The Shared History of Nelson ‘The Cheetah’ Vails & Scicon
The 1980s was a decade of success for both Nelson Vails and Scicon Bags. Scicon was founded in 1980 going on to design and engineer the first AeroComfort and Aerotech models in 1984 and 1988 respectively. These years were also of great significance to Nelson Vails who rose from the streets or Harlem to winning an Olympic medal in 1984 and turned professional in 1988.
Harlem is not generally a place you associate with world-class cycling but it’s where Olympic Silver medalist Nelson ‘The Cheetah’ Vails started his journey to stardom.
He started off cycling round Central Park, NYC as a teenager trying to keep up with local cycling clubs like CRCA and TOGA.
And he did more than keep up with them. Alongside training every evening in Central Park, he worked during the day as a bike messenger, pedaling through the concrete jungle delivering packages to customers.
“I worked as a bike messenger to earn a living,” Vails recently said in an interview from his new home in the San Diego area. “It had nothing to do with training. But it was excellent exercise.”
Little did Vails know at the time that he would Pedal his way out of the Big Apple and into the world of professional cycling.
Name a Velodrome, any Velodrome, anywhere in the world, Nelson has raced there. His bike has taken him to every corner of the globe. He actually spent a number of years on the other side of the iron curtain, training in the Soviet Union.
He started racing at the Velodrome in Queens where he caught the attention of the United States National Team who took him to Colorado to train in the early 1980s. His coaches included Eddie Borysewicz & Carl Leusenkamp who then went on to take him overseas where they competed against the world’s best.
One of his biggest competition wins was the Silver medal in the 1985 Tandem Track World Championships in Bassano Del Grappa which is coincidently where the Scicon Headquarters is based. When we found this out we just had to send Nelson a Bassano Veloce Club jersey (manufactured by our sister company Ftech)- an U23 track team & road racing team that’s sponsored by Scicon and trains weekly at the very same Velodrome that the Cheetah rode to triumph.
Vails was actually the first ever African-America in the history of the Olympic Games to win a medal in cycling the year previous at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles in the 1000 meter Match Sprint. He crossed the finish line in second position just behind Gorski. It was one of the if not the biggest achievement of his career which he credits to his teammates and coaches.
I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Vails said. “My medal is owed to those guys. They pushed me to be my very best. It was so hard just to make the team, that it was easy to win a medal.
During his time at the Olympics he was approached by Columbia Pictures who wanted him for technical advice on the movie ‘Quicksilver’ which starred Kevin Bacon, Paul Rodriguez and Laurence Fishburne which was about bike messengers in San Francisco.
Nelson was tasked with teaching the actors about the complexities of cycling from proper pedaling to dismounting. Vails also made a cameo in the movie.
Now, he’s actually had a documentary made about him and his amazing road to success. Watch the trailer below:
Nelson continues to promote the sport of cycling today with his organization ‘Ride With Nelly’ which runs and supports events all across the US. Travel has always been a big part of his life and he and his wife use the AeroComfort 2.0 when travelling the length and breadth of the country. He tells us:
This bike bag makes my Ride With Nelly events so much easier. It protects my bike yet it only weights 25lb when fully packed and it’s super easy to maneuver through the airport. It also only take minutes to pack!
From the busy streets of New York to the Olympic podium, it certain has been a long winding road of success for Nelson Vails.
Nelson with Scicon US Distrubutor Albabici
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