Slater and her husband and business partner, Brad James, did not grow up in the bike business, like many IBD owners. James was a regional sales manager and market developer for two different corporations—with a lengthy cycling, hunting, and fishing sabbatical thrown in the middle—and Slater had a long and indirect career path. She began as an international commodities trader, then stayed home with the couple’s two daughters, and for five years prior to purchasing the shop, she was an independent marketing contractor with several different clients in Denver and Boulder—including Sports Garage.
Yet she cites “the fact that neither my husband and I are from the bike business” as their reason for jumping on board. “Though I'm partly kidding, there is some truth in that statement,” says Slater. “As we each navigated our career paths—entirely unrelated to cycling—we always wondered how our life would be if we applied our skills to something that we care about. We care about our passion for mountain biking, our community, and adventure. We considered ourselves in the ‘friends and family’ circle at Sports Garage and it is the only shop we would have considered running. Our inspiration is our mutual desire for adventure together and our gratefulness to the mountain biking community in Boulder.”
What they each love most about the business is a bit different, but a perfect balance.
“For Brad, it’s helping people,” Slater says. “He is insanely good at it. Whether it's consulting on a bike build or being the shepherd on a group ride, Brad genuinely looks at his work as an ongoing opportunity to help someone. Me? I'm a kind of a geek. I have a degree in economics, and the challenge of building a small business—particularly in an industry that is transforming rapidly—is totally thrilling. Brad is front-of-the-house, I'm back-of-the-house.”
Their passion is renewed on a daily basis, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. “Every day, every hour, every minute that you spend doing something that you do not feel passion for is a day, an hour, or a minute that you will not get back. That's just a fact,” Slater explains.
She admits to some embarrassing moments, though, due to her inexperience as a cyclist. Entirely self-taught, Slater had to MacGyver her way into the mountain biking community. “At the age of 30, I was living in the Midwest with no friends that were into mountain biking. So I bought a hardtail Mongoose with V-brakes at a yard sale for $25 dollars, and kitted up in a pair of Daisy Dukes. I think I probably even put silk underwear under my first chamois,” she recalls. “Until about six months ago, I though the Juliana Furtado was named after a singer-songwriter. I could keep going, but I think you get the picture.”
Now, though, Slater and James seem unstoppable in their pursuit of two-wheeled adventure. “Our next big passion is bikepacking! We got started a couple of years ago, and it will be worth keeping an eye on Sports Garage. We've got some great bikepacking projects in the planning stage,” she says.
The pair has explored the country and the world on bikes, seeking the dirt and gravel roads less traveled. “The most challenging place I've ever ridden is Guatemala,” says Slater. “The volcanoes in the western highlands are riddled with super steep trails that have been worn in over hundreds of years by the local people. The rains wash deep ravines in the trails, the donkeys kick up baby heads, and everything is straight up and straight down.”
Her best memory on a bike is one that she and James cherish together. “Brad asked me to marry him at the peak of the Wyoming/Continental Divide Trail between Rabbit Ears Pass and Steamboat Springs. He was too nervous to haul a diamond ring in his backpack, so when he got down on one knee he pulled four gigantic, plastic vending machine rings out of his pocket and told me to choose one,” she says. “For the rest of the summer, I wore a glittery snow globe ring on all of our rides.”