Growing bicycle parts manufacturer among companies to watch

Tim Fry discusses the various bicycle components manufactured at his company in Grand Junction. Mountain Racing Products recently was selected as one of the winners of Colorado Companies to Watch, an annual awards program honoring growing firms in the state. (Business Times photos by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

In the midst of manufacturing a variety of bicycle components under multiple brands, Tim Fry said the objective of his company remains constant: to take the comparison out of comparison shopping.

“Our goal is to always make a product our core customers love,” he said.

In the process of focusing on product development and customer service, Mountain Racing Products in Grand Junction has enjoyed annual revenue growth that’s averaged about 25 percent, Fry said.

The effort hasn’t gone unnoticed, even beyond bicycle enthusiasts and the bicycle industry.

MRP is among the firms selected as the latest Colorado Companies to Watch. The annual awards program honors companies that demonstrate high performance in the marketplace through innovative products and processes.

A dinner and awards ceremony for the winners are scheduled for June 28 in Denver. The companies will receive additional publicity and participate in other events, including a leaders retreat.

“We really think they are a company to watch,” said Kelly Flenniken, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, which nominated MRP for the award.

Flenniken said MRP fits the criteria for a program honoring privately held companies headquartered in Colorado that employ a full-time staff of six to 99 and generate annual sales of $750,000 to $50 million. The program recognizes second-stage companies that account for the bulk of economic growth in the state.

MRP “epitomizes” the type of company working in the outdoor industry that GJEP works to promote and recruit, Flenniken said. MRP not only develops innovative products, but also gives back to the community. Fry himself is a collaborator whose involvement includes membership on the GJEP board of directors, she added.

Fry founded MRP in 2000 when he purchased a Grand Junction bicycle components manufacturer. A former corporate litigation attorney who practiced in Ohio, Fry said he was looking for a career change and had spent about a year considering different business opportunities before buying the Grand Junction firm. The MRP product line includes brackets, cranks, chain guides and chain guards.

While Fry enjoys mountain biking, he said he based his decision on business first and his passion second.

Between 2000 and 2003, Fry acquired four more bicycle manufacturers and their branded products: Kreitler Rollers for bicycling training, Power Grips pedal straps, Tamer suspension seatposts and White Brothers forks.

MRP has become a market leader for chain guides and guards and a growing force in the market for suspension parts, Fry said. “We’re starting to turn heads.”

Kreitler Rollers offers what Fry called the Rolls-Royce of bicycle rollers and are used by the U.S. cycling team in training for the Olympics, he said.

MRP continues to sells most of its components in the aftermarket as replacements or upgrades to high-end bicycles. But in recent years, the company has sold an increasing proportion of products — now about 30 percent — as original equipment for such brands as Giant and Trek, Fry said. “We’re expecting that number to grow a little more this year.”

About 45 percent of sales go to customers outside the U.S., Fry said.

While MRP manufactures some products in Taiwan to supply bicycle manufacturers operating there, the bulk of manufacturing continues in the company’s facility on North Westgate Drive in Grand Junction.

The staff there has grown to 20. The addition of computerized milling machines also has increased production capacity, he said.

The outlook is encouraging, Fry said. “We want to be a significant company in our industry.”

While Fry forecasts moderate growth for the bicycle industry following declining sales related to the recession, he expects MRP to continue to outpace the broader industry by developing new products that serve changing markets while remaining committed to offering value in quality and performance.

MRP invests substantial resources in research and development. Fry just hired a staff attorney to further assist the company in obtaining patents for new products. The firm holds 10 patents and has five more pending, Fry said.

An R&D group comprised of people from inside and outside the company meets every two weeks to discuss and evaluate new products. The group offers a broader perspective of what customers need and how to address potential problems, Fry said.

A new three-dimensional printer will enable MRP to more quickly fabricate prototypes.

At the same time, MRP remains what Fry described as an introspective operation. The staff concentrates on what it can control — and that’s manufacturing products that take the comparison out of comparison shopping. “Our focus is: What can we do to make our customers happy?”