R E Jose Gonzalez
“It was a great lesson. I used to think I’d like to keep
moving up, but this was a reality check. I wasn’t bad at
the senior manager thing, but it wasn’t what drove me.
Sometimes you have to step back. Opportunity is only opportunity if it complements you.”
“LDI was the owner of Manitou when I first joined the
company, but LDI was an investment firm. I knew eventually Answer/Manitou would be sold. You become a victim of
your own success. Once you grow, the company is easier to
sell. LDI sold Manitou to a new investment group, and that
group didn’t mesh as well with the Answer/Manitou culture.
It was fine for a few years, because we had been doing so
well, but things started to change. I felt like it was going in
the wrong direction. The new owners seemed more interested in cashing out than looking at ways for the products and
company to move forward.
“I had gotten to know the Trek guys very well. We were
working together on the Session 7. 7, and this was around
the time we launched our SPV coil-over shock. The bike was
already developed, so we weren’t able to work with Trek on
designing the kinematics to suit the technology in the shock,
but we could tune it to work pretty well.
“The big breakthrough was the Session 10, which was
a blank canvas at the time. That was around the time that
Trek hired Dylan Howes, and we hit it off right away. Dylan
and I worked together on the bike’s kinematics and the
shock, so everything worked well together. That’s where the
THE WEST COAST LAB
With things deteriorating for Jose at Answer/Manitou,
he spoke to Trek’s Joe Vadeboncoeur and John Riley, who
all knew each other from working together on the Session
projects. Jose dropped the hint that he would be interested in
working for Trek if they ever saw the need. There was one
big obstacle—Trek’s Wisconsin location.
“I didn’t feel I could do the job properly in Wisconsin,”
Jose explained to Trek management. “The weather and
topography work against you for developing mountain
bikes. The area didn’t offer enough descending for a bike
to work under you for a good period of time. And that is
huge. Extended descending helps you do more than tune
the suspension. It helps with chassis dynamics and brak-
ing performance. You just can’t do that with mild elevation
change. You just don’t produce the bike dynamics needed.
Also, we have such a broad diversity of terrain out west. We
could also be doing daily R&D during the most critical five
months, December through April.”
From Jose’s pitch came the idea to create a suspension
R&D facility in California. It was eight years ago that Trek
management signed off on both the facility and Jose. The
results have been phenomenal.
THE PERFECT BIKE
“We all value different things from our bikes,” Jose
explains as we finish our talk. “There is no single bike that
is going to suit everyone. It is just like the wheel-size thing.
There is no right or wrong. It is what works best for you and
what you value as a rider.
“But, for the most part, people who hop on our bikes are
very impressed. And that’s what we focus on. We have a
certain ride quality we are after. It is no accident. This is the
way we want our bikes to ride and perform. We are not trying to be anyone else. This is what we like as riders, and we
feel other riders will also value the Trek performance.”
“You can see a pattern,” says Jose about his career path.
“There were building blocks that taught me different skills.
It really helped me create the full package that I would use
to start the R&D office in California for Trek. All of my
opportunities came from organic growth. Every background
is unique to the individual and offers a special blend of life
experience, skills and knowledge. Embrace and leverage that;
it’s very valuable and powerful. It allows your ‘brand’ to
stand apart from others.” ❏
Value call: “We all
value different things
from our bikes,” says
Jose. “There is no
single bike that is going
to suit everyone. It is
just like the wheel size
thing. There is no right
or wrong. It is what
works best for you and
what you value as a
Location, location, location: Jose always felt the West Coast
location was the best place he could do his job properly,
because the weather and topography work in his favor for
developing mountain bikes.