One can imagine a young Tiberio Esparza watching his father, Pablo, weld farm equipment in a hot shop somewhere in the Imperial Valley of California. Beads of sweat roll, while sparks fly and two pieces of hot metal become one. There was probably no question Tiberio would carry on the business his dad had bought and made his own years earlier, but where that business would go was anyone’s guess.
Little did the two of them know that a few years later Tiberio would become a nationally ranked amateur motocross rider, as an adult he’d ride an adventure bike the length of South America, and over time would turn his father’s shop into a multi-million-dollar company.
Pablo Esparza was one of thousands of Mexican immigrants who came into the United States in the 50’s. Drugs and the gangs that sold them weren’t prevalent then, but neither were jobs. The United States was in an ongoing post-WW II growth spurt, and men like Pablo were hoping to be part of it.
For Pablo, that road to success began not as a welder, but as a cook in a labor camp in Blythe, California, a small desert town at the intersection of Interstate 10 and the 95 that might see rain all of 16 days out of the year. Tiberio was born there.
Several years later, Pablo took his family to Westmorland, an even smaller farming town at the south end of the Imperial Valley and about two hours east of San Diego. When he had an opportunity to buy a welding business there, he took it.
Tiberio with his father, Pablo Esparza in Mexico.
Pablo taught Tiberio to weld and turn metal into something besides an amorphous tube or sheet. At the age of 10, Tiberio had already started learning his lessons well and built his own bicycle. But as he watched his friends ride dirt bikes, he realized he wanted the same. He started bugging his dad to get him one. Eventually, Pablo caved.
“I came home one day when I was 12, and I saw this brand new DT175 sitting outside of our house. I wondered who had come to visit us. Then my dad told me it was mine. Of course, every time I had told him I wanted a bike, I told him I knew how to ride one. So when I got on the bike my dad bought me, I had to pretend I knew what I was doing.”
Luckily, Tiberio had picked up enough from watching his friends ride that his initial effort went off without a problem. About a year later at the age of 13, he started racing motocross. A YZ125 replaced the DT, and Tiberio’s career took off. At one point, he was ranked as high as 13th in the country as an amateur and would go on to race in the Amateur Grand Nationals. He even tried his hand at a bit of MotoGP.
A YZ125 similar to what Tiberio raced when he was 13.
But before he was out of high school, he decided to stop racing. Not because of an injury or parental demands, but because he had gone as far as he wanted in the sport.
“I have to tell you, I like to go fast, but I’m a bit of a pansy when it comes to getting hurt. I rode at the range of my limit. And I have more first place trophies than any other to show for it. I even qualified number one in the Western Region in the last finals I raced. But I had accomplished my goals as a racer.”
High school led to college and a serious try at a degree in mechanical engineering at Arizona State University. But Tiberio found himself drawn back to his dad’s business, and a promise to his dad to return to college after a year turned to two…and two turned into forever.
“The welding business my father bought had its roots in shoeing horses and building plows and other implements for the local farmers. Growing up, I was doing a lot of design work for parts for tractors. But when John Deere started standardizing their parts in the 80s, small welding and metal shops like my dad’s were declining. So we had to find ways to expand.”
Tiberio is a modest man. When he says expansion, you might think a larger welding and metal shop. Or maybe more than one location. But his modesty belies a knack for building something bigger.
“I started looking at work with industrial power plants. But that wasn’t something I was looking forward to. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on call on Saturdays. That wasn’t what I wanted for me or my family. So I moved the company into industrial work – bridges and marine terminal equipment. We currently supply a large percentage of the metal for the Los Angeles subway."
EW Corporation headquarters today in El Centro, California.
That decision has turned the small welding shop Pablo Esparza bought in Westmorland into a multi-million-dollar organization now called EW Corporation. Tiberio is quick to give credit for that kind of growth where he believes it belongs.
“I attribute it to luck, and the faith my customers have in the company team to deliver quality work consistently. That’s what we continue to do, and it’s what I believe will always make us successful.”
While Tiberio took a significant break from motorcycles to concentrate on building his company into what it is today, a chance encounter in the California desert brought him back into riding.
“My sister (Cynthia Smith) and my nephew (Christian Garcia) invited my wife (Suzanna) and me out to the desert one afternoon, and we saw this group of people riding dirt bikes. They were having so much fun, I couldn't stand it. So we went back into town, I bought a dirt bike and we rode it the rest of the weekend.”
That might have been enough to satisfy most people, but Tiberio is about accomplishments and natural lead ins from one thing to the next. Which means he leaves himself open to possibilities. The impetus for where his riding would go from there came from an unexpected source.
“Suzanna and I had been invited to participate in the Iron Man championships in Hawaii. I was the head referee’s motorcycle pilot, which got me onto a BMW GS. So I ended up buying one when we got back to California because I wanted to be a marshall during the Tour of California bike ride. But I ended up not pursuing that. The GS just sat for a while until my nephew Christian told me about the Rawhyde adventure riding course. So I bought a course for him and me so we could take it together.
Tiberio with his nephew, Chris, riding in Mexico.
Prior to taking the course, Tiberio admitted he wasn’t that comfortable with the GS and really didn’t know how to ride it the way it was meant and designed to be ridden. The Rawhyde course changed that.
“I didn’t think I was that good, but they told me I had natural ability. Which probably came from my motocross racing experience. I got to be a better rider on that bike and became friends with Jim Hyde. When it came up, he invited me to be part of his Expedition 65 tour.”
That tour would take Tiberio and 14 other riders from one end of South America to the other over a little more than two months. Other than a ride from California to Alaska, this would be the longest ride Tiberio had ever taken, and the longest period he had ever been away from his business.
Tiberio riding in South America with Expedition 65.
“When you’re the main guy, you end up patching up the little issues all of the time. I realized I couldn’t patch them any more, I had to fix them. I hired a professional management team to help me do that. The company is now much stronger than it’s ever been. I credit Jim Hyde and that trip for helping me make that happen.”
Tiberio giving the thumbs up to a white board testament to the Expedition 65.
Long, grueling experiences have a way of teaching a person a thing or two. They also can leave indelible images firmly planted in your psyche. For Tiberio, this wasn’t necessarily the scenery or the near constant rain they found themselves riding in. It was the people, particularly the children, and the reminder that fundamentals and consistency are necessary in every part of a person’s life.
“The effort that goes into being a better rider is about being consistent. Repeating drills over and over. Especially over technical terrain. I’m more disciplined now, and that means I’ve gotten to be better at managing my staff and company as a result.”
To give you some sense of what Tiberio means by repeating drills over and over, he admitted to riding over 12 hours the other day, but didn’t travel more than 40 miles. He kept riding the same technical route over-and-over again…until he’d mastered it.
Besides opening him up to new ways to look at and manage his company, that long trip down South America also spurred a desire to try to accomplish even more riding his GS. Here’s what he means by that.
“My ambition is to set some world records on that bike and have the skills to do really difficult terrain. I want to penetrate areas that have never been penetrated on a GS. Maybe set some altitude records.”
In the meantime, with a stable of 25 different bikes Tiberio is spreading his love of riding with Suzanna and an extended family of stepchildren, nieces and nephews.
Riding in a deep wash with some of the Esparza and related clan.
Next generation of riders.
“That’s sort of my contribution to the world. It’s something they can take with them the rest of their lives.”
One can’t help but wonder if Tiberio would have come to this point had his father pursued a different path. Maybe bought a bakery instead of a welding shop? But such thoughts are pointless because this is where Tiberio is today. And his family, friends, employees and fellow riders continue to benefit from the one element that seems to be fundamental to Tiberio’s life -- focus on quality and the best will follow.