Guest Author: Andrew Mitchell

Whistler was built to host a party and as the town has grown into one of the world’s great mountain bike destinations Crankworx has emerged as the biggest party of all. This is Whistler’s Wimbledon, Stanley Cup and Kentucky Derby rolled into one. Picture a giant three-day music festival that’s 10 days long where all the rock stars ride bikes and hold nothing back before tens of thousands of superfans from around the globe. Jaws will drop. Eyes will bulge. Vocal chords will be strained, and it all goes down this July.

The Boneyar, Red Bull Joyride
Spectators take over the Boneyard for Red Bull Joyride. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

As a spectator, Crankworx is an incredible experience with dozens of events packed into the ten-day festival. But with so much happening it’s easy to miss out on incredible stuff so here’s a list of freeride festival do’s and don’ts, a spectator guide from a guy who has been to every single Crankworx since year one:

Do: Arrive Early

Get to the venues early, especially for events like the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge where the action takes place at ground level with limited space for spectators and mass spectator events like Red Bull Joyride. Be sure to make room for all the kids that come out to watch.

Don’t: Watch it All Through Your Phone

Don’t be that person who watches the action through a camera screen even though it’s right there in front of you. All of the video goodness from Crankworx gets posted on half a dozen websites seemingly within minutes of each actual competition. You really don’t need to bring a selfie stick and GoPro to every event, or hold up your camera and tablet while blocking views for spectators behind you, capturing inferior footage you’ll probably never watch anyway.

Ultimate Pump Track Challenge in Whistler
Not a bad night out – the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge on Blackcomb Mountain. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Do: Be Conditions Ready

Prepare for the weather and terrain. Check the forecast. If it’s hot and sunny wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, and bring along a full (refillable) water bottle. If it’s wet and cold, dress for wet and cold. And ideally, be prepared for both because mountain weather can change quickly. If you’re climbing around the lower part of the mountain for a race or a busy event like the Red Bull Joyride, flip flop sandals are a terrible choice. Also, it’s not a bad idea to bring a bandana you can pull over your nose and mouth – it can get dusty out there.

Don’t: Bring Booze

Don’t bring beer and/or alcohol to the events. There is security around the Village, and every year police will force a few spectators to dump out dozens of ice cold beers before writing them up a hefty ticket. It’s expensive and a complete waste of perfectly good suds. Check the individual event info as some of them have licensed areas and if in doubt it’s a lot smarter to just post up on one Whistler’s epic patios instead.

Official Whip-Off World Championships in Whistler Bike Park
The famous Crabapple Hits, site of the Official Whip-Off World Championships. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Do: Bring Your Bike

The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is open to the public during Crankworx with a few obvious exceptions (e.g. active race/competition courses) and the lift access at Creekside is a brilliant way to avoid the hustle of the Village. There are lots of great places to watch the race events on the mountain that are inaccessible by foot, so a bike is a front row ticket.

Plus, if you’re into cross-country and freeride, Whistler offers over 200 km of trail options outside of the Bike Park with options to suit every level and ability. If you need a rental bike check this Insiders guide and be sure to book it early as it will be a mad busy week in the bike shops.

Don’t: Leave Your Bike Unattended

Don’t leave your bike unattended or unlocked, even for ‘just 30 seconds’. Bike thieves know perfectly well that Crankworx Whistler is underway and some bikes these days are almost worth their weight in gold. If you see suspicious behaviour, report it.

Do: Embrace the Vibes

This is all about having fun so bring along signs and noise makers. Wear a costume. Yell, cheer and whoop. Applaud liberally. Athletes can hear the crowds and will respond to that positive energy by going bigger and faster. Streakers are a regular occurrence at Crankworx, and sometimes you get a treat like a guy in a gorilla costume chasing a hundred people in banana costumes down the slopestyle course. If you decide to cheer on a race trailside (highly recommended), stay out of the way of the riders, respect the directions given by course marshals and avoid posting up outside corners or anywhere a rider might come loose from the trail. They’re riding the knife edge between in and out of control and you’ll come off second best if it goes the wrong way.

Don’t: Stay Home

Don’t think for a minute that staying home and watching the events online is anything like being there. Crankworx is one of the best experiences of the year whether you’re a racer, spectator or both. Nothing beats seeing these amazing feats of two-wheeled athleticism with your own eyes, and the atmosphere in the Village is electric all week long.

Drama, dirt and drifting in the Boneyard. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Don’t: Drive

Don’t drive if you don’t have to. There’s free transit Saturday and Sunday of the festival, and most accommodation in the Village is within walking distance of the trails. Leaving right after Red Bull Joyride on the Sunday with everyone else is also not the smartest choice – consider staying an extra day or two and avoiding peak traffic (with the added bonus of more riding time).

Do: Get Involved

Do participate if you can. There are lots of opportunities to ride and race at Crankworx, even if you’re not a pro. There are amateur categories in most of the on-mountain events, and there’s amateur divisions for a lot of the races and events – it could be your time to shine.

Do: Bring the Kids

There are a ton of Kidsworx events on the calendar, including run bike races for kids as young as two, and junior editions of DH races. You may cry when you see how crazy talented Whistler children are on bikes, but at least they will be tears of joy for the future.

Don’t: Miss the Cultural Side

Don’t miss out on the evening cultural events, like the Dirt Diaries and the Deep Summer Photo Challenge. There are parties, movie showings and happenings almost every night, so keep your ear to the ground and your Twitter feed set to #Crankworx. Keep in mind that some events are hosted by sponsors and athletes and not Crankworx Whistler, and as a result they won’t show up on the official schedule. Sometimes you have to get lucky to get in but you can’t win if you’re not there.

Deep Summer Photo Challenge in Whistler for Crankworx
The world’s best bike videographers and photographers shine when the sun goes down. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Do: Your Research

There’s so much going on that you’re going to need to plan your days to maximize your own bike time, and to enjoy everything else Whistler has to offer – alpine hikes, awesome lakes and beaches, sun-drenched patios, and more. Crankworx Whistler may be the biggest freeride mountain bike festival in the world, but it’s still just the tip of a very large, very cool iceberg of summer enjoyment to be found in Whistler, on or off the bike.

Do: Everything!

Do as much as you can. Take a look at the complete Crankworx schedule and find anything else you need to know about Whistler at

Trackside advice at Crankworx Whistler
Pump Track Challenge heats at Crankworx Whistler

Along with our regular Insiders, we have a host of local and visiting authors keen to share their stories. Most of them don't actually look like bears, but they are just as lovable.