After years as an avid cyclist, road racer and student of design and fabrication, Joe took his first steps into the world of frame building in 1974 by designing and building a limited number of road-racing frames. Those first frames would serve as his foundation for bicycle design. He was also riding off road, on decades-old fat-tire bikes. Eventually his combined skills led him to create the first all-new mountain bike, in 1977. Until that point, riders were modifying old cruiser frames and components for off-road riding. Joe built the Series I Breezer bikes with the goal of creating a new, stronger and lighter bike that would open up new possibilities for riders.
While hair-metal bands came and went during the 80s, Joe was busier than ever cranking out new advancements. To start the decade off, Joe built his Series II mountain bikes, a lighter frame design. He went on to design the uni-crown fork for Tange. Joe also created his more aggressive Series III Breezer bikes. Those bikes often featured the revolutionary Hite-Rite seat-dropper that Joe developed with Josh Angell. If this wasn’t enough Joe, with 11 friends, fellow racers and colleagues, also created the first mountain bike racing and advocacy organization: NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association). Joe was largely responsible for the NORBA self-sufficiency rule for racing, to keep the bikes relevant to everyday mountain bikers. To round out the decade Joe designed his first aluminum-frame bikes, the American Breezer. He was honored for his work by being inducted as a charter member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1988.
In a time when the internet was growing to connect more people with information, Joe was making big steps to connect more people with his designs. Limited with the quantities of hand-built bikes that he could produce alone, Joe introduced three new models designed for mass production with different price points to meet riders’ budgets. These bikes, the Breezer Lightning, Thunder and Storm, were produced by Interjet of Japan to Joe’s specifications and allowed more people to experience the Breezer ride. With his bikes being produced in factories, Joe got to focus on further developments in frame technology. One important development for Breezer and other custom frame builders around the world was Joe’s Breeze-In dropout. This dropout’s very compact 3D design was half the weight while twice as stiff as commonly used, traditional flat dropouts. The efficient and elegant Breeze-In dropout changed the way frame builders designed their bikes and is still found on many custom frames today regardless of material. Other notable components and frame elements that Joe designed included the Vortex crankset using a hollow-chromoly arm design; the Backdraft rim, a super-light 390g design with drilled box septum; and D’fusion frame tubing. Joe remained an avid road rider, and for the 1993 model year he created the Venturi road bike, the first production frame with compact geometry. Joe also developed his first full-suspension mountain bike, the Twister, which used the Sweet Spot™ Unified Rear Triangle design. Toward the end of the decade, with the bike industry focused on recreational riding, Joe switched gears to focus fully on bike transportation advocacy. A founder of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and creator of its map, he helped design local cycling infrastructure, and met with local, state and federal leaders to encourage better funding for bike-ped projects and Safe Routes to Schools.
After years working to improve infrastructure for cycling and encouraging people to choose bicycles for transportation, Joe knew the missing element in the US was a bike built for everyday trips. He devoted the Breezer brand to “Transportation for a Healthy Planet” and designed a new range of bikes fully equipped for shopping in town, commuting, and combining with public transit. During this time Joe also helped with some start-up bikeshare projects with the goal of creating a bike-friendly environment in the US, as he had seen in other areas such as Amsterdam, where over 60% of inner-city trips are made by bicycle instead of car. With his new range of bikes Joe was recognized in the general media, as well as the bike industry, for his leadership and innovations. He received his first of six Editors’ Choice awards from Bicycling Magazine. Breezer went on to receive two more awards for transportation bikes before the close of the decade. In 2008 Joe teamed up with Advanced Sports to improve the distribution of his transportation line and introduce a new line of mountain bikes. On the new Breezer Lightning and Thunder, Joe’s D’Fusion tubing was hydroformed to manipulate the tube shapes to diffuse frame stress in critical areas. Most leading bike frames today mimic this D-shaping on top and down tubes.
With the establishment of Breezer’s range of transportation bikes Joe has continued to tinker with his designs. Building upon the success of the Breeze-In dropout, Joe developed the Breeze-In Split dropout, which allowed the ability to install a belt system for drivetrains, and later the Breeze-Through dropout; a through-axle dropout design that shared the same outer-profile as the original quick-release design but with the ability to house thread-in axles and offer replaceable derailleur hangers. For bikes, Joe joined forces with leading suspension-kinematics experts to design Breezer’s first multi-link suspension bikes, the Repack and Supercell, which used the MLink suspension design. Breezer also developed its line of adventure bikes, which pay homage to some of Joe’s and other pioneers’ early designs of creating versatile bikes that allow riders to tackle multiple types of terrain while touring, bikepacking or racing your buddies over the nearest mountain.