If ever there was a person that could opine with authority on the direction of a bike company, it would have to be that company’s founder.
Enter Dan Empfield. Known mostly for having founded that hub of triathlon chatter, Slowtwitch.com, he is also the founder of Quintana Roo, creating the world’s first bike dedicated to the needs of the triathlete. Those that know Dan know he’s a straight shooter, as quick to be caustic as issue praise. In the case of his former company, he was rather effuse in his praise.
Such is the way Peter Hurley has maintained—and grown—Quintana Roo.
“It’s funny,” says Empfield. “There are several bike company owners, but not many are avid in the avocation of triathlon—or road, or gravel. Peter’s the opposite; he came into the space naïve to the cycling industry. But he learned cycling, and triathlon, and educated himself enough that he didn’t have to listen to so-called experts. There are a lot of people in this business that don’t ride bikes. Peter is not one of those guys.”
To wit: Hurley probably has one of the most recent Ironman finishes among us; he (and wife Lorraine) finished Ironman Florida last November, finishing 12th in the 60-64 age group, Lorraine taking second in her 55-59 group.
Before becoming CEO of Quintana Roo, Hurley was in the mergers/acquisition and Business Advisory space, and led a businessman’s lifestyle; late dinners with clients peppered with a weekend ride here, a 5k there, with no significant exercise since high school. A heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery quickly brought him to the realization he needed to change his lifestyle for the better.
It timed well with his 2007 purchase of Quintana Roo (and its parent company American Bicycle Group). Fourteen years ago, QR was a triathlon company with a storied legacy, but—like the rest of the bike industry during a recession—was trying to find its way. Hurley hoped becoming CEO of Quintana Roo—a true newcomer to the tri space who hadn’t to that point even done a triathlon—could be a mutually beneficial partnership.
“I needed this company as much as it needed me,” Hurley says. “My health had been poor. We both came to realize we needed one another—the company, and myself.” So he decided to lead by example. Yes, he made the business decisions to help QR establish its footing. But it was time to change his lifestyle; he signed on with QT2 Systems for coaching guidance as he and his wife became triathletes.
Since then, he’s become a regular fixture at multisport events around the world. If he wasn’t manning the expo booth talking to triathletes, he was pulling on his wetsuit and lining up for the race. It also put him among a community he would become one with: active, fervent athletes. “Everyone I met were passionate about what they were doing. I fell in love with the people in triathlon,” Hurley says.
In 2017, Hurley made the move to begin transitioning to a direct-to-consumer sales channel, making the entire process of buying a Quintana Roo possible from your desktop and having it shipped to your door, ready to ride. “Because of the direction retail was headed, Quintana Roo was forced to do something dynamic,” Hurley says. “We were thrown into the fire and learned what it meant to be a consumer-direct business, to deal with the questions that arise from a consumer—but it was all very well received by customers.”
The decision also allowed him to not just deliver bikes direct, but deliver truly custom bikes, in every way. He moved the company into a much larger facility at company headquarters in Chattanooga, Tenn., filled it with bike parts, frames, a paint booth and computerized decal-making equipment. He then hired southeastern U.S. bike-building and painting talent to create one of the biggest bike build and distribution companies in the country. Those that ordered a QR could have it with the exact components they wanted, and choose from a rainbow of colors, all baked into a fair direct-to-customer price. “We knew if we could customize every person’s order, to truly personalize the experience, we could compete with some of the biggest companies that don’t have that capacity.”
“Plus, we’re a community-centric business,” he adds. “It makes us proud to be able to supply jobs to our community.”
In all, the new direct-to-you iteration of QR hearkens back to the core, grassroots tenets of the brand: be accessible at any time to help anyone, from the beginner to the pro. “A decade ago, we went to triathlons, put up our tents and interacted with triathletes at races,” Hurley says. “We still do that, both at races, and over the phone with customers, and I think it all goes back to the roots of QR. We understood what Dan started to do with QR over 30 years ago, and we always had that personal connection. Working with the customer directly as we do now, that allow us to expand that connection.”
For Empfield, he’s admires Quintana Roo from afar. Not just for what he built, but for what Hurley has built upon.“Peter just wants to present a compelling value to the consumer, both in the price he charges, and in the product he delivers.. and delivering it a way that’s easiest for the consumer,” Empfield says. “I was the right guy to take Quintana Roo from zero to 20 miles per hour, but Peter has been the right guy to take it from 20 miles per hour to 80. I’ve got a lot of respect for him—it’s been fun to watch him grow the brand.”
For Hurley, his move from mergers and acquisitions to becoming owner of the most progressive triathlon companies in the sport was more than a business move. It was a decision that changed his life. He gets his morning swim in, does a lunch ride, and smiles as he chats with friends at the races. To Hurley it all beats those late business dinners. Now if he could only keep up with his wife Lorraine.
“To look at the industry from 14 years ago to today, everything has changed so much. It’s been amazing be a part of that,” he says. “I’m thankful and grateful for the opportunity.”
“We train every day, but now I just gotta stay close to my wife!” he adds with a laugh. “I mean, she beat me soundly at Ironman Florida. We’re focused on Ironman Chattanooga in 2021, a couple 70.3s, a couple Olympic-distance races and Unbound gravel.”
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