The vision for the Gravity MTB Garage sounds like a mountain biker’s dream. After a fun afternoon in the Cumberland forest, a group of riders pedals down the village’s main street, turns left at the brewery, and pulls up to the garage’s open bay doors.
Two rack their bikes: one collapses in a sofa to watch bike videos on the big-screen TV, while the other browses the bike merchandise spread around the “living room.” Needing a quick repair, their buddy rolls her bike through to the mechanic shop in the back.
Once the friends regroup, they walk past the fitness centre, where a trainer is encouraging someone through one more set, and head out back to an outdoor bazaar—an open-air space with a bike wash, craft retailers, food trucks, and picnic tables—to refuel in the sun.
The al fresco portion of the vision is still a little way off. But the one-stop bike clubhouse—the new, diversified home of Gravity MTB—opened in May. And its doors are open to all.
“We want it to be the kind of place anyone feels welcome to poke their head into and see what’s going on,” says co-owner CJ Hendren.
Her husband and business partner, Chad Hendren, thinks the garage and bazaar will become a focal point for riders in town. “I feel like it’s going to be a busy place with lots of people coming and going and doing different things all the time,” he says, noting its central location close to trails, shops, the brewery, and restaurants—and with a cannabis store right next door (for recovery lotions, obviously).
This rider-centric HQ is a culmination of what the Hendrens have been working towards their whole lives.
Chad was a pioneer downhill mountain bike racer and has coached mountain biking for more than 20 years, including at the international level. CJ, a CrossFit coach, has experience in marketing and business development. The two met in Whistler and moved to the Comox Valley in 2016, originally planning to take over Chad’s family’s water taxi business. But, as they rode the local trails, they realized the Valley lacked mountain bike coaching—and they were perfectly qualified to deliver it.
They held their first bike camp during spring break of 2016. Five kids signed up and it rained and snowed. It was miserable, says CJ, but the riders were stoked. They ran more kids’ camps and skills courses. When the parents started asking for help with their own biking, Gravity added adult coaching and women-only clinics. When there was demand for bike mechanic courses, they started those, too. They’ve since diversified into school programs, a race team, and fitness training.
For years, they ran their business out of their garage in Comox and a trailer they hauled with them. After the initial COVID lockdowns, things began to boom for Gravity. Last year, the Hendrens employed eight core staff and 35 coaches and taught 800 people, mostly from the Valley, but also from across the Island and even the Lower Mainland.
They needed more room to do everything they wanted to do. They found it at 3274 Third Street in Cumberland, which was originally a livery, and, more recently, a used car dealership and auto body shop.
They converted two garage bays into the “living room,” a mix of hang-out area, retail space, and showroom. There are Forbidden bikes on display along the sides; local art and race memorabilia on the walls; a sofa, chairs, and a TV; and racks of clothing for sale. Chad and CJ figure they’ll host parties and events here.
In an adjoining room is a CrossFit-style fitness area for bike-focused strength training with certified trainers, either one on one or in small group classes. (They offer open gym times, too.)
Through the back is the mechanics’ space, including the only shock repair centre on Vancouver Island. Because front and rear suspension systems are so complex and fiddly, they require special equipment, so bike shops usually send them to Vancouver for repair, but now they can be done locally.
Finally, there’s a fleet of Forbidden demo bikes and a back door that will one day open onto the outdoor market.
Taken together, it sounds like an expansive bike shop, but it feels more like a community centre. “We’re really trying to be as far from a bike shop as possible,” says CJ. “We listen to our riders, and this is what they’ve been asking for.”
The approach has gotten them this far and they don’t plan to deviate from that strategy. “In a way,” Chad says, “it feels like we’re only just getting started.”