The Pinkbike Podcast: Santa Cruz's Josh Kissner on Bike Development, Supply Chain Issues, & High Prices

Jan 26, 2023
by Mike Levy  
Pinkbike Podcast
Art by Taj Mihelich


With five new mountain bikes debuting in 2022, Santa Cruz has had a very busy year. I sat down with their Director of Product, Josh Kissner, to talk about the testing and development process of bringing a new bike to the market, the evolution of VPP suspension, and the challenges of adding downtube storage to a frame. We also get into why many of their bikes look similar, why prices have gone up so much and if we'll ever see them come back down, and when we might see a new V10. Speaking of that, this was recorded before Santa Cruz released their V10 development video.

What's been your favorite Santa Cruz over the years and why is it the Super 8?




THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 163 - SANTA CRUZ'S JOSH KISSNER ON BIKE DEVELOPMENT, SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES, & HIGH PRICES
Jan 26th, 2022



Featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.

Subscribe to the podcast via your preferred service (Apple, Spotify, RSS, LibSyn, etc.), or visit the Pinkbike Podcast tag page for the complete list of episodes.

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

107 Comments
  • 50 7
 Even his voice sounds expensive.
  • 19 2
 My old neighbor works for SC on the business side doing forecasting.

Back in 2020, they were forecasting for 2023 and setting a 300% increase in production across the board over current levels. Ooops....

Going to be a tough year or two for the bike industry and shops, but killer for consumers!
Specialized is leading the charge with almost all bikes 25% off, and cutting employees left and right.
Expect others to follow.
  • 9 9
 Just goes to show that people in high level decision making positions truly do not have any more information or knowledge than a normal person. Just speculative gambling.
  • 6 0
 I'm in the hunt for a new dh bike, but after hearing even sc is going to lower prices in the near future, I'm thinking I should wait a few more months
  • 10 5
 @nskerb: It just means the people in that company were not properly skilled in their role. There are some of us that manage demand planning for businesses that did not make ridiculous forecasts coming out of the pandemic. Put the right people in the right positions and the business is run correctly.
  • 4 0
 @crashprone: definitively, although those people seem to be in the minority. They're also under constant pressure from shareholders and other investors to focus on short term profits, making prioritizing on long term benefits difficult.
  • 13 1
 @crashprone: cycling industry is especially prone to this as they don't offer competitive salaries to hire actual talent. They hire dedicated cyclists willing to take the pay cut to work in the industry. Of course people who love cycling are going to overestimate demand.
  • 2 0
 @SangamonTaylor: Absolutely correct. I have had several job opportunities over the last two years and the pay range is not competitive with other industries 50% lower is not going to cut it.
  • 2 0
 SC was also one of the companies to cancel a bunch of orders back in 2020. They’ve been overreacting this entire time.
  • 3 0
 @SangamonTaylor: true

But also, many big brands still have an antiquated sales model that gives a lot of power to dealers and local subsidiaries. Said dealers often lack the insight to plan medium/long term. They just see a lot of consumer demand today, and forecast according to that orders that will only arrive in one year at least.

This short sighted demand then creeps up the brand and ends up in actual orders at the factories, with little scrutiny
  • 2 0
 Haha yes, that's totally a thing. Basically every major brand is projected their sales figures to go through the roof and ordered as much as they could in 2021 and 2022. As a result of the steep decline in demand, lot's of bike shops are sitting on a lot of inventory right now. Expect huge price cuts within the next 6 months.
  • 5 2
 @nskerb: I'm an engineer and I work for a German sports car manufacturer that you have definitley heard of. In my department, we engineers (- read: people who actually get stuff done) struggle a lot with the obstacles the bean counters and middle-management paper pushers put in our way. I think the actual problem is that most MBA-type paper pushers don't have the first clue about what's actually going on in the real world, outside their ivory tower. They usually have completely unrealistic "visions" of a future that will precisely never turn out the way they thought it would. THIS is the kind of problem that leads to projected sales figures that will never ever be met ( - be it for bikes or electric sports cars).
  • 17 2
 Levy… sorry… but your take on GX axs vs XO axs vs GX mechanical is hot garbage. GX axs derailleurs are utter trash by many accounts, weak clutch compared to XO, cheese grade cage that blows up, and heavy. GX mechanical in its latest iteration has a solid clutch, is 1/5 the price and has zero chance of becoming sentient. Also I think most of the outrage with the Hightower was that it’s listed as an “XO1 axs build” but comes with the far cheaper GX derailleur. Anyways, this has been my useless opinion, hope you all enjoy.
  • 8 5
 No, I do agree with you - the clutches usually aren't good enough, and that pivot pin did push out on the GX AXS derailleur. On the other hand, I've got a GX AXS derailleur with a zillion miles on it that's been perfect the entire time, despite me smashing it on anything and everything.

