Written by Ghost. December 31st, 2016
I’ve known Jan Karpiel for over ten years, which is the same as saying that I haven’t suffered from boredom in the past decade. The man cannot stop inventing, altering, breaking, racing, crashing, designing and building things that make absolutely no sense… until they do. He’s part athlete, part engineer, part crass friend, part detail-sweating artist, and definitely the guy you call when you’re stuck in elevator, either because he can get you out, or because he can tell you all about how elevators work while you’re waiting for someone else to get you out. His level of technical knowledge ranges from amazing to exasperating, and the world is better off for it.
Add to this, that he has a serendipitous relationship with the universe. Don’t get me wrong; he’s crashed out hard a few times in in life, business, and in competition, but he takes the hard lessons and brings them forward into the next venture, which is a skill drilled into him by the Eastern European, hero-of-the-people, hardcore athletic programs of his youth. Every day, as a kid, he trained for slalom racing on the Polish ski slopes, carving down icy runs and running for miles in the subzero temps, getting hounded by coaches schooled in the art of ‘strong like bull’ athletic management. He credits his ability to push through difficulties to this upbringing, but the story only get stranger from there.
What are the odds of a young Polish National Ski Champion, racing in the World and Europa cups, meeting a beautiful American corporate heiress who drives a Ferrari and lives in Manhattan? If it happened in a big-budget movie with a preview montage of mass protests during the time of Polish Martial Law, tanks in the streets, closing borders, and epic orchestral music playing on the heartstrings of teary-eyed teenagers, it would sell popcorn. But this happened in real life, to a man who found himself in the US at the age of eighteen, building a life far from home.
He doesn’t say much about earning a scholarship from the University of Utah, or ski racing in America, or restoring vintage race cars, or designing his own mountain bikes and founding a bicycle company that operated for fifteen years (placing Karpiel bikes in the top adrenaline films, technical TV shows, and MTB video games of its day).
He doesn’t talk at all about the frustration of having some businesses take off, while others fail, and how much it has cost him to follow his dreams.
He talks about his North American speed record (funny story), and his intention to make a second speed record attempt. He talks about future projects, including new gravity vehicles, electric vehicles and automated hydroponics labs (for commercial herbs and not recreational ones), as well as suspension innovations for snowmobiles, and his plans to customize the vintage race cars that sit patiently under heavy car covers on his property.
He talks about details, and about broad ideas, and he’s one of the few people I know who can go anywhere, befriend almost anyone, and get into the heads of designers, inventors, and adrenaline freaks. He’s a man who built an elevator out of two steel poles, one steel plate, and an electric winch. He’s a man who added two pontoons, and two electric push-rods, to a golf cart to make it amphibious. He’s a man who fitted a way-too-powerful electric drive to an ornamental Thai rickshaw, built an off-road DH trike for paraplegic clients, a leaning gravity racer, a bicycle that goes over 100 mph on snow, and many other fascinating and terrifying oddities. In short, he’s a man with an addiction to speed, function and form, always interesting, ever entertaining, and a welcome contributor the bizzaro world of Eccentrici.