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Who is Raptor?

What do you do at Raptor?

Being the owner and the guy who started the company I can wear several different hats on a day to day basis from engineering, design, procurement, investor relations to in field Technician.  I truly enjoy every facet of this company and I feel one of our biggest assets is our profound understanding of vehicle dynamics.

How long have you been working on Raptor?

iceland-suspension-troubleshooting.gifIt’s been a long time…  Everyone tends to think that this stuff happens in a blink of an eye like you wake up one morning and decide you’re going to be the next biggest thing well that couldn’t be farther from the truth its waaay too technical for that.   I started working on California shocks (Fox) in 1990-1991 when they found their way on one of my first race sleds (XC 400) and it was pretty steady from that point on until 1997. 

For the next 12 years working for Polaris my passion turned into an obsession and from there into something freakish and started consuming my life and all I wanted to do at that point was suspension technology which goes hand and hand with shock development.  The last three years have been a full on assault building a business model around this obsession and here we are!

How often do you get to ride?

It’s rare that I don’t ride every day.  If I don’t ride for two or three consecutive days it’s most likely that I’m on the road with our 40‘ enclosed shop trailer in route to a remote area to test with or without our key customers getting there products along with ours dialed in for the upcoming season.  I used to average about 6000 miles a year doing development work I can’t say I’m at that level now but within another year I should be close.

How many sleds have you owned?

Counting my new Pro that isn’t here yet it will be number 21 excluding all of my development vehicles over the years and I might add 15 motorcycles, 9 ATV’s, 7 UTV’s!

Why shocks?

polaris-test-sled.gifGood question.  I didn’t set out to engineer-manufacture shock absorbers it just kind of happened.  I think shocks kind of picked me?  I had a manager at Polaris push me in that direction and life just works in strange ways sometimes.  It was at a point when it seemed inevitable that there was a big future for deep snow vehicles and we weren’t going to disappoint and this was at a time when there wasn’t computers on every bench (like there is now) and we had a small team of amazing people that were tasked with building the foundation of modern deep snow sleds.  This kind of spilled over into short track vehicles for me and really set things in motion at a high level.  This combined with working with the most amazing engineers and engineering tools in the business took all of us to new heights.  We had a lot of latitude at that time to do what truly needed to be done. 

Any favorite toys over the years?

nascar.gifYes!  I loved all of the huge dollar prototypes over the years!   It can be exhilarating to know that at any point if things go bad you could destroy a significant investment.  Few will ever get this opportunity.  One year for a class project I built a 100HP go-kart and it weighed like 175 pounds and when the teacher saw the finished product he refused to let us ride it on school grounds he should have refused to let us ride it period it was insane!  One other honorable mention was a full blown Winston cup car that I bought from Bill Davis racing that Ward Burton once raced and it had a 700hp engine packed in it and that was awesome to tear around on the back roads in northern Minnesota!   

What other sports are you interested in?

None.

Any notable moments over the years?

Yes when I finally figured out how to control the yaw moment of a snowmobile going through 1-1.5 foot deep whoops at a ground speed of 100mph.  Let’s just say it was way less painful for me after I figured it out, confidence inspiring systems rock!  One year I flew out to Sema to hang out with Randy and low and behold Walker showed up and asked me if I wanted to check out his Baja 1000 truck now we all know the answer to this one…  Little did I know it was 20 miles out of Las Vegas so we jumped in a full on pre runner (why wouldn’t you) with open headers (it seemed) in the heart of Las Vegas and tore out down the freeway of all things.  

At this point I’m thinking we’re going to jail but we did show up to a test area and there was a bad to the bone 800hp Baja trophy truck sitting there waiting for Walker to beat the  bejesus out of and let me tell you he didn’t disappoint!   This is one of those life altering moments when you question the validity of something and if it really just happened or not??  When you take a vehicle like that threw waist deep holes at 100mph and not only do you not die you never lift off the gas!!  This is one of the few days that I may have been speechless for a few moments!

Where and how do you ride?

I have ridden on the glaciers of British Columbia all the way to the Glaciers in Iceland and lots of places in between.  

bc-riding.gif

I really like to ride short and intermediate sleds around the Hurley Wisconsin and Ironwood Michigan area the trails there are phenomenal, fast and pretty diverse.  As far as long sleds Pinedale WY is a fantastic area to ride even though I haven’t been there for a few years due to the extra driving it’s still one of my favorites.  As far as how I ride I like it open and fast with the occasional waist deep whooped out power line.  Now that the sleds are so capable for climbing and can get you in places most shouldn’t be we’ve been migrating to more technical tree riding and that has always been a blast but most of the new iron has made it more desirable than just a handful of years ago.

 

Any words you live by?

Anything worth doing is worth over doing.

What motivates you?

I guess you would call it passion but I really dislike that word it seems so cliché.  I think what it is is 30 years of an insatiable desire for the powersports industry and it’s something you can’t simply turn off and we know that our products and technical ability will enhance the riding experience for hundreds of people like us.

What did your first shock look like?

Funny question!  Well believe it or not it was an air shock before air shocks were all the rage.  This shock which I do not have in my possession today (nice finder’s fee for anyone to locate it) was a culmination of a Fox shock body and a ported and welded body cap, a Walker bearing cap, some of our parts and a couple of Arvin parts tossed in there for good measure.  A friend and colleague and I spent about 12 hours a day on this design back and forth from the dyno to my bench for a week or two before we had something that we thought was acceptable.  We did right some patent disclosures on these ideas but no one thought the technology was that important to protect?  I wonder what they think now?  Anyways it spawned other ideas from its creation and really it was what most of you know today as modern high end air shocks.   

Where are your shocks built?

Our shocks are designed, engineered, tested, and assembled right here in northern MN.  We machine 100% of our components in house on brand new state of the art machining centers.  We also take it one step further we require that all of our materials (when possible) are to be sourced between our shores right here in the United States.  We do have a couple parts that we have to source off shore but we are working diligently to find them in North America.  It just seems to work better for us to support the guy down the road and the next state or two over it just happens to work out that he is the same guy that buys shocks from us!  Now who would have thought?  I guess the main take away here is these shocks are built in the USA with materials built in the USA and we promise this philosophy will not change anytime soon.