Prototypes, Previews, and PNW Vibes: 2023 Crankworx MTB and Gear Finds

Follow Sam around Whistler village for a special tour of Crankworx, taking in the sights of the first few days of the mountain bike festivities.

Bringing you a selection of the action, tech and more from the ubiquitous mountain bike festival at the Whistler BC stop on the Crankworx tour, I spent some time roaming the village to bring you the best from the biggest and most exciting brands on show. Enjoy.

Monday and Tuesday at Crankworx this year were particularly moody – and when I say moody, I mean it rained PNW-style. That’s a lot. While it may have put a bit of a damper on the mood, having not seen any rain in weeks however, most folks were glad to see some moisture back in the trails, which were getting pretty dusty and blown out at this point.

Shapeshifter Tools – Made in the PNW

Shapeshifter is a startup trail tool company based right here in Whistler. They make durable trail tools developed and tested locally, and made in the PNW.

Chatting with Georgia from Shapeshifter, she tells me that the handles are sourced from Missouri just over the border in Washington, the heads are made and powdercoated in Burnaby, BC, and they’re assembled in Whistler. It’s nice to see more of these made in BC brands surfacing recently.

Shapeshifter’s range consists of 12 different tools right now inclusing hoes, rakes, picks and more, all made from hardened T400 steel and with ash or hickory handles. They claim the T400 steel is super durable and supposedly the Whistler bike park trail crews have been using these tools all season to great success.

Giant and Liv throw it back

Giant and Liv had the new Glory on display next to the bike that started it all for them and for which they drew inspiration for the Legends Edition paint scheme, the ATX. Yes, that’s right — you can buy that paint job, however the bike on display here is further customized to match the older bike. They even went as far as having Fresh Paints of Whistler custom paint the ‘woody’ derailleur to match. And check out those fork decals for attention to detail.

This Giant Reign SX park bike features a Shimano Cues drivetrain, their newest budget drivetrain that’s said to have superior longevity but higher weight. It’s a great choice for a park bike, however this option doesn’t appear on the Giant website anywhere; perhaps this is a 2024 model.

Also spotted was this Reign Advanced Pro with the new SRAM GX Eagle Transmission and a funky purple paint job that I thought looked pretty great. Again this isn’t something I see on the Giant website, so perhaps it’s a 2024 colorway.

You can’t spell good times without GT

The GT brand has been around forever, but we don’t see too many of their bikes rolling around these days. Regardless, they seem to have upped their game lately, and it was cool to see this Force Carbon with the high pivot goodness. If you’re wondering about the proto-looking link, that’s because they are experimenting with a mixed wheel setup.

The Grade Carbon X gravel bike was also hanging out at the booth (pun not intended). Gravel is the latest buzzword these days, but you don’t see too many gravel bikes at Crankworx, so it was nice to lay eyes on GT’s offering in person, They look better in the flesh.

Finn Iles’ Specialized mystery machine prototype bike

The Evo retail store in the Whistler Village had some fun things on display that Specialized had dropped off, including Finn’s World Cup mystery machine. The Whistler local has been racing this one-off prototype Specialized bike all season. Made from what looks like carbon tubes and maybe 3D printed lugs – a relatively quick and easy way of mocking up custom geometries. Whatever is hidden inside the bag however is anyone’s guess, though likely some new type of FSR linkage. Whatever it is though must be relatively compact.

As well as the clearly prototype frame, Finn was running some other interesting mods including what looks like 3D-printed titanium brake lever blades and a modified shift lever.

Crankworx patrons could enter to win this custom painted Soil Searching Turbo Levo. Soil Searching is Specialized’s trail fund and has helped put work into lots of trails around the world.

Finally they had a tribute wall to Matt Hunter, who has been riding for Specialized for 20 years this year. That’s a long time by any means, so Specialized wanted to celebrate his career with this wall of some of the incredible photos and mementos they’ve collected over the years.

At Scor, life’s a beach

Scor had a booth showing off their 4060, with a custom-painted frame by Made Rad By Tony. Scor is the sister company of BMC, and snuck onto the scene in 2021, slowly winning hearts with their clean lines, tidy design aesthetic and fast looking bikes.

Village bike spotting

Crankworx is always a guaranteed good time for bike spotting. For those of us who are nerdy at heart, there are always some interesting bikes to be seen around the village that come with the influx of folks riding the park.

First up is this Specialized Demo belonging to Blake Hansen and custom painted by Tuned By Tyler. The custom paint job is truly something else, and the Industry Nine wheels just add another dimension to the bike with their anodized aluminum spokes.

This Santa Cruz was spotted right outside the SRAM tent. I couldn’t tell what size the rear wheel was from a quick glance but it looked like either a Nomad or Megatower. Judging by where the bike was and the stickers and components it must belong to a SRAM employee or sponsored rider, but who? And is the bike a prototype of some sort or just a custom paint job? We’re not likely to find out, but it’s a cool find nonetheless.

Whoever these next bikes belong to has some decent fabrication skills because while they look pretty homemade, they also look extremely well put together, plus it appears there’s an adult bike and two kids’ bikes. The adult bike appears to be a single high-pivot with idler and the two kids’ bikes are simpler single pivots. If anybody knows any more about these, please feel free to leave a note in the comments below.