How a Dirtbag Does Business

Chris Hill, co-owner of Moab Classic Bike.

Chris Hill, co-owner of Moab Classic Bike.

Moab Classic Bike sits on Center Street in Moab, Utah. A dusty alley runs along the east side of the shop, a small tree grows out front. Inside, a dreadlocked man with leathered knuckles and blue eyes turns wrenches and talks with customers about everything from the Misfits to rock climbing technique to ride characteristics of titanium frames. His name is Chris Hill.

A self-described dirtbag,[1] Hill wandered into Moab 12 years ago while living out of his truck. His sole purpose then was to travel and adventure. “In my twenties I lived out of a backpack and a bivvy sack,” he explains. “I’d travel the western states, go to a climbing area that was in season, and setup camp and stay there until I moved on. And that’s what made me happy. I didn’t really need money.”

When Hill first arrived in Moab he had no intentions of settling down. He believed he could always live happily out of his truck. But over time Hill acquired—as he puts it—“a bunch of stuff.” Which includes the bikes.

After arriving in Moab, Hill would come home in the evenings after spending the day in the desert and tinker with the two-wheelers. It was just a hobby. He’d find trashed bikes around town and repair them with parts from other trashed bikes. Then he’d ride them. Occasionally, a friend would talk him into selling one. Before long, he was restoring and selling two or three bikes every month out of a shop the size of your average bedroom. Chris explains, “It was like this force of nature. I often worried that I’d run out of inventory, but I didn’t even have to go look for bikes. I always got resupplied. People would show up on my doorstep with a truckload of old bikes, ask me if I was the guy that bought them, and I’d figure out a way to improve and sell them. They just kept coming.”

That’s how Chris started. His business philosophy was, “If I sold enough bikes to pay the rent, I couldn’t go out of business.” And that’s all Chris cared for—to be able to continue to restore bikes and spend time doing what he loves.

Now Chris is partnered with fabricator Pierre Chastain, owner of Blaze Bicycles, also in Moab. Moab Classic Bike is the storefront for Pierre’s handmade steel and titanium frames, built up and outfitted by Chris. Together they are working to build a bicycle brand that other enthusiasts can appreciate. Right now they do one-off customs, with their eyes set on having a model lineup. But if you’re not in the market for a custom titanium build, you can still opt for one of Chris’s refurbished oldies for about 500 bucks, or a new Cannondale.[2] And if you're not in the market for a bike altogether, well, MCB sells premium coffee and espresso, too. Because what else do you put in your bottle cage?

  1. According to Urban Dictionary, a dirtbag is "a person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communally and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle."
  2. MCB recently became an authorized Cannondale dealer.