In late March, we toured Alias’ headquarters in Carlsbad, California. The young company has been the official gear sponsor of the GEICO Honda team since 2012, and has built a unique model by selling directly to customers instead of dealers. The brand was co-founded by Mike Grondahl, who not only serves as a partner with the GEICO Honda team, but also the man who revived The Wick 338 (Southwick) when the track’s days looked numbered a few years ago. Grondahl is also the co-founder of Planet Fitness.
One person behind the scenes that makes the company tick is Bruce Marada. The company’s athlete manager wears many hats—including helping serve as a Racer X test rider from time to time. We caught up with Marada recently at Alias’ headquarters to find out how he got his start in the industry, and more.
Racer X: Can you give me your moto background? How’d you get involved with racing?
Bruce Marada: For me, moto has been my whole life pretty much since day one. My family, they all rode and stuff before I was even born. I just started riding when I was like five, and raced when I was eight. Pretty much I’ve always been involved with all of it. Did all the amateur stuff. I did some arenacross racing. I did a lot of different, random stuff. I did everything from desert racing, supermoto … I rode for Suzuki in 2008 or 2009 for WORCS Racing. I helped out a lot of different brands when I was younger. I did a lot of testing for Thor, got to do all their catalogue shoots. That really got my foot in the door as far as working in the industry. I just had good relationships with all these other racers that were actually becoming something. So for me I got to a point where I was trying to do that, I was trying to live that life of I just want to keep trying to race and ride until I can make it. I came to a road where I’m like, alright, I’m not going to make it racing. So then this is the next best thing—working in the industry. I still get to be around it. I still get to ride. I still get to do bike tests for you guys. I still get to be involved with riding. This is like the next best thing for me, being able to work in the industry that I grew up in and that I absolutely love. That kind of wraps it up. If I couldn’t make it successfully racing, this is the next best thing for me. It’s cool, too, because having a racer’s mentality—that’s what I did. I raced so much growing up, it’s giving me this competitive side and it’s brought it over to what I do here. I always want to be the best at what we do. So I feel like racing definitely helped out on that side.
What other things have you done in the industry?
I was at Thor. I worked at Tiger Designs painting helmets at one point. I was training kids for like four years—really serious with it. That was like my full-time gig, training amateur kids and stuff, traveling to amateur races and helping all the kids race and stuff.
It’s my understanding that you help find the younger prospective talent as kids?
Exactly. So what was cool about that is when I did that I had all these relationships built in the grassroots area so that when I started here, that’s where I started, building the grassroots program. I already had all my relationships lined up from that.
Those relationships must play a big part with your amateurs and their families.
Absolutely. I feel with Alias it’s been very successful on its amateur side. We’ve won plenty of amateur titles within the years of the brand being here, so I’m pretty stoked on that. It’s a big part of it—scouting and seeing who the next kid is.
Do you still go to a lot of amateur races now?
Yeah, I do. Not as much as I used to, but I’m still going to amateur races. I’ll do like Cali Classic here on the West Coast. Daytona is a big amateur national now. I try my best to go to Freestone ever year. Then Mammoth is always a good one. Then obviously the most famous one, which is Loretta’s. Monster Cup is a good one as well.
How did you end up at Alias?
My really good friend Craig Rood. Craig has a big background of doing what I do in the industry. He was that guy for No Fear and then he knew everything that I did and brought me on board for Alias.
Is Craig still with Alias?
Actually he left for a while and just recently returned to the company.
Do you work mostly just with the amateurs?
No, now I work with amateurs and pros.
You’re wearing a lot of hats.
Yeah, which is pretty gnarly because all these brands have people for every little thing they do, it seems like. You have an event guy only, then you have a grassroots guy, then you have a pro guy, but at Alias we’re all wearing a bunch of hats. That’s kind of what it takes in order for it to become what it is. That’s just what it takes growing a brand, I guess. We started in 2011, so it’s only been a couple years. It takes quite a while.
So what’s it like working here? You get to do some ride days once in a while?
Yeah. It’s fun. I’ve been here since 2012 and I love it. The team we have and the group of people that I’m around every day is a lot of fun. It’s just awesome. I just always look back and I’m just so thankful to be where I am today and what I do in this industry. Like I said, if I wasn’t racing this is the next best thing I could be doing right now.
How many races do you go to?
Out of the 17 rounds I’m going to about 10 of the supercross rounds. Then outdoors I try and go to about five. Then amateur events, there’s about six major amateur nationals. I try and do about four of those.
You’ve got a little guy at home. When’s he going to start riding?
Everyone always asks that question: “When is he going to ride? He’s going to ride for sure, right?” For me, being a dad now, it’s weird. I’ve seen what this sport can do to you injury-wise, so it’s made me think twice. I don’t know if I’d really want my kid to ride and race, but at the same time me being around it and so involved with it like this, I don’t think I have a choice. The kid already has a little plastic motorcycle he’s riding around the house. When he sees supercross on he freaks out. I’m not going to tell my kid not to be something. If he wants to do it I’ll let him, but I’m not going to push him into doing it.
It’s kind of the battle that everybody in the industry faces.
That’s how it should be, too. I feel like the guys that are successful in this sport are the ones that actually truly wanted it as themselves also. Yeah, you do have to get pushed from a parent or someone like that, but I feel like the guys that are super successful are the ones that truly want it. I’ve seen that a lot being in the industry and stuff to where it’s like I’ve seen some of the best amateur kids in the world end up being nothing because their parents wanted it more than they did. The kids that truly want to do it, I feel like those are the most successful ones.