THE MOUNTAIN BIKE CROSSOVER
Jose, a passionate runner, broke his ankle while motocrossing. The doctor advised that running was not a good
idea for his longterm health. Jose got a road bike to replace
running and was hooked. It was at this time that Kawasaki
started to contemplate licensing their name to a mountain
bike company. Kawasaki management, who knew nothing about bicycles, turned to Jose and another Team Green
member, James DeGaine, to evaluate the bikes.
“Mountain biking didn’t make a lot of sense to me,”
laughs Jose today. “Road cycling had an appeal, but why
would you want to pedal a bike in the dirt, up and down
hills, and beat yourself up? These bikes were rigid, heavy
and had poor brakes. Still, that early exposure gave me an
appreciation for mountain bikes. Not so much for riding,
but for the experience and how much potential was there
to make them a better product. That’s what drew me to the
industry. I could leverage all my skills and experiences to
hopefully make a difference.”
Jose made connections at Answer/Manitou, where there
was plenty of mountain bike/motocross crossover. When he
heard there was an opportunity to manage their race program, which was pretty much nonexistent, he jumped at the
chance. He could use the experience gained at Team Green
and apply it to Manitou.
“Manitou was off the back with their racing program, and
they were trying to get their name to gain traction as a performance brand,” remembers Jose. “I came on board to put
a domestic and European racing support program together.
The program worked great, and within a year and a half we
were winning championships.
“The Manitou production dampers weren’t up to par for
our top pros, so I worked to develop technologies to support
our athletes. That forced the race support division to become
really competent at R&D. The company management saw
this and asked me to oversee R&D and racing. I was going to
all the World Cups and all the NORBA Nationals, and I was
on the road way too much. My kids were young, and I didn’t
want to be away so much.
Dedication: “There were building blocks that taught me different
skills,” Jose remembers about his career. “It really helped me
create the full package that I would use to start the R&D office
in California for Trek.”
Competitive spirit: Jose (right) with motocrosser Ronnie
Tichenor. “I may seem like an easy-going guy on the surface,”
says Jose, “but I’m a deeply competitive person. I have a
strong desire to be the best.”
“I never had any interest in becoming an executive. I
loved doing hands-on work. At Manitou, I was moved more
into the senior management side when I was promoted to
director of product development. I hated it. It was the first
time I had a job where I didn’t like going to work. I really
missed being involved on the technical side. I was candid
with Manitou’s president at the time and told him if this was
the role he saw for me, I was going to start looking at an exit
plan. It worked out great, because they moved me to R&D
full-time and without the racing duties.
Pedal assist: Jose learned about suspension and engines as
a motocross racer, one of many steps in his evolution to the
dream job he holds today.