John Nelson rolls with the punches. It is hard to find him without a smile on his face, even in the intensity of a Saturday morning rush in the bike shop. He has been in the Salt Lake City area his entire life, giving him a better pulse on what mountain biking is like than a majority of people. Ask him about what trails to hit, and he can tell you more details about them than a majority of people.
We sat down with John to discuss bike addictions, an accounting degree, and the Contender Bicycles Park City shop. Alvin Holbrook: Alright so, you started working here because you're into bikes obviously. And rumor has it that your uncle owns a local shop?
John Nelson: Right. But I never worked for him. I would say it was my grandfather who got us into bikes, as he owned that shop before my uncle. Actually, that’s how my parents met, at my grandfather’s then bike shop. Bikes definitely run in the family.
AH: Are you riding mostly mountain stuff? Or road?
JN: I've always just been more into mountain biking personally. I tried road riding for a little bit, but it just isn't my thing. It's fun, and maybe ill try it again, but mountain biking is way more fun to me. AH: You're from here I’m assuming?
JN: Yeah, I grew up in Millcreek. I also learned how to mountain bike on the Pipeline Trail. It's one of my favorite rides out here I would say.
AH: But not your favorite right?
JN: Nah, that would be Temple Quarry Trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's just fun. It's not very crowded as a lot of other places. There are some rock garden sections, some flowy sections, and it more or less has everything you’d want. Plus, you ride along a creek the entire time.
AH: And when you're not mountain biking what are you doing?
JN: Hanging out with my dog, of course, Winnie. She’s the greatest. She just turned one . I take her to the park pretty often. Otherwise, I’m skiing, golfing, hanging out with my wife, and I play the guitar too. Yeah. I guess I go through a lot of bikes. AH: You DO! What are you even riding right now?
JN: I’m not riding anything right now, mostly because the trails were covered until recently. I had a Santa Cruz Chameleon that I ended up selling to my brother-in-law, so I think I’ll still be able to ride it at least a little bit. I’ve had a Santa Cruz Bronson, a Megatower, the Alchemy Arktos 29, a Surly Karate Monkey, and the Chameleon.
AH: But not all at once, right?
JN: No, that would be wild. I just like trying new stuff, especially when our shop has so many bikes and brands to choose from.
I think I’m going to get a [Santa Cruz] Bronson this year and then just keep it. It was my favorite, even though it was the heaviest of them. It pedals really well, I like the 27.5” wheels too. It feels a bit snappier and more playful, and more than enough bike for everything around here. I think it is the perfect Utah bike, in my opinion. AH: Are you in school?
JN: I’m at UVU right now. I usually tell people who ask what I’m doing that I’m studying accounting, and then they stop bothering me about it. I’m planning on something in business, but the end goal is to graduate.
One of the things I like about being able to work here is that working here works around my school schedule well. Always a bonus. Working on bikes is fun, selling bikes is fun, it is just a good place to be really.
AH: You’re in Park City a lot of the time.
JN: That is a great shop.
AH: Why do you say that?
JN: Well, first the barn is really cool. The layout is cool too. It is fun down here because it is so busy down here all the time. And in the summer, Park City is busy too. We do a lot of bike rentals and on-the-spot repairs. But up there in Park City there are times where we go through some mellow parts. I love that. It gives us the opportunity to talk to customers a little bit more. As a result, I know way more customers and it has a little bit more of a community feel, if only because our reach is so much bigger here. A lot of great biking up there too, obviously. There are trails right from the bike shop in Park City, which is awesome. AH: When you would say is the best time to get in so they get some quality John time?
JN: It is kind of hard really. Usually, weekend mornings are super busy with people [picking up rentals. I would say the beginning of the week in the mornings is pretty chill, and it is a good time to come in and talk about things rather than later in the week.
AH: Maybe this is off the record, but how have you seen that place change over time?
JN: I know we’ve tried to be more involved in community events. Sue is a huge player in that, I was up there that first season we were in Park City, and it was crazy to see the difference in activity and investment from local people. We were super busy with bike rentals and demos through the summer, but I think the shop will really blow up after another season of being in Park City. A lot of people still come from Park City to Contender Bicycles in Salt Lake City and pass by the Park City shop not knowing that they can get the same service here.
The Park City shop also has a lot of great trails that can be ridden to from our shop. Can’t really say that about the Salt Lake shop.
AH: Anything else to talk about in regards to the Park City shop?
JN: If there is anything about the Park City shop, it is that working there requires you to wear a few different hats, which means you might get pulled in different directions. If the mechanics are buried and are customer-facing, you can get pulled away and that is frustrating sometimes. I’ll be helping someone downstairs, and someone might need help upstairs. It requires a lot of focus.
JN: Don't get me wrong I like working in Salt Lake City too. I think we do a great job of interfacing with for a shop as big as our's, but smaller shops can really make a connection. There are definitely people who come to see us in Park City for the familiar face because they know that their needs will be met.
AH: Do you have any last things you’d like to say?
JN: Let’s shout out my wife and Winnie of course. Can’t not do that. Photos courtesy of John Nelson and Cody Wignall.