As I’m sipping on a beautifully crafted latte, watching riders, guides on their day off, and everyday folks come and go with hot beverages, snacks and bike parts – it seems like most people seem to know each other. Joking, laughing, smiling – even someone like myself who is having their first (of many) coffees here is instantly put at ease with the welcoming, laid back, unpretentious vibe. I’m starting to see why Sara named this company Ride Hub – because that’s exactly what this place is – a hub.
Community isn’t something that can be bought, it has to be earned. Built gradually over time, being an active, conscientious and engaged contributor is always rewarded. Even if you’re from Ontario and setting up in one of the most opinionated destinations in the mountain bike world.
In what Ride Hub owner Sara Archer calls a ‘cosmic explosion’ – everything happened very quickly and purposefully, turning her beloved holiday destination into a full-time home for her family.
Archer and her husband Matt Trotter brought their passion for riding and coaching from Ontario to the big mountains by applying for a guiding tenure in 2016. They knew that they would have to put in the hard work and get their hands dirty from the ground up. Soon after their arrival, the Ride Hub name began popping up sponsoring SORCA trail maintenance nights, social rides and toonie races with the Ride Hub crew digging hard and slinging beers afterwards. As the business became established, a unique idea for physical trail presence was brewing – enter the Ride Hub bike trailer.
In 2019, locals began to see the professional-looking black and green trailer parked up at the base of the university trails offering very welcome onsite repairs and maintenance, a place to enquire about bike rentals, coaching and guiding services, or friendly trail info for anyone wanting to make the most of their day in what was slowly turning into the mountain bike centre of the Sea to Sky.
As Squamish proliferated gaining international recognition as a mountain bike destination, so grew Archer’s business. She hired more coaches, bought more bikes (stored in her ever-shrinking garage and built in her living room) and increased offerings like custom guided services and kids camps. “When people rent a bike from us, we don’t just sign the paperwork and say have fun, we engage with our clients and set them up for success.” Remarks Archer. “We want to help them plan their day from trail selection to skill level. Each bike rental kind of comes with a mini lesson out here in the parking lot.”
This attention to detail has built a large base of repeat clients which contributed to Archer rapidly outgrowing the humble trailer.
The natural progression – open a coffee shop/bike shop/rental shop/film studio/coaching base. Ambitious? Possibly, but with no sign of this mountain bike tsunami slowing down, it seemed like the right direction. The only slight negative drawback: the Covid-19 lockdown the day after opening the shop. But as the world soon came to realize, mountain biking is awesome – pandemic or not.
Not to be dissuaded, the ever-resourceful Archer took the opportunity to renovate and create the perfect space. Within a few months the shop was set up, they were tuning bikes and releasing videos showcasing ‘how to’s’ on how to ride notorious local features while simultaneously gaining a reputation for some of the best coffee in town amongst local trail builders.
It was a steep learning curve juggling so many different facets, but a passion for each aspect of the business trumped the huge workload. “I know way more about coffee than I ever dreamed I would.” SaysArcher. “I found a machine for around 1000 dollars and thought we were set. Matt dug in a little deeper and found something a bit more professional and a lot more expensive” – the Victoria Arduino White Eagle. Archer hired well seasoned baristas to pack shots of local Agro Roasters coffee through the fine tuned machine. Archer herself went through a rigorous apprenticeship spending more than a week practicing frothing techniques with dish soap in an attempt to not waste so much milk crafting the perfect cappuccino.
She was not alone in this alternative education of trial and error. The guides and coaches were also trying their hand as baristas. By design, this also provided an extra revenue stream for the guides during a summer devoid of international tourism and in the slow and off-seasons. And it’s not the worst thing in the world to be slinging espressos – warm and dry inside while your fellow guides are braving a 50mm coastal downpour with clients in October. The investment in staff and company culture doesn’t stop at the cafe skills.
“Some of the staff have been with us since day one.” Archer comments. “Matt still trains all of the coaches and guides to the high PMBI and BICP standards. The more certifications our guides have the better but we have our own definitive style so no matter who you go out with, there is a consistency in how and what we teach.”
To keep connection close, Sunday ‘bike church’ is a regular occurrence. “We figure out what trail to ride, hook up a shuttle and all shred together. It gets pretty rowdy and there are a lot of laughs. Afterwards, we all get sushi and chat about our week.” Says Archer with a smile. The family atmosphere, creating space and opportunities for advancement, and flexible schedule options create a great work environment. Not surprisingly, these creative factors laid out by the entirely female management team have lead to a near 0% turnover rate in staff. An amazing feat in staff retention for such a transient area and the staff demeanour isn’t lost on the clientele.
As subsequent waves of Covid sustained uncertainty for businesses both established and new, the next natural evolution for Ride Hub was into the online space. Offering up a large selection of parts – they somehow still managed to maintain (limited) stock in this time of bike component scarcity – as well as clothing, coffee and custom mugs highlighting classic local trails with cool graphics. But with more online businesses to choose from than ever before, why shop Ride Hub?
Archer is quick with an answer and philosophy – “We want to create the same community feeling that you get walking into the Ride Hub cafe in an online shop. Whether you live here or have rented a bike from us, you can talk to the same people behind the service desk and figure out what brakes to buy or guided riding options for your next trip to Squamish.”
Whether it be online, in the shop, or out on the trails the folks at Ride Hub have a unified goal: creating a safe, fun and inclusive space for the simple love of bikes, caffeinated beverages and lighthearted laughs. Whether you’re a long term Squamish local needing spare parts, someone visiting town for the first time and want to make the most of your day, upping your flat cornering skills, or if you just want a damn good cup of coffee where you can always find parking – Ride Hub has your back.