Aspring to Be: Pivot & its people

Here at Studio Velo, we take pride in every aspect of our business. Details matter to us.  From bicycle repairs to bicycle fittings, from soft goods to hard goods, from cleanliness of the shop to presentation of the merchandise, Studio Velo and its employees believe each and every aspect of the business should satisfy and elevate the client experience.

Choosing brand partners who are as fanatic about service and details as we are is a key facet in this process. We are most proud of carefully selecting brand partners. We have high standards for ourselves and for the brands we carry and Pivot is no exception. In fact, we couldn’t be more excited about what the Arizona-based brand is doing these days.

I, Chris Reed, partner and store manager at Studio Velo, recently spent two full days with the fine folks at Pivot to take a closer look, from the inside out. The concept was simple: bring a very small number of Pivot dealers to tour the Pivot facility, meet the staff, ride their bikes and provide critical feedback to help Pivot better understand how they can support their dealers.  From the attendee standpoint, the execution and experience was a brilliant.

This was not the typical invitation to come sit in a conference room and drink the brand Koolaid.  This was an effort to be totally transparent, open and professional from a brand that is know for its dedication to holding the highest standards.  We toured their facilities, had several in-depth meetings and focus groups, shared many meals and, of course, road a host of Pivot bikes. 

Incredibly clean and organized, yet bustling and professional, the Pivot headquarters creates an incredible picture of the brand in and of itself:  it epitomizes the look and feel of what a high-end cycling brand, with an incredible understanding of who they are, should look like and be. From the company culture to the excitement of the staff, Pivot and its employees impart a way of life we all aspire to obtain.  

Shortly after arriving to HQ, I met Chris Cocalis, the founder of Pivot. Chris is a legend in the cycling industry.  A book could be written about Chris’ impact on and contributions to the industry as a whole. His tireless efforts and immense dedication to bringing Pivot to the forefront of the mountain bike world keep Chris involved in every aspect of the business.  Despite his busy schedule, Chris never left our side during the company visit; he never ceased sharing insights and back story to the band and its “meat and potatoes.”  His vision for greatness is obvious, and his ability to lead and guide his employees is evident: Chris, perhaps unknowingly, benefits from an incredible amount of respect and appreciation from his employees. It’s like a cult.  And if a book is ever written about Chris, I suspect it will be worth reading. 

 

 

Hand sketches that start the design process along with some exploded views of suspension bits on the drawing board in the design room

The next topic we explored was the actual production of the frames once the designs had been finalized.  Pivot pushes the limits with their visions and their designs which means production is no simple task.   They are able to accomplish feats that no other company can because of their incredible ability to design and innovate.  Pivot builds their bikes in Asia, like nearly every other bike manufacturer around, but they are also unlike any other bike manufacturer. What separates Pivot is their control over the entire build process.  They actually build specific tools, molds and jigs in Tempe, Arizona that allow the frame builders to execute the production to the exacting standards the designs call for.  The amount of quality control each frame goes through is exhausting.  But this is a clear example of Pivots commitment to excellence and the reason why their frames are regarded by so many as the best on the market.

Working behind the scenes is Bill, who handles the in-house machining, prototyping and jig and mold construction and just about any kind of creative tinkering and problem solving you could imagine.  His ability to fabricate is uncanny and his passion for building is remarkable.  When someone says something can’t be done, Bill finds the solution.  Bill’s talents elevate Pivot to another level. 

 

 

Bill’s handy work.: some suspension hardware and a side project, converting his moto into a 4-wheeled street machine.

While the people of the brand are exceptional, operation itself was nothing but impressive.  The layout, the lighting, the cleanliness and the organization were all reflections of their attention to detail.  Each department within the building was well thought out and running like a top.  And the extras steps taken by each person involved in getting bikes out the door doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Brake lines are cut and bled in house to ensure showroom bikes floors don’t have extra housing.  Every model size bike has a specific length assigned to it to ensure this.  The packaging of each component is meticulous and the attention every order gets is matched only by the attention provided by inside sales reps when orders are placed.

Even the storage facility at Pivot reflects their desire to be the best.  Perfectly organized rows of components, amazing lighting and a floor so clean it would pass the white glove test.  Even the boxes Pivot ships their frames in were carefully chosen to protect their cargo and be best in class. 

Pivot’s commitment to their dealers and their product is unparalleled.  They understand the importance of building a brand based on quality, performance and service.  And everyone at Pivot exemplifies this.  Once we talked through everything that needed discussing, it was time to ride some bikes. The first ride was a cross country focused, and the second tested the bikes on some truly technical terrain. 

I was given the new Mach 6 to ride on both days.  Some riders rode different bikes each day, but I wanted to try this bike on several different types of trail.  With 6” of travel and 27.5” wheels, the bike was incredibly capable in the technical sections but still a pleasure to pedal when the trail kicked up.  And one of the most enjoyable parts of the riding was watching Chris Cocalis tear it up on the technical terrain.  I don’t think there would be too many presidents of mountain bike companies who could stay on his wheel when the trail got rough.  Of course, he has been riding these trails since the late 80’s and that is where he tests each prototype of each bike, but knows how to handle a bike.  And it’s safe to say the crew from Pivot don’t just build and sell bikes, they ride them hard as well. 

Once Chris and his crew proved to me that they not only build incredible bikes but can ride them too, I came away more proud than ever to be a Pivot Dealer. The product line sits atop a very competitive market, but the people at Pivot are undoubtedly working hard to make sure it stays there.

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