Dentists, Hot Brown & Life on the Road

  
  


By Andrea W. Doray
 
Nick DeLauder helps riders fit their bikes as perfectly as possible through a number of measurements and techniques.
Nick DeLauder helps riders fit their bikes as perfectly as possible through a number of measurements and techniques.
Would you travel 25,000 miles in just one year to get your teeth cleaned? That’s what happened to Nick DeLauder in Cedar City, Utah, when he went to meet with a bike shop owner there. “I walk into the lobby of a dentist’s office,” says Nick, “and he takes me past the x-ray machine to a custom bike area with high-end parts all over the wall.” As the Outside Technical Representative for FOX Racing Shox, Bicycle Division, Nick was expecting a more typical shop environment; however, Nick says, “He looks at me and asks when I last had my teeth done, then he plops me down in the chair before we talk bicycles. It’s probably the only bike shop in the country where you can also get your teeth cleaned.”

Although bike-shop dental cleaning is one of Nick’s more unusual encounters, he has also experienced a lot of other interesting incidents in his cross-country travels. When I spoke with him, he was having his van—his traveling office—serviced in Oregon, where he had arrived after supporting a Shimano product press launch in Lake Tahoe over the weekend; he was on his way the next day to Mt. Hood for the Northwest Cup downhill race.

A clear message…
That’s what Nick does. He travels, and travels¸ the country to visit bicycle shops, dealers, events, races, festivals…providing technical education for amateurs and professional racers, experts and consumers. Nick is passionate about education: “My goal is to send a clear message to shop owners and to riders about how to build, maintain, and enjoy their bicycles.”

To that end, Nick also finds time to work with developers at FOX Racing Shox and is even responsible for new language in the owner’s manuals. “Although I’m not an engineer,” Nick says, “I know how things work. I can take a complex subject like suspension, break it down into chunks, and make it understandable for the real-world consumer.”

Much of the year, however, Nick takes his education show on the road—25,000 miles of road per year. Nick has been with FOX Racing Shox for more than five years, but he hasn’t always been traveling for FOX. As a self-taught mechanic who wanted to stay in California, he visited “every business’ lobby in the area with a resume and tie, until FOX took a chance on me,” Nick says. It wasn’t long before Nick began building the organization’s Outside Tech Services program…from the tires up.

A workshop on wheels…
Nick’s home-away-from-home is a custom Dodge Sprinter van, “…that still gets 21 miles per gallon!” Nick says. Besides amenities such a lounge with satellite TV and full-sized beds, the real purpose of the $100,000 van is in its workshop, “a full workshop that can service any kind of product,” Nick says.

The “wrap” on the van—sporting a big FOX logo with the distinctive tail—also attracts a lot of attention when Nick shows up at events. “It’s fun to be ‘That FOX Guy,’” Nick says. “Everybody comes to visit us, to see what’s new or to get a sticker. And everyone has a story to tell,” Nick says. “We’re a really reputable company and we have fans all over the world. They just show up here at the van and share their experiences or their knowledge.”

Five bicycles, 29 states…
Meals on the road can lead to some interesting silverware options.
Meals on the road can lead to some interesting silverware options.
Nick travels with up to five bicycles, “so I always have the right bike for the right situation,” he says. Although Nick had never been east of Las Vegas before he began traveling for FOX, he estimates he’s visited his bikes in up to 29 states! “Seeing these places and meeting the people there has opened my eyes to our whole country,” Nick says. One of the benefits Nick enjoys is his opportunity “to ride dirt on a new trail with the locals—always a great experience.”

The downside for Nick, as you might expect, is being away from home so long—but maybe not for the reason you might expect: “I’m a big foodie,” Nick says, “and I like to cook in my own kitchen.” That could be why Nick is on the hunt for the nation’s best food…wherever he can find it. “We once drove 500 miles out of the way for the Hot Brown Turkey Sandwich at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky.,” Nick says, describing the Mornay sauce, the bacon, the tomato. “We had to make reservations,” Nick explains, “and found out the hotel has a dress code—no shirts with printing on them. We wore our nicest jeans but had to scramble around to find tee shirts without logos!”

