JOY: 1a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : DELIGHT b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion : GAIETY 2: a state of happiness or felicity : BLISS 3: a source or cause of delight.

When our family planned a summer trip to Whistler, I didn’t even think about Crankworx. In fact, it was a legitimate coincidence that we arrived the same day as Red Bull Joyride, arguably the biggest day for mountain biking on the planet.

What we found was more than a crowd of 50,000 mountain maniacs breaking out of a three-year COVID funk; more than Emil Johansson doing double downside whips or Thomas Lemoine launching 80-foot gap jumps. In fact, those wouldn’t even be the most miraculous biking moments that week.

My wife Ineke has always been a joyful person; an elementary school teacher with a smile that spans from high cheekbone to high cheekbone and a laugh that could replace angel song on the way into heaven. When she had a massive stroke at age 42, she suddenly lost her voice and movement on her right side.

However, much more slowly and brutally, through the struggles of recovery and adaptation to life with Aphasia and paralysis, the stroke seemed to be stealing something even more important: her joy.

Finding the Spark

Up until a few weeks before our trip to Whistler, Ineke was really struggling. I’d come to learn that she was physically and emotionally exhausted after a nearly five-year fight. However, after a small act of kindness by a few friends who took notice, she seemed to find a spark. And being part and participant in the crazed festival atmosphere of Joyride, with her teenage son and daughter fully revelling in mountain life with her, I saw that spark go full fire.

Miguel's daughter at the Red Bull Joyride event during Crankwork Whistler.
“…being part and participant in the crazed festival atmosphere of Joyride, with her teenage son and daughter fully revelling in mountain life with her, I saw that spark go full fire.” PHOTO MIGUEL STROTHER

Our visit to Whistler confirmed how committed the resort is to providing accessible access to guests. It was part of the mandate for, and legacy of, hosting the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. And do they ever deliver.

We have trouble moving through even small crowds. But one like that, assembling at the bottom of Whistler Blackcomb for Joyride, is basically a no-fly zone. However, we got there early and found an accessibility area expertly assembled by the events team. And because of that commitment, we got to not only watch but fully and completely participate in the party.

It was 30 degrees with people dressed (and undressed) in all sequences of summer glory; a full-on rave developed in broad daylight at the Longhorn Saloon behind us. In front, swarms of cheers spilling from the dusty masses and down the mountain, chasing the riders toward the finish line; kids stacked up, screaming and pressing over the barriers for high fives from their heroes who waved their arms for more.

And after hours of death-defying, full-gasp biking beauty, the party culminated in a celebration of the best of the best on a stage beside us, all framed by rainbows of champagne and the fading mountain sun.

Miguel and Ineke smile as they watch the Red Bull Joyride event at Crankworx Whistler.
Participating in the party. PHOTO MIGUEL STROTHER

Brain injuries are not easy. I can only imagine the hours and commitment and pain that it’s taken these special athletes to get to this moment in their careers. But I have zero doubt that Ineke has had to work harder just to watch and cheer them on, let alone get out on a bike herself. And even though we managed to land accidentally on the day of Joyride, we had big biking ambitions of our own.

Big Biking Ambitions

One of the reasons we came to Whistler was because of the accessible biking. The Valley Trail system is world-class and winds through the entire municipality, from Green Lake to Function Junction. About two years after Ineke’s stroke, I found a bike that looked like it may offer us the chance to get back out together.

The Caboose, an independent pedalling, attachable trail-a-bike turns heads everywhere we take it. Sure, we’re not likely to drop any crazy lines, or flip any sick tricks, but the joy factor when we set the Caboose loose must be at least as high for us as it is for the athletes at Crankworx.

The Sunday after Joyride we decided that we would try to get out early for a ride of our own. We drove a little closer to Rainbow Lake for our starting point and somehow ended up parked at the Catholic Church. While I got the bike set up, Ineke went in to use the bathroom and came out 15 mins later crying. Apparently, it was mass and she’d entered at a pivotal point, like she was walking through the set of a Cohen Brothers film.

Miguel and Ineke explore Whistler's Valley Trail via bike and end up at Rainbow Park.
Ineke and Miguel on Whistler’s Valley Trail at Rainbow Park (closed for renovations this summer). PHOTO MIGUEL STROTHER

We rode around the trail network with ease, flowing past the golf course, and the silted grey-green lakes, tilting our heads toward the Fitzsimmons Glacier, Diavolo Peak and Overlord Mountain. The warm air, the smell of the wildflowers and pine, the slow flow of endorphins and the sense of freedom a seemingly perfect convergence. At least until I noticed something wrong with Ineke’s pedals.

We’d had a mechanical malfunction. After several failed attempts to fix it, I pedalled for both of us back to the church parking lot, more than a little worried that would be the end of it for the week. Ours is not an everyday bike. I wasn’t confident that we’d find what we needed in one of the many high-volume bike shops.

So, just outside the church, I asked a passerby if by chance he happened to live in Whistler. In a place which sees so many visitors each year, locals are not always easy to find. But bingo! This fella was and pointed us to Coastal Culture Sports in Creekside, just across from the very first Whistler staff accommodation, where I once lived (a story for another time). And sure enough, we found exactly what we were looking for.

Miguel and Ineke explore Whistler's Valley Trail via bike and pose on the boardwalks over Green Lake.
On the boardwalks over Green Lake where the float planes land. PHOTO MIGUEL STROTHER

It’s a Culture Thing

Coastal Culture Sports is a soulful small-town bike shop in a big mountain resort. When I outlined our issues, the sales staff went right to the owner, who came immediately to our aid. His eyes lit up when he saw our setup. He asked inquisitively about the Caboose, before setting to work. Within minutes he’d had the problem diagnosed and began fastening a quickly engineered solution.

All in all, what I thought might throw off our whole week, was solved in less than an hour. And when I asked him how much he just laughed, saying something about the things that keep owning a bike shop interesting.

From there we rode all week together, our teenagers hot on the trail, hooting and hollering support for their mom as we rolled around Rainbow and Lost Lake parks. We lapped past the Whistler Blackcomb base, stopping for ice cream or pizza, surrounded by armoured bikers walking to and from the gondola, dusty with sweat or reverberating with anticipation.

INSIDER TIP: For a comprehensive map of Whistler Village showing parking spaces, barrier-free routes, slopes with gradients and accessible washrooms take a look at the Access Whistler map.


Miguel and his family pose for the camera in the accessible area to watch Red Bull Joyride, part of Crankworx Whistler.
Being part of it all. PHOTO MIGUEL STROTHER

But it didn’t just feel like we were Crankworx observers. It genuinely felt like we were a part of it, representing as many dreams and ambitions as those carried by the bikers roaring down the mountain; almost everywhere we went, no matter how complex the downhill beasts wheeling around us, we’d hear people commenting on the Caboose. “Cool set up”, “Nice rig”, “Keep pedalling” “Right on!”.

And even if it was just for a short time, it was apparent we’d all got our joy back.

INSIDER TIP: Whistler Adaptive Sports (WASP) is able to provide an Accompany Ticket for persons with a disability requiring assistance, guides, carers, or other personal support to access Whistler Blackcomb.  The Accompany Ticket product is generously provided by the Epic Promise Foundation and Vail Resorts. WASP also does equipment rentals including hand-cycles.


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Miguel Strother moved to Whistler straight out of high school and graduated from the University of Whistler with honours in 1994. He's been writing about it ever since and believes the bicycle can save the world.