Recently I had the pleasure of demoing four top-of-the-line bikes at Whistler Bike Park. Conditions were all-time with the mountain receiving a bunch of rain the week before and then nothing but pure sun for the days I was there.
An early morning flight and a friend picked me up, bike in tow from YVR. We headed up towards MTB mecca, The Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Stoked levels high and the feeling of a week in MTB paradise set in.
Arriving at the free parking lot we got suited up and ran over to the Demo Centre.
I was elated at picking up my pre-booked Santa Cruz Nomad (pretty much a dream bike of mine as my daily driver is a 2015 SC Brolo … a 5010 with Pike 140mm fork).
Admittedly a bit let down when the staff mentioned they put aside a size small for me.
Ok not to worry as a shiny new teal Giant Reign Advanced was at an arm’s reach away.
After riding a Giant Reign last year and loving the longer top tube and control of the trail bike in the air, I was sold on it being close enough for my comfort.
Within minutes my rig for the day was set up with – “Yes, North American brakes”, 30+ PSI and brake levers down and out of the way as I hate bar clutter.
Boarding the Fitzsimmons chair my friend leans over with a grin and says “…Aline?” To say I was a bit hesitant for my first lap, right off the plane and to be on such an iconic trail was a bit of an understatement.
Thanks to a solid amount of days this year at BMBP on my trail bike, I thought … “Whatever, you can roll everything if you want … just take it slow”
So there we were, at the top of Aline.
A quick fist bump, a nervous hoot and a few good cranks later we were already dropping the wooden squirrel catcher and into the first brake-bump filled berm.
2016 Giant Reign Advanced – XT/X01 build
Pros: Fast, nimble and composed for a trail bike in the park
Cons: Trail bike in the park, loses composure when the trails get truly steep and DH oriented.
First thing that sticks out about the Reign was the longer wheelbase giving you a confident and connected ride. The 160mm Pike up front took the brake-bumps in stride and we were off towards the first two jumps.
By the lower section of the trail I already had a high level of confidence in the bike.
Not too twitchy, not too fast, the right balance of playful, forgiveness and charging – I was having ball and this was our first run!
The remainder of the day we sampled: Fade to Black, Freight Train, Dirt Merchant and many laps of Aline. The Reign never felt undergunned on any of the trails and I never was longing for more travel or more stability at speed.
If you were riding jump trails all day and then wanted to get a touring lap up on Blackcomb – the Reign has to be close to the perfect bike.
2016 Devinci Wilson – X01 build
Pros: An all around workhorse, composed in tech and jumps equally. This bike wants to take you down trail safely.
Cons: Requires a bit more rider input to get the bike to perform at high levels of cornering, tech and jumps
Day two, new bike and this time dual crown fork. A big bike.
Arriving early at the Demo Centre – the staff quickly got my rig dialed in.
Same deal – hard tires, North American brakes and levers down and away.
Immediately you notice the amazing plush coil feel that only DH rigs possess.
Another Rock Shox affair with a stealthy black boxer upfront combined with the spider-like articulation of the rear triangle and the Wilson’s first impression were that of a bike that wants to tackle everything on the mountain.
First lap – Aline again.
The Wilson wants to get you down the trail as fast as possible.
It’s not the best in corners or getting air but it is the best at flying into a section while making it through with you still on the bike.
We sampled some more of the true downhill stuff that day with runs like No Joke, Drop In Clinic, In Deep, Detroit Rock City and the Canadian Open DH course.
We still managed to fit in Freight Train, Dirt Merchant and Aline for all of our jumping needs.
After the day was done the Wilson was nothing short of the perfect all-around bike park bike.
If I were to own a DH bike for all-around purposes the Wilson would be the one
2016 Norco Aurum 7.1 CF – x01 build
Pros: BMX bike feel in the air, corners on rails and ultra-light.
Cons: Back end can be unplanted when off the brakes and wide open.
The first thing I noticed lifting the bike down the Demo Centre stairs was the balanced and airy feel.
