Whatever Happened to…Nick May?
By Billy Rainford
Do you ever find yourself sitting around thinking about riders you used to watch from years ago and wonder whatever happened to them? I’m sure you have. Unfortunately, many times, the story may not be what you were hoping for in a rider’s life after motocross. However, in the case of Ottawa’s Nick May, you’ll probably be happy with what you’re about to learn.
Nick grew up in Ottawa and still calls our nation’s capital home. He made it to the Pro ranks and then seemed to disappear just as he was getting started. Well, there’s a really good reason for that, as you will learn.
We grabbed Nick for a conversation to talk about his past, his present, and his future, and they are all pretty bright.
Direct Motocross: Hello, Nick. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you at the races. We thought it would be interesting to catch up with you and find out what you’re up to these days. However, let’s first get some background on you and your racing. How did you get started racing motocross?
Nick May: Hey Billy, it has been a while, time sure flies. To be honest, I think what got me into racing was a combination of the old Jeremy McGrath remote control motocross bike commercials I would sometimes catch on TV as well as watching Elisha Cuthbert ride at Sand Del Lee on ‘Popular Mechanics for Kids’ after school. I begged my parents for a bike and I ended up getting one for Christmas when I was 9. It was a pull start Tecumseh with shocks in the seat (not the foot pegs) with a metal plate to press on the back wheel as the brake. I endlessly rode that by myself in the woods while my parents where at work during summer vacation to the point that I duct taped a flash light onto the handle bars to ride at night. The thing kept breaking down and I was tired of bringing it to the mechanic so I started to learn how to fix it myself. By the time I was 14, I learned how to port/polish, jet and change pistons on my bikes (like the kid in the movie Motocrossed).
So, I decided to enter a local race at Sand Del Lee. I was blown away by a kid with the number 117 riding a YZ80 who was double lapping the pack then jumping on a 125 he had to start with wooden blocks and welded risers on the footpegs. In one race, 117 was winning – his cousin in the race crashed, and he pulled over to pick him up, start his bike, gave him a slap on the ass then got back on his own bike and won the race. His name was Tyler Medaglia. There was also Kyle Stephens on a KX65 at the time that blew my mind.
I was in the pits just casually jetting my CR80 between motos when a man came up to me and asked what I was doing. I told him the humidity and temperature had changed since morning practice so I had to jet my bike before the next race to compensate for air density. The man was like “Ya, I can clearly see that. How old are you? Are you serious? My son can’t even put on a gas cap without cross-threading it. I actually had to buy a new plastic gas tank so I could return the bike back to Yamaha.” I laughed and asked who is son was and he said, “Tyler, Tyler Medaglia.” My jaw dropped and I ran to my parents to tell them.
My day hadn’t been going so well. In practice I crashed and puked in my helmet. In the first moto I over-heated my bike on the line, opened the radiator cap which exploded in my face (luckily goggles were on), then in moto 2 I had a flat tire on the starting line (DNS). My Mom said, “Maybe we should go ask Tyler if he gives riding lessons.” At the end of the day, I nervously asked him for private lessons, and that’s how everything began. He taught me how to power shift full throttle and I ended up winning 1st place in the 2nd race I entered. I was hooked.
That is a great story! Who were your regular rivals back then?
I always felt I had an awesome Eastern Ontario group of lads as well as a fun rivalry with the South Western boys, especially during the provincials and amateur nationals. I wasn’t usually the fastest on the track, but I was damn near usually the best holeshotter which would keep me somewhere near the front.
In Eastern Ontario there were guys like Kyle Burke, Shawn Robinson, Andrew and Jason Moore, Tyler Griesseier, Adam Deslille, Brett Corlyon, Tiz Cousineau, Jeremy Medaglia, Andrew Woodhouse, Kenny Essex, Jason Benny, Michael Dasilva and Alexander Gautier. In South Western there were guys like Dylan Kaelin, Trevor Emery, Kurtis Jack, Jeff Brown, Scott VandeBorne, Eric Thiessen, Jesse Pearce, Kyle Ward, Scott Donkersgoed, Mitch Mc Coll, Austin King, Brandyn Cowie, Donald Turner, Jacob Sherk and Josh Maidman.
