Silver Stallion Bicycle & Coffee in Gallup, New Mexico, brings bikes, community and mentorship to the Navajo Nation
“What should I order?”
For someone who is a fan of coffee shops but not too keen on coffee, I was delighted when Scott Nydam, founder and executive director of Silver Stallion Bicycle & Coffee, recommended that I try the Silver Stallion spicy chai when I can finally visit their brick and mortar location in the small New Mexico town of Gallup.
The coffee shop side of Silver Stallion is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions with hopes of reopening this summer; but this has not stopped Nydam and his team from maintaining the momentum they have made in other aspects of the business.
A SHOCKING REALITY
Nydam came to the Navajo Nation from Denver, Colorado, with a sociology degree and a background as a former professional cyclist and coach for a Bicycle Manufacturing Company (BMC) team.
Nydam, who currently lives in Gallup with his family, described his first experience around biking in the Gallup area: “I was here with our two boys and (my wife) Jennifer looking around the landscape and being, more or less, incredibly surprised at the absence of the bike industry around here.”
For a territory that is bigger than 10 U.S. states and the same size as West Virginia, one would think a bike shop would have to exist somewhere; but that wasn’t the case on the Navajo Nation.
“You would just sort of assume there’d be a bike shop — and I did, until I found out there’s not,” Nydam said.
MENTORSHIP & PARTNERSHIP
In the summer of 2019, Nydam and the Diné Composite National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) team coach, Vincent Salabye, traveled to Durango, Colorado, to attend Durango DEVO’s Secret Sauce seminar: a program developed to share information and knowledge around mountain bike coaching.
Nydam and Salabye met with DEVO co-founder and coach, Sarah Tescher, who was able to assist Nydam with identifying the next steps for growing Silver Stallion and running a successful program.
Tescher and fellow DEVO coach, Rob Nichols, then made a trip to Nazlini, Arizona, where they assisted with a bike repair workshop before heading to Gallup to discuss next steps with Nydam. Tescher and Nichols later returned to Nazlini for a two-day coach training, with prospective coaches receiving First Aid training, as well as valuable skills and tools to better equip them to work with kids.
“We want to make sure that (the coaches) understand how they can properly run a safe practice, and give them an understanding of how to break things down to their very basic functionality so that they can then convey those thoughts to the kids,” Nichols said.
DEVO’s mentorship has been beneficial to the increase of mountain bike coaches within the Navajo Nation.
“We have expanded out to about six to seven coaches,” Salabye said. “They’ve got their level one NICA coach certification. And we’re hoping that within a couple of years or even this coming year, that they would be able to assist in growing this team.”
Silver Stallion continues to make leaps and bounds when it comes to the increase of mountain biking and available coaching opportunities on the Navajo Nation; all that is needed is time and patience to allow for the sport to flourish in a place where mountain biking opportunities were once minimal or non-existent.
“It’s going to take some time to raise up that generation so those kids will see Navajo mountain bike coaches like us, teaching and mentoring — and I just want to be a part of that,” said Renee Hutchens, a coach for Silver Stallion.
MORE KIDS ON BIKES
Trying to nail down the primary focus of what Silver Stallion does is nearly impossible, simply because they do so much. But at the heart of this nonprofit are the children.
Salabye recalls losing his relationship with mountain biking at a young age due to a broken down bike. With no means to repair his bike, he drifted away from the sport. It wasn’t until he was an adult that he rekindled his love for mountain biking. Now, at the age of 41, Salabye uses his coaching to help young riders maintain the relationship they have with the sport, providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to stick with mountain biking.
“One thing that (Nydam) and I talk about is creating ridership — building a knowledge base around what mountain biking is, what it can do for you, what it can do for the community,” Salabye said. “The best thing to do is get some kids on bikes. And from that, let’s find out where these champions in the community can rise.”
This summer, Nydam hopes to put on more summer camps for kids and provide more travel opportunities to areas such as Durango, Sedona and Flagstaff, with a primary focus on the NICA mountain bike race program.
“We’re fostering the NICA programming,” Nydam said. “That’s an endgame to some of this; it’s at least a place in a competitive league where kids can apply themselves.”
ROLLING ACROSS THE REZ
A small repair goes a long way in a place that doesn’t have immediate access to bike mechanics or a bike shop. Nydam’s awareness of this issue resulted in Silver Stallions’s mobile bike repair program.
This free service has provided over 400 bike repairs to towns on the reservation.
“There’s a lot of intimidation around working on your bike,” Hutchens said. “That’s the one number one thing I get asked a lot as a mountain bike coach is, ‘How do I even maintain my bike?’ And if there’s no shop around, then you’re pretty much your own self-sufficient mechanic, especially on the rez. And so it’s really important that we have to train those as an initial step.”
Silver Stallion is built on the concept of community: a group of like-minded individuals working together to improve the quality of life for Indigenous communities through their shared passion for mountain biking.
“This is a nonprofit,” Nydam said. “It requires a dynamic, thoughtful, group effort. Nobody technically owns a nonprofit. It’s what we make of it.”
Through Silver Stallion’s current programs and offerings, their goal is to provide access to mountain bike programs for kids and adults — whether this is through the racing circuit, group rides or supporting aspiring bike mechanics by way of their Black Apron apprentice program (coming soon).
Nydam said: “It’s just a matter of us adults trying to figure out how to put these puzzle pieces together so that this next generation of youth riders can flourish.”