I walked into the shop and was greeted by an animated guy covered in tattoos. While talking to him, I noticed he was locked onto what I was saying. Paying attention to every detail or timid question I asked, he was ready to help me. Understanding that I was new to mountain bikes, he took the time to deconstruct explanations of the mechanics of a mountain bike. No matter how silly I felt asking a question or calling something by the wrong name, he was quick to politely correct me to ensure I was informed. As we walked through my bike’s features, I could tell he was extremely knowledgeable. Without any hesitation, he was able to explain things, while simultaneously working away. He was in a flow state of mind at this point and there wasn’t much that was going to take him out of it. This ability only comes with an expertise that is unmatched.
Brian Alexander was introduced to his first bike through a friend’s dad at the age of 15, an old-school Karpiel Armageddon. It was a bike they never dared to touch, but it sparked him and his friend’s interest in getting their own bikes. It wasn’t long before Brian had saved some money and bought his first hardtail, quickly becoming fully immersed into this exciting hobby and riding his bike every waking moment. Little did Brian know that this hobby would change the course of his life and become the catalyst for Lonewolf Suspension, some 15 years later.
Although riding around town and hucking his cheap hardtail off ledges was fun, it was a co-worker at a new job that introduced him to the burly backcountry trails of Santa Barbara. This was proper mountain biking. Out of pure ignorance and grit, they would push their fifty-pound downhill bikes up steep trails and then blast down. Riding these trails allowed him to get familiar with the intricacies of bike mechanics. Like a mad scientist, he constantly kept tinkering, adjusting, deconstructing, and reconstructing the parts of his bike. These moments were the beginning of building Brian’s foundational knowledge of bikes.
At 17, Brian decided he wanted to work at a bike shop. He marched into Velo Pro Cyclery, a Santa Barbara bike shop, begging to have a job there. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and went in every day, determined for a chance to work there. He finally told them “I will work for free. You don’t even have to pay me, I just want to work on bikes!” How do you say no to someone who so passionately wants to learn? Well, you guessed it. Brian was hired! This job was exactly what he needed. He was given the freedom to really learn in that mad scientist format and completely tear apart everything to solve a given problem. We talked about the significant difference between then and now. Now you can Google anything, watch a YouTube video or even look up a manual online. “I couldn’t do any of that,” he explained. Brian told me that the only way he could figure it out was by taking everything apart. I asked him if he felt uneasy about doing that to people’s bikes. His response, “I always figured it out.”
During his time at Velo Pro, Brian gained not only a biking mentor but also a life mentor: Dan Carbonaro. Striking a brotherly bond quickly, Dan would help guide Brian through the nuances of coming into adulthood. One of the more monumental events in Brian’s life was his father’s passing. At only 17, he received the call his father had months left to live. Dan was there as a friend and brother, with Brian leaning on him as a support system. Riding and racing bikes together became therapeutic, and at the same time built a friendship that would last for years to come. Brian’s skill level on and off the bike excelled to new levels. Off to the side was a whole different narrative beginning though. As most of us do when we are younger, Brian was partying and enjoying life. The partying began to get a bit more serious and eventually led Brian into the dark world of drug addiction. What started as a casual experience shooting heroin on the weekends (yeah, super casual..), eventually turned into a mandatory routine in order to function daily. Wanting desperately to get clean, Brian realized the best option was to skip town and start over somewhere new. He talked with a friend who had a house in Santa Fe and was willing to let him live there, so he left. Just like that, he was off to New Mexico.
New Mexico was a new beginning where Brian could re-center himself. It took him several months, but he was able to secure a job at BTI, a large bicycle parts distributor. Drug-free and working at his dream job (at that time), he was learning more about the industry. He worked in Sales and Purchasing, which allowed him to interact with all sorts of riders in a really professional way. While working at BTI, he received a call that his friends from Santa Barbara, Dan Carbonaro and Chris Rice, had been missing for days in the desert. He immediately decided he had to go back to Santa Barbara to aid in the search efforts. Unfortunately, they were found days later at the bottom of a steep cliff, having tragically driven off the edge in the middle of the night. Two friends taken from this earth, far too young, was a huge blow to Brian. After the dust had settled, Brian headed back to continue his life in New Mexico, but not for long. As Brian was telling this story to me, you could see that he remembered everything about that experience like it was just yesterday. He explained to me how he had to go back to Santa Barbara to be with his friends, “I just had this feeling I had to come back.”
Life back in Santa Barbara came with another downward spiral of drug addiction. He did have his job at Velo Pro again, but it didn’t keep him busy enough to kick his old habits. Luckily for Brian, he had a great network of friends who always wanted what’s best for him. There was another offer to move away and get clean, but this time it would be Colorado. By that time in his life, he had no trouble getting a job because of all his experience in the bike industry. In fact, he nailed a job with Peloton Cycles before he even moved to Fort Collins.
At the age of 24, Brian once again set off with everything he owned in the back of his car to start over. Peloton Cycles was the largest shop Brian had worked in. “It had six full-time service stands and even two check-in stands with a dedicated service writer,” he explained. It had a great vibe with a fun team. About a half a year in, Brian got that nomadic itch and realized he wasn’t as happy as he used to be working there. He made the decision to look elsewhere and successfully landed a new job with Push Industries, arguably one of the top suspension tuning and manufacturing companies in the industry.
