Behind the 9: Meet George Parry, Niner’s engineering mastermind

A young George Parry rides a Stingray-like bike with a chopper fork in the 1970s.
George Parry on his 70’s hot rod.

A large schematic of an old Schwinn cruiser bike, most likely created on an old drafting table, and saved from certain destruction when the Schwinn offices were cleared out many years ago, hangs behind George Parry’s desk. A great conversation piece, it indicates just how much of a fan of the bike George is. A veteran of the bike industry, George has been the Engineering and Production Manager at Niner Bikes since 2010 with prior stints with Schwinn and GT.

Rumor has it, that once upon a time, on a Niner camp outing, while sitting by the evening campfire, George quietly filled the company president’s tires with water in preparation for the next day’s all day ride. Said president then proceeded to ride, waterlogged and wondered why the ride seemed so much harder.

NINER: What’s your first bike memory?

GEORGE: I had a training wheel bike. My dad used to scrounge stuff from the dump, so that’s where he probably got it. And I would ride that around on the wooden deck. I always loved wheels and speed and one day, my dad took off the training wheels and took me to a parking lot and I just rolled away. It was awesome. And then my dad got me some off brand Stingray from the dump and we hot-rodded it out with a chrome fork, a sissy bar and a steering wheel. It was very 70’s. After that, I got into motorcycles and raced motocross through high school. When I left high school I ended up in Tucson for school and a friend of mine got me into cycling and I started road racing.

NINER: What was your first mountain bike and where was your first ride?

GEORGE: I took a break from school and decided to race full time. I moved to Fort Collins and started working at Lee’s Cyclery as a mechanic.¬† My first mountain bike was a Bridgestone MB-2. So, I continued racing bikes and picked up mountain biking. And finally, I finished up my degree in mechanical engineering at CSU (Colorado State University). I really wanted to stay in the area. I interviewed with Schwinn and GT. I got on with GT in 1997. It was kind of the heyday for mountain bikes. Everyone was making money.

NINER: If there’s one ride you’ve done that you’d return to right now, what would it be?

GEORGE: That’s tough. There are so many good rides. I spent a week in Italy at the GT press camp one year riding with Hans Rey and some other athletes. It’s so neat. It was right across the border from Switzerland. We took the train from Zurich. Riding in the Alps was so neat. You can ride from village to village. It was just some great mountain biking there.

George Parry rides his mountain bike in the mountains of Colorado.
George Parry rides high in the Colorado mountains.

NINER: What’s the worst ride you’ve ever had?

GEORGE: Probably a good toss up between my first century, the Tour de Tucson. I bonked so bad. I really didn’t know what I was doing. Probably the last quarter of the ride. I never wanted to ride a bike again. I went back¬† two years later and won an award for the fastest college student. It’s a fundraising ride but it also had a mass start and was sort of a race. There was mass carnage because so many people didn’t know what they were doing. And then there’s another one. I did a ride to work when I was at Schwinn and when I was coming home it started raining and it turned into sleet and snow. I was so cold, I didn’t want to stop. I was afraid if I stopped I wouldn’t get back going. I didn’t have the right gear. By the time I was coming into Fort Collins I couldn’t shift my gears.

NINER: What about the bike appeals to you?

GEORGE: I’ve always been pretty competitive and I just sort of had a talent for it. Bike handling came from motocross and skiing in Aspen (Colorado) gave me I the legs and lungs for it. Once I started racing, I just kind of took off and moved through the ranks pretty quickly. Besides, there’s nothing like going for a ride. It’s that passion and experience we all feel when we go riding. It just felt right. I’ll always ride. I just was so passionate about it. I idolized the Europeans and everything.

NINER: Is there a character that you identify with?

GEORGE: Well, my nickname as a kid was Woody because there was a scene in a Woody Allen movie and they thought I was a spitting image. And I looked like Sean Kelly, the Irish pro rider. I kept a picture of him for a while with him in his PDM kit.

Sean Kelly, who resembles George Parry, rides his road bike.
Sean Kelly, a George Parry look alike or vice versa?

NINER: If funds were no issue, and you didn’t work at Niner, what would you do?

GEORGE: I’d probably be driving around in an RV loaded with bikes for my wife and I. When we met she was a road racer but she doesn’t ride much anymore. Her whole family rides bikes, so we really enjoy getting out when we all get together. She rides mountain bikes too.

NINER: If you could talk with someone from the cycling world, who would it be and what would you talk to them about?

GEORGE: Because I was into cycling during the whole doping thing, I followed it pretty closely. I read Tyler’s book and some other books. Tyler might be someone interesting to talk to. He or Floyd or Dave Zabriskie all seem like pretty interesting personalities. It would be interesting to hear stories from that era and see the difference between the narcissism of Armstrong and the remorse and regret of especially Tyler Hamilton and Landis.

NINER: What piece of bike gear or technology could you not live without?

GEORGE: I can tell you for sure, it would probably be related to geometry. When I first started riding mountain bikes, you know, we came from riding road bikes, so we had really low and super narrow bars, and as a taller rider, I spent a lot of time over the bars. I say bigger wheels, higher bars and a longer top tube have kept me off the ground.

NINER: Given the choice, which would you play: mini-golf, disc golf or bowling?

GEORGE: What’s that new one with the big ball? I played that a couple of times. It’s like a miniaturized version of big golf but you play it with a big ball. It’s quite fun. (With a little research, we determined it is SNAG golf.)

NINER: What’s one skill you’d like to get better at?

GEORGE: Probably jumping. You know I’m comfortable jumping on motorcycles, but I’ve never been able to get that comfortable on a mountain bike. If I try to get stylish, I end up doing a “dead sailor”.

NINER: What are your words to live by?

GEORGE: If there’s more than a few assholes in your life, you may be one of them.

For more behind the scenes articles about Niner Bikes, visit Behind the 9.

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