Cairn Crew Spotlight: Nick Gibb, Para-cycling Powerhouse

Nick Gibb’s down-to-earth personality will never give away the fact that he’s an elite level cyclist; but the ever-present gym bag, foam roller, and bike stationed near his desk may give you a hint. He shared his inspiring story with us, and now we’re honored to share it with you.

It’s no surprise that the Cairn Crew is very active, but few (if any) of us have reached the level of competitive success that Product Guru, Nick Gibb has. Beyond being an invaluable member of our Product Team (the gurus that curate the sweet gear in our monthly and quarterly collections), Nick is also an elite para-cyclist. In 2004 he suffered a fluke accident that shattered his left leg into more than 30 pieces. Following the accident, Nick underwent a dozen surgeries, battled depression, and struggled through life-threatening complications. But despite losing three muscles, his leg was saved (and he gained a few new additions, like plates).

A Long Road to Recovery

Growing up in Colorado, Nick lived an active lifestyle in all the ways you’d expect: mountain biking, alpine ski racing, cross country an outdoor activity, and he was probably into it. For years following his accident, he struggled to walk, let alone have the ability to pursue any of his favorite outdoor passions. After five grueling years of surgeries, physical therapy, and battles with depression related to the accident, his leg was finally in a stable place. It was then time to find an active outlet that he could take on.

Nick felt beyond grateful to have received the medical treatment, including experimental procedures, that saved his leg and his mobility; but he needed to adapt his activities to the new way his body moved.  “Due to the missing muscles I have a ‘foot drop,’ which means I’m not able to lift up my foot or toes,” Nick explains. “This creates an altered gait with many side effects and the need to use special braces in order to walk somewhat normally.”  With his dad’s encouragement and the help of a custom AFO (ankle foot orthotic), Nick decided to begin cycling again.

“At first, getting on a bike was just a way to get some exercise and try to get back my sanity and move on with my life,” Nick said. “Soon it consumed me and I found it is the only athletic activity that I could still do, and potentially do very well.”

Triumphant Return

“Potentially do very well” turned out to be an understatement. Nick is now racing at an elite level in both para- and able-bodied cycling events. This year, he has been training with and racing for Team Roger C. Peace, an elite para-cycling team based out of Greenville, South Carolina. Despite having an extra-long winter in Bend this year, Nick was able to utilize the expertise of his coach and maximize his training sessions on the indoor trainer.

For all of you outdoorsy folks, you know that riding an indoor trainer in your house all winter long is a true test of perseverance! He competed strong at the National Para Criterium race and took 2nd in the Time Trial, 2nd in the Road Race and 1st in the Criterium! Nick was thrilled that his hard work had paid off. “This was my first win at Nationals and I am very excited to call myself the 2017 Para Criterium National Champion. It is a great honor to be able to wear the Stars and Stripes on my jersey.” He’s since had many top 5 and podium finishes in Oregon able-bodied races.

Most recently, Nick has accepted an invitation to become a full-time resident athlete at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center to train with the goal of earning a spot on the USA Para Team for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics! We’re stoked for him!

Inspiration to Excel

Nick inspires the Cairn Crew, and all those that he comes into contact with on a daily basis, but during the tough years following the accident, he needed inspiration to push him through. He attributes his main source of inspiration to his dad, not only for encouraging him to take up cycling again, but also to have the perseverance to get through the physical and emotional pain that each day often brought.

“He taught me to fight for what I want. He would tell me while I was going through the many surgeries and having many complications, ‘a man’s character is not determined in the straightaways of life but in the curves.’ I have had a lot of curves in my life and always think of my father’s words that have helped me fight through those curves.”

We are thrilled for Nick as he begins to pursue Paralympic glory, but we are also going to miss him greatly--he is leaving the Cairn team this month to take on full time training. We can’t tell you how much we’ll miss his dry sense of humor, attempts at herding cats (a.k.a. the Cairn Crew), and valuable insights on amazing outdoor gear. But all of those feelings pale in comparison to how proud we are of him, and how lucky we feel to know Mr. Nick Gibb. Lean into those curves, Nick, we’ll be cheering you on the whole way!

Learn more about Nick Gibb and follow along on his journey by visiting his website and following him on Facebook and Instagram @nickgibbparacyclist.

Cairn Crew Expert Insight: Before Nick left his role as Cairn Product Guru, we, of course, had to ask him about what he brings along when he heads out for a long training ride: “That is an easy one, Honey Stinger Waffle in my pocket and Skratch Labs Hydration Mix in my water bottle. I have a very sensitive stomach when training and these products are easy to digest and give me the essential nutrient I need to keep me fueled.”