Push was an amazing opportunity for Brian. He described this time in his life as being incredible for the learning experience he received. The foundation of his suspension knowledge came from Push. A lot of days were spent on the manufacturing side of things. Brian explained, “We were literally seeing how parts were built from start to finish, it was fascinating.”
For as much as he was learning at Push, he was also creating connections that would last throughout his career. “I was riding with my co-workers all the time, while also being able to approach the owners Darren & Christina Murphy,” Brian reflected, “It is cool to have established a relationship with them from when I worked there up until now. They are super busy running their own business, but they take the time to keep up with what I am doing.”
While on a ride one day, Brian received a phone call from a previous employer; BTI. The manager of the Factory Service Department had left and the person they immediately thought of to fill the position was Brian. Without trying to seem overly excited and while attempting to maintain a level of professionalism, Brian calmly told them, “Let me think about it.” Of course he was elated, but he had to play it cool. Don’t worry, he took the job and started his second career at BTI.
This time at BTI, Brian had his work cut out for him. The department needed a change and burst of energy, which Brian did not fear. He faced this challenge by making some small changes that had a huge impact. I asked Brian to think back to the thing(s) that made him successful in running the department and he said, “To run a one man show you have to be well versed in everything. You have to be a good mechanic while also having exceptional customer service skills. It’s hard to find both in one person.”
BTI sent Brian to the industry leaders of bike suspension to receive factory training, which helped build upon the base of knowledge he already had. Brian loved working at BTI, which had a similar atmosphere to Push. Everyone was riding bikes together and hanging out, from the top down.
As I continued asking questions about Brian’s time at BTI, I noticed his face light up as he summarized his experience there. Kind of the same look he gets when you just talk about bike suspension in general. BTI really helped shape his future by giving him authority to do things on his own. They took the hands-off approach with Brian, which ultimately gave him the confidence to think he could start his own business one day.
For Brian, it isn’t about just being content; he has to be doing something he is fully enthusiastic about. He has had a lot of jobs and lived in several different states, but something never was fully satisfying his inner calling. He was okay with constantly changing as long he could enhance his passion. At 27, he made the decision to move back to California to start a business with a friend in San Diego. While the business venture never panned out, the move sparked a whole new path for Brian.
In New Mexico, Brian had started a 4wd van conversion to take to bike races. When he moved to San Diego, he took the van with him, not realizing that it would quickly become his permanent home. After seeing the ridiculous rent prices, he swore off living in a house and completely moved into the van. Vanlife was a huge turning point for how Brian began viewing his life. Having always been nomadic with the itch to explore and travel, the van offered a home without being really tied to anything. Absolute freedom!
After closing the van door on San Diego, he came back to the city and bike shop where his story began. When returning to Velo Pro, Brian knew he had to be straightforward with his demands. He wanted to work part-time, save money, and take large chunks of time off to go travel. To his surprise, Velo Pro welcomed his demands. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, Brian was able to do just that. For the next several years he traveled all over the Southwest, lived out of his van, and helped run two store locations. Soaking in every trip would replenish his desire for adventure. Absorbing the essence of towns visited brought insight into the world of others. THIS WAS IT. He had accomplished so much and was able to really live the life he wanted. Yet here he was with that voice inside his head telling him, “there is more.”
Up until this point in Brian’s story, it has consisted of 15 years of adventure, growth, self-awareness, and for the most part, a carefree attitude. March 2020 and Covid-19 completely turned everything inside out. It has affected us all, in many different ways, and Brian was no exception. It gave him a new perspective on life and what’s really important to him. So, what do you do in the middle of a pandemic? Some might be more calculated and risk-averse with their options, but Brian quit his job with no plan. I remember him telling us he quit and the first thing I thought was, “Is he crazy?” All Brian knew is that he never wanted to work for anyone again.
Once he quit, he had time to really analyze what he had done and what his next steps were going to be.
Brian believes that “If you have a vision, fucking go for it.”
On his 31st birthday, in April, he wholeheartedly knew what his next step was. In May, the hunt for locations for his business began and by the end of the month, he signed a lease. June 1, 2020 was the first day Lonewolf Suspension was open and to no surprise of Brian’s, he had customers raring to go.
“Starting a business is your whole life. I started Lonewolf with every penny and every ounce of drive and energy I had,” Brian stated. His business is without a doubt his whole life. Without even knowing it, 15 years of dedication and passion had already gone into it. Studying and analyzing all the bike knowledge, which he had accumulated over the years, created a person who is now a walking encyclopedia. Whether he planned it or not, Brian had been preparing for the day when he could fully share his ardor for the industry with the world, and now he gets to do it on his own accord.
When you take your suspension into Lonewolf, you know it will be taken care of meticulously, passionately, and with the intention of stoking you out! The coolest thing about going to Brian, is that he wants you to understand your bike, to feel the difference when riding, and to get you back out on the trails as fast as possible. Lonewolf Suspension was brought to life with the rider in mind. You make an appointment for your suspension service, so you can spend more time riding and less time away from your next adventure. Brian is shaping a new community of riding here in Santa Barbara and it’s amazing to watch it unfold in front of us! Customers feel the vibes and they feed off of it. I’ve personally been taking my bike to Brian for the last year and while I can’t say I fully push my suspension to the limit, I can say that when I finally do, I won’t even question it for a second.