When did you turn Pro?
I turned Pro after Walton in 2009.
What was your best racing season and why?
2009 was my best season. I had some amateur support from Suzuki so I could afford to ride both 250s and 450s. I was still an Amateur but I was qualifying at the nationals and getting in the top 20. I was asked to race in the Dominican Republic for an all expenses paid resort trip for the Brugal Rum Company which was obviously a great time. I knew I wasn’t going to be a top 10 national contender at that stage, but I was having fun pretending.
Throughout my racing I luckily became a really good starter, to the point where I actually expected to get the holeshot every time. I was never a good jumper, so I knew that I better damn well get the holeshot to have clear jumps at the start.
A funny story was on the start line of my first Gopher Dunes national, out of pure luck, nobody grabbed one of the inside gates. I couldn’t believe with my 20-something gate pick I was going to have the inside gate. I was so confident that I was going to get the holeshot, that I actually ended up having the first panic attack of my life on the line. I told my dad, “I can’t do this because I know I’m going to get the holeshot but not keep it until the 100ft sand table.” I knew that the finish line table was rutted up and massive and that even if I did get the holeshot, there is no way I would be in first by the time I got through the sand whoops and that far down the track.
My dad calmed me down with a “you’ll be just fine” and it worked. I ended up blasting down the inside while looking over to a super-light Spencer Knowles on a factory bike float over the sand from centre gate. I didn’t end up with the holeshot but I hung the inside in the front only to be cleaned out in the whoops. In the end, I was actually quite proud of myself for being that confident in something (minus the rest of the track).
The previous year 2008 was up and down. I was trying to win my local series to get contingency money. I was at a Port Perry race trying to make a pass in the cupped out whoops when my suspension blew through the stroke on a square edge and I was launched off the back of the bike. I ended up braking my leg in 3 places. I was leading the series and in order to win the money, I had to just finish 2 more races.
After breaking my leg, I rode the next 2 motos that day, clicking gears with my heal and hands when I had to. I read the rule book and as long as I finished 2 laps I was able to wait by the finish line for the race to end and get the final points.
A 5-hour drive home back to Ottawa led to an immediate surgery when I arrived. They fixed it with a plate just in time to win the 125cc Open Eastern Amateur National with my cast on between motos.
Yikes! You were chosen as the Direct Motocross ‘Factory Rider for a Day’ at Sand Del Lee back in 2009. How did that day go for you?
The day was great. DMX put together a fun program with the sponsors and volunteers. Dan Stenning was assigned as my ‘Man Friend’ for the day, along with Dawn McClintock, and I think Steve Matthes was covering some of it (I was probably one of his first podcast listeners on the long trips to Georgia). The pressure was on because it was at my home track, San Del Lee.
I can’t remember all of the details but I knew I had to qualify otherwise it was going to be a long walk through the pits. I put everything I had, made it in and had some of my best national finishes. I was no (Kaven) Benoit, Jeremy Medaglia, Davey Fraser or (Kyle) Stephens but it was cool have the opportunity.
What was your last race and why did you stop?
My last race was shortly after I turned Pro. My childhood dream was always to try and become the next RC, but once I reached 21 and realized I didn’t have what it took to get to the next levels, I wanted to at least reach my goal of getting my Pro license. And thats what I did. I entered the 450 class for a final race at Walton. After doing it for so many years, it was hard to let it go but I knew I had to try something new.
Once I stopped racing, I had many years of not wanting to ride at all. I knew how much was required to stay on top of the game, and how it can become unsafe when you get out of it. At the time, I just didn’t have as much fun going around a track not at 100%. But nowadays I couldn’t care less and I have more fun than ever.
After racing I figured I’d give University a try. It wasn’t easy going from being a professional athlete to sitting in a class room for several hours a day. I was extremely vascular, my muscles would constantly twitch and the kids would stare at me as I constantly ate and drank water the entire day.
