Full House and Married… with Children made its TV debut, while Guns N' Roses released its career-making debut, "Appetite for Destruction".
Remember Mike Tyson Punch-out on Nintendo? Spuds McKenzie? An 89-cent gallon of gas? Remember being tethered to a phone by a cord? You’re a child of 1987.
That year, Dan Empfield—a SoCal triathlete with a mind spinning full of ideas—saw his opening. Well, only after seeing two pro triathletes using surfing wetsuits during the icy cold Bass Lake Triathlon swim. He knew they were going to be warmer—but also knew the wetsuit would slow their swim. “I thought this is it: this is the time I actually come out of the water with these guys.” he recalls.
Boy, was he wrong.
Photo: Original QR Ad
Sure, those guys were warmer, but they also came out well ahead of Empfield. The wetsuits made them faster. Way faster.
“They swam faster than I thought they should have in a surf wetsuit,” he recalls. “I said ‘wow, what would happen if you optimized a wetsuit for swimming?’” He found some employees, bought some sewing machines, ordered rolls of neoprene and began making wetsuits for he and his triathlon friends. “I made a suit, took it to the pool to test and said ‘dang it—the clock’s broken.’ I swam in it again, and the clock wasn’t broken; I swam about seven seconds faster for 100 yards. I was amazed. I wasn’t thinking about the business end of it; I just wanted to make a faster wetsuit.” His friends heard about the new slick-skinned “Quintana Roo” wetsuits he was making and had his phone ringing off the hook. (Remember when phones had hooks on the wall?) The one-man show grew to 24 employees. “I got a job waiting tables at night, so I could pay for rubber, glue and thread,” he recalls.
And Quintana Roo was born.
Photo: Triathletes Mark Montgomery and Julieanne White in 1986 QR Wetsuits
The wetsuit segued quickly into the first triathlon-specific bike, also a Quintana Roo creation. With necessity being the mother of invention, Empfield again created a solution to adapt to the newfangled “aerobars” that triathletes were mounting to their road bikes in 1989, sending his friend Ray Browning to the ‘89 Ironman New Zealand to race-test his new custom-made aluminum Quintana Roo bike creation called the “Superform.” With a steep 78-degree seat angle, the Superform tried to take advantage of the aero benefits of the aerobar, while opening the hip angle in triathletes that had to run after the bike. Browning came off the bike 30 minutes ahead of Scott Tinley and went on to win the race in course record time… and Quintana Roo forever changed the bike industry with that first ever triathlon-specific bicycle, hereto forever to be known as a triathlon bike.
Photo: Paul Huddle with one of the first wetsuit designs and Kilo bike
Quintana Roo became the singularly definitive brand in the triathlon industry. The early 1980s and 1990s saw Quintana Roo lead from the front. Bike development that saw the Superform evolve into the Kilo in 1993. In 1995, QR engineers introduced the Redstone tri bike and its road brethren, the Borrego, the precursor to aero-shaping in the industry, with fiberglass inserts at the headtube and seat tube of aluminum frames that aerodynamically helped transition airflow onto and across the frame.
Photo: CEO Peter Hurley and Founder Dan Empfield on 2018 PRsix Disc and PRsix Rim bikes
The 2007 sale of Quintana Roo to Chattanooga, Tennessee based American Bicycle Group saw QR dance briefly in titanium with the TI-Phoon. That quickly segued to carbon fiber, with Quintana Roo debuting its first carbon fiber tri bikes in the early 2000s with the Lucero, Seduza and Caliente.
From the 1996 Illuminaero fork (and a year later, the Carbonaero), which each uniquely sought to create a wide gap between fork blades and front wheel for aero advantage to the introduction of SHIFT that offset the downtube for QR didn’t just react to the market; we sought to find and develop the advances that would make you faster.
Word got around that Quintana Roo was the bike to have. Pros from Browning, Emilio DeSoto, Jimmy Riccitello and Liz Downing to a brash little Aussie named Greg Welch, a young Lance Armstrong, Spencer Smith and Scott Tinley all saw time at the front of races around the world in QR wetsuits and on QR bikes. Years later saw names like Heather Gollnick, Petro Gomes, Caitlin Snow flying the Quintana Roo flag.
Photo: Jeanni Metzler on 2022 V-PR
Today, QR athletes, from our pros like reigning Ironman 70.3 World Championship silver medalist Jeanni Metzler, Ironman powerhouses Matt Hanson and Justin Metzler, to a cadre of QR-supported age group squads like QT2 Systems and Team Zoot, fly the QR flag, on course and off.
2014 brings Quintana Roo current, with the advent of the award-winning PRseries, one of our most practical, technologically advanced and value-laden tri bikes ever, showing up on racks in T1 in races around the world, only supplanted this year by the debut of the groundbreaking V-PR.
Since that day, for 35 solid years, Quintana Roo has become the definitive category leader in the triathlon space. Period. While others entered (and have exited) the triathlon space, the QR mantra was then, as it is now, to simply make triathletes faster, to be there for you (you’ll see us at most major Ironman races, supporting our athletes with complimentary service and swag) and to make dedicated triathlon bikes and wetsuits, delivered at a fair price.
“QR will go to Ironman races in support of their own athletes,” Empfield says, “and I know some people—maybe not customers of the brand—who have gotten stuck and might not have been able to race, QR has been there for them and saved races.”
Photo: Dan Empfield with a 2022 V-PR
As he looks back 35 years later on his creation, on what it’s become going from a one-man show into a Chattanooga-based brand that has grown it from its humble roots, Empfield smiles.
“I was lucky; I got the tiger by the tail,” he says, adding with a laugh “boy, I’m glad I’m not in the business now because what a business it is! I’m gratified that today it’s a brand that’s not only around, but one I can be proud of, and still reflects the same ethic we invested in the brand 35 years ago.”
Photo: Matt Hanson in 2022 HYDROsix2 wetsuit
Thirty five years later, Quintana Roo continues to advance, to lead from the front. With the debut of the V-PR, the advent of our SRseries aero road bike range, and the truly groundbreaking HYDROsix2 and HYDROfive2 unisex wetsuit range, Quintana Roo has raised the bar in triathlon. Again.
In the coming week and months, we’ll chronicle several of the athletes and tell their stories here. Stories have become woven into the tapestry of the Quintana Roo brand… 35 years on.
View our size charts to see what size is best for you. After purchasing a new QR bicycle, our team will reach out to you to confirm your order and sizing information to be sure you have selected the optimum size.
V-PR | X-PR
PRsix2 | PRsix | PRfive2 | PRfive | PRfour
SRsix | SRfive