Introducing Tyrone Dines, Fox Suspension Tech Extrordinare

Talented athletes of every sort stand on the shoulders of their predecessors’ mistakes and innovations, and the throngs of people who support them. Tyrone Dines has made a career on the support side of that equation while maintaining a personal love for cycling sport and culture.

Regarding his relationships in the bike industry Ty recently said, “You learn a lot about how a person works when you ride bikes with them”. I had the pleasure of riding with Ty on a weekend trip to Finale Ligure, and we got quite well acquainted. A few weeks later, between his trips to the headquarters of Fox Austria and the Fox distributor in Switzerland, we had a chance to chat more about his career path over the phone.

Like many adept riders in the bike industry, Ty kicked off his two-wheeled passion by ripping around the English countryside on a snappy 2-stroke motorbike. He entered some motocross races near his hometown of Newport Pagnell and spent his adolescent days drawing ruts across Buckinghamshire. His brother, Sean, raced road bicycles, which didn’t interest Ty much, but when Sean brought home a shiny new Muddyfox Courier Comp MTB, Ty’s pedal-powered interest was piqued.

Mountain biking is a young sport and Tyrone has been around since its infancy, watching it grow into the industry that now includes his career. He reminded me that “In the 1980’s there were no mountain bike helmets or clothes.” He remarked, in jest “We would smash about in the woods on our bikes with a baseball cap turned backward. Because that was some good protection back then.” Even road riders were “wearing a bunch of bananas on their heads if they wore a helmet at all” in the 80’s. AXO was one of the few companies making MTB specific boots, and Ty and his friends liked them enough to wear them off the bike as well. Clothing, bikes, suspension, and riding styles have evolved a great deal since the banana helmet period, and Ty has an extensive mental library of stories from the start line.

The first mountain bike Ty bought for himself was a Specialized Rockhopper comp in 1986. It was one of the only mountain bikes available. “It was the bike everybody had.” He raced XC in the UK for several years, did some trials riding, and a bit of BMX racing to round out his dirt experience. Riding off-road was never just about racing for Ty, but included self-exploration and enjoyment. His passion for testing the limits of both equipment and himself are defining elements of who he was, and who he has come to be.

One of those explorative missions saw Ty moving away from England for the first time, to pursue work as a dive instructor off the coast of Florida. For two years, from 1994-95, Ty took a break from hyper-detailed technical work and enjoyed some time as a self-described diving bum. Though he liked the sunny ocean life, the USA can be a difficult place to vagabond for non-citizens, and Ty decided to return to the EU.

First foray into the cycling industry

After his warm water stint, Ty returned to the UK and promptly jumped back into the bike racing scene. He picked up a titanium Genesis hardtail and set out racing once again. As siblings tend to, his brother had been scoping jobs for Ty and found a position he thought could be a perfect fit with Rockshox, working for the UK distributor Madison as their tech-manager. After a few years, he was poached by Rockshox themselves for the position running the European race truck, traveling around with the cross-country and DH teams tuning suspension and working on bikes for the world’s top racers. Ty had always been rather mechanically minded, rebuilding and tinkering on motorcycles and bicycles throughout his youth, and his brother knew he was right for the job. He was in a bit of a funk at the time, and it took his brother’s confident prodding to get him on board with the position at Madison/Rockshox.

The roster of talented riders Tyrone wrenched for on the race-truck reads similarly to the world cup top ten standings of the time. His clients included 1994 DH World Champ Missy Giovi, Steve Peat, Tracy Moseley, 2001-2 XC World Champ Roland Green, and numerous other superstars. Working on the truck required a no-compromise focus and attention to detail that Ty was keen to hone over his time with Rockshox. He described the race pits at Sea Otter one year as “a real spectacle for race fans at the time. I was rebuilding Roland’s fork and this guy was leaning over watching really closely. The guy asked me ‘you must really have to give all of your attention when you work on Roland’s bike.’” Ty replied “yeah I give it my full attention every day. Otherwise, don’t show up for work”. This theme of attention and thoughtful inspection has followed Ty throughout his career.

Family life

While visiting friends In Italy in 1996, Ty and his mate Luca had emptied several bottles of wine together before meeting friends at a bar. The friends they were to meet included someone the crew was trying to set Ty up with (his future wife Giulia). Luca and Ty were late and drunk, but apparently forgivable. “Giulia doesn’t do late very well, but we clicked and I wrote her almost every day for 3 months. There were no email, SMS, or Whatsapp then. I came back [to Italy] in July to see her, and a few times after that, and in the December she came to live in the UK. she stayed for 12 years, so I guess we did something right. We moved to Italy 10 years ago this February.” Giulia and Ty now live in the mountains above Reggio Emilia, where she teaches English to local residents. They had originally hoped to turn their place into a Bed & Breakfast for travelers interested in a more rural Italian experience. As with all things in Italy, that idea will take a lot of time and patience.

