In the 1990s, the sport of downhill mountain biking was undergoing a revolution. Mountain bike riding was shifting from racing down simple fire roads to challenging steep and difficult off-road trails. A small number of bike designers began experimenting with the geometry for suspension movement. Jan Karpiel was one of those designers, a mechanical engineering student, a ski racer, and a mountain bike enthusiast at the time.

Jan founded his own company and introduced the Karpiel Disco Volante, the first downhill bike frame to feature the successful use of the virtual pivot point on a downhill bike. The bike was also the first to offer adjustable ride height and adjustable suspension travel. In its debut race in the Norba US Nationals in Big Bear, California, Karpiel customers/racers scored thirteen podium finishes. The model proved extremely popular, and helped Jan to expand the bike company that would break so many barriers in its fifteen years in the business.

Jan Karpiel went on to introduce the Armageddon model, which was the first downhill bike to offer an adjustable progression rate, and an adjustable seat tower/rider position. Its suspension offered the same travel as the competition in the short travel setting, but offered up to eleven inches in the long travel setting. This set a long-travel trend that was followed by the Santa Cruz V10, and several other design competitors. While the Karpiel Armageddon earned a reputation as a solid race bike, it began to surface in extreme riding films due to its long suspension and proven durability.

Arguably the most famous Karpiel model, the Karpiel Apocalypse, was introduced in 2001, after Jan was approached by veteran extreme rider, Josh Bender. The Apocalypse featured a coil spring primary shock, and a secondary air shock, offering a jaw-dropping combined travel of 12.5 inches, which helped Josh land vertical drops of over 46 feet.

Throughout his career, Jan raced his own bikes. He designed and built the Karpiel Speed bike, which he raced to earn a North American Speed Bike Record in 2000, Aspen/Snowmass Colorado. His record was 107.606 mph on snow.

Over his long design and race career, Jan’s bikes have been featured in films (Down, Double-Down, New World Disorder 1& 2), TV shows (Next Step, Extreme Machines) and video games (Sony Playstation 2, Downhill Domination). He continues to design, and build, and push the limits, with several new Karpiel and Gravity Coaster projects underway.