Pivot Bikes founder Chris Cocalis
Okay, we’ll excuse you if you’ve never heard of Chris Cocalis. He may not present a loud and eccentric persona like Gary Fisher, or have his name emblazoned across an entire range of components like Tom Ritchey or Keith Bontrager, but within the industry this quietly spoken American is recognised as one of the most progressive and influential bike designers of the present day.
Chris is the man behind the extra-wide press-fit 92 bottom bracket standard that now features on many new bikes. He pushed hard to see that direct frame mounted front derailleurs came to fruition, and they are now used to solve mounting problems on many creative new frame designs. He also played a key design role in Shimano’s 2005 XTR groupset.
Currently theCEOof Pivot Cycles, he started out as the ‘bike shop rat’ when he was nine years old, taking out the garbage and changing inner tubes in exchange for stickers. At 12 he got into BMX racing and was always the guy who worked on everyone’s bikes around the neighbourhood.
He designed his first frame at 16, as he’d outgrown the ‘pro XL’ length bikes of the time and had the creation welded up for him. Mountain biking took his interest once he moved to Arizonaand he studied engineering for three years at college. In 1988 he brazed together his first steel MTBframe in cohorts with the guy who started NORBA (North American Off Road Bicycle Association). Going under the Sun Eagle brand name, their elevated chain stay ‘Talon’ hardtail appeared in Mountain Bike Action in a ‘Bike’s of the Future’ feature alongside the Mantis and Nishiki Alien (a few names that will bring back the memories for the old school types).
In 1990 at just 20 years of age he started Titus; a well respected name that held its own amongst other desirable US based boutique brands for the following 17 years. Titus eventually merged with a composites company but Chris didn’t like the direction that the new partners wanted to take the company.
In 2006 he had the option to be bought out. Chris says, “I made the best of a really bad situation and chose to leave the company that I started and ran for so many years, but in the end it was no longer what I stood for, so I left the company with a one year no-compete.” Titus eventually went bust.
Far from done in the bike game, Chris started Pivot Cycles in 2007. It was his opportunity to take everything he’d learnt with Titus and designing bikes for other companies (Univega, Diamond Back, Dean, Slingshot etc.) and put it into practice.
He now has 19 employees, and within the first three years Pivot had surpassed where Titus had gotten to after 17 years—quite an achievement given the less than ideal market in recent times.
Cocalis may be theCEOof a well-respected bike brand and an astute businessman, but more than anything he comes across as the consummate bike nerd and tinkerer. He really is the ‘ideas man’ behind Pivot—he rides hard, tests his own products and refines them based on his own perceptions. He’s also not shy of a chat, as we discovered when he popped by to check out our local trails...
What’s a normal day in the life of Chris Cocalis?
It depends. When I’m at home inArizonaI’ve got my wife and two boys who are eight and 10 years old. We live on the back of a trail system and I try to ride to school with the boys each day. Then a lot of the time my wife and I will go for a ride before we head home, shower and get to work. At that point I turn into a bit of a workaholic and I often won’t get back home until somewhere between8:00pmandmidnight.
I also travel about five months of the year, spending a lot of time inAsiaandEurope. So it’s busy but it’s cool. I’m involved with a lot of different things and stay pretty plugged in with the component manufacturers. Aside from running the company, when I’m at work the product design is really my passion. My office is right next to the engineering office and a good part of my day is spent working on projects and working with our engineers.