OK, so I remember you were starting a waterless shaving system way back then. How did you come up with the idea?
I actually thought of the idea when I first started shaving at 14. I remember thinking how unnecessary foam was just to get a razor to glide on the skin. I figured you don’t need a lot of foam on your face, all you needed was some kind of super slippery clear lubricant so that your razor can glide without clogging up the blade and making a mess everywhere.
Then, as you know, a lot of motocrossers shave even the whole body. We cross-train with cycling, we’re always sweating and getting dirty and mostly the freaking knee braces pull upper thigh hairs. So, after shaving for a few years, I figured I had to make something quick and easy to make the rest of my life easier. Then, while I was taking chemistry in University I figured I could take what I was learning and develop a new kind of shave gel as a side project.
What was the next step in getting it to market?
Once I started making it, things started to snowball. I ended up developing a very sophisticated clear shave gel, in the form of a solid bar that allows your razor to float over the skin without making a mess and clogging the razor blade. In order to afford to get my first inventory made, I had to put my bike for sale. I literally exchanged my bike for a pallet of product.
I then received an email from the University looking for any students who where also running a company full-time. There was a business competition and the winner received $5000. Five thousand dollars! That was 4 times more than the contingency I rode for on a broken leg. I entered the competition and won. Competition were right down my alley.
I started to enter many other university business competitions and I kept winning them with cash prizes of 10-20K+. The money was to reinvest into the company to help bring a business to market. I made a partnership with a large distributor and was able to get the product in retail stores across the country.
I was then asked to go on CBC’s Dragons Den after winning a Dragon’s Den university competition. The show went really well, I received an offer from 4 out of 5 Dragons and I did a deal with Jim and Arlene on air.
What is the most important thing in this whole adventure: math, economics, business skills, people skills, hard work, luck, marketing, accounting? What was the toughest part for you?
A bit of everything. Honestly, racing had a lot to do with it. Behind the scenes of racing, it’s all about the marketing of products. It’s about building a brand, it’s about having pride in a reputation and selling things into a niche to make it all go around. Racing gave me persistence and the drive to work at something until I earned it.
In my case, school was invaluable. It exposed me into a whole new world of science and business. I simply took what I was learning in school and used it in real life. From statistics to chemistry, biology and psychology, I used the basics I learned to develop my own product. The toughest part was that I had very little background in schooling.
In high school I took all the easiest classes I could get away with and I even home-schooled grade 12 so I could ride. In order to get into university, I had to go to an adult high school to get my Grade 11 and 12 U level classes. But I knew I had to do what I had to do and I was going to be the best at it if it was the last thing I did.
There was a $2500 scholarship purse to get into Uni as long as you had 90% average or more, so it was game on. I buckled down moto style and got the scholarship along with a stress related bald spot that appeared on the back of my neck.
So, obviously, Remay.ca is what keeps you busy to this day. It’s mostly online sales, but you can find it in stores around Canada, right?
The product is found in over 1000 stores across Canada and I do a lot of online orders. I do a lot of export into the United States as well.
I heard you won a pretty big business award, what was that one about?
That was a great opportunity, I won the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. It was funny to see the award handed to Porter Airlines, Bombardier, then me (Laughs).
What is an average day like for you these days?
When I was getting the company up and running it was unbelievably diverse in activity. There was always something fun and new, from working on patents, having high level business meetings with Lawyers to Investors and other Entrepreneurs, setting up manufacturing, building strategies, invitations to special galas and events. It was fun with I lot of intense work.
Nowadays, I’m having even more fun as things hone in onto target, all the nit and grit is out of the way and I get to focus more on higher level activities. The average day is to let myself wake up naturally, have my breakfast then try to aggressively tackle what needs to be done in a few hours then get some exercise. As long as I have a laptop and someone around to ship orders, I can work from anywhere, which is nice. I enjoy looking at the internet marketing analytics and coming up with marketing strategies to reach my customers.
