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Sport bike customization a growing trend, say distributors

March 29, 2004
Filed under Features

Wisconsin-based Parts Unlimited and Tucker Rocky Distributing of Ft. Worth, Texas, are two of the largest parts, garments and accessories distributors in the U.S. Powersports Business checked in with them to learn of the trends they may be seeing in the sport bike market.
“What we see in this market is both a lot of growth and lot of interest in customizing — the way sport bike riders are now changing rear-sets and footpegs, triple clamps, wheels, windscreens, all those things,” said Greg Blackwell, Parts Unlimited vice president of sales.
“We’ve been well placed in the major market segments of exhaust and tires and the like. Now, we’re making a real push to carry all those hard part accessories, everything from billet oil filler caps to fender eliminator kits, more carbon fiber, more cool anodized colors … all the things that allow a customer to not only customize his sport bike, but to encourage continued changes.”
Although Parts may plan to emphasize hard accessories, Blackwell said the bulk of sport bike-associated sales fall in three distinct categories: tires, exhausts and apparel.
“We’re the exclusive distributor of both Pirelli and Metzeler in the United States, and we also deliver enormous numbers of the other premium tires in the sport market, Avon, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin,” Blackwell said. “Obviously, from normal riding to the street stunt scene, these kinds of bikes go through tires almost as quickly as they go through gasoline. So that’s always a steady stream.
“The second segment is exhaust. Almost every sport bike or naked bike rider’s very first modification to his new bike is a different exhaust system, from slip-ons to full systems.
“And the third big segment is apparel — at least for us it is, as we’ve entered into a sole distribution arrangement with Alpinestars and AGV apparel while also experiencing big gains with our Icon brand.”
Speaking of Icon, Phil Davy, Icon brand manager, says the Parts Unlimited brand geared toward the street rider has proved popular since first released two years ago.
“From its conception, Icon was designed as real riding clothes meant to replace street wear from mainstream stores,” Davy said. “We found that most riders weren’t rolling out in leather, but in blue jeans and Dr. Marten style lace-up boots. And we thought that if we could offer the same type of street style but with real world riding features and protection, we could really serve that market.
“We’re the fastest growing line of street apparel in motorcycle dealers, with initial sales far exceeding our expectations and continued rapid growth,” he said.
Bill Carter, Tucker Rocky vice president of strategic planning, said the sport bike segment is an important part of the industry because it’s growing and because sport bike enthusiasts are among the highest spending consumers in the motorcycling industry.
“They’re great for dealers, distributors, and manufacturers,” Carter said, adding that Tucker Rocky has focused attention on adding new brands/vendors to the segment for several years. In fact, he said the company had more additions of brands related to the sport bike segment this year than in any other segment.
“The racing, stunt and social aspects of sport bike riding have all really gotten huge,” Carter said. “There are more and more tracks, race clubs, riding groups, on-line communities, bike nights, events, etc. With all this activity as a backdrop, sport bike enthusiasts are doing far more bike customizing than ever before.
“It used to just be performance parts — exhausts, chain and sprocket upgrades, tires — that were the drivers in the segment. Now there are more performance parts plus all new products that are for cosmetic/
custom treatments. You see riders with the wildly custom graphics and fur treatments
and know there is some major customizing going on.”
Carter said must-have aftermarket parts include performance items — exhausts, sprockets, performance tires, chains, etc. — plus light kits, pegs, full rear sets, and products that protect the body of the bike, such as colored frame sliders and bar ends.
Tucker Rocky’s “strong” sport bike/street product lines include Yoshimura, Circuit 1, ProTek, Galfer and Firstgear.
“And a retailer has got to have a strong selection of street riding gear,” Carter said. “Fashionable riding gear that is protective and functional. For instance, the hottest thing we’ve got, in addition to the brands mentioned above, is the new MotoGP line of apparel and accessories.
The official licensed apparel for MotoGP racing, Tucker Rocky’s new high-function/high-fashion brand was introduced at Indy and will be available in just a few weeks. “It has all the quality and features any sport bike enthusiast would expect, and the level of fashion treatment is something probably not seen in our market before,” Carter said.
Harry Slack, Tucker Rocky vice president of product development, says the MotoGP apparel, including riding jackets and pants for men and women, full suits and street apparel, was well-received at the Dealer Expo in Indy.
“We brought that line in really to kind of address the more youthful, race-orientated street side that we didn’t really have, and it comes with good price points and neat features to be competitive in that very competitive market,” Slack told Powersports Business.
Slack said styling is bit more European influenced and is racer-themed. “The line kind of goes from have a racing look for the guy on the Ducati to a BMW-type touring wear with some of the technical features, adjustable straps and venting.”
Look for MotoGP apparel to be available by June. psb

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