Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the July 2014 issue of Bike.
Photo by Margus Riga
Words by Seb Kemp
In springtime, the snow-choked chutes of Mount Currie's north face look like three overflowing martini glasses of ice-cold smoke. This is the view you get from the back door of Bike Co. in Pemberton, British Columbia. Once the nip of winter has waned, the workshop door is usually swung wide open so that whoever is manning the shop's workbench can take in Mount Currie's majesty while trueing, tuning, bleeding and fettling with ailing bicycles. No doubt a few riders gathering news on trail conditions or chewing the fat after a good ride will also be crowding the view. After all, most people go straight to Bike Co.'s back door, where all the action takes place.
Pemberton is the first real town north of British Columbia's wonderland, Whistler. The town sits in a fertile valley pressed between mountains that stand like granite sentinels. Its location in the rain shadow of those mountains shelters it from the winter storms that bring triple-digit annual snowfall to the region. Translation: nearly year-round riding. Some of the busiest times for the shop are in the spring, when Pemberton's trails open long before Whistler's snow-clogged singletrack dries out and the snow bunnies crawl out of hibernation. The shop becomes the main meeting spot for people reacquainting themselves with their saddles, shaking off their ski legs and reconnecting with mountain-bike friends from whom they have been divorced throughout the winter.
The Bike Co. is a true bike shop in the sense that it is one part shop, one part drop-in clinic. The owners are still on the floor every day and the staff is an interesting mix of characters, all with unique back stories, each of whom has sentenced his or herself to a lifetime on bikes. There's a laissez-faire attitude to merchandising, which is quite refreshing now that many bike shops have become stores retailing the concept of the bicycle as an accessory for IKEA living rather than strumming the melodies of the philosophical imperatives of time spent in the saddle. Among the fresh produce in the display cabinet by the counter is a smattering of museum-standard bicycle components. But the antiques are not what keeps the band of Pemberton Bike Co. loyalists coming back; it's the good-natured banter that is batted about around the back door as the cocktail glasses slowly drain themselves of snow on a warm afternoon.