jefe origin story

I keep a fairly low profile on the Internet, mostly because of my day job, but in my role as "el jefe", there's been a fair amount of curiosity about me, my background, and ultimately, the origin story behind the brand.

I’ve been involved in organized cycling since the mid-1970’s. Some of my earliest memories include having jelly and toast for breakfast before heading out to weekend bike races with my dad, the top down in the Pontiac Catalina with the bikes in the back seat, the cool morning air blowing and the sun coming up over the horizon.

I did plenty of racing when I was younger and even made it to the U.S. National Championships. Like my cycling peers, some of whom would end up as domestiques for you know who, I closely followed the rise of Jacques Boyer in Europe and the TdF battles among Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault, and Laurent Fignon in Velo News and the European cycling magazines that made their way to our mailbox.

Turned out that I preferred reading about their exploits than emulating them. My racing tapered down during college and when I moved to Manhattan in the early 90’s, the only racing I was doing was on the rollers in the winter. Mostly, I was commuting to my job in Brooklyn on a proper track bike and riding my road bike around the Central Park loop after work. 

While in New York, I caught the bike touring bug and did a bunch of long-distance tours, some solo, some with friends.  Portland to San Francisco, Seattle to San Francisco, New Orleans to Chicago.  It’s funny to think about these tours now because it was all done before cell phones and GPS, and the equipment was so maintenance-needy compared with today’s gear.  And of course these trips are documented with 35mm transparencies; yes, that’s me with Don Draper’s carousel.

Lots of cities and houses later, I got back into cycling. In 2008, I drove from Chicago to Pittsburgh with the bike on the roof and rode the newly opened Allegheny Passage / C&O trail to Washington DC. So fun and with an internally geared rear hub and better tires, a lot less wrenching on this trip.  I did the trip again a few years later with a friend and my 12-year old son, my Robert Pirsig moment, working my inquiry into quality this time with belt drive, a single speed, and digital photography.

It was around this time that read an installment of The Cordillera—the annual journal detailing personal experiences on the Tour Divide. I bought a new frameset, kitted it out with a million mail order purchases, and began the riding-gear tweaking-riding-gear tweaking process that everyone involved with long distance / endurance cycling is familiar. After a failed TD attempt in 2018, I flew to Kalispell in 2019 and rode 1,200 miles on the GDMBR as a touring rider—this time with zero technical issues.

Jefe arose from a bit of downtime I had this year during the pandemic-driven stay-at-home period. I’m leveraging a lifetime of sales, marketing, distribution, and cycling experience to deliver unique content to do-it-yourself riders like me and to retailers who serve the bikepacking and ultra endurance racing marketplace. The business model is based on what I would want as a consumer—products that are nonpareil and well explained, inventory that’s available, pricing that makes sense to end users and dealers alike, and free shipping.

There are plenty of cycling brands based on superlatives, so I figured I’d reach for the stars with “jefe”—loosely “boss” in Spanish, it rolls of the tongue, makes for a short URL, and it’s fun to imagine the type of person who would be behind the brand. The owl is my personal spirit animal; prominent in the iconography of many cultures, it represents wisdom and nocturnal guardianship among other things.

--el jefe, September 2020


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