I saw you down in Florida with the Mitch Cooke and the Medaglias. So, you still get out on a bike nowadays? How much riding do you get to do? What were you doing in Florida?
Over the last few years, having a bike was out of the question. But every year as the nationals rolled around the Medaglias would bring me out riding at their track. This winter we went on a last-minute 2-week random boys trip. Me and Jer where just going to go to North Carolina for 1 week but Tyler, Mitch and Talon probably had a secret plan to end up in Florida for 2 weeks. It was all decided within 48 hours. Kibby and Tyler drove us all down in a snow storm in 2 sprinters.
As we got to NC it was still cold. Our goal was to ride a new track every day. We just slowly worked our way South one day at a time riding a new track every day along the way. It was great. I was hoping to bump into Larry the Enticer as we saw him on FB on the way down in Florida.
Tyler came up with the idea to rent a beach house in Florida. We found one with the HomeAway website app. When we arrived it was a brand new beach house with white couches open for the first day. They didn’t want to let us in because they thought Tyler was under 18 (Laughs). We told the guy that Talon was actually his kid and eventually he gave in. Turns out their nephew was a super fan of Tyler already. Small world. Tyler and Kibby both decided to race the GNCC and that’s when we bumped into you.
Do you still pay attention to the racing series in Canada and in the states?
I do, not as much as before, but I still do. I was never too much into the politics of it, but now that I’m older and have the microphone in hand I see a couple things that could use a change. I heard that this year they where able to get some major airtime for at least the 450 class which is awesome, it seems like at the expense of the other class but there is only so much budget to go around so it is what it is [Editor’s note: the 250 class will be air on Fox Sports Racing]. It was really cool to see the ConX2Share set up last year as well.
The one thing I think should change is how the riders are treated around contract time of the year. I see the same story every year – nobody knows when their contracts are coming in, if any. There needs to be some kind of well thought through contract deadline everybody follows, maybe with some first rights of refusal thrown in and a weeklong negotiation period that can align everyone into the same timeframe. Riders just want to ride and train and know what the cut-off date is to find another option. The riding season doesn’t start when the snow melts in Canada.
Do you ever think about racing again…maybe in the age classes at the TransCan or Loretta’s?
After that riding trip, I’m getting a bike ASAP. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. The part I miss the most is ruts, getting into a flow, and getting shredded from the high intensity intervals. I may eventually do some races but I have a lot of catching up to do.
So, things are good with you these days? It’s always great to talk to an ex-motocross racer who has moved on to be successful. Do you still call Ottawa home?
Things are great, Ottawa is home. I’ve spent some time doing business in Toronto but for now Ottawa is where I like to be. I’m looking into possibly spending some time in Australia. With their summers that start in our fall, it’s a great opportunity to keep the seasonal trends moving.
If you have any advice for young racers who want to turn Pro one day, what would it be?
Appreciate your parents, they are spending their life’s earnings just for you. And if you break a bone, don’t rush to race a useless local race, otherwise the doctor will have to break it again.
Well, it’s been great catching up with you. I’m sure everyone is happy to hear you’re doing well. This is normally where we ask you to thank people. Anyone you’d like to thank?
I’ll take this time to thank the Medaglia family for raising me as their 3rd and introducing me into this awesome sport. As well as my parents who dedicated so much time for me to do what I loved, even though it was so far removed from what they liked to do. I’ll never forget spending a month driving track to track sleeping 3 in the SUV to save over expensive hotels.
Best of luck in the future. Oh, and who’s going to win the Canadian MX2 and MX1 titles this summer?
I think Cole Thompson is going to be coming in hot with the #1 plate. I think Dylan Wright and Shawn Maffenbeier will be putting up a huge fight and surprises. For the 450’s, I’m betting on my Tyler Medaglia horse, of course, as well as the Colt flow (Colton Facciotti), and Matt Goerke power.
Now that is how you live life after moto! Congratulations on all your success, Nick. And what’s a guy gotta do to get some samples of this Remay stuff?! This head isn’t gonna shave itself! Thanks for the chat.