Ventana Mountain Bikes USA is a product of over four decades of off-road bicycling experience. Since the early 1970’s, Sherwood Gibson, one of Ventana’s two original founders has been assembling a wealth of bicycle specific product knowledge. Gibson began in 1974 as a BMX competitor in Northern California. He added to his seat-of-the-pants education with three years of high school metal shop, four years metals study in junior college with certification in welding and machining, and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Gibson’s bicycle manufacturing interests first took form in BMX component and side hack designs that he built in his dad’s garage during the week and raced on the weekends. In 1985 he built his first mountain bike frame of steel. And by competing in the infancy of mountain bike racing, including the infamous Whisky Town Downhill, Gibson gained critical feedback about the integrity of his concepts.
Ventana Mountain Bikes USA was formed in late 1988 as a joint venture between Gibson and Steve Blalock of Monterey, California. Gibson and Blalock remained partners until 1991 when Gibson became sole owner. The two shared a common interest in mountain bikes and their construction. Ventana is named for the rugged coastal wilderness in Big Sur near Blalock’s home. The company’s first challenge was to produce an elevated chainstay aluminum mountain bike frame without the weight penalty most frame builders of the day were experiencing. The Ventana team succeeded delivering to the marketplace in 1990, the well-received Cone Peak.
Mountain Bike Action wrote,”Climbing the Ventana was as efficient a process as any. The bike was stiff, and every pedal stroke went straight into the ground.”
The quickly evolving mountain bike technology of the nineties brought new ideas and designs from Gibson and Ventana. Over the years, Ventana has introduced such classic hardtail designs as their Marble Peak, Cone Peak, Elite, El Chiquillo, El Toro, El Comandante, El Padrino, and their new El Toro Bravo. Ventana’s tenure has also yielded full suspension frames with 2″ up to 9″ of rear travel ranging from their classic short-travel Marble Peak FS of the early nineties, to their state of the art El Cuervo 9″ travel DH racer of the early 2000’s. And Ventana has been at the forefront of adopting non-standard wheel sizes by taking advantage of their rapid-prototyping, build-in-house fabrication techniques with bikes like their El Rey 29er, their 69er El Chucho, and their 650b El Bastardo suspension frames. And since 1994, they have been on the cutting edge in design, development and production of offroad capable full suspension tandems with their popular El Conquistador de Montañas, and El Conquistador S&S frames in both 26″ and 29″ wheel platforms that have been winning scores of admirers and even more races. And Ventana has consistently received high accolades from industry trade publications, dealers, and customers alike for their industry leading welding excellence, meticulous attention to detail, stellar performance, luscious finishes and spot-on styling.
Nearly 25 years have passed since that first Cone Peak design and Gibson still designs every frame from the ground up to meet his stringent performance standards using his keen eye for aesthetic simplicity and impeccable drive for manufacturing excellence. 2012 brings four completely new frame designs starting with El Saltamontes, their 4″ travel XC endurance racer, El Rey, their 4″ travel 29er XC hammer, El Ciclón, their 140/150mm woods weapon, and culminating with El Chucho, their all mountain 69er. Like their Ventana predecessors, with all four new designs, the rave reviews still abound.
From their sexy CNC machined suspension pieces down to their smallest cable stop, every piece, of every Ventana frame, is painstakingly produced by Ventana. While other so called manufacturers market “Hand-Built, American-made bikes” that are actually built by large production houses in Taiwan and China, Ventanas are truly born and manufactured in the same region as the sport itself – Northern California.