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Rob Roskopp Interview: From Wheels of Fire to the Bronson

If we were to think of one company that consistently keeps us on our toes, Santa Cruz would have to be at or near the top of the list. For this reason, we wanted to grab a couple minutes of founder Rob Roskopp’s time to discuss the past, present, and future of Santa Cruz Bicycles, and well, mountain biking in general. 

GF: 2014 will be the 20th anniversary of the Tazmon, a bike that helped to usher in a new era of mountain biking. In that time, the sport has changed significantly. What do you miss about mountain biking in the ’90s, and how has the sport changed for the better?

RR: Probably the newness of the industry at that time. People were trying anything and everything regarding different types of suspension. Today, the technology has come a long way, bikes are more fun to ride than ever and much safer, too.

GF: Earlier this year, you moved out of your original Bronson street location into a new spot. Was it an easy transition, or was it a challenge? And how is the new space working for you?

RR: It’s always a challenge to move a business, but our crew did a great job and we are really proud of our new home. For the first time, we are really able to show off our products, and soon, customers will be able to come and demo new bikes, take tours, and really experience what Santa Cruz Bicycles is all about.

GF: What current trends in mountain biking are you psyched on? Are there any that you’d like to see go away?

RR: I like how enduro racing is really gaining momentum. It brings together what I think mountain biking is all about, having fun and challenging yourself.

Things I would like to see go away are some of the crazy standards that various companies come up with that are not any better than what currently exist.

GF: From the OG Heckler to the Bronson, Santa Cruz has continually pushed the envelope by developing bikes that are built to be ridden hard. Has your history as a professional skateboarder influenced your appreciation for more aggressive styles of riding?

RR: I raced mountain bikes before we started the company, so I’m always looking for ways to improve the ride. To me, that is the most important aspect. My skating brought me to focus on the faster aspects of the sport. I’m definitely a speed junky, some things will never change.

GF: Santa Cruz has received some mixed reactions for offering complete mountain bikes that exceed the $10k mark. But conversely, you continue to develop and refine the Chameleon and Heckler. It’s clear that you’re passionate about putting everyone on rad bikes, regardless of their purchasing power. Are you more enthusiastic about the race-bred premium bikes, or the blue-collar workhorses in your lineup? Or is it like children, where you love both equally?

RR: I personally want to the ride the best bike, period. That’s how we got to where we’re at today. All the models in our lineup serve a purpose, and we design each and every one to be the best for its intended purpose. So, I guess you could say I’m fond of everything we do.

GF: The Syndicate has been fantastically successful, not only as a race team, but in building brand awareness for Santa Cruz. At the same time, fielding a competitive World Cup Downhill team is a massive undertaking, especially when you’re supporting such a distinguished team of riders. Is the Syndicate primarily a passion project? Or does it pull its weight as a tool for marketing and product development?

RR: Most of all, it’s an extension of what Santa Cruz represents: a great product, a great team of individuals, and an incredible passion to be the best we can be.

GF: The loyalty of the Syndicate riders is really amazing. How have you managed to keep such a consistent lineup over the years in a sport where many high profile riders change teams rather than renewing contracts?

RR: We’re unlike any other team out there. The Syndicate is our extended family—we are all very close. I learned early on that it was best to work with one sponsor and build your career with them. That is what we’ve done with the Syndicate.

GF: Josh Bryceland’s Blur TR video was easily one of the best things to hit the internet this season. Can you please make Ratboy film more product videos next year?

RR: That video turned out really well. We have plans to do more like that with Ratboy…

GF: What should we expect from Santa Cruz for 2014? Any new team riders? New models?

RR: We always have something up our sleeve. I always want to see things progress, mainly because I have ADD and get bored quickly, ha!