Factory Tour: Mountain Racing Products (aka MRP)

Inside look at Colorado based maker of chain guides and suspension forks

Company Spotlight Forks
This small company is a refection of its location on Colorado's rugged Western Slope.

This small company is a reflection of its location on Colorado’s rugged Western Slope (click to enlarge).

If a company’s personality and ethos are driven by its location, then Mountain Racing Products (better known as MRP) is rough, rugged and built to last. The well-regarded makers of chain guides, chain guards, and various suspension products resides in blue collar Grand Junction, Colorado, a fertile locale for sourcing oil and gas and growing fruits and vegetables, but a destructive place to ride mountain bikes. The local Tabaguache trail system is littered with sharp sandstone, ledgy drops, and rowdy rock gardens. It’s a durability tester’s dream — or nightmare.

“Being in this area has a huge effect on our products,” said Noah Sears, MRP’s director of marketing and Mtbr’s tour guide during a recent trip to the company’s Western Slope HQ. “Everything we make gets extensively field tested right here. I have a route out at the Lunch Loops (the trail system’s other name) that has a steady climb, fast chunder, and some in between. It’s easily repeatable so it’s a great place to evaluate chain guide or suspension performance. Inferior products don’t do well on those trails.”

MRP has been making chain guides since 1995. Last year, the company sold 60,000 of them.

MRP has been making chain guides since 1995. Here a G3 with integrated skid plate comes to life (click to enlarge).

MRP is best known for its chain guides, something they’ve been making since 1995. Last year, Sears says the company sold 60,000 of them. Among the pros using some variation of the product are the Trek World Racing Team, Giant’s Factory Off-Road Team, and the Pivot World Cup Factory Team. Famed French gravity great Cedric Gracia is also an MRP rider.

“Chain guides are definitely our bread and butter and we still see some big opportunities there,” revealed company owner and president Tim Fry. “But we also have a lot of eggs in the suspension basket because that is where we see most growth in next 5 years.”

All fork assembly is done in house at MRP HQ.

All fork assembly is done in house at MRP HQ (click to enlarge).

MRP has five suspension forks, ranging from an 80mm XC offering for kid’s 20-inch bikes all the way to a 200mm dual-crown downhill model. The enduro-oriented Stage is the one Sears is most excited about.

“It’s a 34mm, and for the 27.5 model the axle-to-crown distance is more in line with 26,” he explained. “So you basically get 10mm more travel at same length. If you have a frame that is suspension corrected for a 160mm 27.5 fork, you can actually use our 170mm and it doesn’t change geometry.”

The Stage fork comes in travel lengths from 120mm to 170mm in 26, 27.5 and 29er versions. MRP does the vast majority of this fork’s parts machining in-house, and all assembly is done in Grand Junction, which helps with quality control.

“We can catch everything,” added Sears. “All the forks are built one by one, and they get tested before they ever go out the door.”

Here’s a great look at how — and where — those forks get tested.

Inside the walls of a non-descript building in the office-park area of Colorado’s largest city outside the Front Range, 23 employees punch the proverbial MRP time clock. Up front is the standard fare of administration, sales and marketing office space. Out back and upstairs is where things get more interesting. There’s a full machine shop, large assembly area, and design, engineering and product testing facilities.

Forks are built one by one as orders come in.

Forks are built one by one as orders come in (click to enlarge).

And while the job titles of these nearly two dozen employees vary, one thing carries through the entire building.

“Everyone rides,” says Sears, who goes by NoahColorado in the Mtbr forums, adding that he likes getting feedback and staying in tune with what people are saying and asking for. “Our sales guy is a former pro freerider that did the Red Bull Rampage once. Another guy is the president of the local trails advocacy organization. That’s one of the big strengths of the company. We’re all passionate about making good product because if we didn’t we’d have to hear about all the time at the local trailheads.”

The building house a full machine shop capable of making many of the parts that make-up MRP products.

Inside is a full machine shop capable of making many of the parts that make-up MRP products (click to enlarge).

Our tour starts in the machine shop, which is capable of making all manner of parts and pieces. The backs of guide plates, valves, axles, and knobs are all part of the daily output. They also make rollers for Kreitler, the reason for a stack of round steel rods in the back of this large noisy room.

This testing machine allows MRP to both observe a running drivetrain and test different setup scenarios. They can also set it up to run continuously and add drag to the system to simulate long-term wear. It was vital to their chainring testing, allowing them to gather data about friction, noise, and cross-brand compatibility.

This testing machine allows MRP to both observe a running drivetrain and test different setup scenarios. They can also set it up to run continuously and add drag to the system to simulate long-term wear. It was vital to their chainring testing, allowing them to gather data about friction, noise, and cross-brand compatibility (click to enlarge).

Next door are several small test rooms. In one (pictured above) a motor drives a crank to test chainring wear. MRP also cycle tests its forks through a series of different impacts, which allows them to track wear patterns on seals and see what sort of temperatures are created by various scenarios and use rates.

“The big thing to keep in mind with narrow-wide chainrings is that they only keep the chain on because of friction, so as your chainring wears that retention functionality diminishes,” explained Sears. “So we run this test machine non-stop and see what kind of wear patterns develop and then accommodate that in the design and machining of our Wave ring.”

Indeed, the Achilles heel of narrow-wide rings is that once they’ve worn to a certain point, they begin to drop chains more frequently. In testing MRP can see in a very controlled environment exactly how those wear patterns develop on their own rings and narrow-wide rings, and then adjust design to balance wear considerations, friction, and chain retention. This in-house capability is ideal for making small tweaks during development.

Continue to page 2 for more from our tour of MRP headquarters and an expansive photo gallery »

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympics, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the Mtbr staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.


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  • Gino says:

    I really liked my first gen Loop fork. It would still be on my bike if it had a remote lockout. Didn’t quite cut it on the SS. Might have to try a Stage for the FS

    • Tim Fry says:

      Thanks for the support in the past. I think you would be VERY impressed with the Stage on your FS bike. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions – we answer the phone (during office hours – 8-5 MT).

  • nathan cervantes says:

    I just replaced the pike on my transition scout with the new Stage and all I can say is Wow!! Awesome fork!! Great Job MRP

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