In 2009 BMC Racing Team rider Scott Nydam crashed his bike two times in one season.
The second crash ended his career as a professional cyclist and changed the course of his life. After five major concussions, Nydam had permanently damaged his meninges and caused bleeding in his frontal lobe. He knew he couldn’t race anymore, but he had no idea what was next.
A decade later Nydam hasn’t lost his passion for bicycles or his dogged persistence. But instead of striving for jerseys and podiums he has his heart set on more altruistic goals.
Silver Stallion Bicycle and Coffee Works is the brainchild of Nydam and a crew of riders from the Navajo Nation and Gallup, New Mexico. They will serve coffee, service bikes and provide internships for aspiring young bike mechanics and baristas.
Although the shop isn’t open yet, the organization is already running an interscholastic mountain bike team for middle schoolers and high schoolers.
Locally famous husband-wife folk duo Anne and Pete Sibley are set to return to Jackson to play a benefit concert in support of Silver Stallion from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole. Tickets are $25 online. Hootenanny regulars Marmot Ate My Boots will open the show.
Silver Stallion is on Route 66 in Gallup, just outside of the Navajo Nation. Outside the shop a metal profile of a horse rears above a big red sign. For some, the sign brings back memories of drunken nights at the Silver Stallion Saloon, which was shut down in 2006 for selling alcohol to minors and intoxicated customers.
Nydam bought the sign from gallupARTS, a local nonprofit, with the idea of taking a symbol that once represented capitalist exploitation of severe alcoholism and turning it into something positive for the community.
“I even thought about putting the sign upside down on the pole,” Nydam said.
In 2016 Nydam and a partner opened the Silver Stallion as a coffee and bread shop. The next year the shop closed its doors when Nydam’s partner left town. After some soul-searching Nydam saw an opportunity to create an organization that provided a service to the community and connected kids to the sport that had given him so much over the years.
“I see the resources, I see the possibilities,” Nydam said.
One of those resources was a wealth of bicycles that had already entered the Navajo Nation through another nonprofit, NavajoYES, of which Nydam is a board member. The group’s bike exchange program allows community members to exchange service time on the organization’s many projects for a refurbished, donated bike.
Although he is glad that more bikes have made it into the community, Nydam doesn’t think the bike exchange program goes far enough. Without Silver Stallion there is a gap in programming for youth and nowhere to go when a bike needs to be fixed.
“They get a flat tire and lean up against a wall for the rest of their life,” Nydam said. “There’s not a single bicycle shop on the 27,000 square miles that the reservation covers.”
As passionate as he is, Nydam is wary of being perceived as a missionary figure by the community.
“It’s very important that the project is Native driven,” Nydam said.
Partially for that reason, Nydam sees himself as more of a facilitator than a true figurehead for the organization that he has created.
The youth racing team that is run by Silver Stallion is coached by local Navajo rider Vincent Salabye. Vincent and his protégé, Nigel James, 14, were featured in a New Yorker article called “The Extreme Cyclists of the Navajo Nation,” and the same cohort of riders is set to star in a documentary.
Nydam saw relationships like Salabye’s mentorship of James and wanted to provide that same opportunity to a wider range of local kids.
Silver Stallion has already seen a degree of success. This past season more than 30 kids participated in a National Interscholastic Cycling Association league through Silver Stallion. They also fielded the first team of reservation kids to compete in the Arizona Interscholastic Cycling League.
So, what’s next for the nonprofit? The coffee shop is set to open its doors Nov. 9 and Nydam is still trying to raise the money to hire a program director for the coffee and mechanic internship programs.
Nydam knows his vision is ambitious, but, in his mind, it’s not worth paring it down when all of the projects serve each other so well.
“It all needs to be done,” Nydam said, noting that he hopes Sunday’s concert raises enough money to help Silver Stallion towards its goal of hiring full time staff. ￼