Industry Insider interview: Jeff Zell


Sioux City, Iowa

Current location?

Hayward, CA

What do you do for/with/to bicycles?

I am the Global-Go-To Guy at Panaracer tires. I help design and market bicycle tires

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working from home! Seriously. But right up there is coming up with tire ideas that work, that people use, and that enhance the ride of any kind of bicycle.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

Not having enough resources or time to do the projects we come up with at the company.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles?

I’ve always been athletic (not to be confused with a good athlete) and when mountain bikes hit in the mid 1980’s I got bite by the bug and never looked back.

Tell us about a career highlight of yours…

Most recently, landing Cedric Gracia to help develop of line of MTB tires. I’ve worked with many pro’s and pro teams over the years but Cedric has been great to work with it and better than I imagined when we first began talking about it.

What was your first bicycle?

1967 pea green Schwinn Sting-Ray

What bike do you currently ride the most?

Soulcraft Royale on the road, Santa Cruz Blur XC for MTB, and a converted Breezer for around town.

Where is your favorite place to ride?

I know it sounds boring, but I’ve ridden all over and there fantastic places in Europe, Asia, etc. But I live in N. California and it doesn’t get much better than this for year round riding of all kinds.

What music goes through your head while you ride?

Far too many songs or artists to list. But Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash are never far away.

What’s your favorite post-ride refreshment/snack?

Cherries, or any fruit.

Who in the industry inspires you?

I am a sponge, so many people have over the years. Ken Masada at InterJet, Sean Walling at Soulcraft, Scott Nicol at Ibis, Steve Elms who helped found IF, Steve Flagg at QBP, Jerry Jayne at Amgen. Those are just the ones that immediately came to mind.

What are your interests aside from bicycles?

Family, American football, music, and naps.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d be in the clothing industry. That’s where I started out.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry…

Well, this really dates me but I’m proud to have been in on the development of one of the biggest (and maybe hard to understand now) crazes in mountain biking, the onZa bar end. We couldn’t make them fast enough at the time. It was also great to help bring to market the Dart, Fire XC Pro and now the CG line of tires.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series?

You guys should talk to Sean Walling over at Soulcraft. Or Rob Mossman over at Pearl Izumi.


Veterans with a long history and good people.



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