By Ulrike Rodrigues
Belinda and I are with Colin in his Subaru, heading south into the village. It's a bike village: every time we stop for a light, a stop sign, or a pedestrian crossing, bikes swirl around and in front of us. They hang off the front of public buses, the backs of overwhelmed hatchbacks, and from the rafters of bars. Just about everyone in this car-free village rides, owns, sells, or services bikes, and I am high on the energy of this.
Some of the energy comes from the pure sinfulness of it. For the last few days we've driven the five or so kilometres from Bel's home into the village proper when it would have taken about ten minutes to ride on the paved bike trails. I allow the mixture of guilt and titillation to wash over me.
Add to that that these people are not metrosexual hipsters with skinny jeans and single speeds but mountain bikers seeking the excess and artifice of Whistler's Kokanee Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival and I feel like I'm in dreamy evil Las Vegas again.
At Vegas' yearly Interbike industry trade show, mostly male retailers and manufacturers populate booths and tents and "work the golf course" - Colin's phrase for networking amidst the knobbies. Interbike divides the on-site conventioneering from the off-site dirt demos, but at Crankworx it's all mashed up. Here, the industry pros move a step backwards to make room for the reason they're there in the first place: people who ride bikes. Men who ride bikes. Men. Lots of them.
There's testosterone in the air, and I feel it. Before leaving Bel's house, I tart myself up for the "sausage-fest" - as my male colleagues call it - of bikers cruising the expo tents, the slope-side bars, and the slopes themselves. Warriors are everywhere - big, burly, dual-suspension-riding men in full-face helmets and body armour.
We arrive, and Colin takes off to stake out photo platforms along the dual slalom course. Bel and I giddily stroll among the booths of disk brakes, hydration packs, and bike frames. We gather up bouquets of promo brochures, temporary tattoos, and party invitations then settle in at the Garibaldi Lift Company for a drink before the event.
We decide to join a couple of barely-legal lads on a viewing platform next to the "Boneyard" - Whistler's amped mountain bike park. Tomorrow, riders will complete its freestyle course by delivering "air packaged goods" off the top of its five-storey Jumbotron TV. Today, all eyes are on the Kokanee Girls who work their way through the tables and offer free bottles of blue-labelled beer for acts of bravery.
One of our table-mates, Ben, takes the bait and allows one of the gals to paste a Sasquatch tattoo on his forehead. She wets the paper and holds her hand to his forehead while it sets. She's wearing roller-girl white terry shorts, and I can see a V of white panty underneath. When I ask for a photograph, both she and the other marketeer lean in close to Ben's face.
Ben is nonplussed. He's got a new, cold bottle in his hand but his eyes are scanning the jumps, berms, and drop-offs of the Boneyard. "Do you ride?" he asks, his eyes flickering briefly in my direction.
I think about my bike. It's a plain model that I ride to and from work every day. It's a bike I've packed and ridden in Cuba, Belize, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., and four solo months in Thailand. It's the bike I've loaded with books, groceries, camping equipment, and people. And it's a bike that has sat - unridden - in Bel's hallway for four days.
"Nope," I tell him, "I don't ride."
Bel heads off for a quick stint of guiding tourists the 200 metres from their tour bus doors to the Gondola. I aim for the dual slalom course. Spectators are lining up along the side of its parallel motocross-style tracks. I tuck in behind a junket of magazine photographers and wait for the "head-to-head high-speed action".
Girlishly, I await the warriors.