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Sport Bike Dealers Top Trends

March 29, 2004
Filed under Features

The key component in the product supply chain, it is the dealer who comes into contact with the sport bike consumer on a daily basis, acknowledging trends, and preparing a business plan to meet rider demand.
According to dealers contacted across the nation, it appears the sport bike category can be split into two, three and sometimes four separate markets, with consumers in each market often looking for market-specific product.
Phil Speligene is accessories manager for Barney’s of St. Petersburg, Fla., a Honda, Yamaha and Aprilia dealer. Powersports Business talked with Speligene the day after he returned from a visit to Bike Week on his Honda CBR600RR.
“The market has certainly grown during the last few years, and is made up of what I would say are three different segments,” Speligene said. “You have the repli-racer guy, which are your backcountry, twisty road guys; then you have the stunt crowd with the stunted-out bikes; and then there’s what I would call the show crowd, the guys with the lowered GSX-R1000 with chromed out frames and wheels and extended swingarms.
“Before, the guys that did the backcountry roads and the twisties really made up the lion’s share of people who bought the bikes. They were the guys who were more function-driven, taking an R1 and really throwing it around the corners; now, with the explosion of the stunt bike stuff, we have a lot younger clientel who want more style.
“It actually makes it tough on people like parts managers,” he said, “because the guy on the stretched out Hayabusa buying billet rims doesn’t want the same stuff as the guy with the Hayabusa that’s rocketing through the backcountry.
“That makes you have to have a Vanson leather for one guy, a Joe Rocket for another guy, and a slection of Alpinestars gear for the third guy.”
Other hot apparel items include Cortech, Icon and Firstgear. Barney’s top sport bike-related distributors are Tucker Rocky, Western Powersports and Parts Unlimited.
Speligene said Vortex frame sliders, sprockets, side covers, bike stands and fairing mount brackets are popular, as are Zero Gravity and the new Memphis Shades windscreens, and aftermarket seat arrangements for the R6, R1 and Honda CBR600RR
Signal Dynamics LED lights, Lockhart-Phillips turn signals, and multi-colored H4 bulbs for the headlights “sell especially well in high-traffic areas,” he said. “All the sport bike guys are so impulse driven. If you have the stuff merchandised correctly with a killer looking display, it will turn.”
Wayne Bedeaux, parts manager at Leo’s South in Lakeville, Minn., told Powersports Business his dealership doesn’t see many stunt riders or show bike enthusiasts and caters mostly to “repli-racers or wannabee racers seeking performance and looks.”
Chief distributors to Leo’s South are Parts Unlimited, Lockhart-Phillips and Tucker Rocky.
“Pipes always move, of course each brand of bike we sell seems to have a different brand of pipe that works best on it; and I’m selling a lot of the tailight/turn signal integration kits, smoked windscreens and fender eliminator kits,” Bedeaux said.
“In apparel, the only brand we stock and sell much of is Joe Rocket. Our market is mostly just for jackets. We don’t see very many suits or even pants. And sport bike guys seem to still want leathers … or t-shirts.”
Hot helmets? Bedeaux said the Shoei RF-1000 and KBC 239 are proving popular.
At BVH Motorsports in Reno, Nev.,a Honda and Ducati dealer, Parts Manager Layne Kolbet said his region hasn’t experienced a big influx of stunt or show-bike enthusiasts either. He said BVH caters to “a more mature rider.”
“Our customers typically look for function,” Kolbet said. “That means they’re usually fairly well educated, know what they want, and understand that a rear tire may cost $200.”
BVH’s top sport bike-related distributors are Tucker Rocky, Parts Unlimited, Lockhart-Phillips and Sullivan’s.
“Dynojet Power Commmanders are huge for us, Ohlins stuff, Yoshimura exhausts are always very popular, and we’re the authorized U.S. distributor of Moriwaki, a pipe brand from Japan that we do quite well with,” he said. “Plus, we sell a lot of frame sliders, a lot of guys are putting steel-braided brake lines on, and we’re moving a lot of Zero Gravity windscreens and Lockhart-Phillips fender eliminator kits, which it seems almost everyone wants.”
Kolbet said Joe Rocket and Alpinestars apparel have “picked up”, and Arai and Shoei are helmet brands of choice.
Mike Boersema handles parts for University Yamaha of Seattle, Wash. Boersema said University Yamaha, like BVH in Reno, caters mostly to “a more responsible motorcyclist who maintains a bike and attaches smart accessories.”
“The stunters and the show bike crowd get lumped together in this area because they often seem to be the same type of people polishing the frame and the swingarms,” Boersema said. “We haven’t seen a lot of the extended swingarms, airshifters, nitrous and the lowering of the bikes. You’ll sometimes see a lowered Haysabusa, but the majority of our customers are what I would call repli-racers and a sophisticated group of riders who probably own a couple of bikes.”
Boersema said the Icon gear is gaining popularity with younger riders while older riders like Firstgear and Gericke product. Sidi, Alpinestars and Teknic continue to sell well, he said, with textile sales matching leather sales.
“Everyone’s looking for fender eliminator kits, smaller turn signals and anodized aluminum anything,” he said, “and windscreens are popular in smoke and mirrored, with one of the best-sellers being the Zero-Gravity double-bubble.”
Most-used sport bike distributors at University Yamaha are Tucker Rocky, Parts Unlimited, Western Powersports and Lockhart-Phillips, which Boersema said “has formed a sort of monopoly with a lot of the products in that category.”
“It’s also really great to see companies like EMGO coming out with more turn signal options,” he said. “Our customers seem to really like colored headlights and the LED rear lights.”
Our final stop across the country brings us to Mike Gleason, parts manager at Mission Motorcycles, a Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki dealer in Daly City, Calif. Gleason said he hasn’t noticed a change in the types of products sought by the sport bike consumer base.
“I’m not seeing a lot of change from years before,” he said. “It seems to be the basics – helmet, jacket, gloves, exhausts, steering dampers, fender eliminator kits, turn signals, windshields, frame sliders. Those are the basics.”
Regarding apparel, Gleason said: “Textile is a little dominant over leather for us, mainly because it’s more of an every-day type of garment and the price points are a bit lower.”
Top distributors for Mission Motorcycles are Parts Unlimited and Tucker Rocky. “I also deal with a lot of independent manufacturers that Parts and Tucker don’t carry,” he said. “Our customers are all magazine readers and all have pre-determined ideas of what they want. So if I can’t get it through my distributors, I’ll have to go to the independents.”
Ed Dodd, CEO of RideGear, a Santa Cruz, Calif., seller of parts and accessories for motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles, said the sales trends he’s witnessing suggest sport bike owners are indeed forming a few different segments within the market, particularly gravitating toward the race-replica look, stunt riding and show-quality customization.
“Sport bikes today, the bikes for sale on dealer show floors, are so high-tech – real street-legal race machines – but we’re finding riders out there are still willing to outfit, accessorize, their bikes with a wide variety of products,” he said.
New product hoped to move for RideGear during 2004 includes Sportech windscreens; Vortex, Gilles Tooling and Attack Racing rear sets; Competition Werkes fender eliminator kits; and an assortment of product from Lockhart Phillips.
“A lot of it deals with protection and individuality, both for the bike and for the rider, and I think that’s only going to become more prevalent,” Dodd said. psb

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