Crankworx Red Bull Joy Ride
Photo credit: Fraser Britton

Crankworx: Why You Need to Check Out the ‘Disneyland of Mountain Biking’

The yearly event known as Crankworx is a 10-day celebration of all things mountain biking at the world’s largest bike park — Whistler, British Columbia. Learn why Crankworx is special, what you need to do there, and how you should do it.

“It is a must-do in a mountain biker’s life,” Isabeau Courdurier, the world’s No. 1 ranked female enduro rider, summed up what I’d been asking athletes, brands, and assembled media over 4 days in Whistler last month.

Whistler Crankworx
Photo credit: Jay French

Courdurier, 25, was fresh off her win at the CamelBak Canadian Open Enduro — one of 30 events that took place over 10 days at Whistler Bike Park in August. It’s all part of Crankworx, a riotous festival of mountain bike competitions, product demos, film screenings, and more.

Celebrating its 16th anniversary this year, Crankworx launched in 2004 as a standalone event. Beginning this year, however, it spread across the globe, encompassing a three-event series with satellite events in Rotorua, New Zealand, and Innsbruck, Austria.

Part competition, part product demo, and part industry party, Crankworx welcomes the sport’s most elite athletes from every discipline — enduro, dual slalom, pump track, downhill, slopestyle, and “speed and style” (aka go fast and do tricks).

Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival

“Whistler is a mountain bike paradise, and Crankworx is a unique occasion to get to meet athletes from all disciplines while getting the opportunity to see them performing on their highest level,” Courdurier explained to me. I had asked her why competitors hailed Crankworx as a crown jewel of the sport.

CamelBak brought me to Whistler to witness the event. A headlining sponsor of the biggest Enduro World Series race in history — just one of the major attractions at Crankworx — CamelBak also hoped I’d see its athletes podium in its latest gear. I did, when Courdurier won in the 2020 Chase Protector Vest, the brand’s first pack with built-in back protection.

CamelBak Chase Protector Vest

While there, I learned that the event is unlike any in the sport. It hosts some 1,200 athletes and more than 30,000 spectators. Not only that, but the park itself remains open to the public. So you can literally ride lines alongside the world’s greatest riders — just mind you don’t cross onto their course.

What Is Crankworx?

To me, Crankworx is to mountain biking what a Renaissance fair is to blacksmithing, cosplay, and no plumbing. It’s a totally immersive exhibition of the sport.

Whistler itself stands as the world’s largest downhill bike park, offering not only amazing manmade features but virtually every natural element a freerider could ask for.

Crankworx Best Trick
Photo credit: Fraser Britton

Best of all, it’s not just for elite riders or hardcore downhill bikers. In addition to entertaining the MTB faithful, Crankworx provides recreation for the whole family and presents a spectacle anyone can enjoy. New or average mountain bikers will learn tons at the event, and, maybe most importantly, it’s a blast. Here’s what you should know.

Why Is Crankworx a Big Deal?

Isabeau Courdurier Crankworx
Photo credit: Fraser Britton

Crankworx isn’t just a 10-day binge-fest for people who like mountain biking — though it is that. It’s also one of the most coveted competitions among athletes.

Colby Pastore, CamelBak’s global event manager — one of my guides through the event, and a former pro racer and Crankworx participant — called it “the Disneyland of mountain biking.”

Crankworx mountain bike freeride
Photo credit: Kike Abeillera

According to Pastore, Crankworx is an event for mountain bikers, by mountain bikers. It’s a spot for racers across all forms of riding to rub elbows, show off, and let loose. Think of it as an Olympic Village, where the greatest athletes from a variety of backgrounds have the chance to watch one another perform.

On top of that, it offers unfettered access for the public to see the athletes up close and ride what they ride.

Is It Free to the Public?

Yep. Crankworx Whistler, the flagship event in the Crankworx series, is free and open to the public. Of course, that doesn’t include food, lodging, or travel — but with a little creative planning, you can keep it relatively cheap (more on that later).

What to Do at Crankworx?

Deep Summer Photo Contest
Photo credit: Jay French

If you’re not competing, there’s still plenty to do at Crankworx — arguably more. Obviously, if you make the trip to Whistler, you ought to buy a lift ticket and experience this mountain biking mecca. Be sure to try out new gear from participating brands, including CamelBak, Bell, RockShox, and more.

But there’s more to ride than just the (epic) lines down the mountain. Whistler Valley sits adjacent to the mountain and has a variety of trails for those who prefer a little more pedaling and some natural scenery.

Be aware, Yankees: a Canadian blue isn’t necessarily an American blue. The Canucks are raised on pedals (and skis), and the trails reflect it. Start slow and see what you can handle.

Kidsworx Crankworx
Photo credit: Jay French

As a spectator, you won’t want to miss Red Bull Joyride, the headline competition. Dubbed the “Super Bowl of mountain biking,” Joyride crowns the Crankworx-Freeride Mountain Bike Association Slopestyle world champion. This event showcases riders flinging tricks off everything Whistler can throw at them — boner logs, wallrides, tabletops, step-ups, and more.

There’s also youth and women’s-only experiences. Kidsworx offers a mix of competitive and recreational riding opportunities for young ‘uns. And the Liv Women’s Only A-Line Session provides women a chance to ride A-Line — Whistler’s most iconic run — with guides and coaches.

Plus, there’s a film festival, photo competition, and a host of afterparties — all of which put athletes and visitors together for fun-filled evenings.

What Else Is There to Do?

Cheakamus Lake
Photo credit: Adam Ruggiero

You don’t just have to love mountain biking to have fun at Crankworx. While visiting, I drove along the gorgeous Sea to Sky Highway, went for a trail run to — and swam in! — the turquoise waters of Cheakamus Lake, and sea kayaked (I rented from Deep Cove Kayak, but there are many).

Between Vancouver and Whistler, there are numerous spots to hike, swim, run, and even camp.

How to Travel to Crankworx on the Cheap

On my visit, I also stumbled across a nifty travel hack. Because I didn’t know if my passport would renew in time to fly direct to Vancouver (the nearest airport to Whistler), I flew to Seattle-Tacoma, rented a car, and drove. The flight alone saved hundreds of dollars, as flying into Sea-Tac is way cheaper. And because Whistler is more than 2 hours north of Vancouver, you’ll likely rent a car anyway.

Plus, if you do what I did and visit Cheakamus Lake, you can camp for as little as $6 per night at Garibaldi. There are numerous campgrounds on the way from Vancouver to Whistler, but be sure to book well in advance. Crankworx draws tens of thousands of visitors from around the world.

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Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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