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Custom motorcycle demand changes

April 8, 2011
Filed under From the Editors

Though demand for custom motorcycles had dropped, and the economy had taken a downturn, the news of Big Dog Motorcycles’ closing still came as a surprise to many.

Just two years ago, the company celebrated its 15th anniversary, and the year prior, it produced its 25,000th bike. However, as former director of purchasing Mike Simmons told me Thursday, the company struggled for 18 months before it was shuttered this week following a foreclosure by its primary lending institution.

There’s no doubt the custom motorcycle market has changed. (See more about this in the upcoming issue of Powersports Business.) Just five years ago, the bikes were everywhere, from the roads, to rallies and shows, to TV programs. They were the hottest ride for any enthusiast who could afford one.

But as the economy changed, so did demand. Bike builder Donnie Smith, who I talked to this week, said he’s now producing about a third of the ground-up bikes per year he was a few years ago, and most of the work coming into his shop now consists of repairs or modifications of stock units.

However, he’s hopeful for the near future. Enthusiasm for custom bikes has been high at recent rallies, and demand is returning for more unique units, he said. Also, Smith reported he’s seen the custom market ebb and flow before, and he expects soon to see the third peak in his career.

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