Sitting in his garage workshop, surrounded by spokes, screwdrivers and spinning wheels, Charles Tree said one of his favourite things about riding a bike is how connected he can be with his environment while traveling through it.
“It’s feeling the rain, feeling the wind, being outside, sometimes going slower than a vehicle, but faster than walking,” he said. “You can still get to everything, you still get to see the flowers and hear the birds, but you’re not stuck in a can.”
The Prince Rupert man says he has always loved bikes and biking. He even remembers the cruiser framed, banana seat, hangar style bike he first rode as a five-year-old, saying he used it until the frame broke.
At the moment, Tree is consumed with the task of mastering his craft at his recently opened workshop. After nearly 20 years working in the logging industry, he decided to pursue his passion after returning to Prince Rupert to be closer to his young family.
“I was looking for something that would allow me to be at home,” he said. “It slowly trickled through my mind that this is what I wanted to do.”
Tree says it was his wife who encouraged him to actually begin the work of starting a repair shop.
“She told me to go into the garage and start doing it,” he said. “So I went into the garage and started puttering away with different ideas and figuring out what tools I need.”
Tree’s garage is lined with rubber tubes on the walls and and workman’s desk lined with tools. It’s like Santa’s workshop, but for bikes.
Tree said he wants to gather the knowledge and tools to be able to handle any issue brought to him by people in Prince Rupert. He said the challenge of being able to fix anything is a big motivator.
“The best thing I could hear is that a customer gets the bike back and they say it runs like it’s brand new,” he said.
The larger vision Tree has is to develop the shop into a space where bikers in Prince Rupert can come and learn how to fix and maintain their own bikes, and have access to the tools to do it. He said he is hoping to develop to the point where people know they have a place they can come.
“Eventually I want people to know, here’s the place to do it and here are the tools,” he said. “I’m not going to do it for you, but I’m more than willing to sit and talk.”
Tree is also wants to create a mobile, “pop-up shop” for bikes. He has purchased a trailer that he plans to fit with tools and a work bench that he can take to different places to do repairs. Tree said this mobile setup will allow him to reach remote communities that do not have a biking community or bike shops.
“You’ll be able to text me or call me and I’ll be able to show up at your house,” he said. “Or you can drop off your bike in the morning and I’ll have it finished for you when you’re done with work.”
Ultimately, the goal is to build a community that loves biking and has access to bikes and great biking trails. Trees said while there are nice paths in Rupert, he feels they could be improved, and he would like help facilitate that.
“It’s just so beneficial for people to be active,” he said. “And so to have those spaces whether it’s walking, biking, running or going out on your wheelchair is a great thing.”