Browsing through the hundreds of vendors at the Powersports Expo at Indianapolis each year, we as reporters of the powersports industry try to identify trends or new directions in which the industry is headed. In the area of motorcycling, there is clearly a trend taking shape that is destined to explode over the next few years—and that is the customization of metric cruisers.
“I started out making pipes for Harleys and then we started making metric pipes. It’s the metric market that has just exploded for us,” says Mark Dooley, president of Hard Krome. Dooley manufacturers exhaust pipes and has a patent on the technology that prevents pipes from turning blue. He suspects one reason Japanese cruisers have become a blank canvas for a lot more customization is the price of the base motorcycle. “The bikes are a lot more affordable than Harleys,” he said.
Richard Voegtlen, a sales associate with Supreme Legends USA, a California-based manufacturer of chrome parts for Harley-Davidsons and most recently, Yamaha cruisers, agrees. “Harleys have just gotten to the point where they’re just unreachable for the average rider,” Voegtlen said. “The industry is growing; there are a lot new riders out there and people want to get into that image. What are they going to do? They’re going to find something they can get into with an entry-level price. The metric industry is catering to that now.”
In addition to Yamaha, Supreme Legends USA is looking into manufacturing custom parts for Kawasaki motorcycles. A lot of companies that started out making parts and accessories for Harleys are discovering there’s more money to be made if they expand their line to include metric bikes.
Companies like Performance Machine recognized this trend several years ago.
“We have a lot of growth in the metric side of our business. And recently we’re seeing a lot of activity with the Road Star,” says Ted Sands, marketing manager for Performance Machine.
Sands points out that one reason for the big push towards developing a wider variety of parts for metric cruisers now is that these motorcycles have had time to saturate the marketplace. “The volume of the bikes in the field is building and that’s what it takes to really start selling aftermarket parts to them,” he said.
A strong testament towards this growth in not only simple bolt-on customization of metric cruisers but full-on fender to fender modifications is the overwhelming presence of these bikes parked in vendors’ booths. Just a few years ago, manufacturers would park a customized Harley-Davidson in their booth to attract dealers. Now, many manufacturers are showing off bikes like a customized Road Star, a VTX1800 or a Vulcan 2000 in a booth to catch dealers’ eyes.
Dooley had a customized version of all three of the aforementioned motorcycles, each sporting a set of his new three-inch exhaust pipes.
Across the aisle, at the Mustang Seats booth, a baby blue Vulcan 2000 sat outfitted with a rider and passenger seat specifically designed for the new massive machine. And everywhere we walked, we noticed more customized Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and Yamahas, than Harley-Davidsons in vendors’ booths.
Some companies, like National Cycle, have been designing parts for Japanese cruisers for years and have seen that side of the industry steadily growing. “There are all kinds of options, performance options and cosmetic options, almost to the point of metric bike-in-a-box options,” says Ann Willey of National Cycle.
This year, National Cycle showcased its new quick detach windshield system. National Cycle’s Brett Ratner says he believes that’s what metric customers want right now, parts and accessories that quickly detach. “With the cruiser it’s about style,” he says. “People want that cruiser style around town, but they also need function when they’re taking a trip. So with these types of quick release products they can just pop them on and go.”
One other trend we observed – and trend may not be the right word here – is clothing manufacturers designing garments sized on the larger side. Power Trip, the new line of cruiser clothing distributed by Sullivans, comes in men’s and ladies sizes.
Steve Chalmers, a regional manager with Power Trip, explained that company research showed that the average cruiser customer is in his or her mid 40s. Those customers supposedly have larger waistlines and therefore may be more apt to buy a product where they’re wearing a medium, say, instead of the large size they normally wear.
Olympia Moto Sports is doing the same thing and explained, particularly with its new ladies AirGlide jacket, that those who wear a medium will most likely fit in a small. Not sure what this says about the motorcycle clothing market or its customers base, but if that’s what it takes for customers to buy a particular company’s garments, so be it.
Copyright 2004 Powersports Business