As with most off-road enthusiasts, Joe Rafael, who is the founder/owner and sole wrench turner for Cycle Suspension, began his love for riding with a 1973 Briggs and Stratton mini bike. From there Joe progressed to “his first real bike” which was a 1976 YZ80 that he bought used in 1977. Since his father was more inclined to crunch numbers as an accountant than to turn wrenches on engines, Joe had to learn how to maintain his bike on his own. The variety of bikes Joe has ridden runs the gamut of brands and sizes including an RM100 and 125; YZ125 and 465; KX125, 250, 500; KTM300; and finally a CR500. He currently rides a CR250. So, it is obvious that just from his own riding career, Joe has had experience with a variety of machines.
In approximately 1984 Joe began working for Liquid Spring which was a hydraulic company specializing in suspensions for large machinery such as mining trucks. As luck would have it, the company offered Joe a transfer to California in 1988 because of his overall knowledge of inventory and inner workings of the customized suspensions that Liquid Spring had created. Being a single young man, Joe decided to take the opportunity and headed to California. Of course, he took his bike and gear with him.
While in California, Joe met a motorcycle suspension tuner who happened to consult on contract-type work for Liquid Spring. That chance meeting would result in Joe spending all of his free time working with this tuner, Jake Thompson, learning the tricks of the motorcycle suspension trade for Thompson’s own business Suspension by Jake. For two and a half years, Rafael remained in California in what he recalls as a love-hate relationship. There were certain aspects he really loved but ultimately they were not enough to keep him there. He remembers, “I loved the racing and riding there. That is where I did more motocrossing than I had ever done before. I have loved riding motocross from the ‘git-go’. I had money, a bike, so I went racing.” However, there were aspects of California life of which Joe wasn’t fond, especially his entire family living in Texas. So, Rafael returned home to family and friends in June 1990. Not long after that he registered the trade name of his own fledgling suspension business and began Cycle Suspension in the garage of his mother’s home.
Since then, Cycle Suspension has grown in its own following with clientele that includes all aspects of the two-wheeled world: vintage, road race, street bike, enduro, motocross, hare scramble, and cross country riders. With the surge in off-road vehicles such as ATVs and UTVs, Joe has begun to include service for these machines as well. In 1995 Joe began racing the Texas Cross Country Racing Association (TCCRA) series. After winning a championship in the Open Amateur class in 1998, Joe began toying with the idea of track-side suspension service. Thus, in 1999 he began carrying tools and supplies to the cross country races to perform suspension services at the track. This provided Cycle Suspension further growth in the off-road world.
Currently, Joe races with the Texas Offroad Nationals (TORN) organization and has begun dabbling in vintage mx restoration. His first completed project is a 1985 CR125. He plans to continue racing cross country and restoring more vintage bikes.