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From the sad, sudden end of an Army career, a Colorado Springs bike world was born

Gnarly B's (Gnarly B’s Bikes/Facebook)
December 11, 2022

The other day, in the back of a Colorado Springs shopping center, a mother and her two young boys came to a garage-like space, where there was a big airbag catching airborne bikes. The boys gave it a go.

“She’s filming her son, she’s excited and he’s excited,” recalls the 29-year-old owner of the space, Connor Bestwick. “And what’s the first thing she says to me? ‘I just want to thank you. This is so much better than Xbox.’ And not to be cheesy, but that’s kind of why we’re doing this.”

This is The Station, a weeks-old concept that, Bestwick admits, is still being conceptualized.

It’s an extension of his bike shop, Gnarly B’s, which he opened less than a year ago in the Patty Jewett neighborhood. The Station is off Garden of the Gods Road, tucked behind Centennial Commons, where the young, ever-ambitious, ever-driven Bestwick anticipates opening a second Gnarly B’s in the months ahead.

This is how Bestwick works, says his wife, Keaveny. Calculated, but fast — a mind always churning. “Always going on something,” she says. “He has a vision, and he chases it.”

What is The Station? It’s been called the Springs’ first indoor bike park. Though, that’s a bit of a lofty title, without the space for the bumps and rollers one might expect at a bike park. The Station has three lines, with drop-offs and ramps of varying angles.

Also, there’s a music studio in a corner (Bestwick put that together with a friend). Also, there’s a workshop for cyclists’ mechanical needs (Bestwick’s head tech is another friend).

There’s a dart board, a basketball hoop and a big net for the whiffleball tournaments Bestwick envisions. There’s an office space overlooking it all from above. It’s a space where Bestwick occasionally works and happily forfeits to any other friend needing a space to work.

What is The Station?

“It’s just about community really,” says Ben Anderson, Gnarly B’s sponsored rider working on flips, twists and other mid-air tricks here.

It’s part of this larger concept Bestwick has been contemplating in his post-military life.

“This concept that we create our own world,” he explains. “I love the military. But in the military, it’s like, OK, you’re a captain, and you gotta be a colonel, you gotta be a brigadier general, and it’s all very organized and rigid, and for good reason. … What’s crazy in the private world, you can do anything you want.”

At first, after his Army career came to a sudden end, this idea was scary.

“I didn’t know what my future was,” Bestwick says. “My entire life, I always thought I’d be this (Special Forces) badass dude.”

It seemed he was well on his way out of West Point and Ranger School. He had impressed in the classroom — he studied law and engineering — and in the field, an equally analytical and physical prospect keen on intense fitness. Bestwick’s fast rise brought him to Fort Carson in 2017. He deployed to Afghanistan, where he served as a mortar platoon leader.

He returned to train for the Best Ranger Competition, the 62-hour sufferfest reserved for the 100 fittest soldiers out there. That’s when his legs failed him.

Compartment syndrome was the diagnosis, a rare condition causing pressure build-up in the muscles. Surgery left Bestwick confined to crutches for several months.

Those were hard months. Without his body, without the fitness to distract him, he was left with his thoughts. He thought about comrades, friends, he had lost to suicide. He went to a therapist.

“I needed one,” he says. “It was nuts. You hear the stories. You get out of the military, your life changes.”

The structure was gone. No mission to accomplish. No brothers and sisters to lead, no more of that camaraderie.

“What I realized is, I stressed a lot, and I wore the stress of my soldiers a lot,” Bestwick says.

And he realized the competition was over, that constant race to rise the ranks. His condition would not allow him to continue as he had hoped, specialists told him.

“You’re constantly chasing something, you’re constantly striving,” he says. “And there’s not a lot of self-identity in between there. I never really took time to truly think about what I am or who I am.”

Now he was taking the time. He was growing out his hair and beard. He was obsessing over bikes — the low-impact answer, he thought, to a return to cardio and adrenaline. He obsessed over the geometry, the latest and greatest trends. He thought about a new career.

Amid the industry shortage during the pandemic, he scoured Facebook Marketplace for bikes to buy, repair and flip. While other shops struggled to keep up service, he advertised his work out of his garage. This translated to Gnarly B’s, which he largely staffed with friends he made.

“We never really set out to hire anyone,” Keaveny, his wife, says. “People just kind of came into our lives, and we love on them, and it’s like we pay ourselves with their friendship.”

One of these is Hilary Titcomb, formerly Keaveny’s boss at a corporate job. Titcomb wanted a change. Despite not knowing anything about bikes, Bestwick gave her that. He hired her to manage operations.

“He’s very welcoming and accepting,” she says. “And, you know, he wants to build this community, but he doesn’t see himself at the top.”

He likes to think he’s simply part of this world being created at The Station.

What is The Station? To be determined, Bestwick says.

“But no doubt it’s an area where you’re gonna be surrounded by good people working in the right direction, whether it’s their own company, or their own biking ability, or working with the tech. People working in the right direction.”

Working, perhaps, to find themselves, just as he needed to do.

“I’m way more self-aware now,” he says. “I know I talk a ton, because I’m very excited, very enthusiastic.”

Until he stops talking. He sees friends having fun on bikes, hitting the ramps.

“Sorry, can I go party with them?”


(c) 2022 The Gazette

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