Brookvale cafe fueling P.E.I.'s mountain bikers with coffee, beer, and gear repair

·2 min read

BROOKVALE – As she'd bike down the final stretch of trail at Brookvale's Nordic Centre, Wendy Toy would often see mountain bikers scattered around the parking lot, either prepping for their upcoming ride or reminiscing about it.

But this past summer, most people were hovering around a colourful, five-by-eight-foot trailer that was offering snacks, beverages, cycling gear and, for those in need, cycle repair.

For Toy, the aptly-named trailer cafe, Bits Bikes Brews, became her motivation to ride.

"Because you're looking forward to having something afterward," Toy said, "instead of standing around in the parking lot."

It made sense that owner Cynthia King open a cafe at one of P.E.I.'s top mountain biking sites. Whether it’s biking in the summer or fat-biking in the winter, she has been enjoying the activity for most of her adult life – in love with the feeling of being free, out in nature and in control.

"That same feeling you get as a kid riding your bike," she said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled every booking for her other business, P.E.I. Cycling Tours, she started considering her options.

"And I had a utility trailer in my backyard," she said. "It wasn't really being used that much."

Because the Nordic Centre is a provincial park, she had to pitch the idea to the government first, but King said she received lots of support. Bits Bikes Brews opened in June 2020 and was enjoyed by both the area's locals and mountain bikers visiting from across the Maritimes.

"(The) parking lot was full every weekend this summer," King said.

For bikers, part of the appeal is that it has given them a spot to share about their rides with others and, in a sense, to replay them. As well, King usually has a bike mechanic on hand, and this fall the now-stationary trailer was licensed to serve local craft beers and ciders.

When Toy first heard about the café, she knew that King was onto something good, believing both the park and the area needed something like it.

"It's really just a lovely way to finish an outdoor activity," she said.

The cafe is currently closed due to the park's regulations during the seasonal freeze-thaw cycle, which is when the ground freezes and thaws at such a rate that the trails could be damaged by bikers. King is hoping she can re-open soon, so she can service the trail's snowshoe-ers and cross-country skiers before the bikers return this spring.

"If you want that feeling of freedom again, then come on out," she said.

Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian