As everyone knows it is Öhlins 40th Anniversary and founder Kenth Öhlin has of course led the company through many phases. Another man who has been there throughout the journey is Thomas Pettersson. This is his recollection...
“I actually started with Kenth in late December 1975. Before that I ran my own motorcycle workshop at Torsten Hallman’s place in Uppsala.
My home was in Upplands Väsby so it was a 1½ hours drive every day to reach my shop. My sport was motocross so I did not have enough time to practice after work. Kenth offered me a job in his bike shop in Sollentuna, to be responsible for all motorcycle work. I took that job and it gave me more time for motocross!”
Like many staff at Öhlins Racing, Thomas has worked in many different areas of the business, with different roles but always with the umlaut’d Ö on his shirt! Although in his case Thomas wasn’t actually working on suspension to start with…
“For the first two years, I worked mainly with motorcycles; tuning two stroke engines, rebuilding old bikes and servicing new bikes. Then when shock absorbers came in, I worked a lot with shock production in the winter and back on bikes in the summer season. I was still racing motocross at the top level in Sweden and was lucky enough to race as a privateer in the world championship when it came to Sweden and Finland. We did a lot of testing on suspension for MX bikes as well as on snowmobiles. In 1987 I moved from our laboratory (as a lab technician) to our marketing dept. to be responsible for service and tech information to distributors around the world. I also took care of all technical training for service centres around the world, as well internal training of our own staff.”
Traveling is very much part of the lifestyle for many Öhlins employees and this was something Thomas relished; “When I finished with motocross in 1984 I took part in the Öhlins Racing Service at the Motocross World Championship and in an intensive testing schedule. We travelled around many countries in Europe together with Bror “Julle” Haglund in our service truck.
I also got to go testing with Yamaha and Cagiva in the Sahara desert for the Dakar Rally. And then on the other side we went testing with the Yamaha snowmobile group in Sweden, USA and Alaska!”
They say long lasting friendships are made in the workplace…. “I’ve worked with so many great guys at Öhlins over the years but if I have to mention some, I will say Bror “Julle” Haglund, Bengt Ohlsson, Thorleif Hansen and Lars Isaksson have been very memorable! Of course I have also known Kenth from the beginning. He was a very enthusiastic motocross guy racing for the same club as me. He wasn’t satisfied with the look of his standard HVA bike and modified it, it looked so much better than the others…”
So what kept Thomas at the company so long? “It’s been an interesting job with new technical aspects coming up all the time, you’ve had to find solutions to tricky problems and of course having good people around makes work enjoyable. And most importantly, it has been like working with my hobby!”
So what next? “I was racing Motocross until I was 38 years old and then got into mountainbiking so I’ll keep that up and cross-country skiing in winter. Biking, golfing, and trying to stay in shape as an old man - and of course supporting my three sons and taking care of my grandchildren.
I wish Kenth Öhlin all the best in this next phase of his life and hope he gets to enjoy some more time with his family and hobbies!”