Troy Lee – The Man Behind The Designs
Troy Lee Designs is a brand you often see on the track, it’s quality and style has made it one of the top brands and sponsors on the DH circuit and across in the Enduro world the safety and quality of the kit is recognised as being the best. One of the ideas though of I-MTB is get the story behind the people who make this sport what it is and support riders and increase the enjoyment of the sport.
I-MTB spoke to Troy in the last year at various points and have come up with a great picture of the man behind the company. He is fun, really fun. He gets involved in all kinds of things including jumping into foam pits with his son.
What’s your story about Motorcross and MTB?
I was kinda born into it, my grandfather raced Bonneville, my dad raced motorcycles, then I just painted helmets, I still pretty much doing the same thing just going a little bit deeper, we are making some of our own helmets now instead of just painting them, and making our own gear now, not just designing it, we have our own race team, the Honda Red Bull team, instead of just sponsoring a team, and I’m just lucky enough that I keep being 10 percent deeper into each sport that I love.
Are you first a rider or a designer?
I think both, I started as an artist, and racing, just like my father and grandfather, basically I started out as a sign painter, and was racing against Geoff Ward and Ricky Johnson, and David Bailey at the pro level, in Southern California, and those guys, I would deliver their helmets in the morning painted, then race, then pickup new helmets and do the same thing next weekend. Race, paint, race, paint, but now i’m a bit more of a manager and I have 15 artists who work for me, 6 in the paint division, and the other 9 in motorcycle and mountain bike. I have a hand in everything sketching ideas, then I give it to my guys, who are amazing on the computer. We can test things first as well in our test lab, then if it works good it goes into the computer and into production.
How important is Motorcross to you?
It is probably the sport I am most passionate about, my kids race, and it is sixty percent of our business, MotoGP is insane to, a whole other level. I love working with the Nascar guys, and the Indy Car guys, and we try to paint helmets for all the worlds racers in every category, skiers, speedway, snowboarders, mountain bike, bmx.
So tell me about day in the dirt that special event in November in California…
We work with the movie studios etc, and I have got to know the stunt guys well, and they all race and ride motorcycles, and it started with Steve McQueen, and every thanksgiving, they all went out to the desert with Steve McQueen for three days, so it stuck in their family, its a gathering of all my racer friends and fans. They bring all their movie people, and we all come together and have campfires, special team races, and just mix the movie stars and racers together. Everyone I know just seems to want to go ride motorcycles, nothing better than getting out there and twisting the throttle with no limits. You can be as dangerous as you want that day, its just a fun event we do, a different feeling, and the nightlife is like Woodstock, and it is great for the kids too a real family sport. All my old racer buddies all hang out around the camp fire and have a good time.
How big is the European Market for you?
Its really important maybe half our business.
What influences you in MTB?
I Think it has it’s own unique style but BMX has influenced MX which in turn has influenced BMX, which has influenced MTB, they all go hand in hand, we take a little bit from Indy car, from Formula 1, a little bit from skiing, all we get our ideas from all areas of life and add it to our designs. For me its all about trying to keep it new and fresh and create a story from it.
Will you do an MTB team, or do you prefer to support in a broader way?
We had our own team back in the 90’s but the motocross team is a lot of work for us, so we will definitely be more a part of the Specialized Team this year, if we are in two places at one time it would be hard, but right now we would like to wrap our arms around the team more and help the team in anyway we can.
Safety gear in MTB is important, at a normal race you see a lot of people in TLD gear, has your R&D in MX influenced your approach to MTB safety gear?
MTB riders are going faster and faster all the time and racing in-between trees and rocks, some of these courses are really hard. I don’t even want to ride my motorbike down it, they are too gnarly. The only good thing about MTB is you don’t have a 250lb machine landing on you if you crash. Usually a bike landing on you wont kill you, where a motorbike landing on you could. The courses are tougher than the motocross courses.
Troy Lee, Riding MTB – Photo courtesy Stikman via Flickr
Are there safety features that you have introduced to MTB?
If you look at our helmets they have surpassed all MTB standards, as they have more E.P.S. in them, we have more in our helmets compared to many of the other helmets out there. Then with the 21 vents for ventilation, we try to keep the rider cool as possible. With the overall package being as light as possible. The bikes are human powered!
Which part of MTB is close to your heart and how often do you ride MTB?
I’ve been riding 2 or 3 times a week, and I have a new MTB bike from Specialized, The EPIC. I was a DH guy but with the new XC AM technology im enjoying normal XC trails right now. XC is not much fun to watch from a spectator stand point, the DH is better in this respect, especially watching a rider like Sam Hill, or Troy Brosnon, It’s a dream come true for me as a spectator to watch DH. DH is super exciting, but XC is good, if you would have asked me this question 6 months ago, for sure downhill, but i’m really loving the new XC AM technology.
Do you think the sport will grow with the newer XC AM technology?
For sure, im riding with my kids, family, it’s fun for the whole family!
Where is your favourite place you like to ride?
Laguna Beach and Whistler.
Born, Pasadena, California,
Saying: What ever you do dig in and be passionate about it. Try do a better job than everyone else. Peace and Wheelies…….