I still think that if we step back and consider: carbon wheels, handmade carbon frame, wireless 12-speed drivetrain etc, some pretty crazy stuff.
  • 9 0
 @mikelevy: but compare it to other companies offering equal or better spec. for significantly less. That's the crux of every meltdown in the comments of a PB SC review.

And this is coming from someone who has bought 4 SC frames between 2015 & 2020. It's highly unlikely I'll be buying a 5th.
  • 13 1
 @krka73: Agreed, there's zero way to argue against that. I think that from a performance perspective and materials perspective, I can see why that bike costs as much as it does. But if you're shopping by spec vs price, which most everyone does for good reason, there are some better deals out there.

Hightower aside, I'm not convinced that mountain biking as a whole is too expensive, though. I've been trying to write an op-ed about how bikes actually aren't too expensive but keep getting a paragraph in and realizing that I'm never going to win that one haha
  • 4 1
 @mikelevy: mountain biking with entry level gear isn’t too expensive. Once you work your way up in skill and equipment, the prices get to be a heavy lift for anyone outside upper middle class. I suppose most hobbies are like that.
  • 12 1
 @TwoNGlenn: I'm not proud to say this but I don't make a ton of money. I've always prioritized my time outside of work as the most important(time for myself, time for my family, time for my fun). I couldn't care less about being a cog in someone else's wheel. Perhaps I'll regret this when I retire, but I enjoy playing while I have my health. I've primarily skied (not an inexpensive sport either) and mountain biked since 1990. I don't have any issues finding quality gear for myself or my family. I did build 2 bikes over the pandemic, it was not cheap, but the amount of shit eating grins I get from this investment is absolutely priceless. Santa Cruz makes damn good bikes. I've long been a supporter of theirs. They don't owe anyone anything. The market decides if SC stays in business or not, if their prices are too high or not or if their bikes are any good or not.
  • 1 0
 @sofakingwetarded: looks like we agree. Santa Cruz can charge what they feel the market will bear. I don't begrudge them that. Other companies will fill the gaps underneath with lower prices and better value. I love that we are spoiled for variety in bikes. My point is, overall, it's not cheap unless you're rolling on entry-level or well-used stuff. By cheap, I'll say under $1000 for a bike. I rode beaters for years with a smile on my face until I was able to afford something nicer which was a Santa Cruz of all things. Got it on end of year closeout in 2018. Always looking for the deal!
  • 2 0
 @sofakingwetarded:
That, good Sir, is not only comment gold but solid life advice for those willing to read between the lines. Cheers to the good life.
  • 5 0
 @mikelevy: I'm not a car guy but know you are. On car articles and blogs, are half the comments about the high price of or not being able to afford Maseratis, Ferraris, etc? It's so tiresome with bikes.

If you can't afford it or don't think it's a good value, don't buy it. And for god's sake let go of the need to tell the rest of the world about your decision.
  • 17 2
 If someone's qualified to talk about high prices, it's a Santa Cruz executive
  • 9 0
 I mean, how much could a banana cost? $10?
  • 9 0
 I remember the first time I saw a Super 8 in my local bike shop in 2000(ish) it was love at first sight but I never was able to afford one.

