Santa Cruz Bicycles

NHS pro skater Rob Roskopp brings the Santa Cruz brand to mountain biking
By Matt Niswonger – Photos courtesy of Santa Cruz Bicycles

Greg Minnaar winning the 2012 World Championships for Santa Cruz. From left to right: Kathy Sessler (team manager), Steve Peat (Syndicate racer), Rick Clarkson (team mechanic), Rob Roskopp, Greg Minnaar (World Champ), Jason Marsh (team mechanic), Doug Hatfield (team mechanic), Josh Bryceland (Syndicate racer).

Greg Minnaar winning the 2012 World Championships for Santa Cruz. From left to right: Kathy Sessler (team manager), Steve Peat (Syndicate racer), Rick Clarkson (team mechanic), Rob Roskopp, Greg Minnaar (World Champ), Jason Marsh (team mechanic), Doug Hatfield (team mechanic), Josh Bryceland (Syndicate racer).

Rob Roskopp was a pro skater for NHS in the eighties who was later mentored by Novak in the world of business. The Roskopp model was one of the most popular Santa Cruz skate decks of all time, with multiple versions coming out in the late eighties.

By 1990 Roskopp was ready to retire from the rigors of professional skating and he shifted gears and went to college to study business. In the meantime he was increasingly riding a bike and loving bombing hills in Santa Cruz and Mammoth. He even talked Novak into racing with him at Sea Otter a few times.

One of Rob Roskopp's skateboard models.

One of Rob Roskopp’s skateboard models.

By early 1993 the idea to start a bike company was firmly planted in Roskopp’s mind. He approached Novak, who endorsed the idea as solid. Agreeing to serve as a silent partner and business mentor, he told Roskopp to go make the best-damned mountain bike company possible.

“It was another case of Richard Novak taking care of one his own, with Roskopp being the most visible Santa Cruz Skateboarder during the 1980’s,” said Tim Piumarta, director of research and development at NHS.

Like an aging professional baseball player who is given a position within his team’s front office, Roskopp took this opportunity and ran with it.

The Nomad.

The Nomad.

Deciding that his business classes were too corporate and far removed from the type of entreprenuership he wanted to pursue, Roskopp dropped out of college and officially founded Santa Cruz Bicycles in 1994.

Joining forces with Mike Marquez, a bike engineer with particular experience in bicycle suspension, and designer Tom Morris, Santa Cruz Bicycles released its first model, the Tazmon, later that year.

Going with full suspension frames from day one, and using a hard-hitting marketing approach borrowed from skateboarding, Santa Cruz was instantly relevant in a mountain biking industry that was ready to explode.

The new headquarters for Santa Cruz Bicycles opened in April.

The new headquarters for Santa Cruz Bicycles opened in April.

Considered by many to be the Porsche of mountain bikes, the future looks bright for Roskopp’s venture, and the company recently unveiled its new corporate headquarters in a fancy building on the west side of town. Initially benefitting from the prestige of Novak’s Santa Cruz brand, Roskopp’s venture has come full circle to inject excitement back into NHS.

Roskopp recently told ASJ, “When I was just a young skater, Novak took me under his wing and became my mentor for the next 30 years. Most of all he gave me an opportunity, something I’ll never forget. It’s been an incredible journey.”

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