Talking Shop: Whistler’s Early Mountain Bike ShopsTalking Shop: Whistler’s Early Mountain Bike Shops
Not only do we have a trail-rich valley to call home in Whistler, but we are also spoiled with choice when it comes to bike shops. This wasn’t always the case.
When mountain bikes first hit the logging roads in the valley in the early 1980s, most riders had to head to Vancouver for any mountain-bike-specific parts and maintenance, according to one or our oral history interviews with local mountain bike pioneer Steve Anderson.
A couple of shops were starting to pop up around the Whistler Village at that time. In 1983 Dores Burma and her partner Bruce Randall operated a small bike shop, Summit Cycles, out of a trailer-looking building right above the commercial loading zone at the Delta Mountain Inn (today known as the Hilton), the same space that operated as Sigge’s Sports in the winter. Dores was passionate about mountain bikes and famed for her Cheakamus Challenge precursor race called “See Colours & Puke,” a wild mountain bike race reportedly meant to be completed on mushrooms. At some point in the 1980s Jim McConkey’s ski shop also began selling bikes in the summer months.
In the autumn of 1985 Backroads Whistler owner Eric Wight opened a bike shop in the basement of Creekside’s Southside Diner. A short time later, the shop moved to the first floor of a house in Mons.
The new location was in the centre of the local mountain bike scene at the time, not far from new trails in Emerald and Lost Lake. The shop sold, fixed, and rented mountain bikes, even building a small trials track outside their door. Eric admits the shops didn’t make much money in the early days, as most of the clientele were locals who could only afford parts using “local deals.” Big things were to come, however.
In 1989 Eric’s shop moved to Whistler Village, finding a spot in the base of the Delta. The location was off the radar for visitors, however, and the clientele was still all locals. The shop finally surfaced on the Village Stroll in the spot where Jim McConkey had sold bikes (currently Showcase Snowboards) around the time Backroads began working with Whistler Mountain to begin mountain bike tours down the mountain. According to Eric, the new shop had a Santa Fe theme, a mechanic shop in the back, rentals and tours, and plenty of snazzy lycra on sale out front.
As mountain biking continued gaining traction the 1990s saw bike shops that are still kicking it today start up shop.
In 1994 John Inglis and Peter Colapinto opened the Whistler Bike Co., also in the underground portion of the Delta, for the summer months. In 1995 they brought onboard Giant Bicycles and they eventually expanded to Pemberton, the Village Gate location, and, most recently, their Marketplace location to accommodate a growing population of bikers in town.
Bike Co. is currently the oldest independent bike shop in town, followed closely by Evolution, which was opened by Jenine Bourbonnais in 1995. Many more mountain bike shops have opened up as Whistler has become the mountain bike mecca it is today: Summit Sports, Fanatyk Co., Garbanzo Bike & Bean, Coastal Culture Sports, Arbutus Routes, Whistler Village Sports, The Fix, Comor Sports, Fineline, Gateway Bikes – the list is long and continues to grow. Needless to say, Whistler’s mountain bikers (and their bikes) are now very well serviced.
This week we’ve been celebrating Whistler’s mountain biking history with the museum’s 4th annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week. You can find a full list of events here and join us for our final event on Wednesday featuring Chris Allen of North Shore Billet and Steve Mathews of Vorsprung.