Might have to find an old one now and fix it up as my mid-life crisis. Some guys get sports cars and some guys ride old Super 8's.
  • 5 0
 Enjoy! I'm gonna do the same thing with a transition bottle rocket.
  • 8 0
 Same, I remember thinking "Look at the dirt bike!" when I first saw the Super 8. I didn't buy the first version but had the second with bigger tubes. What a monster.
  • 2 0
 Great idea. It's a far better way to deal with it than young gold diggers or expensive unreliable exotic cars, and much cheaper than dumping your wife and looking for a younger one (to be fair, almost anything is cheaper than that last option, including expensive unreliable exotic cars...)
  • 2 0
 @mrgonzo: my bottle rocket was stolen 10 years ago. Sad sad day. I'd love to pick one up, if my old back can handle it :bah dum chi: I'd like to get the PBR edition. My friend still has his but doesn't ride it the fool.
  • 37 26
 Santa Cruz can fuck right off with their prices.
  • 38 10
 Why so angry? All you have to do is not purchase one of their bikes..
  • 11 9
 @bman33: recently bought a big bike and it was not a megatower because of the poor value.
  • 9 2
 @norcalbike: yup, born and raised in The Bay. Love the bikes and cool factor of brand, but I also got a new bike a couple months ago, impossible to justify the value that is offered with so much competition. Saved about $2,700 honestly with same specs.
  • 4 4
 @norcalbike: so what's your problem? The price of the megatower hasn't negatively impacted on you. You had other options and you chose one of them. I don't see the big deal, thats how the consumer market works.
  • 2 1
 @bman33: my favourite comment - it's so true
  • 9 0
 20 years at Santa Cruz, starting on the production floor. If you need to know about any obscure product detail Josh is your guy.
  • 11 4
 Thanks for the podcast @mikelevy . Instead of giving interview subjects a "pass" on difficult questions as soon as they reply. For example your "value" question about the recent Hightower review. Instead of letting them defend their position, you downplayed the merits of the PB communities' wince at the $10k price tag. When you downplay our opinion, it makes it seem like you value your relationship with the industry more than the relationship with the PB community, who wants to hear you ask uncomfortable questions and then hear their answers.
  • 17 2
 Ah, noted on that - good feedback. Totally understand why my comments on price were taken that way, I re-listened and I don't think I said that right.

If we take a step back, that $10,000 Hightower has carbon wheels, a handmade carbon frame, a wireless 12-speed drivetrain, 175mm dropper post etc etc, and I wanted to imply that, if we don't look at the component level, the bike as a whole is a technological marvel that lets you do some crazy shit, up and down. But instead I put foot in mouth haha
  • 7 2
 Also, Santa Cruz is headquartered in one of the most expensive areas of a state that is probably the most expensive state in the US to run a business in. That can’t help either.
  • 4 3
 @vondur: Sure enough, it is expensive. Rent and salaries are higher than the rest of the US... but, from a macro-economic point of view, it has been proven many times, that those are NOT the key contributors to increased costs. Also, the talent you get by being in the Bay Area vs say... Michigan, is something to consider. Only places that compete are VT, NH, CO, UT. The year round, world class riding right outside their front door is key to why their bikes are so good also.
  • 3 0
 @borlowski90: Employees also want to surf and do other stuff. I did time in that town. A 6-year bid. Got paroled in the later 80s and never looked back.
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy: this isn't meant to be hard hitting journalism. " Hey Josh let's do a podcast about how you guys charge too much for your bikes?". I thought you both danced around it quite nicely. I loved you putting him on the spot about the bike he would give kudos to, surprised he bit on that. His VP sales will give him the gears for calling out Trek for sure.
  • 1 0
 @borlowski90: This isn't software we are talking about. I'm not sure if the Bay Area is a hot bed for mechanical engineers, but for the rest, it's gonna cost more in Santa Cruz to hire them.
  • 5 0
 Absolutely mind-blowing. An article about Santa Cruz and batting 1000 on comments mentioning price. I'm just shocked no one has said "dentist" yet.
  • 4 0
 Well, you just did…
  • 8 1
 Dentists ride Yeti.
  • 6 0
 High prices? Yawn. That's old news. Poo pooing high pivots? That really gets the people going.
  • 4 0
 I have a 2021-carbon 120mm fs bike , x01 AXS drivetrain with carbon wheels, carbon bar and super nice dropper and I'm struggling to sale the rocketship for more than $4,000USD!
  • 8 3
 What I learned from this guy is that EVERYTHING IS RIDICULOUS! RIDICULOUS FOR ALL! BIKES! PRICES! EMPLOYEES!
  • 4 0
 Side note; I'm very intrigued as to what bike he's talking about at the 59min mark. He lives in Squamish and it was a high pivot... Norco? Forbidden?

