If somebody asked you to tell them about the last time you felt truly passionate, inspired, or dare we even say obsessed about something, what would you say? We’re not talking about a TikTok video that made you laugh, or that reality show that lures you back week after week, but when was the last time something got you so fired up for more, you just knew it was destined to be a part of your life forever? For James Wilson, owner of Obsession: Bikes, that something has always been mountain biking. In British Columbia, a place known around the world for its mountain biking scene, we’re used to seeing cyclists of all ages and skill levels pedalling around all the time, but for many of us, this sport is also one that can feel a little intimidating when you’re just getting started. Since The Shipyards District has a front row seat to some of the North Shore’s most epic trails and parks, we talked to seasoned mountain biker James to learn a little more about his obsession, and about how Obsession: Bikes works to spread a love for cycling to everyone they meet.
You could say it’s the four pillars of their business: humility, empathy, safety, and purpose, or you might say their slogan, “Doing it right, right on time,” has something to do with it (certainly when it comes to paying their bills on time, James says), but what is it that really makes the crew at Obsession: Bikes unique? We use “a holistic method to help people find solutions, and our staff is so passionate” says James. “We put our best foot forward with the charities and events we support, and we’re rewarded with the folks who love us– our clients make it so much fun!” Not only that, but they also professionally fit every bike they sell, right down to the kids’ bikes. “In this era of consumer goods, you either like it, or you buy something else; with bikes though, you might really like it, but you don’t like the saddle, so let’s find you one that works for you, and really lets you enjoy this investment you’ve made– let’s do this right.” Once they get your bike fit figured out, James and his team can apply that fit to any bike you’re interested in; “it’s hard to find a consumer purchase more intimate than buying a bike that’s professionally fitted,” he says, “and we want to ensure the person that buys the bike wants to ride it. We want you to enjoy the sport.”
Also offering servicing and tune ups, the Obsession: Bikes team is very honest about what your purchase will need over time, in addition to the kinds of safety gear, clothes, and shoes you’ll want as well. “Bikes are not microwaves,” James explains, “they’re endemically flawed, so it’s always a work in progress. We’re selling a lifetime of cycling, and want the whole family to be riding for life.” He takes this a step further to talk about how mountain biking can often lead to a greater appreciation for the environment, and for conserving our natural outdoor spaces, because “someone who rides in the forest will be more likely to get active about the forest.” You can even test ride any of their bikes, and a member of the staff may go with you to try out something specific you’re interested in– a particular jump, for example– because in the end, James says “we don’t sell bad bikes; we want the one that’s best for you.”
What can you expect from a visit to the Obsession: Bikes shop? James says you can bet his crew of pros are going to be asking a lot of questions to make sure they guide you toward the most effective and enjoyable purchase for you. Everything from what kind of biking you do, what your goals for the bike might be, if you already have any specific trails in mind, what line of work you’re in, and even what kinds of sports you played as a kid are all on the table! “We don’t use jargon, so we won’t make you feel alienated, and we want to include you in this journey,” says James, “We want to see you with the right bike for where you are now, and for what you want next.” A rider’s current level of activity, any injuries or physical conditions they may have acquired over time due to other sports or experiences– even their level of comfort with, and the way they talk about their current level are all helpful pieces of information in guiding you toward your ideal bike. James adds that the “staff really does remember you and your conversations, so next time you come back, you’re already farther along the journey.”
With the large variance in prices for bikes too, he assures us you don’t have to spend the maximum amount of money to get something amazing. “We love introducing new people to the sport,” James says, and he often recommends starting out with a lesson or two to get the feel of things before investing in a first big purchase. Endless Biking offers instruction for all ages, and North Shore Bike Park, of which James is also a co-founder, is an indoor cycling park that offers a much more inclusive, all-weather place to practise before you hit the mountains. With 65,000 square feet of space to ride, it’s a great way for newcomers, families, and seasoned riders alike to hone their skills year-round!
It’s easy to see that James and his business are passionate about more than just mountain biking; they’re deeply invested in the neighbourhood community as well. With a buyback program for kids’ bikes that helps parents keep up with their little riders’ growing bike needs at a more affordable price, and their involvement with Bikes For Tykes, which collects, services, and distributes donated bikes to children who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise, Obsession: Bikes is doing their part to make The Shipyards District an especially awesome place to be. “I pinch myself all the time for living here,” says James, “the forest and the quiet, but also the city vibe– the corner of 1st and Lonsdale any night of the week is just so vibrant.” He calls out some local restaurant favourites like Joey Shipyards, Burgoo Bistro, Meat at O’Neills for lunch (Shari and Martin!), or feeding the crew at JamJar Canteen for healthy and filling Lebanese. “We’re cyclists, so we love to eat! The Eggs Benny at Lift Bakery, or the cookies at Mo’s General Store– that’s the secret.”
If you’re finding your interest piqued at all by the idea of a biking lifestyle, you’ll feel right at home walking into the Obsession: Bikes shop. “Right now is a great time to buy a bike too,” says James, “in the post-pandemic world, there’s a surplus of product from 2022, but if you wait, inflation will likely make those prices go up.” If you decide to take the leap, and find yourself a biking convert, there’s a whole network of community and resources available too. Trailforks, a data-driven website and app, helps you search for trails and parks all around the world by type, grade, region, and user feedback. More locally, North Shore Ride (NS Ride) is a non-profit organisation that offers its members weekly guided rides, and an opportunity to meet like-minded folks to foster an even deeper love and commitment for the sport.
Head over to meet James and his crew at the Obsession: Bikes shop, or at their second location, Obsession: E-bikes for e-bikes only. You can also follow them on Instagram to stay in-the-know about all their latest news and events, and if you’re feeling particularly appreciative of this lovely shop and their infectious passion for all things biking… “It’s a bit of a beer economy in a bike shop. People walk in with a 6 pack, or the new school way is a five star yelp review, but we like both.”