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Bike Industry Veteran Dave Karneboge Resigns as Director Of Operations At Giant USA

Published February 6, 2019

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Longtime product manager and operations executive helped big brands innovate and navigate a shift to overseas production

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NEWBURY PARK, CALIF. — Dave Karneboge has spent 44 years in the bike industry, working in roles ranging from product development to marketing and operations with global brands Schwinn and Giant. Earlier this month, after 28 years at Giant preceded by 12 years at Schwinn (1978-1990), Karneboge resigned from his director of operations position at Giant Bicycle, Inc. He has agreed to continue in an advisory role for the Southern California based company.

Explaining his decision to resign from both his full-time position and his role as secretary of the board of directors at Giant USA, Karneboge pointed to a few factors. "Like riding a bike, life requires balance," he said. "My commute from LA to Giant headquarters in Newbury Park had grown to over five hours a day. Last year I had eye surgery that required me to work from our West Distribution Center just minutes from my house in LA. That really made me realize how much family time I was missing. So I've decided now is a good time to find more balance. I think putting in 34 years with only two companies is a pretty good accomplishment."

A Chicago native, Karneboge began his career in the bike business at Mahler's Bike Shop in Des Plaines, Illinois. He started working there in 1972 to help pay for college tuition at Western Illinois. After graduating, Karneboge started a banking career while continuing to work at Mahler's "to pay for my cycling habit."

While attending the Chicago Area Bicycle Dealers Association (CABDA) expo for the shop in 1978, Karneboge had a chance meeting that led to a job offer with Schwinn. His first role there was managing the sales promotion warehouse in Chicago, overseeing the purchasing and supplying of service tools for retailers.

Karneboge eventually moved into product management with Schwinn. In 1980, a United Auto Workers strike shut down Schwinn manufacturing in Chicago, which ultimately led to a seismic shift in the U.S. bike industry. Karneboge began working with multiple factories, both domestic and overseas, to produce Schwinn bikes. He helped establish a relationship with Giant Manufacturing in Taiwan, which eventually took on the bulk of Schwinn's production.

In 1990, after spending nearly a decade working with Giant Manufacturing as a supplier, and marrying his wife in Taiwan, Karneboge joined several former Schwinn colleagues to help launch the Giant brand in the U.S. Starting in Virginia, Giant USA quickly relocated to Los Angeles, where Karneboge joined as assistant marketing manager. He spent the next 28 years working for Giant, taking on several different positions in marketing, product development and operations. He became director of operations in 2003 and was appointed secretary of the board of directors in 2007.

Today, Karneboge says it's rewarding to look around the bike industry and see influential friends and colleagues he helped bring into the business. "I'm proud that I was able to spot talent and hire some people who have gone on to be leaders in this and other industries as well."

One of those people is Dennis Lane, vice president and general manager of the bike division at Fox Racing Shox. Lane was fresh out of college, working at Northland Schwinn bike shop in Columbus, Ohio, when he answered a help wanted ad in a Schwinn store flyer for an assistant product manager position.

"My introduction to the product development world was Dave Karneboge taking a chance on a kid from Ohio who thought he knew everything," Lane said. "When I started, we were going through the transformation of the old Schwinn to a new Schwinn and a whole new bike industry—and Dave had his fingers on everything. He was this crazy passionate cyclist who was so committed to the sport and to the company he worked for."

Karneboge later recruited Lane to Giant, where he oversaw product development for 14 years. "I look at Dave as this guy who, given a challenge, would figure out some way, any way, to succeed," Lane said. "The other thing everyone knows about him is that he's a master of telling stories. His ability to recall things that happened decades ago, with his trademark wit, is truly one of a kind. If Dave starts telling you a story, you need to sit down. It's going to be a while."

Looking back, Karneboge said he feels fortunate to have worked with influential mentors and colleagues over the years. "I learned a lot from so many different people," he said. "The most influential were Jay Townley and Bill Austin, both VPs at Schwinn and presidents of Giant USA. I was young, eager to learn, and they treated me as an equal sharing their knowledge and support. And of course working with King Liu and Tony Lo almost from the start of Giant provided me with an invaluable education."

Townley, who has been working in the industry for 61 years, was a VP at Schwinn in the '80s and president at Giant USA in the '90s. He said Karneboge and his fellow product managers of that era were pioneers.

"Product managers like David and Brad Hughes became very important to the industry at that time," Townley said. "After the strike in 1980, Schwinn as a company had to move quickly to offshore production and we literally started from scratch. We traveled all over Europe and the Orient, keeping each other out of trouble. Eventually we started working with Giant Taiwan before they were a company, working with [former Giant CEO] Tony Lo and his trading company. When Tony and King Liu got together to form Giant, we were one of the first to go over there and analyze their facility. Eventually we ended up moving the bulk of our production from Chicago to Taiwan."

Hughes came up through the Schwinn ranks with Karneboge. "We traveled together almost all the time," he said. "We were product managers, I was in charge of BMX and Dave was in charge of road bikes. His knowledge was incredible, especially with all the details on specs. He was really sharp on that stuff and was great at finding solutions, cost savings, ways to make things happen. The best part was after all the work, traveling around the world, meeting with manufacturers, engineers, sales when the samples finally arrived and we got to open those boxes. We were like kids in a candy store."

Now, as he leaves his post at Giant USA, Karneboge looks back on one accomplishment with particular fondness: the time he helped save a small part of the Schwinn dynasty. "Probably the thing I'm most proud of, and something I think defines my nature, was stepping up to save the Paramount Design Group factory from being closed in 1995," he said. "Not only was it saving an iconic name, or making it profitable, but it was saving jobs and craftsman style manufacturing. It's still operating, but under the name Waterford Precision Cycles, and it's the only part of the original Schwinn manufacturing company that's still going."

Looking ahead, Karneboge said he has agreed to continue working with Giant USA part-time as a consultant and advisor. Beyond that, he plans to travel with his wife and stay connected with bike industry friends. "After more than 44 years in the bike business, I just can't quit cold turkey and I don't want to," he said. "There are still interesting and fun challenges in the bicycle trade. My wife and I have each traveled the world—her for fun, me for work—and our son is grown now so it's time we travelled together. We have talked about living in Taiwan or Europe part-time. Who knows?"

David Karneboge can be reached at DaveKarneboge@gmail.com.

 

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