Ned Suesse ’99 cannot point to any specific class at Colorado College that led to becoming a specialty motorcycle parts developer, Dakar Rally competitor, and business owner, but he knows the most important skill he developed on his way to an economics degree.
“I learned how to learn,” Suesse said. “What CC taught me was how to solve any problem.”
He faced one a few years after graduation — finding a way to turn his love of motorcycles into a new career. He had what he called a “real job” as a project manager for Agilent Technologies. It paid well but he hated the job.
Suesse was not enjoying waking up five days a week to do what his superiors wanted, even though he was good at it. He met some used car dealers through motorcycling and realized they were much happier. In 2005, the skilled rider switched jobs to become a part-time dealer and focus on his sport.
“There is no prestige to being a used car dealer but I was so much more empowered and happy doing that,” he said.
The extra time and the critical thinking skills honed by his liberal arts education sparked the idea for his most lucrative business — doubletakemirror.com. He now sells a durable folding mirror he designed that works equally well on a road motorcycle and a dirt bike. He has also developed several other parts.
“I get to solve problems that need fixing and make a good living doing it,” he said. “I wake up each morning to do what is on my mind, not (an employer’s).”
His newfound freedom helped him face a daunting challenge and record a considerable personal milestone. Suesse was the top American finisher (53rd overall) out of the 188 that started the 2012 Dakar Rally in South America. Arguably the world’s toughest endurance motorsports race, the 14-day competition started on the Atlantic coast of Argentina, crossed the Andes Mountains into Chile, and ended in Lima, Peru. Ninety-one racers, including two fatalities, did not finish the 5,500-mile course.
Starting the race, let along finishing it on his first attempt, achieved a longtime goal. Suesse worked hard to finish enough smaller endurance races, including the Baja 500, to qualify for Dakar.
“I wondered for a long time what it would be like to compete at the highest level. I had to know,” Suesse said. Having done it already, Suesse will not enter the 2013 rally in January.
He plans to travel Europe to ride and promote his new instructional DVDs. He lives his passion — motorcycles — and has a successful small business to show for it.
“I can thank the skills I learned at CC for that,” he said.