From Dirt to Dollars: How Cumberland’s Trails are Boosting the Local Economy

The regions volunteer-built and maintained trail network is one of the busiest in North America

Cumberland believes in bikes

Cumberland’s hiking and biking trails have grown to almost 200 km.

This network is almost entirely volunteer-built. Automatic trail counters recorded 220,000 rides in 2022. That makes it the 5th most-used trail network in North America, according to Trailforks, a popular map app for bikers, hikers and trail runners.  

These trails are helping to get people outside and active, but they’re also helping to grow the local economy.  

We’re talking about more than just big commissions for real estate agents selling houses to people wanting a piece of Cumberland. In recent years several bike industry brands have chosen to locate in Cumberland. And that’s creating needed jobs and economic diversity in a town with a housing affordability problem.

In 2018 Owen Pemberton zeroed in on Cumberland as the place to launch his start-up brand, Forbidden Bike Co.

“Right from the beginning my goal was to have a bike company that was integrated into a bike culture,” Pemberton says from Forbidden’s office and warehouse on the village outskirts.

The ability to go for lunchtime rides with staff and to test prototypes on Cumberland trails was a big draw.

Forbidden recently launched the Druid II, its latest mountain bike frame. At the same time they launched a new partnership with Gravity MTB, a mountain bike coaching company.

This past May, Gravity MTB opened a training, retail and bike repair shop called Gravity Garage in downtown Cumberland. The space will also serve as a demo centre for Forbidden bikes.

Forbidden and Gravity MTB aren’t the only ones to see Cumberland’s branding and lifestyle potential.

This past spring NOBL Wheels, a maker of high-end carbon fibre wheels, opened its new retail and manufacturing space in a renovated Dunsmuir Avenue heritage building. NOBL was launched in the Lower Mainland before moving three years ago to Courtenay. But the goal was to find a suitable space in Cumberland.

When NOBL owner Trevor Howard was considering moving shop from Langley, a suburb of Vancouver, Squamish and Pemberton were on the list at first. But the numbers didn’t make sense. Vancouver Island and Cumberland seemed like the logical choice.

“Trevor always wanted NOBL to be part of a cycling-centred community,” says Chris Arruda, NOBL’s operations manager. “Everybody is stoked to be here.”

In addition to these three newcomer businesses, mountain biking supports two bike stores, Dodge City Cycles and Beaufort Cycles. It also supports a mountain bike guiding company, Island Mountain Rides.  

Dougal Browne, executive director of the United Riders of Cumberland, calls it “a bike industry shift” toward Cumberland.

“I always blow smoke up the trail builders. They’re the ones who got this going,” he says.