Bike Piles Filled with Dreams: A Visit to Iron Wheel Trading

On a side street of Hayden, Colorado is an unmarked historical building. At first, I couldn’t even find which door led inside. Essam greeted me and invited me to wander around. Before long I’m enraptured with the stacks of bikes and parts that fill the small space. Once I pull my jaw back off the floor, Essam bends my ear with the tall tales from Hayden, how his shop got its name, Moots history, and the crazy injury that lead him down the path of owning Iron Wheel Trading. In a town that is mostly blown through by people on their way to Steamboat Springs, there is a special treasure waiting for those who stop to pay a visit to Essam and his shop.

To say I was overwhelmed trying to document the enormity of the shop would be a gross understatement. From the priceless vintage Moots frames to the carbon wing TT bikes, and literally everything in between, the mass of parts and frames in this space is truly staggering. Essam’s shop finds itself somewhere between a community bike shop and an online purveyor of obscure frames and parts.

On my second visit, Essam suggested I return on the day that the farmer’s market pops up on the street out front. On these days, Joe’s Barbeque—a Jamaican chicken food truck—runs an extension cord out the front door wafting that sweet, sweet barbecue smell in to mix with the chain lube and grease. Essam sets out some donated kid bikes which he fixes up and allows people to take for free in the community.

Essam is beaming with pride as he tells us stories of rides in the valley and the origins of the single-track riding in Steamboat Springs. He holds up a recently acquired yellow slingshot frame adorned with banana-themed stickers that he is just tickled pink about. He has a whole corner of Moots bikes from the early ’80s, the very beginning of the nearby titanium builder’s tenure. Multiple steel tandems, Mountaineer frames, and even a Zirkel or two. One of the Mountaineer frames was ridden through Tibet by two adventurous women. Essam even has a photo of the two ladies and their bikes from 1986. He is currently trying to track down the Peugeot that the other woman rode on that very trip to round out his collection.

Essam’s family has been a part of the community of Hayden for generations, since the homesteading days. His great-grandmother told him a story of one of her students: she was a teacher who bought a catalog bike and rode the solid tire down to the rim. When he could not procure a replacement due to WWI material shortages, he fastened an iron wheel from his family’s farm equipment with a hand-whittled Aspen wood axel. With his iron wheel, he was able to keep rolling. This story would become the lore and the namesake of Iron Wheel Trading. Essam has a massive collection of parts, which came in handy during the pandemic. In the midst of the global parts shortage and supply chain bottlenecks, parts he was able to sell off about 80% of his stock to needy cyclists and even some shops. He is proud that no one had to ride an iron wheel this time around.

In 2009, while racing at Single Speed Worlds in Durango, Essam sustained a terrible crash that left him incapacitated for a few months. At the time he was working at Orange Peel Bike Service and due to his injury had to take time off from work.  He began consigning parts and bikes to make ends meet. While he didn’t lose his job at Orange Peel, his trading slowly progressed to the point when he was able to open Iron Wheel Trading and he even recently purchased the building for the shop.

Stories are important to Essam and his collection, whether it is finding the elusive Peugeot from almost 40 years ago or collecting equally elusive frame builders’ work from Moab. Essam would regularly make deals with people who owned bikes he wanted to collect, just asking that they promise to sell the bike to him when their time was done with it had come to an end.

He obviously has an aesthetic preference for Moots; he still regularly throws a leg over one of their earliest bikes but could just as likely be found astride one of their modern titanium gravel models. Of course, his prized early frames stick out but he even has a prototype dog trailer produced by Moots. He found it at a garage sale one day with the seller being oblivious to the niche and rare cycling artifact sitting right under his nose. The trailer appears unwieldy and over-engineered especially when you get down to those ever-perfect Moots titanium welds. Nonetheless it has a home in the collection. He has a Moots that was owned by Lymen Orton (LKO monogrammed on the top tube) who allowed the public to use his land for many years before selling, at a friendly price, to Steamboat Springs to create the Emerald Mountain trail system.

Another gem that popped up amongst his random treasure trove was a wooden framed bike. Essam had acquired it only to realize that it had a flaw in the construction. He contracted his friend and local carpenter to shore up the frame. The effort he spent to have the frame repaired just speaks to Essam’s desire to keep all bikes rolling and to make sure they find a proper home. He tells me of corresponding with collectors in Singapore. He helped a random passerby find the exact model and size of a vintage Stumpjumper he’d been seeking for some time.

He still has a 1980 Kuwahara KZ1 that was his first bike “flip” if you will. After receiving a yellow Huffy for Christmas in 1989—and shortly after selling it to a friend—he purchased the Kuwahara from a newspaper classified ad and thus his career in used bikes began. This is the same model of bike used in the famed ET bike scene too!

Another amazing piece of his collection is a Moots Mountaineer that still often sees sunlight as part of his regular stable of steeds. The original fork (famous for failing) has been replaced but many original parts are still rolling. It’s truly amazing to see something like this stand the test of time and continued to be ridden, to be used, while the other older designs stay behind the proverbial glass as museum pieces.

Essam recently told me he spent the fall cleaning up the shop and getting organized, but I hope there are still some piles filled with dreams there. If you are looking for something special check his Ebay listings or just contact him at the shop. If you are passing through, I highly recommend making the stop. Essam and his approach to being a bike shop is unique and worth merit. Please enjoy the photos, and look closely for that frame or wheel you’ve always wanted.