The second thing was its strikingly BMX feel. Nice first impressions.
Day three, Aline again…first lap of the day (see a theme developing here?)
The Aurum had me jjibbing, nose bonking and sending everything in sight.
This bike is flat out fun. No question it’s the best jumping DH rig out of the lot.
I felt very at home on this bike.
We ran more of the same trails with addition of Scheyler and Angry Pirate
Bumping into acquaintances while in line were two UCI DH riders, a girlfriend/boyfriend team here for the summer from the UK. They are incredible riders and we were lucky to get in a few laps in together.
Later that day we ran Dwayne Johnson.
Dwayne Johnson is a notorious trail in the bike park. Short and high consequence.
With four features only, it requires you to be on your a-game.
Roller, big step up, big drop and finally a smaller-big step up – the best.
Here is where the Aurum lost a few points:
The back end is skiddish at speed requiring more user input to control the bike when off the brakes, and letting the bike ride wide open.
The Aurum just couldn’t handle the off-brake speed with brake bumped berms.
I personally got a bit twisted on the last step up and slid into home plate doing about 50+km.
I don’t know if setting my rear suspension up better would have helped me but bike was set up with the same parameters each day.
2015 Santa Cruz 5010 – Brolo Build
Pros: Excellent trail doggin’ bike for BC
Cons: It’s heavy
Day 4 and I was admittedly sore. Planning to take the day off and play tourist around the village to enjoy the slow season sights and sounds. A new friend shot me a text mid-morning and asked if I wanted to tour Blackcomb and experience some vally trail riding.
I agreed with the caveat that if I felt to sore from yesterday’s fall, I was going to ride the ski out back to my rented condo to lick my wounds.
Super glad that didn’t happen because I was greeted with the most spectacular BC trail riding you could ask for. Full of fresh cut chocolate loam goodness with giant rock slabs and anaconda roots. What an unreal experience!
It made every effort to bring my bike worth it and I would recommend it to anyone that ventures from Ontario to the west coast.
2016 Scott Gambler – Saint build
Pros: Shared ability to jump and straight line tech.
Cons: Could be too much bike depending on the riding being done.
On Day 5, I was solo on the mountain and treated to 25C and sun. Even alpine was 16C and sunny.
The guys in the Demo Centre sold me on the Gambler as I was hesitant as it looked like the perfect bike to point and plough but not jump.
First lap – Aline, of course.
First impression is It’s impossible to miss the beautifully massive Fox 40 dual crown fork and the straight lines of the Gambler. The bike looks and feels like a moto with no motor.
Either it was the previous days of riding, the acclimatization to bigger features or the fact the Gambler is just so dominating. After the first lap I felt completely and utterly at home on this bike.
Second lap was a non-stop lap of Freight Train to Dirt Merchant To Aline because the bike is just that much fun i wanted the most ride time possible.
My only complaint is that it makes everything feel too easy and maybe a touch over gunned?
That said, I couldn’t help but think of how wonderful this bike must perform on the giant open chutes of Utah and similar locales.
I got my first Top of The World lap on this bike and couldn’t be more thankful for such a competent rig.
Being solo, you feel quite exposed at points on the backside of Whistler Peak near Khyber’s Pass.
The Gambler ate up the moon-scape trail littered with small rocks drops and off camber switchbacks.
Over an hour later, I was down safely having après at Longhorn’s with nothing but a giant grin on my face.
Hard to say which bike was best or worst. They are all such high level machines. I would say:
Reign – amazing trail bike.
Wilson – workhorse DH bikepark rig
Aurum – precision machine
Gambler – amazing DH bike
For Ontario – The Aurum, hands down.
For BC and beyond – The Gambler, with no hesitation.
The remainder of my time was spent touring Blackcomb and getting a few laps on the Squamish trails.
We missed riding Fromme and the North Shore by a few minutes due to work obligations.
That’s ok though, because it leaves more to discover on the next trip.
Thanks for reading,