I recall my first visit to the Cafe that doesn't sell coffee like it was only yesterday. I was sixteen years old with a sketchy hairdo, cut off sleeves, and scraggly chin hairs hoping to someday become a beard. It was my first adventure away from home and satisfying my huge curiosity about Kamloops was quickly developing into a lot more than I'd initially bargained for. I briefly stopped in to purchase a tube before embarking on my first ever ride down the famous Rose Hill trail and the welcoming I received was nearly overwhelming.
Despite my questionable appearance I was greeted with smiles and ecstatic conversation from a tall curly haired man wrenching toward the back. I couldn't believe the perkiness of this man and his coworkers or the loud music that spilled from the stereo speakers beneath the shelves. A simple yet clever rendering of a helicopter was plastered all over everything and kids were telling jokes while drinking pop on a big leather coach. The atmosphere was more reminiscent of a mellow house party than that of a business and the inviting nature of that scene was almost too pleasant. I purchased my tube and left the shop with an urge to return soon.
Even on my initial visit it appeared as if something so much more than bicycle retail was taking place inside that building. Everyone laughed and smiled and there was friendship between customers and coworkers. Large blown-up photos of local riders decorated the empty spaces between bicycles on the walls and there was clearly support for the local scene. Riders treated the parking lot as a meeting place before rides and a tailgate party venue once they were finished. It felt like something special was happening, but realistically, what else beyond the sale and repair of bicycles could really be going on in that small retail space?
As time would teach me, there was indeed something considerably larger happening at the Bicycle Cafe that scorching August afternoon. Something much larger than the Hawaiian Cinder and Burnt Almond colored concrete walls could ever contain. Something that transcends the thousands of annual tune-ups or bicycle sales and reaches out into the cycling community with strong hands. Something that several years later would become very close to me and help me grow to be the rider that I am today.FROM CANMORE IT CAME
The Bicycle Cafe Kamloops became the product of two punk-rockers who shared an immense, nearly life consuming passion for bicycles.
Cheryl Beattie was a young entrepreneur who raced downhill and called Canmore home. Although she remains forever modest about her results as a racer, a sizable stack of medals would lead anyone to believe there must be more of a story than she is willing to let on. Cheryl cleaned up frequently at races all over the west coast during the late 90’s but never felt motivated to pursue racing as a pro. She also owned a record store named 'Substance Music'. When she wasn't shredding trails she was stomping through the crowd at punk shows. She loved bands like 'Sam I Am', 'No Means No' and 'Screeching Weasel'.
Taylor was a few years younger when he grew weary of the prevalent childish antics that claimed many of his hometown riding buddies in Kamloops. Moving to Canmore to work as a plumber meant he could continue living an extended childhood of racing dual slalom and digging his own dirt jumps instead of wasting all his time and energy on partying. Taylor was a pretty laid back dude but he too loved a loud punk show. Although he had an impressive list of film segments and race titles decorating his resume, Taylor skipped on the idea of a professional cycling career and carried on with doing things his own way.
It shouldn’t sound surprising that stars would collide when these two characters first crossed trails as Cheryl checked Taylor’s coat at a party one evening. One drunken fumbling of a phone number lead to another, and a companionship was born. It wasn’t long until they started traveling and riding as a couple, even working together as Taylor merged from plumbing to selling records at Substance.
There was talk of moving to Squamish but as their relocation plans developed, a series of large opportunities and coincidences appeared before them and it became apparent that setting up shop in Kamloops would provide them with a great chance at living their dreams. There was a bike store clearly missing in the city which left a large gap in the brands being represented and the customers being served. So with a few select partners they began building an empire on the shared values of great service and long term relationships with customers and companies alike. They wanted to sell not only the bikes but the cycling lifestyle that can go with them. Cheryl and Taylor had a crystal clear plan of how things should develop and day-by-day they stepped closer to making it so.
As the shop grew larger each year, riding would unfortunately take a back seat. Cheryl stopped racing in 2003 and Taylor followed suit. Running a shop was more stressful than they had imagined and their focus on the success of the Bicycle Cafe would mean much less time on the trails.
