Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Whistler - Fanatyk Bike Shop

Everyone knows about Whistler's ski and mountain bike scene

(see my Crankworx story), but it seems mostly locals know and use The Valley Trail, the network of paved bikeways that circle Whistler's village area. So named because the village of Whistler, B.C. (and its adjoining subdivision) sit in the valley created by the Cheakamus River and the lakes it's created, the Valley Trail connects Whistler's residential communities away from traffic, as well as providing car-free alternatively to driving up and down Highway 99.

As with the Southside Diner, I was curious how the Valley Trail was looking nowadays as I hadn't been on it for years. Michelle and I jumped on a section of it to get south to Creekside, but sapped it for the wide shoulder of Hwy. 99 when the trail looked like it was going to head west to go around the golf course.

I'd noticed that the 3-speed gearing on the Dahon's Speed TR's rear hub wasn't responding well after some time on and off the train, so Michelle took a pass at fiddling with it. The Speed TR is intended for touring and provides a cogset of eight gears contraolled by a rear derailleur. No sweat, I figured, I'll ride on the external gers until we get back into town and to a bike shop.

We continued south on the shoulder of the highway until Bayshore, then pedalled the Valley Trail on suburban streets. It reminded me of the urban bike trails I've ridden in the U.S.: basically they cut a swath of asphalt across the front or back yards of affluent homes and the scenery you view is mostly landscape chic.

Only ~ this being Whistler ~ the soft, sad pile of questionable origin spilled on the sidewalk was not a result of teen drinking, but of an incontinent bear. Right there on the pretty sidewalk. The trail led us back to the highway and so we obligingly rode it deeper and deeper into Sea-To-Sky construction zone. By this time my gears started grinding and slipping and the combination of too-fast traffic, gravel dust, and narrow shoulders made me think maybe cycling the eight kilometres to Brandywine Falls wasn't such a good idea after all.

I wasn't feeling very well, my bike wasn't feeling very well, and despite the startingly blue sky and warm sun, we knew the best idea was to turn back. Nevertheless, I hate to take the same route twice, so Michelle and I diverted west to pass the Hostelling International cabin on Alta Lake, Rainbow Park, and the Whistler Golf Course.

Dave at Southside Diner had suggested that the best place to get an internal gear hub looked at was Fanatyk Co. in the village. Shaun at the front counter welcomed us in and led the bike to the bike stands while I mumbled about how this was basically the first day we'd ridden it since it had been loaded off the trains.

"Can I come and watch while you work on it?" I asked Carl the mechanic, knowing better. "Er, if you don't mind, I'd like to spend some time with it on my own and concentrate on what the problem might be," he suggested diplomatically. He put it up on the stand and I chatted with Shaun. It turns out that this is one of arguably ten bike shops in the small town of Whistler and possibly the busiest, with three mechanics going full bore to keep the MTB'rs and their bikes on the mountain's famous dirt runs.

One of those MTB'rs was Bill, a school teacher from Hermosa Springs, California who'd come up with three buddies to ride southwestern B.C.'s famed trails. He had a crank arm in his hand and joked that ~ this being Whistler ~ it would probably cost twenty dollars to get a new bolt for it. We chatted a bit about the area and he shared how blown away he was by Canadian trails women.

"Well, you know what the bumper sticker says," I flirted, badly, "'Canada Girls Kick Ass.'" Shaun run him up for the crank bolt (two dollars) and I turned my atention to the workshop. The bike was still up on the stand and Carl was doing battle with it. After about half an hour he rolled it out and a thin sheen of sweat glistened on his forehead.

"Well, I got it working," he said in a slight Quebecois twang, "but I'm not so familiar with this kind of hub." I was so grateful for his time and trouble that I promised both him and Shaun a tall-boy of Heinekin for closing time.

The Dahon was working again, I got to hang out at a chill Whistler bike shop AND I managed to slip my phone number to a downhiller hottie from southern California. Not a bad day's effort, I thought to myself. Time to reward myself with a pool side Pinot Grigio over at "the Resort."

Fanatyk Co., Whistler, B.C.