Also, @mikelevy this is the best your mic has sounded in recent memory! Thanks!
  • 8 0
 @corposello: I turned it on this time!
  • 1 0
 @corposello: has to be a range I think.
  • 1 0
 @corposello: my guess was Norco, I feel like Norco is more of a direct competitor for SC over Forbidden. So it's possible it's in his best interest to explore their offerings. If that was the case, then what bike?? because I think most would assume the Range, But it's possible its was the Norco Shore, which I think a lot of people might actually hate.
  • 1 0
 It's a pity @mikelevy didn't press him at all about what he didn't like. You could have kept it general without having to trash talk a competitor. It'd be interesting to see what someone who works for SC thinks is bad about an idler-equipped bike, regardless of whether it's Norco, forbidden or anyone else. They have their flaws, but so do just about all bikes.
  • 3 0
 The last thing we need is all the bike companies talking to each other. There is a fine line between cooperation and collusion. Can anyone think of a when big business worked together to make it better for us consumers?
  • 1 1
 who do you think the suppliers are for bike companies? and who are the suppliers to the suppliers? Big business.

If you look around at the remarkable standard of living that we have it's due to businesses, big and small, voluntarily cooperating together throughout the whole supply chain. Not just bikes.

The fact that you can buy a toaster for under $20 at Walmart is remarkable when you think of everything that when into it from mining the iron, turning it into steel, shipping the raw materials to factory, and the many other steps. At $20 its practically free.

And you say big business hasn't worked together to make consumers better off? you are either uniformed for misinformed
  • 1 0
 If there was only 1 toaster company they would not be 20$. If a toaster duopoly was set up early on and they "cooperated" to standardize the toaster they would not be 20$. Free markets and competition get us 20$ toasters. Big business' compete and as a result our lives are better. A supply chain is not collusion, 2 large bike companies getting together to discuss how to make bikes "better" is more likely to devolve to collusion.
  • 3 0
 To say the bike industry isn't overpriced is stupid. I just bought a Santa Cruz Nomad and I could have bought a KTM 250 SX-F for the same price. How does that make any sense lol?
  • 1 1
 If it was overpriced why did you buy it?
  • 1 0
 @T-R3V: I'll tell you something. I'm kinda retarded
  • 2 0
 Instead of releasing a new frame every 2 weeks, maybe try to make current model frames available, including all parts? I have been waiting on my warranty MT2 frame forever and am still waiting on some small parts for it, downtube protection, febder for shock, chainstay protector.

And he speaks of parts being unavailable, but SantaCruz didn’t have frames available for a LONG time in Europe, shops cancelling customer orders on frames as SC could not indicate a delivery date, my shop cancelled my v10.7 29 frame order in July after waiting over 13 Months for it to show up….

Ok rant over…
  • 5 0
 10k bikes without carbon wheels
  • 4 0
 I'm waiting for a 30% reduction to jump in the bike market again (hey Transition or Norco).
  • 2 0
 ITS A PARTY IN THE WOODS
  • 2 1
 I think there is only 1 real answer for this podcast . . .

Santa Cruz Nomad S ($6799) vs. YT Capra MX Core 3 ($3999)

I would love to see a shootout with only those 2 bikes, back to back, then see what $2800 actually gets you.
  • 1 0
 hi mike! had me questioning my memory for a moment. my 1st gen s8's (plural, broke 2; we kept the SC warranty dept busy back then) were on OG monsters. never had a dorado, but the subsequent v10 was on whitebros, and my RM7 had an xvert carbon. no ti spokes on the s8; the marwi ti-dyes first made an appearance on said rm7, back when i figured weight-weenie-ing a dh / huck bike was a great idea. impressively enough, i still have a few ti spoked wheels kicking about (a set on the lahar, even). yes, i'm a dork.
  • 1 0
 Oh man, you had (have) some amazing stuff. I remember running into you at the Woodlot and you had your new V10 - it blew my mind back then. Wish I kept half the stuff from back in those days!

