slow shuffle behind a few thousand others all the way from the lifts to your hotel, or in a hour long wait list to get some lunch. I suggest taking the first day to scope out the village - yes it will take you all day to do it. Learn where the cheaper lunch spots are at, learn what vendors are giving away free water or even food, figure out the lay of the land in its entirety. This will make it easier throughout the week as you know exactly where the things you want are and how long it will talk you to get there.
Hit up all the vendors for free stuff and don't feel guilty. Sometimes lunch is just not going to happen, so load up on Clif Bars, yogurt, juice, and ice cream, and get back out there. Doing laundry is also a pain, so is packing a million shirts - hit up vendors for free shirts and other clothing to keep you fresh. You won't find free pants, but yes, there is a good chance you will find free underwear, so grab as many pairs as possible.
Crankworx has become an industry trade show. Every brand will be there displaying next year's stuff and often they will be allowing demos. The booths will be run by marketing guys as well as product development people. Hit them up, ask them a million questions, ride as many free bikes as possible. All this will help you down the road when it comes to shopping for your next bike. You will often find athletes hanging around the booths as well - give them a high-5 and get your photo taken, just don't be too creepy, ok?
The village parking lots are full of bike brands, demo fleets, and repair trailers. Again, ride every bike possible. Beat on a bike that isn't yours and give it back when you're done. Never done Dwayne Johnson before? Do it on a demo bike!
Whistler is a foodies' paradise; they have everything from cheap greasy hangover food to some of the best restaurants in Canada. Do some research, find the value places first, then pick a night to spoil yourself and experience some next-level cuisine.
Should you bring the family?
Absolutely yes you should! There are so many family-friendly reasons for bringing the entire clan to Whistler for Crankworx, Kidsworx being one of them. There are 10 events that happen specifically for your kids over the course of the 10 days. Kidsworx includes everything from a Crit, Pump-Track Challenge, DH Race, Run-bike race, and even a scavenger hunt. I could never imagine being able to go to a place like Crankworx as a kid, let alone compete. There are some seriously great prizes and the events definitely put fun before competition, so all levels of riders are welcome. The events list can be found here and the schedule here.
image: Sean St. Denis
If you do bring the family, I suggest staying anywhere but the village. Book early and try and rent a house for the week. You will need the storage, bathrooms, and most importantly the laundry, especially if the weather gets bad. The full size kitchen will also come in handy for making meals. There are a number of grocery stores and a killer farmers' market in Whistler, so filling the fridge is no big deal.
Keep a close eye on your kids as the village is so busy and full of distractions. If you turn your head for a few seconds kids can get lost in the sea of people. You also want to keep a close eye on them during the events as competitors can come crashing into the crowds, especially at the Pump Track Challenge where you stand so close to the action.
Don't forget to experience Whistler:
Even without Crankworx, Whistler has an abundance of things to do, like golf, bungee-jumping, and skydiving. There are lakes, beaches, glaciers, alpine hiking, paddle boarding, zip-lining, river rafting, and world class spas... The list is endless, so make sure you take a look at what else you want to do while you're in whistler.
At its core, Whistler is a celebration of nature and adventure, which are cornerstone to British Columbia as well. Make sure you take some time to take in the beauty of the mountains and explore while you're there.