A Gravel Awakening in Moab

Pro's Closet founder Nick Martin exits the boardroom for the great outdoors

By Zap

(Note: This is an excerpt of the complete story that will be found in the July issue of Road Bike Action.)

The invitation came from out of the blue, but there it was; my old industry friend and proprietor of Western Spirit Tours Ashley Korenblatt invited me to experience a four-day tour of the White Rim trail located deep in the Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah.

After pouring over the trip details (and coming to grips with the idea of being “off the grid” for four days), I accepted her offer and told her how much I looked forward to taking the challenge on a gravel bike. Ashley’s response was quick and certain. “Zap, this is a mountain bike tour – you can’t ride a gravel bike.”

 

With it’s 2.4″/650b tires, the Open WI.DE was the perfect gravel bike for the harsh Utah conditions.
While it wasn’t my intention to disrespect Ashley’s wisdom, my hard headedness was aided by the knowledge that it wasn’t just any gravel bike I was planning to ride, but rather, the Open WI.DE. test bike (RBA, November, 2019) that ran on 650b (27.5-inch) wheels mounted with massive 2.4-inch knobby tires. For me, this was the ideal bike to provide both adequate challenge and capability in the notoriously rough terrain that Moab is famous for.
The White Rim trail is located in the picturesque depths of Utah’s Canyonland’s National Park. The loop is made up of rugged fire roads that navigate along ancient rock plateaus that parallel the Colorado and Green rivers offering stunning desert views in every direction.

 

PICKING A PARTNER

Zap and Nick going over the details of a rare Cannondale Fulcrum DH bike. Owing to Nick’s passion for all things bicycle, in addition to the bevy of used bikes on hand, TPC is also home to an expansive museum of historical bikes.

Making it more entertaining was that I had invited along my old friend Nick Martin. In addition to being an old friend, Nick Martin is also the founder of The Pro’s  Closet which in the last few years has catapulted from a small start-up selling used bike parts to the world’s largest emporium of used bikes. Having last run into Nick at the 2018 Interbike show, I knew he was getting sucked deeper and deeper into his role as a young CEO and further away from the bike. I figured if anyone could “use” a cycling get-away in the desert, it was him.

 

Originally, I had pitched the idea of doing the 100-mile jaunt in a single day. For me, the lure of a one-day effort was the physical challenge as much as the fear of camping and not having any electricity or Internet access for multiple days. Although Nick too was stressed about being away for four days, it had more to with missing his wife and young son James rather than another board meeting.

IN NICK’S WORDS

Nick chose a titanium  Mosaic GT-1 with a  Shimano GRX drivetrain for his White Rim steed.
“As we all know, it is getting harder and harder in our busy world to find time to truly unplug and appreciate the beauty around us.  I was lucky enough to be reminded of this by way of my experience on the White Rim trip over the course of 4 days and 100 miles.

 

“A while back Zap called me out and reminded me, as a true friend should, to walk the talk and get out and ride.  Over the last 15 years, my relationship with the bike has changed, not in a bad way but things are different now, priorities have changed. No longer am I chasing the dream of racing my bike professionally. Today my dreams are centered around my family and my business, in that order.  But it is because of cycling that I have been blessed with a successful business, The Pro’s Closet.  I am still surrounded by bikes, but my time in the saddle has shifted to my time in the conference room.

 

“At one time I would have ridden the White Rim in one day without thinking twice, with less than adequate supplies, trusting my legs would figure it out.  Today, I ride once a week if I am lucky so I knew I would be the weak link on this adventure. I admire those that can find a balance between work, family, and fitness.  I’ve struggled to find that balance.
The White Rim trail is a 100 mile loop located in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. Photo: Western Spirit.

“When Zap called me up telling me that we were going on this 4-day adventure I did what every out-of-shape 40 something year old would do…I bought a new bike and then spent the next two weeks leading up to the ride putting in the miles like I was cramming for a college exam.

“As a side note, when you ride with Zap you can’t wear baggies. Call it old school, call it fashion, call it what you will, but when you are out of shape this brings out the honest truth that is best hidden with baggy clothes. So, I packed my vintage Durango Wheel Club jerseys from my college racing days and braced myself for an uncomfortable reality.

OUT AND BEYOND

“As I loaded up the car and headed to Moab, I couldn’t help but be flooded with nostalgic thoughts. Traveling across America with my bike in tow from one adventure to the next was my world for a long time. I missed those quiet miles behind the steering wheel, getting lost in your own imagination. This proved to be a taste of the week to come.
Owing to his fear of heights, this was as close to the ledge of a 1000′ cliff overlook as he would venture. The trail off in the distance was where we were headed.
“A couple of years ago I became a father and immediately my relationship with time changed.  It went from feeling like we had all the time in the world to wanting to hold onto every moment.  The world has a way of speeding things up and Western Spirit was about to remind me how important it is to slow things down.

 

GET CONNECTED

Camp along the White Rim trail, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah. Photo: Western Spirit

“Moab is a special place.  While it has changed over the years, it still evokes adventure and is the perfect backdrop to unplug and connect with the beautiful world around us.  As I drove into Moab, I called my wife, said I love you to my son James and proceeded to turn off my phone for the next four days. Disconnecting from one world and connecting with another.

“Over the next four days, I managed to soak it all up. Soaking in the views, soaking in the time in the saddle and soaking up the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. The trip was a valuable reminder of how important it is to slow down and stay connected by disconnecting.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and as I write this on a Monday, this too is another reminder to slow down.

“Special thanks to Western Spirit for providing access to these amazing adventures and encouraging people to get outside and connect with the beautiful world around us.

“Call your Mom, hug your kids, and get out and ride.”

Taking pause to consider the adventure to come. Sections like this that make it a rippin’ good time on a gravel bike.

 

Nick oversees the growing Pro’s Closet enterprise that has become the world’s de-facto leader in used bike sales. From new, to almost new, and including vintage bikes, The Pro’s Closet is a one-stop shop.

Western Spirit Tours

The Pro’s Closet

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