On any given day in the mountains of Whatcom County, mountain bikers can be found speeding down hills, pedaling along trails and enjoying the Pacific Northwest for all that it offers.
The many trails and venues for riding in Whatcom County are sponsored by local shops and built with the help of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. Transition Bikes, a bike manufacturing company, helps sponsor this local trail development.
Kevin Menard is a co-owner of Transition Bikes, currently located in Ferndale, Washington. The store’s other co-owner, Kyle Young, is a Western alumnus, and both men are heavily involved in the sport.
“I’ve always been into the mountains. I was raised backpacking, camping and hiking, so for me it was just a great sport that got you out [into the outdoors] quickly,” Menard said. “I’ve always liked more of the adrenaline side of things, so I like jumping and going fast. It mixes two of my favorite things together.”
At Transition Bikes, they design, market and sell mountain bikes for people all over the world, Menard said.
On Saturday, August 1, they will be moving from Ferndale to Bellingham to allow for more space. This will give customers the opportunity to test out bikes and ride around the area, Menard said.
“We’re trying to be a little more involved in the local community,” Menard said. “I think this will be a good little step for us.”
Menard and Young started the company in 2001 in Seattle, but moved to Whatcom County to take advantage of the terrain in Bellingham, Menard said.
“The bike company started taking off, so we were able to quit our other jobs and move the company where we wanted. We chose Bellingham because it had such rad mountain biking,” Menard said. “Kyle is a Western [alumnus] and he always loved Bellingham, so it was an easy move.”
Bellingham also offers a thriving community with a thirst for mountain biking, he said.
“We have one of the most vibrant trail building communities in the country. We have more passionate trail builders than I’ve seen anywhere else,” Menard said. “The build quality is unbelievable. The bar is really high here as far as building trails so people really go crazy.”
Eric Brown, the trail director of the WMBC, oversees all of the trail building, maintenance, upkeep and funding for the trails in Whatcom County.
The WMBC is currently focusing on the education aspect of not only trail building but on the sport of mountain biking. They are working with schools and parents to formally implement programs that will educate young kids, teenagers and even adults about the sport and what this area has to offer, Brown said.
The WMBC has many key factors they consider when building new trails in the area.
“We focus on the sustainability of the trails,” Brown said. “That doesn’t mean they can’t be fun and get rowdy, but we are really conscious of where we route trails. Whenever possible, we want to avoid wetlands.”
Each trail takes several days to build with hours of work and nearly 35 volunteers for each day. Whether the trail is built by hand or with a machine also plays a role in how long and extensive the trail projects are, Brown said.
People can get involved in helping at Trail Days by visiting their website wmbcmtb.org or by liking their page on Facebook “WMBC Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition” to hear about upcoming volunteer opportunities, Brown said.
John Roy has not only been riding for 30 years but has been in the bike industry for many of those years, selling and working on bikes. He has been on both sides of the sport and is still involved in it.
Roy said that the dirt in this area drains very well and that helps the bike grip. On days in the spring and fall after a good rain, Roy described the feeling as “nirvana” because a rider can go faster, turn harder and grip the ground more easily.
In the past, Roy has ridden with many different people. One of those riders includes Tyler Booth, a 21-year-old mountain biker who races for All Out Racing and Canfield Brothers.
Booth has been racing for two years but has been riding for four. Roy described Booth as a hucker, who is somebody who wants to jump off everything and catch air.
Learning this style of riding takes determination and being willing to get hurt, Booth said.
“You trust your tires and your bike,” Booth said. “It’s literally second nature to me now.”
Roy has seen a growth in the last two decades as suspension and jumping have become major factors.
“Suspension has become so sophisticated,” Roy said. “I was still in the bike industry when the full suspension bikes just started to come out, and you compare those twenty years ago to what they are today and it’s just night and day.”
Whatcom County’s terrain offers all of these options for riders at all skill levels. With each type of riding style there are different bikes built specific to that style.
“The equipment is very specific to the style of riding,” Menard said. “[At Transition Bikes] we make ten different styles of bikes,” Menard said. “If you’re getting into the sport, you are definitely buying a bike that is specific to the style of riding you like to do the most.”
When it comes to deciding on types of style and how involved someone wants to be in the sport, Menard encourages them to make connections.
“A great thing to do is come out to a Trail Day. You can help build a trail and you can meet all sorts of different riders. It’s a great way to network with other riders and see what it’s all about,” Menard said.
“As far as mental health, there’s nothing better than riding a bike,” Roy said.