I am a bit obsessed with speed.
There is nothing so exhilarating as releasing the brakes and allowing momentum, gravity and the marvelous physics of a bicycle to work their magic.
But I also have come to appreciate, as the writer David Orr says, that all things have an appropriate velocity. In so many ways, we are living in a hyper-streaming world that has exceeded its speed limits, and we could benefit from slowing down.
That’s the nice thing about mountain towns in the summertime – the pace is much more chill. It’s okay to trundle, meander, and bump from lake to lake to gelato stand to sunset barbecue session to patio. Enjoy some off-time. Unplug. Recalibrate.
Which brings me back, again, to the bicycle. When you’re in a bike saddle, you experience the world at a perfect pace to absorb what’s going on around you, engage the senses and earn your calories (burn off all that gelato.)
It’s the philosophy that informs Slow Food Cycle Sunday, the signature summer bike festival of Pemberton, BC, a farming community tucked just 30km/20mi north of Whistler.
364 days a year, Pemberton farmers battle mosquitoes, machinery, and markets to meet their mission to feed the world. And on Sunday 18 August 2013, they stop for just long enough to host a 26km long, pedal-powered food festival.
Combining bikes, food and farms, with incredible mountain views, Slow Food Cycle Sunday is a cruiser-friendly free-to-participate sensory smorgasboard. Riders pedal up a flat country road and stop at will at any of 10-15 different farms, to purchase snacks and fresh produce from a range of food sampling stands, award-winning chefs and producers inspired by field-fresh produce.
It’s a moveable feast. And it’s the pedal-powered counterbalance to two other celebrations of the bike taking place in August in the same region: Crankworx and the Whistler Iron Man.
Crankworx, August 9-18, is Whistler’s homage to speed, gravity and beefed up suspension, and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Downhill, slopestyle, and enduro champions descend on Whistler for the 10 day spectacle, that, combined with the shock and awe of the Red Bull Joyride, the Teva Best Trick Showdown, Ultimate Pump Track Challenge, a weekend Concert Series, photo and video contests, demos and exhibits, is an all-in, full-scale, full-immersion in gravity-powered biking.
Set against the backdrop of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Crankworx offers the perfect inspiration to hit the trails, and is often the busiest 10 days of the summer for the Park as people shift seamlessly from riding to spectating, from chairlift to patio.
Inspiration also rolls into town en masse as riders experience Whistler’s first summer hosting Iron Man Canada on August 25.
The 180 km/112 mile bike ride (which follows a 3.86km/2.4mile swim and precedes a marathon 42.2km/26.2 mile run) is rich with opportunities to cheer on ultra athletes and contemplate their folly. (I mean, seriously.)
2500 people compete in an Iron Man race (and it typically sells out within minutes). The pros take under 9 hours, and are usually rehydrating and enjoying a massage by 3:30pm. But the regular folk (and 40% of Iron Man participants are first timers), are allocated a 17 hour window in which to finish. The clock stops at midnight. After that, you’re not an Iron Man at all. You’re a DNF.
Which means the finish line, close to midnight, at Whistler Olympic Plaza, is going to be one of the most emotional and exciting places to be, even if you’ve never ridden a bike in your life.
The Sea to Sky corridor is a Mecca for the bike-addicted.
But plenty of towns across British Columbia share the same problem, as a quick peek at Mountain Biking BC’s summer events listing will attest. From Revelstoke’s Bike Fest, August 9-11, to Burns Lake’s Big Pig Bike Fest (August 16-18), to the final race in the Squamish Test of Metal series (August 17), to Silver Star’s Freeride Festival (August 30 – September 1), high summer is peak season for pedal-powered adventures.
So saddle up and head for the hills. Your date with velocity awaits.