People like Mark Fitzsimmons don’t just sign up top riders to get you guys thinking their products must be great, they do it to get the best possible feedback on how to make their products even better…
From Dirt Issue 112 – June 2011
Intro and photos by Ed HaythornthwaiteYou might think that the main reason why companies sponsor riders is to get exposure, but in many cases you’d be wrong. People like Mark Fitzsimmons (or Fitz as he’s better known) don’t just sign up top riders to get you guys thinking their products must be great, they do it to get the best possible feedback on how to make their products even better. Fitz’s job is far from easy though, one minute he’s trying to dial some shocks to a rider’s particular preference, and then the next he’s trying to translate their feedback into something that the engineers at FOX can work on. In some ways he makes team riders lives easier by making sure they get the best possible support, but on the other hand he also makes sure they earn their keep by sharing their thoughts. It’s a continual cycle of testing and development, and his work is far from finished when the season is over. Luckily we managed to catch Fitz with a rare five minutes of spare time so we got him to endtroduce himself… Who is Mark Fitzsimmons?
I am the guy that can’t get enough of anything with two wheels.Where do you live?
Gilroy, California (the garlic capital of the world).What’s your job title?
Race Program Manager.What do you do?
I am responsible for signing the teams and riders we sponsor, the events we attend to support them, scheduling and running the test sessions, integrating our R&D projects into the race program, and the development through racing. I am the voice of the racer here at FOX.What part do you like the most?
Using racing to develop products.How long have you worked for FOX?
Eight years.How did you land the job?
I worked for another bicycle suspension company from 1995 to 2002, but I wanted to move back to the San Francisco bay area where I grew up. Mike McAndrew’s offered me a position at FOX, I had worked with him in the past.What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
A busboy (general dogsbody) at a buffet restaurant in Oakland. The hostess was robbed and shot three times in the year I worked there (true story).Where’s your favourite place?
I would probably have to say New Zealand.Where’s your favourite place to ride?
Moab Utah for cross country, Whistler for DH, and the Alps for all–mountain.When are you happiest?
When I have a burrito stuffed in my mouth after a five hour death–march ride.What makes you angry?
Driving behind a Prius going 50 mph in the fast lane.What makes you happy?
Helping our athletes exceed.What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Buy the ticket, take the ride.What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
Life is too short, enjoy your work.What are your extravagances?
Food and motorcycles!Who do you admire?
Any privateer that puts his heart and soul into racing, year after year.What’s the most important thing in your life?
My wife, family and two dogs.What would you never throw away?
Riding shoes and helmet.What’s your greatest fear?
Drowning in the ocean.What was your luckiest escape?
Crashing in my friend’s 4×4 and walking away from it unhurt.What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Walk my dogs.What’s the last thing you do at night?
Read a book or magazine.What would be your dream meal?
Filet Mignon, salad, sweet potato, with a Dirty Martini.What things do you always carry with you?
Identification. When I MTB, I don’t ride with electronic communication.Do you have any regrets?
No.What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learnt?
That the more I learn, the less I know.If you could have dinner with three famous people (dead or alive) who would they be?
Bill Clinton, Valentino Rossi, and Jack Nicholson.Who is your favourite rider?
Pretty much all the riders that race for us. We generally share the same goals.What’s your favourite bike product of all time?
A chain guide and adjustable seat post.What’s your least favourite bike product of all time?
140mm stems.What’s your favourite motto or saying?
Work hard, play hard.What saying do you use too much?
ON YOUR LEFT!!!What bike are you riding at the moment?
Being one of our test riders I am lucky to ride a different bike almost every day. My personal ride is a Blur LTc with a 36 Float set up at 145mm of travel, adjustable seat post, single front ring, tubeless tyre setup. It weighs 25.6 pounds.What was the last magazine you read?
Roadracing World.What are you listening to at the moment?
Rise Against and Machine Head.What one thing would you change about yourself?
Being a sore loser.What are your weaknesses?
Being a sore loser.What does the future hold for you?
I spend a good amount of my time in product management. Down the road I will most likely move into this type of role. I dream of owning my own mountain bike race team someday. I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.What does the future hold for mountain biking?
The future of mountain biking will look similar to how it does now but with access to more of what we already like about it. The trail bike is becoming one mean machine and it’s not too far off that this bike will be capable of shredding DH trails, or doing six hour epic rides. The ability to jump on a bicycle from home, ride trails, back home and not spend a dime is a gift that we must protect. The future of mountain biking will be protecting the land we have access to.How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as somebody who gave to the sport and industry as much as I have gotten from it.