From Dirt Issue 105 - November 2010

Maxime Bruneau portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.
Maxime Bruneau portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.

Myself and others have been harping on for ages that Whistler is so much more than just the Bike Park. But now it’s time to express that it is much more than even the riding. The amount, the quality and the variety of trails keep me entertained, but it’s the friendships that keep me sustained. I keep returning to this place I call home for six months of each year, because of this and not just the riding. And I’m far from being the only one. Each summer a growing number of lads and lasses come from far and wide to live the life of bikes and bikes and bikes. It’s the dream of riding bikes that brings them here, but the reality is that there are deeper reasons that keep them here. Some people come for a visit and never leave. Some come to find something specific but end up learning something entirely different. Some come alone, some come with friends but everyone leaves with more.

Bikes are a big part of the life. It’s the vehicle that moves our spirit, the noble invention that enables us to be noble, the toy that feeds us more than our work does. The summer crowd who come for the season organize and juggle the fundamentals of their lives so that they correlate to the essential reason why they are here. Jobs are chosen not for their rate of pay and career prospects, but rather for having as little impact on riding time. Not many people can afford cars when there is a summer long never ending bike repair bill, and no one has a ginormous flat screen TV because the best entertainment is outside. Relationships can be short lived summer flings or a string of quick hook ups as everyone is constantly moving into and out of town. Accommodations are chosen for their proximity to the trail heads, having good storage for bikes, and for having low rent, often all at the expense of standards of living.

In fact all facets of standards of living are not judged by the usual measures. The real measure for standard of living in Whistler is judged by how much you smile and how much fun you have.

People uproot from their lives elsewhere to be in Whistler. Some make giant life changes, other have had their lives changed by one short visit to Whistler. Some are here for just one summer, some will be here forever more, either as a permanent fixture or a seasonal migratory bird.

Even if the dream is being actualized each day, there are sacrifices that are made. Being away from family, sometimes chronic credit card health, zero prospects or a future of Peter Pan-ism occasionally throw a rotting doubt into mind. It’s times like these that you have to get outside with friends to go sweat and laugh on your wheeled therapeutic device.

There are thousands of stories and tales, Mattias, Tom Grundy (check out the online videos) and myself grabbed just a few of them to give you a brief glimpse of living the dream. The following is five thousand words painted by Mattias and five pictures sung by myself.

[part title="Jinya Nishiwacki"]

Jinya Nishiwaki portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.
Jinya Nishiwaki portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.

From the land of the rising sun, to the land of the rooty run.

A Samurai with a gun, seeking out hellish trails of fun.

With hardened steel he will roam, blunt instrument for slicing through ribbons of loam.

Chopping at logs, crushing rocks.

A red dragon play fights with the snarling bear, holding its crotch the claws tear.

Barebone simplicity, a chain link in complicity,

First visit the first step in the synchronicity,

Four years later still returning for summers away from the city.

Born and raised of high tech minds, culture of digital designs.

Exchanged for a lifestyle of two wheeled single mindedness.

Boxing, building, shipping items of craft and care, so others may abuse their fair share.

Stand up my friend, there’s no bounce if you send.

[part title="Jenny Liljegren"]

Jenny Liljegren portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in september 2010.
Jenny Liljegren portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in september 2010.

Jenny Liljegren, 22, hails from Sweden. She used to travel the world racing SkiCross on the World Cup circuit and was an olympic hopeful but threw in the life of gated pressure for freedom and fun. She first visited Whistler four years ago whilst on holiday, she returned several times for both skiing and biking, and eventually applied for a work permit so she could move to Whistler for longer. She works as a buser in a popular local breakfast restaurant which allows her to ride most days.

An ice princess turned from gate basher to powder hound,

This place as cold ivory she first found,

But soon the melt and thaw,

Revealed a locale with so much more.

Edges, boots and poles exchanged in the spring,

For Minions, Stealth rubber, and a 36 tooth ring.

A dark haired maiden from the land of the nordic fox,

Not fitting of the stereotype of the platinum locks.

Fem Dag or five days a week,

Busing tables there’s rent to meet.

However a shift slipped or skipped,

Is one more day the Park can be ripped.

[part title="Maxime Bruneau"]

Maxime Bruneau portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.
Maxime Bruneau portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.

Maxime Bruneau, 24, is from France. He slept in a tent all summer in order to save money to continue the endless summer in New Zealand come November. He works in a local restaurant in the evenings so gets to ride his bike everyday. He has been coming to Whistler for the summer for three years now. It will not be his last.

A summer under canvas,

Saving rent for the endless summer he will harness.

Living life simply so that he may simply live,

thermal bag not warm but the riding stoke it gives.

Praying for a long warm summer,

waking up to rain is the trophy bummer.

Late night adventure into the wood,

a head lamp to guide the way back to his hood.

A lonesome existence at night,

‘cept perhaps that girl from the bar who wanted a fright.

Even though solo, a lone self in forest crowds,

His days with a bounty of friends he surrounds.

Some call it the French Brake,

But we know it’s just a Brown Snake.

Riding with friends,

The soul made amends.

A curious bear, sniffing the air, tearing holes in the sheets,

Careful walk at night fearful not wildlife to meet

Food kept away hidden up trees,

Bikes locked with friends hiding from thieves.

Pissing and shitting into the bush,

Wiping with leaf the fecal push.

[part title="Jack Noy"]

Jack Noy portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.
Jack Noy portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.

 

Jack Noy, 19, is from Guildford, UK and is nineteen years old. This was his first season in Whistler. He worked long hours at home for the past year to be able to afford to spend three months living in whistler in a shared house with nine of his best buddies. They lived in perpetual mess, but who cares when there’s riding to be done.

Allen key wrenches in the spoon drawer, tea cups of fork oil.

Better to clean the bike than clean the dishes.

Crammed into rooms, sharing space, sharing good times.

A collective dream to travel overseas, no back pack nor bus,

Just a bicycle to give that rush.

Working all time and over time, hoarding all pennies to afford three months of summer.

Done your time in the nursery, or stacking shelves, or carting bricks.

Maybe months in excess of hard labour and good graft to live the life of a dirt bag scrimping and scrounging,

But at least you are with friends, trails, and long summer days.

Trains in double figures, your front inches from the rear, goading pushing pulling collective charge.

Injuries can cut the dream short or knock six weeks of boredom into you,

Burning through rubber at a ton a pop, seals weeping away the balance, a cracked weld spells warranty woes.

Surviving on noodles and beans, tuna and tea.

A life sustained not on nutrition but rather on the stoke.

Across the pond, along way from home, but you find yourself within the bubble.

[part title="Emily Johnston"]

Emily Johnstan portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.
Emily Johnstan portraited in Whistler, Canada. Photographed in august 2010.

 

Emily Johnston, 31, is from the United States of America. She is one of only three women to land a flip to dirt, but in recent years she has settled down a little to coach other people to get better riding their bikes. She works in the Bike Park as a coach/guide. She first visited Whistler nine years ago and has been coming and going ever since.

Born in the home of the monopolized coffee bean, a ferry ride away from the scene.

Lived to ride in the Rockies and California,

Before riding drifted her to Whistler.

Nine years since her first visit,

This summer isn’t the last is it?

From pushing and exceeding her limits,

To coaching a host of riders to mimic.

One finger, pedals level, stand up my friend,

Your technique she will mend.

More hours on the pedals than time on her feet,

Envy of the town with a job hard to beat.

Paid to ride lap after lap,

But glamour an illusion, sometimes it can be crap.

Out in the rain, the dust and through pain,

Another lap of Easy Does It may drive you insane.