Do you ride the Lahar?
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: we certainly nerded hard bitd.

the lahar is still intact. typically gets dusted off for annual whistler retro ride giggles. the reach is probably 3" shorter than my current trailbike, but the suspension is still pretty bonkers, and great for lift line chatter.
  • 4 0
 Prices drop in a depression, too bad so does employment
  • 1 1
 Truth
  • 3 0
 Interesting that we’re at record low in unemployment currently.
  • 2 1
 @dualsuspensiondave: unemployment rate is an outdated and BS metric. Just like poverty level
  • 1 0
 There's not even a recession worth mentioning and check the inflation numbers. This is all manipulated - but from which side? Once you know, you profit.
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: I believe it's so low due to people taking on a 2nd jobs. One of the tactics companies take during a downturn is cutting employee hours, but not outright layoffs. I believe that's feeding into the rise in numbers of people with 2 or more jobs.
  • 4 0
 The old cannery location was when SCB was a true grass roots company.
  • 2 0
 Grab a tallboy at Day's Market.
  • 1 0
 Turner bikes never had adjustable crap and that is a good idea and always has been since a long time ago. Offer free bike tubes and gas card w a new bike purchase, not adjustable geo.
  • 1 0
 In the email it notes "what's the real difference between a tallboy and a hightower" and I was curious to hear that part....anyone have any clue when it was? I must've skipped right over it
  • 6 3
 Santa Cruz scrambling after Roskopp talking shit on them.
  • 8 2
 Not the case, I actually recorded Josh's interview before speaking with Rob but the latter was more timely Smile
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: good intel. I enjoyed this episode (and the Rob one) FWIW
  • 1 0
 It would be nice to know what the take rate of the top of the line models for various brands is. How many people finance their bikes and for how long?
  • 1 0
 He was talking about a Norco Range at the end wasn’t he?

That’s got to not make PB feel that great considering it was their bike of the year what 2 years ago?
  • 1 0
 Not sure what bike he was referring to tbh but it's all subjective - we all had our fave bikes that year.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Thank you for this show. I enjoyed listening to it. Very interesting insights from Josh. I worked in Product Management at a product manufacturer in another industry for a while, so it was interesting to learn of similarities and differences.
  • 1 0
 I swear he made a f noise and i thought he was going to forbidden. Its a cool bike with lots of hype…. I could see him drawn to it
  • 2 0
 100% adding the word "kookily" to my vocabulary
  • 2 0
 Listen to this just cost me more than I make in a week.
  • 1 0
 I swear he was about to say forbidden for the bike he bought and hated. He made a F noise haha
  • 3 1
 That was a good one.
  • 4 4
 Mountain bikes are really over priced there are plenty of motorcycles cheaper than many mountain bikes
  • 4 3
 Some mountain bikes are really, really expensive, but I don't think I would agree that mountain bikes as a whole are overpriced.
  • 3 0
 I hear the same complaint in the moto shop I work on that motorcycles are as expensive as cars (which in some cases they are), and my buddy who works at a Porsche/Audi dealer they have cars that cost as much as small houses. Also, when higher end mountain bikes cost $2500-$4000 in 2000, a new Honda CBR600 was $7800 MSRP and now that same Honda model in 2023 sells for $12100. The inflation over the years has for the most part kept pace with motorcycles and mountain bikes alike.
  • 1 0
 @dmackyaheard: I work in health care and I hear that's too expensive too and it is I just had a trauma visit that was over 20k without a admission Honda makes 2 250 bikes that are cheaper than many mountain bikes that don't have motors is Honda under charging then ?
  • 1 0
 How about that advent calendar?
Below threshold threads are hidden







Copyright © 2000 - 2024. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.045752
Mobile Version of Website