Life on 2 Wheels: Nick Frey and the intellectual side of Boo Bicycles
June 18, 2016
Editor's note: For countless Summit County residents, a bicycle is more than a machine — it's a lifestyle. Every week during the summer, we'll ask our most adventurous residents, "Where has your bike taken you?"
If you'd ever thought that the world of high-fallutin' academia had absolutely nothing to do with the outdoors-obsessed world of cycling, guess again. Breckenridge's Nick Frey managed to make that connection a reality — and just happened to bag a few national road biking titles along the way.
Nowadays, the locally-based CEO of Fort Collins' Boo Bicycles — an admittedly goofy title that actually refers to the revolutionary mixture of bamboo and carbon fiber used in the road bikes' tough-yet-supple frames — spends his time fielding business calls and arranging shipments while enjoying four-season sports in the High Country.
That's both a major departure and an absolute dream for a guy who was a Princeton mechanical and aerospace engineering student not so many years back. His thesis, on using unusual composites for manufacturing purposes, turned into reality seven years ago.
"We met a guy in California who had built some handmade bikes using a bamboo blend and we started investigating," Frey says. "It has an amazing blend of stiffness and an ability to absorb vibration. So we created our first prototypes and refined and evolved the treatment process."
The result is a one-of-a-kind Colorado biking business that assembles the full bikes and builds wheels after sourcing the frames from Vietnam. Once Boo started rolling, Frey says he realized he could do most of his business remotely from Breck, which meant he only had to visit his Front Range shop a couple times a month.
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"I wanted to come to a place where people could come up and ride and do demos or take part in training camps, so I moved up four years ago and I absolutely love it," he says.
Biking to business and back
Frey's current riding schedule is a little less intense than the full-fledged racing schedule he mixed with his studies a few years back.
"I started racing 15 years ago," he says. "I'd started on a mountain bike, but I moved to road racing and quickly started racing professionally. I got to race in 20 countries, including a pretty sweet tour of Okinawa we did one year. We spent a week there, late in the season, and it was more like a vacation than anything. The 10 hours we got in Tokyo was also amazing."
Frey's personal peak in the saddle was his win at the 2007 U.S. Men's Time Trial, where he nabbed the under-23 title by two seconds, beating a young Tejay van Garderen.
"I had raced with him since I was 14 years old, and that was the last time we had a heads-up competitive race," Frey says. "It was a luxury for me to just be able to focus on that one race. Then, he went on to be the world champion."
After his move into the business world, Frey says he opted to slow down a bit and move back into mountain biking at a much slower pace.
"I go really tired and burnt out by road racing and I was not sure if I wanted to continue with that," he says. "I used to ride 20,000 miles a year, and, finally, I was like, 'F*** riding.'"
But, with Westridge Loop close to his house in Breckenridge, Frey rode over and took part in his first Summit Mountain Challenge series race, where he says he found the perfect mix.
"It was amazingly hard and competitive, but also chill. I thought, 'Holy crap, this is so cool,'" he says. "I met a whole new group of friends, and it was a great introduction to people in the whole endurance racing community, but also with a party involved too."
Nowadays, Frey rides three or four days a week. He mixes that with trail running and plenty of backcountry skiing in the winter.
"When winter comes, I put the bike away and it's awesome," he says. "I just got married a couple of weeks ago and Nadia, my wife, is thinking of renting a place in Tucson for a few weeks in the winter. I tend to live by the weather and do whatever sport is appropriate."
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