Years down the road that investment proved to be priceless as the Bicycle Cafe became a mainstay in the Kamloops cycling scene. The store had reached and exceeded each of its owners initial goals and is now a recognizable entity within the global cycling community, even receiving such flattery as an imitation store in the Czech Republic.THE BICYCLE CAFE COLLECTVE
As the store has pushed past the test of time to establish itself as the empire it is today, Cheryl and Taylor haven’t been the only characters playing important roles in the story. The store has always had a reputation for a staff of passionate riders with exceptional knowledge of the bicycles displayed on the showroom floor and an equally impressive understanding of how to unleash those bikes on the local trails.
Remembering employees of days gone by, Brock Smith and Brad Hughes both quickly came to mind. Brock and Brad were avid riders who could be placed anywhere in the store and excel with whatever task was presented. Brad is in contention for the keenest Cafe staff member of all time while Brock is often spoken of as a game-changing employee who drew from his long history of wrenching to fabricate excellence in the workshop.
At present, Alex Neely is a stand-out mechanic who customers recognize for wizardry with brakes and post-work parking lot burn-outs. He assembles bikes with an attention for fine details and adjustments that will surpass the needs of even the most particular riders and he continually delivers consistency. Alex has been an employee of the Bicycle Cafe for over 6 years and is regarded as the 'go to guy' by many of the area’s gnarliest riders.
A much more recent addition to the roster is Lachlan Sillitoe who arrived from Australia early last summer. Incredibly polite and organized to a T, he is often mistaken as a young British man and he continually refines the inner workings of the store. It appears as though Lachy has been sucked in and cemented to the scene the same way I once was, and he doesn’t anticipate a departure in his near future.A SMALL COMMUNITY OF ITS OWN
When Cheryl and Taylor first opened the store they dreamed of selling not only bikes, but the lifestyle that goes with them. Over the years of fuelling on the stoke of success and feeling little stress, they’ve been able to reach into the community and make that dream a reality.
From miniature downhill racers who are still too young to collect points, to the poster boys of the brands sold in store, the Cafe shows strong support for all riders who share in their vision. From local calendar pages to magazine covers, Cheryl and Taylor have helped riders to achieve their dreams. And somewhere between kids camps and local events focused on fun, the Cafe has collaborated with Kamloops to create a riding community who’s tidal waves of stoke can be felt rippling toward every extremity of the globe.
Those waves first reached me in the Yukon when I was still just a grom. Several years after my first visit to the Cafe, my chin hairs finally became a beard and I've been a part of their scene for what feels like forever. If it weren't for the already established action taking place when I first got to know the people of the Cafe, things probably never would have turned out the way they did for me.
I've been riding for the Cafe since 2006 and working with Cheryl and Taylor since 2008. When they gave me a jersey and posted photos of me on their website several years ago I had my first daydreams of someday living a life completely consumed by cycling. Each spring they made sure my bikes were dialled and ready to roll for the year. They introduced me to key players at the brands I work with today and made sure I was around to ride and shoot when the big-dawgs came to town. I've been a part of many amazing things and a lot of them have grown from within the walls of the store.
Although I'm a lot more independent these days, the Cafe is still just as important to my riding as ever. They keep my bikes rolling tip top and even keep me employed despite my sometimes wishy-washy schedule of aimless bicycle wandering. Over the years that they have continued to support me, their existence in my life has elevated far beyond the status of being employers or sponsors.
After all these years, it is hard to imagine the cycling community of Kamloops without a Cafe that sells bicycles rather than coffee. The two are synonymous in my mind and one could never exist so gloriously without the other.CHOPPERS ON THE HORIZON
It’s difficult to tell the story of how things came to be and not question where things are destined to travel. So I can't help but wonder what’s next for the Bicycle Cafe.
It doesn't appear as though a grand scheme of global domination lies anywhere in the sights of this bike stores owners. If you ask either Cheryl or Taylor about the future of the store, neither of them bolts to a perfect posture to begin rattling off a list of to-do’s and ta-da’s. Rather, they will each scrunch their lips and quietly look to the side for a moment before modestly claiming that they simply hope to always grow better with time.
They hope to always learn how to fix things faster and deal with issues more efficiently. Keep the best products in stock and stay on top of what works best for all the new trails and trends that will surely turn up.
With such honest and simple goals in mind it would appear that the future will be bright for the Bicycle Cafe as they continue to provide the wholehearted smile seen gleaming on the faces of riders as they pedal the long flowing trails of Kamloops.
Article photography courtesy of Matt Miles.
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Header images by Blake Jorgenson