Loving the Uphill Battle with Roam Industries – Locke Hassett

Loving the Uphill Battle with Roam Industries
Words and photos by Locke Hassett

“Long time no see!” piped Dustin from a leather chair near a window with grey morning light pouring in through the huge windows of Roam Industry, a backcountry focused bike, climb, and ski shop in Monticello, UT. He sips his coffee as we catch up and listen to Zeppelin. His kid has teeth coming in, and he is a small business owner in a small town. He is tired, but not too tired to laugh, talk, and show me around the shop.

Dustin and I first met last winter, when I was living out of my truck in southern Utah, pursuing a research project and a boondoggle of a bikepacking route in Bears Ears National Monument. I was connected to Dustin through some other folks in town as a human-powered recreation aficionado, and a good person to talk about recreation, social justice, local politics, and whether or not it was a bad idea to try and traverse Bears Ears by bike in February. Turns out, it was. But that’s a different story.

Monticello is a small town that sits at the feet of the Abajo Mountains, about an hour south of Moab. Slickrock gives way to the High Desert in these parts, and Monticello is for many, a gateway to places like Indian Creek, Bears Ears, Dark Canyon and Cedar Mesa. Though the trail systems and recreation culture are much more subtle in this corner of San Juan County, that’s exactly what makes it a gem. You won’t find crowds of motorized recreators on the trails in these parts, nor will you find hundreds of mountain bikers. The riding in the Abajos is not for those who seek painted dots or banked corners. It is backcountry riding at it’s finest. Monticello is in no way Moab, and folks like Dustin and his wife Natalie see that as a blessing and an opportunity.

Roam Industry is much more than a bike shop. A quick glance at its fleet differentiates it immediately from other shops in the area, floors flooded with long travel carbon bikes. Surly ECRs with Rohloffs and Salsa Bucksaws lean up against walls of trad climbing gear. A pair of 90s MTB’s sit awaiting the local customers to pick them up. Rather than a display of handlebars and anodized stems, Roam has a full display of bikepacking bags. And the bikes are just part of it.

The focus of Roam isn’t to be simply another bike shop, but more of a hub for all adventures human powered. Ski touring and trad climbing are equally as famous in these parts, and the folks at Roam are just as much backcountry skiers and Indian Creek climbers as they are bikepackers. Both Dustin and Natalie get out with skis and cams as much as with tires.

This summer, the shop took off with a self-serve coffee bar, a rental fleet of bikepacking rigs, and a guiding service that offers everything from shuttles to the top of the Abajos, to guided multi-day, multi-sport trips, like bikepacking to a climbing clinic. Roam is also working to set up a hut system for bikepackers and ski mountaineers in the Abajos, with a tiny home (The “Bothy Wagon”) already operational, and another hut in the works.

Dustin grew up in Monticello, but like many kids who grow up in rural areas (myself included), he wasn’t introduced to riding bikes and climbing until his 20s. Moving home to southern Utah, he saw that many of the kids in town who lived so close to such incredible outdoor opportunities mostly related to the land through ranching, as he had. This sparked a passion to try and make recreational experiences more accessible for rural locals by sponsoring a climbing club and offering steeply discounted rates (just enough to cover costs) to locals.

It’s not easy being someone promoting human powered adventure in a place so divided by land management. #NoMonument stickers are juxtaposed by windmills, Patagonia jackets, and environmental education centers. It’s clear that everyone here loves the landscape, but there is a disagreement with how to exist with it.

Yet, Dustin seems to think that the simple act of moving over a landscape can bring people together. I can’t help but agree with him. Sure, he’s promoting human-powered efforts, but the worn out teleskis and old articles about skimo races in the area show that these activities are nothing new here and that folks from all walks of life can still appreciate some gravity assisted absurdity and laugh together while playing in the woods.

Roam is here to show that community can be built through sweat, grease, sawdust, conversation, passion, and coffee. Maybe it’s it’s an uphill battle, but the uphill is nothing unfamiliar to Dustin and Natalie. Hell, they love it.

Keep up with this rad shop on Instagram, and stop in for a cuppa Joe next time you’re passing through Monticello!

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Follow Locke on Instagram.  

  • big Al

    I like that self serve cafe setup and the handmade tire levers, keep it up!

    • mania4conquest

      Yeah those tire levers are rad.

  • Spaces like this – Topanga Creek Outpost is another – are THE future of bike shops in the American West. Kudos and I can’t wait to check it out! Locke, what happened on the Bears Ears traverse? !

    • Locke Hassett

      Haha. Oof. We ended up getting hit with a blizzard that was apparently the biggest snow storm of the year. We were at about 9000′, just north of the Bears Ears Buttes on Elk Ridge, as it rises out of Indian Creek. It snowed about a foot in an hour after it hit us. We had to bail, and got really lucky hitchhiking a ride with a guy in a land cruiser with 8 border collies and a trailer filled with weeks of survival gear, including an old Ellsworth. It would’ve been a really bad situation if we hadn’t found him. There was plenty of snow on the ground in Indian Creek by the time we got down there and ran out of gas. Luckily, the border collies kept us warm. Hours later, after running out of gas again, we finally got to Moab. Milts never tasted so good.

  • AdamBike99

    Very cool concept- and execution. Dustin and Natalie are not only teaching folks to “fish” but also providing the tools to get there and the ability to enjoy their wild places to the fullest.

    I appreciate your photo-journalism, Locke. The photos really support the story and provide a nice virtual tour of the space(s).
    Here’s to a another bright spot in our collective future!

    • Locke Hassett

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.

  • Brady Lawrence

    This is awesome to see Roam get featured on the Radavist! In 2015 I was on a cross-continent bike tour and one of the most brutal days of the whole trip was riding in freezing rain from Dove Creek, CO through Monticello to Moab. Dustin tracked us down that morning and brought us warm tea to start the day. It’s one of a few ‘road angel’ gestures I’ll never forget.