British Columbia·Still Standing

Cap's Bicycle Shop in New Westminster keeps rolling after more than 80 years

Customized fit and finding the right ride: New Westminster bike shop meets the challenges of the bike business by keeping up with all the trends.

'You do it because you can have a positive influence on people's lives'

Gordon Hobbis is pictured at his store Caps Bicycle Shop in New Westminster, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A few pumps of air in the inner tube, and the tire goes back on the bike. Joey Hobbis has fixed a flat tire more than a few times and he moved in a quick, familiar way around the shop.

"You get good at it after a couple of hundred," he said with a grin.

Joey Hobbis is a mechanic for his dad's business, Cap's Bicycle Shop. He's 21 and he's been repairing bikes for about a year and a half.

"I like the tinkering and messing around and trying to make things work," he said.

Joey mostly works in the small house that serves as the repair shop on a quiet commercial street in Sapperton, New Westminster. Across the parking lot, where bikes are lined neatly under a tent, the main shop invites people into an open and airy space.

Caps Bicycle Shop in New Westminster, B.C. has been open for over 80 years. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A family tradition

Inside there are e-bikes, children's bikes, road bikes and everything you need to accessorize your bike, from helmets to shoes to water bottles. There's also a museum of sorts⁠—hung on the walls you can see bicycles that go back to the 1860s.

You'll likely find Gordon Hobbis at the shop as well. He's the current owner, and son of the founder Gerald Hobbis, whose nickname is Cap.

You can tell Gordon is pretty proud of what his family has built.

In 1932, Gerald sold his first bike. He and his brothers would take used bikes and fix them up. To make it through the Depression and the war years, the shop rented out bikes as well.

Gordon points to a green bike hanging at the back of the shop. "It's a green CCM double bar bike. And that is my dad's own bike. That's a bike that he would have ridden in the 30s and 40s, just around Sapperton."

It's in the best spot in the store, he said. The bike is on display above the store's bike fitting lab.

The big sign outside Cap's Bicycle shop in Sapperton, New Westminster advertises their services. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The right fit

Gordon points to a screen and equipment in the lab, and explains that the 3D scanning technology can measure how it's affecting a rider's efficiency. He says they specialize in finding the right bicycle fit for riders, whether they are athletes or beginners to help them maximize performance.

Part of the success of the shop lies in its ability to meet the changing demands of the public, Gordon said. There was the rise of the 10-speed bike in the 1970s, and then came the BMX craze when the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial came out in the 1980s. And now there's a boom in commuter bikes and e-bikes, Gordon said.

Unfortunately, Gordon says he's seen a lot of bike shops close.

"There's just not a lot of money in the business. You do it because you can have a positive influence on people's lives."

Inspiring people

One customer was so enamoured with her purchase, that she asked Gordon for a job. Susanna Williams stood behind the counter with a big smile and explained that she went into the shop to buy a road bike for the Whistler Gran Fondo.

She left with a Roubaix Specialized and a thirst to learn more about the business.

"I want to inspire people to get on bikes more," Williams said. 

Gordon recounted a recent conversation he had with a customer, who bought an e-bike and within a month had lost 40 pounds. "His goal is to get his weight down to where he can then buy a conventional bike and maybe one day do a Gran Fondo," he said.

"[This is] the kind of job where you can go home at night feeling you've really accomplished something."

Listen to the story here:

Inside there are e-bikes, children's bikes, road bikes and everything you need to accessorize your bike, from helmets to shoes to water bottles. There's also a museum of sorts⁠—hung on the walls you can see bicycles that go back to the 1860s. 6:41

With files by The Early Edition.

About the Author

Jennifer Chen worked as a radio producer at CBC Vancouver for 14 years. She is relocating to Ottawa and recovering from her road trip.

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