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It gets snowy at their place in the Apennine!

Bespoke bike build biz

In those 12 years before moving to Italy Ty built and ran his own bespoke bike mechanic service, called Tutto Bici. He worked with some future F1 stars, and the guys from the Renault driver development program, wrenching on their training mountain bikes regularly. Tutto Bici operated with a full-service-only model. Ty would fetch bikes from clients’ houses, swap and clean every part of the bike, and return it in new-condition to the clients home. He also did custom mountain bike builds with clients, starting from the desired frame and building the bike of their dreams.

Once the business grew to the point where it needed to take on funding and grow to meet the demands of its customers Ty and Giulia had a pivotal decision to make. At the time they had been discussing relocating outside the UK. Keeping Tutto Bici growing, as Ty put it, would mean “working for the bank for the next fifteen to twenty years.” They splayed a European map across the table and, quite literally, pointed to a destination to move toward. That same year they closed Tutto Bici and moved to the town in Italy where they live today. A bold move indeed.

Transition to Fox

During his brief search for employment in Italy, Tyrone was spectating at a World Championships in Val Di Sole when he met his former boss Christoph who now worked for Fox Europe. As the two of them were sharing stories it came up that Fox was looking for someone to work with their distributors and wrench on the race-truck at all the big events. A series of meetings ensued, and in the spring of 2010 Ty found himself wrenching on bikes for the likes of Emily Sigenthaler, Mick Hannah, Ben Reid, and “The Athertons”. He spent the following four years rolling around with the pros, rebuilding their suspension as they trained and prepared for the weekend. When not wrenching he was meeting with distributors and technicians all across Europe, helping to ensure suspension tunes and rebuilds were being done properly.

It would seem that race mechanics could show up on Friday, wrench for the weekend, leaving after clean up on Sunday afternoon. The real story is that mechanics for top-level World Cup racers are rebuilding and prepping suspension all week long, throughout training and testing. They need to be there to help with adjustments and suspension tuning on weekdays and to make sure racers leave the gate on race day with full confidence in their bikes. From 2010 to 2013 Ty was away from home for months at a time, wrenching and perfecting the ride for many of the world’s greatest mountain bikers.

In late 2013 Ty had become quite interested in the testing and technical service aspects of his position and left the race-truck for his current role as Fox’s Lead Service Center Manager in Europe. In this role, he helps ensure that technical centers in various European regions have the proper tools, procedures, and knowledge to maintain Fox’s top suspension service expectations. When a new service center is established Ty helps the technicians set up their workspace so that they can efficiently service suspension to the liking of each client.

 

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Labrats!

Ty is also deeply involved with testing unique and experimental tunes for Fox, which he notes is one of the most enjoyable elements of his position he works closely with his boss Eamonn Cleere, and has  a group of skilled riders, affectionately known as “The Lab Rats”, each of whom represents a different segment of Fox’s real customer base. We rode with some of the Labrats in Finale, and each of them had tune notes stuck to their shocks and forks to denote the variables that Ty was analyzing. Fox sees great value in testing with pros and amateur riders alike to determine the best stock setup that will give the majority of their clients the plush/push magic feel they are looking for.

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Fox Factory Tune

For anyone wanting a custom tune on their suspension, or a model-year-upgrade, Fox is releasing an exciting new tune program through their consumer website, titled Fox Factory Tuning (FFT). With FFT you can send your Fox shock, fork, or dropper-post to your local tuning center and they will service the product and set up your suspension according to your body weight, bike, and riding style. In addition to rider specific tunes Fox will swap out the internal components of your suspension for the current model year. Simply put, if you want your 2015 fork to have the 2018 compression damper and air spring assembly, they will make that happen for you. If you want a Kashima coated seatpost-insert on your Performance Transfer dropper, they can do that as well. Fox/s objective with the FFT program is to offer their customers fast, pro race-truck level tuning and customization, at an affordable price. All of this provides a much more sustainable model for riders, as we can update our most expensive and valuable bike components without selling a kidney to replace the entire component.

With the shifting theories of trail building, evolving riding styles, demanding weight and durability demands of enduro racing, and the advent of e-bikes, there is plenty work for suspension experts to tackle of late. Next time you are blasting through a rock garden and notice that you are able to feel your hands at the end of it, remember that a lot of great folks like Tyrone Dines made that party possible. And, if you get a chance to come shred in northern Italy you just may have the pleasure of running into him on the trail.

Good luck keeping up!

 

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