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Cycling tragedy sped up survivor’s dream of opening bike shop

Updated March 31, 2021 - 11:24 am

He’d just turned 25 when his life took yet another turn.

It was the day after Joseph Garey’s birthday, and the bicycling diehard was celebrating by taking a 130-mile trek with nearly 20 others.

Then tragedy struck.

It was around 9:40 a.m. on Dec. 10 when a box truck crashed into the pack of bicyclists in the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 95 near Searchlight .

Five of the riders were killed; four were injured.

The truck’s driver faces five counts of DUI resulting in death, two counts of DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm and seven counts of reckless driving, and is in jail awaiting trial.

“It was a terrible day. A really terrible day,” Garey says. “That really pushed me to go, ‘Hey man, life’s too short. You gotta do whatever you want to do. I got home from that event, and I proposed to my girlfriend that same day.”

He wasn’t finished.

“It was a really big change for me in how I viewed everything,” he explains. “In a situation like that, you either do one of two things: You crawl back in your space, or you let that kind of spark your flame to do something that you’ve always wanted to do.”

For Garey, that was opening up his own bike shop.

Before the day of the accident, he had a five-year-plan for doing so, but now he wanted to press ahead.

A little over three months later, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, Garey is working on a bike at his soon-to-be-opened shop, flanked by fellow bicycle lifer and business partner Zabi Naqshband, a thick-bearded rocker and ace bike mechanic.

Accelerated by a nightmare, their dream is about to come true.

Pedaling partners

It began with a text between two old friends looking for something new in life.

Garey was on a ride at Lake Las Vegas when he reached out to his buddy, Naqshband, who also plays bass in acclaimed Vegas punk band Holding Onto Sound.

Naqshband has been working on bikes since he was a teenage BMX rider.

“Riding BMX, you break everything,” Naqshband says. “We weren’t the wealthiest family. I got a bike, something happened to it, I fixed it. My dad would fix everything in the house. That’s just how I was brought up.”

Garey, too, got into cycling at an early age.

A former wrestler, he turned to bike racing in high school after the physical toll of competitive grappling became too much for his knees to bear.

He financed the cost of entering races by selling bike parts online.

Naqshband was employed at a shop that sponsored Garey’s racing team and worked on his bike as they struck up a friendship.

When the coronavirus hit, Nasqhband decided to go into business for himself, working from home with an eye toward opening his own place one day.

“I felt like I could give the person a better experience doing something smaller,” he explains. “I just decided, ‘I’m going to quit my job and jump into it.’ ”

He was still doing his own thing when Garey contacted him out of the blue in January during his Lake Las Vegas jaunt.

“I wrote out this huge, like three or four paragraph text message, ‘Hey man, this is what I’ve been thinking about, blah, blah, blah,’” Garey recalls. “I wrote it all out and I go, ‘This is way too much.’

“So I deleted everything and just said, ‘Hey, are you still trying to open up your shop?’ ” he continues. “He replied, ‘Yes.’ Like half-an-hour later he sent another text, ‘But it’s really hard.’ ”

A partnership was formed.

Within five weeks, they found a home for their shop, nestled in a Henderson strip mall.

They were officially in business.

So, what’s a swanny?

“In the professional cycling world, the soigneur is the person who keeps the cyclist on their bike,” Garey explains of the French term, telling the story of how he and Naqshband’s shop got its name. “They do all the food, they hand out all the water bottles, they make sure that the cyclist has all the tools they need on and off the bike.

“I was like, ‘I like that. That’s kind of like what we do,’ ” he continues. “We try our hardest to make sure our customers stay on their bike.’ ”

Initially they intended to call their shop Soigneur Cycles, but no one could spell “soigneur.”

So they settle on the colloquial version of the term: Swanny’s Cycles.

It’s an incredible — and incredibly challenging — time to launch an endeavor like this.

On the one hand, business has never been better.

When the pandemic first shut down so many recreational outlets a year ago, from bars to movie theaters to concert clubs to gyms, there was a surge of interest in biking as a means of getting outdoors and doing something.

“There’s definitely more people riding, more people enjoying it,” Naqshband says. “I’ve grown up here, I’ve ridden (the Pittman Wash Trail) a million times as a kid, and here I am with my family, riding the same trail and now there’s a bunch of people on it.

“I’ve never seen that in 20-plus years,” he continues, “never, ever seen that many people on a trail like that.”

The flipside: It suddenly became much more difficult to stock a bike shop.

Changing lives

He delves into the box with an eye-widening “ooooooh,’ the word rushing out of him like a kid shooting down a water slide.

“That’s one cool thing about this place: Every day is Christmas in here,” Garey says upon opening a package in his shop’s wood-lined showroom.

Its contents are indicative of their industry these days: They ordered eight bike pedals. They got two.

“That’s how inventory works,” Naqshband notes.

”The bike industry has boomed,” he says. “They’ve sold through all their inventory three times over. There’s people buying up parts, just hoarding them because they’re afraid they won’t be available.”

That made getting Swanny’s up-and-running, with the requisite gear and supplies, not always an easy proposition.

“There were some scary moments,” Naqshband acknowledges, “parts not being able to be found, like work stands. How do you go about working on a bike if you don’t have a work stand?”

Still, they managed to find a way by closely monitoring when any product became available and acting immediately when it did. Their spirits remain high as they work toward opening their shop doors at 2525 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy., during the first week of April.

The room in which they stand may be empty right now, but soon it will be full of bikes, of future adventures, of all the possibilities implied by the open road.

Garey’s life changed on a bike.

Time to return the favor.

“I’m not going to say like, ‘Hey, we’re changing the world in here or anything, but we might change somebody’s life,’ ” he says. “I have all these numbers in my phone, and it’s all these customers who are just like, ‘Hey, I went to the gym’ or ‘I quit smoking and now I’m riding my bike.’ So many people are just like, ‘Dude, you got me into riding bikes and now that’s changed my entire life.

“That feels pretty darn cool,” he adds, “to do that through the power of the bike.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter and @jbracelin76 on Instagram

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