Atop the mountain: Fry making impact in biking industry
Tim Fry had enough.
The avid cyclist and mountain biker had enough of fighting over litigation and wanted to pursue his passion.
Fry spent a year and a half traveling, looking for different opportunities — more specifically, sales.
“My wife’s family gave me the confidence to do it,” he said. “For me, coming from my background, this sounded crazy.”
“Part of it was being naive.”
The Mansfield, Ohio, native moved west to Grand Junction and became the owner of Mountain Racing Products.
That was nearly 13 years ago.
“Early on I made some mistakes,” Fry said. “I’ve learned from those mistakes. I try to surround myself with people better than I am. My job here is to run a company better every day.
“I know enough to be dangerous.”
Since then, Fry, 42, has expanded the bicycle parts manufacturer and is drawing attention to the Grand Valley around the biking world.
“We talked about things in the community we can do to embrace our outdoor industry,” Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kelly Flenniken said. “A couple things came out. Outdoor businesses are loyal to the community they are born in. They tend to look to expand instead of relocate.
“He is a creative, outside-the-box thinker. He provides a fresh perspective and is able to give good insight (to the GJEP committee). He understands economic development.”
MRP has grown substantially under Fry’s leadership.
“I see a lot of things happening in the market,” Fry said.
“Product innovation is the reason for our growth. We’re out to develop innovative products.”
Forty-six percent of MRP’s sales are outside the U.S., Fry said. Twenty percent goes to bike manufacturers.
Two of the biggest bicycle companies in the world — Giant and Trek — are big customers of MRP.
When Fry purchased Mountain Racing Products in 2000, it was known as Bicycle Parts Specific.
At the time, Bicycle Parts Specific manufactured two products, one of which MRP continues to produce. The other was discontinued. Since then, MRP has added more products.
“I knew at the time our products wouldn’t take us where we need to be,” Fry said. “We had plans to develop new products.”
MRP has five brands: Power Grips, White Brothers, MRP, Kreitler and Tamer. The products include forks, suspension lines, chain guides, chain guards and drive trains.
“There are a lot of little companies in the bike industry,” Fry said. “In 2001, we bought Kreitler and White Brothers. That was not the original plan, but the (economic) environment presented us those opportunities.
“When we bought in, we were downhill specific. Now, we are in cross country and all mountain bike riding.”
MRP made the first fork for mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels, the fastest-growing product line last year, Fry said.
One of them is named Loop after the Lunch Loop trails. MRP is in the process of making another fork called Ribbon — named after the Ribbon trail.
“We’re involved in a lot of niche markets,” Fry said. “The 29(-inch wheel) is a great example. We were the first to make a suspension fork for it. That helped the market grow for that bike.
“There was a lot of opportunity for growth getting the suspension mainstream.”
MRP had led the way in producing the 1x10 and 2x10 drive trains and has a patent on a bash guard to protect the chain.
The Kreitler rollers manufactured at MRP have become a popular tool for the U.S. Cycling team, Fry said.
“Kreitler is the Rolls-Royce of rollers,” he said. “Rollers improve balance, proficiency and efficiency. We’re even seeing more mountain bikers use the rollers.”
Fry has put together a research and development group to brainstorm new ideas to improve the mountain biking and road cycling experience. This select group meets twice a month to discuss ideas and test possible products.
“It’s more life experience,” Fry said. “We try to answer, ‘Does our product meet our target customer?’”
Ruby Canyon Cycles owner Ryan Cranston, a former employee at MRP, is a part of that group.
“Working with Tim has been fantastic,” Cranston said. “I’ve learned a lot about business. He’s really on top. He’s involved heavily in every aspect. He’s very involved in the product development. He understands it and wants to be a part of it.
“Because he understands all the stuff just like we do, he can easily see any problems that we do.”
Working with MRP has helped Cranston run his business.
“I think it helps a lot because I am able to have direct interaction with a large, enthusiastic consumer group in the bike shop,” Cranston said. “At MRP, we are a little bit removed from that because there is no direct interaction. We may talk to someone on the phone about it, but here I am with direct interaction. (That) is valuable, I think.”
Fry said Cranston has been more helpful since running a bike shop.
“His input is even better now because he is involved with customers every day,” Fry said. “I’m always looking for idea from the outside.
“I need a lot of good input to invest money to try and build a new component.”
MRP’s target customers include a vast group of riders, including downhill gravity riders and cross-country and endurance riders.
“Riders are changing the industry,” Fry said. “A lot more people doing things once seen as crazy are normal now.”