TEMPE, AZ (BRAIN)—The answers that didn't make the September issue print cut for Bicycle Retailer's Q & A session with Pivot's Chris Cocalis.
BRAIN: Lots of people in the industry probably don’t know you majored in accounting at Arizona State. Why that major? And I’m sure it’s helped in running your business?
COCALIS: I started out in electrical engineering before switching to business at some point during my third year. I didn’t really enjoy EE and wasn’t aware that mechanical engineering was more where I should have been. The numbers side came pretty easy to me and accounting became the path of least resistance. I can definitely say that the degree or the combination of engineering and accounting has helped me tremendously. As I said, cycling is my passion, but this is also a tough industry from the business side. If you don’t pay attention to the numbers, it isn’t pretty. Accounting isn’t my passion, but the background definitely allows me to be successful at what I love.
BRAIN: You’ve assembled a pretty talented team with John Bradley, Dave Weagle, just to name a few. And, of course, your wife, Cindy. Explain what some of these individuals bring to the table?
COCALIS: It’s all about the people and having a great team makes it fun to come to work every day. One of the things I wanted to do is make sure that both BH and Pivot were equally represented. John Bradley came on board as our national sales manager and hired two of our inside sales people that came from other high-end road bike companies. John is a pure roadie (and I mean that in the nicest way) and both Rob Aguero and Adam Vincent handled sales at the other Spanish bike company, but both have a mountain bike racing background as well so we have a nice balance. John, Adam and Rob are true professionals in sales and customer service. They follow up with our dealers and make sure everything is taken care of. John also helped us find Beverly Barr as our credit manager. Bev used to be the credit manager for Burley, is an avid cyclist, and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. In manufacturing we have Bill Kibler and Tom Walentitsch. Bill is our production manager. He has a background in automotive racing and aerospace machining. Bill can make anything we can engineer or dream up and also make it a production reality. Bill handled all the outside machining at Titus for about 10 years so he knows a few things about manufacturing bike frames. Tom runs our QC and assembly area. His family owned a bike store in Lancaster, California, which Tom ran for the last 20 years. He is the guy that makes sure that everything that goes out to the dealer is perfect. Saying that he is very good at what he does would be an understatement. In engineering and design we have myself, Kevin Tisue and, of course, Dave Weagle. Kevin is a mechanical engineer with a long history in composite design, both in the bicycle and snowboard industries. He holds several seatpost patents in the bicycle industry and is responsible for the cool shapes and general design of the Pivot frames. Dave Weagle needs no introduction. He is an accomplished suspension engineer and is invaluable to the suspension design of our frames. My wife, Cindy, brings more to the table than I can possibly list. She is an accomplished rider on both the mountain and the road. She lives for the sport as much as the rest of us. She has a strong accounting background and actually has an independent accounting and consulting business as well as her duties as CFO of Pivot/BH. While I am mentioning people, the business could not go without Andy Heerdt and Justin Moreland. Andy is our operations manager and Justin is our shipping and receiving manager. The wheels wouldn't turn without these guys. I should also mention that there isn’t a single person in the company that isn’t a cyclist. Everyone rides.
BRAIN: Where are we at right now in mountain biking from a product standpoint? Every year it seems a new travel size is anointed “the next thing,” whether it be 6-inch or 5-inch. Or you have the categories like “all-mountain.” Then there’s carbon. And did I mention 29ers? So where the heck are we headed with the mountain bike?
COCALIS: I think we will continue to grow in many different areas. 29ers will continue to grow, 650B will become popular, and the general travel of everything will increase. We went from 3- to 4-inch as the XC standard and now people are racing 5-inch travel bikes. The weights will continue to come down and the travel will increase to some extent. I think we are already seeing where the travel isn’t the deciding factor. There are 5-inch bikes that are designed from a geometry and feel perspective to be long travel trail bikes, and there are 6-inch travel bikes with light weight and quick handling that are designed to be enduro type bikes. In any case, the weights will come down and the capabilities will go up. At some point in the not too distant future the entire market will be riding 5- to 6-inch travel bikes that are simply tuned and designed for different disciplines.
BRAIN: Who’s the Pivot customer? What audience are you going after?
COCALIS: The Pivot customer is any rider who wants the best riding experience possible. The bikes are really designed with that in mind. Suspension performance, handling, frame stiffness, durability and light weight are all covered. When a rider gets on one of our bikes, the difference is noticeable. We want our customers to know that when they purchase a Pivot, they are getting something very special. A lot of thought and time goes into every bike we build. I joke that as I get older, I need to build better bikes to keep me at the same performance level. I don’t mind paying for the extra speed and capabilities as long as I can go just as fast or faster and have more fun. I think our customers feel the same way.