Once considered a luxury accessory for the hard-core rider, consumer tool kits have grown in popularity in recent years, giving weekend warriors the option of fixing minor problems on their own.
The growth of tool kits stems from the fact that not only are more riders looking to save money on repairs, but also become more educated about their vehicles.
Eleven years ago, Cruz TOOLS Inc. got its start because company founder Dan Parks, a Harley-Davidson rider, recognized the need to carry tools while riding, and there weren’t any aftermarket tool kits that he knew of at the time. Parks says that more of these tool kits are popping up as consumers recognize the need for them out on the road or trail.
“When you are out on the ride, many miles from any kind of service facility, you’re able to get yourself going with those tools,” Parks said.
Scott Whitman, owner of TrailToolz, started his company in 2005 because he couldn’t find an off-road tool kit that suited him. The ones he looked at were too big or expensive, so he dug around for tools and started his own kits for metric bikes.
“What do you do if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and something breaks, and you don’t have a tool?” he asked. “For someone to figure out what to bring along, it takes a lot of thought, and I decided I could take the guesswork out of that for people.”
As of 2006, Harley-Davidson began including a simple tool kit with its touring bikes, which can be used as an accessory for other bikes as well. Dan Stay, parts manager for Harley-Davidson, says H-D sells a lot of the basic, standard?$40?kits. Although tool kit sales have been increasing and are up this year, he notes that the kits aren’t intended to fix major problems with a bike, so they aren’t in direct competition with more complex bike services.
Tool Kits Not a Cure-All
Mike Britton of Motion Pro says tool kits aren’t going to increase the number of people who do major fixes on their bikes.
“I’d say there’s the same percentage of people who prefer to work on their own stuff compared to the people who either don’t have the time to or the knowledge to and prefer to have it done by a professional shop,” Britton said.
People who work on their bikes are not going to look to a tool kit — they’re already going to have tools. But for on-the-road repairs, the kits can be crucial.
“I really market it for someone who didn’t have a tool kit who wanted one, and for someone who could carry it on their bike,” said TrailToolz’s Whitman. “Our kit is a good start for a beginner. They can add stuff to it because it doesn’t have everything,”
Although tool kits are a great way for beginner mechanics to figure out minor adjustments on their vehicles, the majority of the kits are too basic for anyone to do major fixes on their bikes, as they’re mostly intended for on-road and off-road adjustments and temporary fixes until a service shop is accessible, Parks says.
“Having a correct set of tools that are of high quality will likely encourage consumers to do more basic work on their bike,” Parks said. “To an extent, that’s a good thing because if you’re ever stuck out in the middle of nowhere, it’s very helpful to know your bike. Beyond that, though, major service operations should be left to qualified mechanics.”
Both Britton and Stay believe tool kits can be a great opportunity for dealer sales. As a former motorcycle dealer, Britton says it would be easier for a salesperson to sell a tool kit rather than a wide range of individual tools. However, he notes shops should still keep individual tools as well as replacement tools in stock for the consumer who doesn’t want a complete kit.
“If they (beginner mechanics) were to buy a kit under the assumption that it had everything they needed, they might be more apt to buy the kit and figure it out, rather than trying to assemble a kit from individual tools at the risk of looking uneducated about what they were doing,” Britton said.
Although tool kits for motorcycles are the most readily available, there are kits for nearly every powersports vehicle. “The bulk of our sales are for motorcycles, both street and off-road, but ATVs are up there as well,” Parks said.
Even though the majority of tool kits are geared toward a specific segment, they sometimes can be used for different applications since powersports machines are all gas-powered engine vehicles. However, companies often have at least a few different options of tool kits for each individual make and model. Dynojet Jet Kits, which carry different fuel metering needles and jets, have some of the same components in them, but they differ according to the make and model of the vehicle, which is true for many tool kits.
Added Benefits, Bright Future
When consumers work on their own bikes, Britton says it comes with benefits more important than saving some cash from getting it serviced, which is why he believes the industry will continue to see growth of these products.
“Working on their own bike gives a rider familiarity with their vehicle, so if they have to deal with a problem on the road, they’ll be more educated on how to deal with it,” he said.
Although some tool kits have been around since as early as the 1970s, more options are becoming available for powersports riders.
“We believe the market for tool kits will see sustained growth,” Parks said. “As awareness of aftermarket tool kits and the benefits of having one increase, so will demand.” psb
Copyright 2007 Powersports Business