How to survive your first trip to Whistler Bike Park
Whistler on a hard-tail mountain bike
I brought a hard-tail mountain bike to Whistler... It wasn't some crappy walmart bike, it was a relatively expensive, well made Trek cross country bike with a Fox fork, an upgraded wide handlebar and hydraulic disk brakes. It was a good bike.
What I leaned from a day of riding Whistler with a hard-tail is that nobody should come to Whistler with a hard-tail. Obviously I was trying to save money by bringing my own bike but I would have been a lot better off spending the $145 ($110 USD) on a proper full suspension bike which they rent at the mountain/resort. It would have been a lot easier to not have to deal with checking a bike on an airplane and completely dissembling and reassembling it when I arrived. I bet I would have had a lot fewer mechanical issues with a rental bike too...
Problems with a hard-tail
Hardtails make the trail feel even more bumpy than it already is. This causes fatigue in your hands much quicker, making it harder to hold onto the handlebars. Some of the jumps on certain trails get pretty big, bigger than a hard tail can handle unless you land just right.
Problems with bringing your own bike
Pain in the ass to disassemble and reassemble.
Might get broken as checked luggage in a plane.
Isn't as good as a $4000 rental bike that you could be riding.
Mine didn't hold up to the abuse of the mountain (got flat tires, brakes weren't good enough, tires were too narrow, bike was too small overall).
What is a good progression of trails to hit to work your way up to A-line?
Coming to Whistler for the first time, I had no idea how big or insane the trails may or may not be. I knew I wanted to try A-line, but since I've never seen it, I didn't know the danger or difficulty level of the trail. I started with a green, then blue, then blue, then black trail, then A-line. The progression of these trails I did seemed to be perfect benchmarks for gaining confidence and a good understanding of the Whistler bike park. These are the names of some of the trails I did, in order, from easiest to hardest before I did A-Line.
1) Easy Does It (Green)
2) B Line (Blue)
3) Crank It Up (Blue)
4) Blue Velvet (Hardest Blue)
5) Freight Train (Black)
6) A Line (Hardest Black)
Can an amateur ride A-line?
A-line is mostly made of table-top jumps, they are pretty big and fast, but since they aren't gap jumps, it won't be super dangerous if you come up short on a landing. So if you're comfortable enough on a mountain bike, you can do A-line. Just don't wear headphones so you can hear if more experienced riders are coming up on you so you can move over and get out of the way.
What tire pressure should I use at Whistler?
I started off using lower tire pressure in both my wheels to try and make my hardtail a little less bumpy.. Immediately on my second lap I hit some rocks and got a pinch-flat. I then had to walk my bike halfway down the mountain and waste a bunch of time buying a new tube and replacing it. I didn't want this to happen again so I put a ton of pressure in my tires for the rest of the day (40 psi) which made the rest of my time at Whistler extremely bumpy... If you have a tubeless system, you're going to be better off.
How much does a mountain bike rental cost in Whistler?
about $145 Canadian or ~$105 USD (pre-booked)
Where can you rent mountain bikes in Whistler?
You can rent them at the resort/mountain itself. The rental shop is literally 30 feet from the entrance of the chairlift line.
Can you rent a helmet at Whistler Blackcomb?
Yes. I rented a full-face helmet for 15 bucks.
Is there a mechanic shop at Whistler in the event my bike brakes down or I need new parts?
Yes. The mechanic shop is right across from the rental shop. They have bike pumps, new tires, new inner tubes, a mechanic who can fix things. They also sell helmets and other equipment you might need at expensive rates. (so buy your gear before hand).
When is opening day / closing day of Whistler bike park?
These dates change based on snowfall but this year opening day was May 20th, and closing day is October 10th.
Gear to bring
Things I definitely needed:
Gloves: My gloves: http://amzn.to/2dm1JN9
Knee pads: My knee pads saved me: http://amzn.to/2dFGfhe
Full face helmet: I rented one, for $15
Goggles: I just used my snowboarding goggles
Things I wish I had:
Better, full suspension bike
Elbow pads: I was gonna buy these but didn't have time: http://amzn.to/2dILY2m
Better rear brake: I couldn't afford these: http://amzn.to/2dFFTam
Tubeless tires so I could use lower pressure.
Maybe some stronger pants/shorts so I wouldn't get so scraped up.
Overall advice on your first time at Whistler
Make sure to bring knee pads, gloves and a helmet at a minimum your first time at Whistler. I had all these things and a long sleeve shirt and pants and still went home at the end of the day covered in blood and scrapes. (Don't worry, it was still tons of fun!!) If I had not been wearing pads, my day would have ended when I flew off a jump on A-Line and smashed my knee into a bunch of rocks. My helmet and goggles saved me when I flew upside-down into some trees, elbow pads would have saved me when I slammed into the ground, and my gloves saved my hands multiple times throughout the day.
Rent or bring a full suspension bike...as I stated before, you can do Whistler on a hardtail, but you will be much happier on a full suspension bike.