CJ Background / History

Craig Johnson, owner of CJ Designs, has been preparing to start an innovative business since he was very young.  Outrider Journal captured Craig’s formative years and how they helped shape his work ethic and creativity:

“Growing up on a farm like I did, you learn to either sit and wait until things gets fixed—which can be indefinite… or charge head first and dig into the project [and figure it out yourself],” Craig told us. “My father was frequently working on general machine and home repairs around the farm. Some of his skills and insight must have rubbed off on me after years of holding the trouble light for him. By the time I was in middle school I had been experimenting with welding, and had built my own custom race quad. Soon after I got my driver’s license I was working in an aerospace CNC shop. I’m formally educated as a machinist, with specialization in CNC programming, setup, and production.”

Craig is thankful to have had the support of his family and an upbringing on a family settled farm in Mukwonago that has been in our family since 1885.    His family helped start and run the Vernon 4-H program and Craig spent time as Vice President and President of the club while an active member.  Progressing through Clarendon Elementary and Park View Middle School, more skills were added with the mechanical/design courses offered.   The youth apprenticeship program through Mukwonago High School and local WCTC were a big boost to help support his growing ambitions and take him into the work force.

Craig has a background not only as a CNC machinist at a Mukwonago Aerospace shop, he has spent his life tinkering with different types of machines and vehicles, ranging from radio controlled trucks and planes, to off-road adventure trucks (and many other motorized things in-between).  He has enjoyed learning practical and life long skills outdoors in the real world.  Craig started riding motorcycles when he was 20.  His enjoyment of riding coupled with his training as a machinist lead to a desire to customize his 2000 KTM 640, Craig’s first KTM motorcycle.  He was inspired to design parts that would improve the functionality and adaptability to the long-distance traveling of his bike.

Not only does he have a passion for bikes but all things outdoors and spent many years as a Snowboard instructor at Alpine Valley Ski Resort in East Troy. He also raced snowmobiles cross country in northern Wisconsin, keeping his need for adventure filled all year round.

After a solo trip to Yellowknife, NWT on his KTM 640, an interest in the unique possibilities that motorcycle travelling offers was sparked. A short time later, Craig purchased a 2006 KTM 950 Adventure to make his longer distance travelling more comfortable. Little did he know, as his riding skills improved, the 950 could do anything on the trail that the 640 could do. As a result, Craig’s design interests focused more on bike adaptations to improve the overall travelling and trail experiences and a larger V-twin. Since his trip to Yellowknife, Craig has developed more products and has taken on product lines that he has found to be useful on trips ranging from his backyard Wisconsin trails to Prudhoe Bay and across the Trans-Labrador Highway to Copper Canyon Mexico; more than 250,000 miles of on and off-road testing.

His hope is that his insight, struggles and experiences will help make your travels that much more enjoyable.

Craig has been a product tester for various companies: Christini AWD bikes, Klim, Wolfman, Giant Loop, WARN, and Heidenau. That’s a big piece of what he does when he travels- product testing for his items as well as other companies so you only get the best and most honest feedback. He has also helped with companies to produce, test and improve their own product lines during their travels including: Warn, Klim, Wolfman, Heidenau & Giant loop.

Bike Facts:

  • Year: 2006
  • Make: KTM
  • Model: 950 Adventure S
  • Trail Weight: 540 pounds
  • Miles: 145,000 total   (Over 75,000 miles on the Christini AWD system added in 2011)
  • First AWD KTM 950 ADV produced in the World – 2011
  • Countries traveled: 3 (USA, Canada, Mexico)


  • CJ Designs high fender kit
  • Christini AWD 950 Kit – Adapted to KTM 950 ADV by CJ Designs in Mukwonago, WI
  • KTM ’04 S suspension mod with .59 SE front springs
  • Custom Aluminum 14.3-gallon tanks
  • Baja Designs LED light
  • Rox bar risers
  • CJ Designs billet clutch reservoir cooler
  • CJ Designs billet instrument bezel covers
  • Oxford heated grips
  • Cycra bark busters
  • CJD version of Weld 89 skid plate
  • Renazco Racing custom suede seat
  • CJ Designs foot peg extensions
  • Rekluse clutch slave
  • Rekluse EXP clutch with CJ Designs billet basket
  • CJ Designs titanium clear clutch cover
  • CJ Designs 2 into 1 pipe with Remus titanium silencer
  • CJ Designs tool tube with fuel transfer pump opposite the silencer
  • CJ Designs tail rack
  • WARN winch with wireless remote

See you on the trails and Safe Travels!