Wheels Bike Shop owner Chris Johns dies at 51
March 6, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Members of the Steamboat Springs cycling community on Tuesday were shocked to learn about the death of 51-year-old Chris Johns.
A friend was worried and found Johns at his home Tuesday morning in the Fish Creek Falls Road area.
"There is no indication of any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death," Steamboat Springs Police Department commander Annette Dopplick said in a news release.
The Routt County Coroner's Office will determine his cause of death.
Johns, a former BMX competitor and cross-country mountain bike racer, owned Wheels Bike Shop at 811 Yampa St. in downtown Steamboat.
Johns grew up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and started the business in 1995 as a bicycle service shop out of a dirt-floored garage in Steamboat's Brooklyn neighborhood.
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Wheels was located on the west side of Steamboat before moving in 2011 into a building along the Yampa River he shared with Peter Van De Carr’s Backdoor Sports.
"It was definitely a pretty energetic, vibrant place," Van De Carr said. "People love him. They were extremely dedicated to the business."
Van De Carr said Johns had struggled with some health issues related to epilepsy, but Johns was feeling better and was optimistic about the upcoming cycling season.
"It definitely seemed like his cards were lined up perfect," Van De Carr said. "This summer he was going to hit it out of the park."
Over the years, the Wheels shop evolved into more than service with rentals and high-end retail brands that included YETI and Norco.
In 2014, Johns was voted best bike mechanic in the Best of the Boat competition.
With that reputation, came a loyal customer base that trusted Johns to work on their prized possessions.
"I've worked my whole life to have that level of admiration among the elite," Van De Carr said.
Johns credited the success of the shop to an experienced group of mechanics and employees.
In recent years, Johns was the lead organizer for the Dual Slalom Bicycle Race held every February during Winter Carnival.
The event would regularly attract a couple hundred spectators as riders raced through the gates down the steep face of Howelsen Hill.
Through his shop, Johns was also a supporter of organizations like the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Giving Bikes Back refurbishing and donation program.