Seven bikes, six mates and one dream location: it’s Whistler time, baby! This summer, we lived every mountain biker’s dream and travelled to Canada to test 7 exciting bikes you might not be so familiar with. This mind-boggling experience included everything from mile-long rock slabs to illegal forest parties in magical forests, all topped off with ice cold beer cans on the back of a truck and a few unexpected encounters with plantigrades. Join us in this magical journey through the most iconic mountain biking paradise, and you’ll find a few exciting bikes that are worth keeping an eye on.
It’s hard to believe that this is actually happening… Whistler, here we come! But we still have an 11-hour journey ahead of us, with the final stretch taking us along the Sea to Sky Highway. And once we’ll get there, we’ll be greeted not only by Whistler’s legendary trails, with their frightening rock slabs, terrifying jump lines and dizzyingly steep descents, but also by some interesting “local” bikes. We put together a selection of 7 exciting North American enduro bikes to put through their paces on Canada’s finest dirt. However, this isn’t one of our usual “comparison tests” in which we pit the bikes head-to-head against each other on the same test tracks to find out the differences between the contestants and crown a winner, but rather a chance to test each bike individually according to its intended use, taking advantage of the prime conditions of “Heaven on Earth”. To get familiar with the bike’s quirky characters and push them to their limits, we clocked endless pick-up shuttle laps in Squamish, embarked on an epic camping trip with long hike-a-bike sections, and shredded ourselves senseless on legendary trails like Dirt Merchant, A-Line and Original Sin. Of course, we also assessed their pedalling capabilities on our way to the lake, where we enjoyed a few well-deserved post-”work” brews in our brand-new rubber dinghy – dodgy tan lines included.
Our test field: 7 bikes that you might not be familiar with.
When we got to Canada, seven bikes were waiting for us. What do they all have in common? The manufacturers are all based in Canada or the USA, and some of the bikes are truly exotic, especially if you’re from Europe. So, Trek, Cannondale, Specialized, Santa Cruz, right? Nah, we wanted to sample some local delicacies. And that’s exactly what makes this showdown so exciting, as it gives us an opportunity to showcase bikes that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to hear about. Pretty much everything about mountain biking is different on the other side of the pond, from the trails to the infrastructure: cycling culture is a different beast over there. Local bike manufacturers know this well and always try to adapt their products to the local realities, because rough trails are part of the furniture and require bikes that can cope with a fair bit of abuse. Perhaps your new dream bike is one you’ve never heard of before, or maybe you just never thought you could buy one of these models? That’s why we’ll tell you how to get your hands on the bikes in every review, and also tell you a bit more about the history and background of each of these interesting manufacturers.
At this point, we would like to give a massive shout-out to our old buddy Tim and the entire evo Village Sports bike shop. Without them, organising this test would have been a lot harder, if not impossible, because they received, prepared and stored all of the bikes for us – and also supported us during our stay over several weeks. So if you’re in the area and need spares, a rental bike or simply want to dial in your bike, this is the place to go! The guys and girls here are gifted, seasoned mechanics, and even Downhill World Cup teams use this place on a regular basis to find mechanics.
We put the 7 bikes through the wringer on the gnarly trails of the Sea to Sky region, starting with the Alchemy Arktos 150, the Colorado-based brand’s carbon enduro bike, which is still relatively unknown in the mainstream mountain biking world. Alchemy Bikes were founded in 2008 and operate as a direct-to-order brand, meaning that you order your bike online and get it delivered straight to your house – just like Canyon and YT. Their product range includes road and gravel bikes as well as a few mountain bikes in different travel categories. We tested the Arktos 150 enduro bike, which combines 170/150 mm of travel front and rear and rolls on 29″ wheels.
There’s also the odd local Whistler manufacturer in our North America’s Finest Showdown. One of them is Chromag – a cult brand amongst mountain bikers. Chromag are best known for their bling, mostly CNC-machined components like stems, pedals, handlebars, wheels and much more. On top of that, the Canadian manufacturer has also been building hardtail MTBs for the best part of their 20 years history, and has also started manufacturing full-suspension bikes lately. We took a closer look at their latest project, the Chromag Lowdown 158 G2, which combines a steel frame with an alloy swingarm, and comes equipped without countless in-house components.
Another Canadian brand is Devinci, which was founded in 1987, right over on the other side of the country in Quebec, where they’re still based to this day, and also where they still manufacture most of their bikes, including our test bike. For our North America’s Finest Showdown we chose the latest addition to their model range, the Devinci Chainsaw GX Enduro, which is the budget freerider in their portfolio. It relies on a high-pivot suspension design and retails at just $ 5,499 CAD (or € 3,750), and promises plenty of high-five moments at the bike park.
If you call Vancouver your home, you better build bikes that can take a beating. Kona realised this pretty early on when they decided to build bikes way back in 1988. The Canadian brand is internationally renowned and builds just about everything from city e-bikes to downhill bruisers. We picked the Kona Process X CR enduro for this showdown and tested it over several weeks to find out whether Kona still live up to their reputation.
Norco are not too far down the road, having started out in a converted chicken coop as Northern Cycle Industries in 1965. Their headquarters are still in the suburbs of Vancouver, in a small town called Port Coquitlam. The comprehensive Ride Aligned Bike Setup Guide on Norco’s website makes it easier to choose the right frame size and helps you with the initial setup. Of course, this can also be done for the Norco Sight C2 we tested.
Just a few miles south of the Canadian border lies the city of Bellingham, which is home to American bike manufacturer Transition. The brand is internationally renowned and well represented, both out on the trails across the world, and also in the pages of ENDURO. After moving to a brand-building right at the foot of the trails, Transition are cranking up their “From riders for riders” motto to eleven! For this test, we chose the new Transition Carbon Patrol X0 AXS.
Last but not least – and straight from the freeride Mecca, Kamloops – are We Are One. The small boutique brand manufactures all of their components and frames in-house in Canada, and takes care of the entire process, from engineering to packaging. Alongside their popular carbon wheelsets, We Are One produce other components such as handlebars, and also launched their very first bikes last year. It comes as no surprise that the We Are One Arrival 170 GX AXS comes equipped with many in-house components.
Team Canada – Our ENDURO test crew
Here’s the lucky bunch that travelled all the way to Canada to ride the seven fresh bikes on Whistler’s fine dirt. By the way, next to their names is the Whistler trail they love the most ;).
What happens in Whistler, stays in Whistler… but here are some interesting facts and figures nonetheless!
Needless to say, an exciting journey is packed with countless events, some of which we’re gonna spare you ;). Nevertheless, some things are worth sharing, or all those calories just ended up in our bodies for absolutely nothing!
- Our team spent a total of 82 days at Bikepark Whistler … Peter, however, already spent 202 days there…
- 8 crashes, but only one broken hand ;)
- 4 punctures that required mending
- 65 coffees were consumed at the Lift Coffee Company
- We ate 32 pizza slices for lunch
- 3 trips to Sushi Village
- We had an average of 3 post ride beers per day – oops…
- 31° C was the average temperature during our visit
- 5 days of rain gave us some relief from the heat and ensured 5 days of Hero Dirt
- We got sunburnt 7 times while waiting in the lift queue
- 35 bear sightings made our stay even more exciting
- NONE of which were Grizzly bears, mercifully
- 0 Cougars in the forest, but 5 of them at the bar! ;-)
Below you’ll find a full review for each bike – and keep your eyes peeled, because there will be even more exciting content from our Whistler trip appearing on our website soon!
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Peter Walker Photos: Peter Walker