Knowledge is power…
Nick’s mantra, whether he’s on the road or in the shop working with the engineers, is that “knowledge is power.” In the winter months, Nick can be found teaching at the Park Tool Tech Summits or instructing at the Bill Woodul Mechanics Clinics at USA Cycling in Colorado Springs, Colo. During his travels, Nick provides free education for both consumers and shop owners. “I want to help people educate themselves,” Nick says, “so they can make informed decisions about the components that are right for them.”

Nick estimates that he spends one-third of his road-time working with bike shops, one-third in direct interaction with consumers, and another third at festivals and events. Fans of That FOX Guy, however, might be interested to hear that Nick is hanging up his keys to the van after this season. “I’m going ‘inside’ to work more with the developers,” Nick says. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t have one or even two vans back on the road.” In the future, Nick sees up to four or five FOX workshops-on-wheels out on the road again.

Keeping it simple…
 “Outside Technical Service is valuable,” says Nick. “If we can get people to open up their owner’s manuals, have their suspension dialed in just for them, and maintain their components, we’re doing our jobs,” says Nick.

Although Nick is comfortable at the moment with a custom Dodge Sprint and rolling satellite TV, he calls himself a no-frills person. “I keep it simple,” Nick says, “and I always keep a sharp knife in my pocket. With a sharp knife, I make a shelter, a boat, anything I need. I know how things work.”
 
Getting a kick out of Nick…
I caught Nick on a rare day when he wasn’t traveling, wasn’t at some event, and wasn’t riding…he was having the van serviced somewhere between Lake Tahoe and Mt. Hood, Oregon. Because he had a few minutes to spare, I was able to ask Nick a few more questions:

Andrea Doray: What attracts you about the sport of cycling?

That Fox Guy: Cycling is a sport anyone can enjoy. Besides the amateurs and racers I work with, I’ve had kids 10 years old come up to me at events, and kids in high school. One of my favorites was an 80-year-old guy who couldn’t wait to tell me how great he feels on his bike!

AD: How did your education prepare you for this kind of technical work?

TFG: (laughing) I graduated from University of California-Santa Cruz with a degree in forensic anthropology! But I’m a simple guy. I like to use my hands. I know how to turn a wrench. Bicycles are no mystery—their mechanics are intricate, but tangible.

AD: You travel 25,000 miles a year AND write the owner’s manuals AND manage the Tech website?

TFG: (laughing again) Because I know how our components work, I can write instructions that people can understand. I already know the mistakes people are going to make.

AD:You already know where people will make their mistakes?

TFG: I know because I’ve seen them do it!

AD: What’s the #1 mistake you see?

TFG: Not reading the owner’s manual! I’ve read every one I’ve ever received from cover to cover, but most people don’t even crack them open. That’s why I want to make the manuals easy to read, understand, and use.

AD: Hmmm…what other mistakes might I, um, other people be making?

TFG: Not getting a good set up. Your bike should be adjusted for you. There are so many variables with just the suspension—I recommend you get a proper fit and not be swayed by what works for racers, what your buddy says, or what you find on the Internet.
Another big one is not keeping your equipment clean and maintained. These are high-precision components with tight tolerances. At least wipe them down with a paper towel after a ride, and read the owner’s manual to find out how to keep the seals in good condition. If you don’t have the manual, you can find all the information you need at the FOX Racing Shox Tech Services website.

AD: Okay, then, let’s shift gears here…you told us the Hot Brown was your favorite food experience. What kind of music do you like in the van?

TFG: Anything upbeat—reggae, blues, and classic rock!

AD: And what’s your most memorable experience from the road?

TFG: So many to choose from! But I think it was celebrating my birthday two years ago in Oak Ridge for Mountain Bike Oregon. I was camping with my friends, and went into town to the Dairy Queen. There was a guy in front of us who must have needed his Blizzard pretty bad…he was in the drive-through on his lawn mower!”

Note: Nick celebrates his birthday in July—let’s hope they are all this memorable!
 
About the author: Andrea Doray is as serious about her riding as she is about her writing. She’s going to get out her FOX Shox owner’s manual tonight (and read it cover to cover!) before tackling the next trail on Colorado’s Front Range. She may be reached at awdoray@gmail.com.


This Article Published July 28, 2011 For more information contact:
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