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V-Twin Expo attendees geared up for more products, knowledge

By Dave McMahon

Dealers have a variety of reasons for annual trek to Cincinnati

Rick James has spent 30 years as a motorcycle dealership owner, the past 19 operating Beach Hawg in Panama City Beach, Fla.

But when February rolls around, he knows he’ll be headed northward to Cincinnati for the 12th annual V-Twin Expo by Easyriders.

“I’ve been going to the V-Twin Expo ever since its inception,” James said. “I like the layout, I like the vendors, and I like the fact that it’s only focused on V-Twin.

“You get to develop a rapport with the vendors over the years and meet people face to face. The seminars are great, some good restaurants.”

In fact, the V-Twin Expo is so important to his business that he brings his entire staff, which ranges from four to six employees, depending on the year. It’ll be a needed getaway.

“We’ve been busy all year up until about November,” James said. “As soon as the weather broke in January [2011], we’ve had 20-30 bikes in here every week for service. We’ll have pretty much everything come in for work. We don’t get much into Knuckleheads or Panheads.”

Beach Hawg in Panama City Beach, Fla., gets a bit of rest every February, when the entire shop staff heads to Cincinnati for the V-Twin Expo.

Between the dealership’s service work, customizations and parts sales, James figures the V-Twin Expo is the perfect spot for him and his son, Cody (“who’s been doing this since he could walk,” James says).

“This year was strong. It was a good year for us, and we’re looking forward to getting back up to Cincinnati,” James said.

Touch the parts
Mike Przybylo has been to other shows in an attempt to keep up with the V-Twin market, but after some dabbling, he says the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati is the only spot to find him on the winter show trail.

Owner of Fiz’s Customs in Garden City, Mich., Przybylo said other shows provide shops with “so many different motorsports. It’s hard to find just what you’re looking for. I find the V-Twin Expo has all the products in one place instead of bouncing all over the place to try to find what you want.”

Once again in 2012, Przybylo is anxious to see the new products being unveiled in Cincinnati.

“I like seeing all the new parts, putting my hands on them. You can see the picture and read the words beforehand, but it doesn’t give you the feel for the size, quality or anything else,” he said. Przybylo is especially ready to take a new look at different lighting options, particularly LED and its uses.
“And some of the new clutches — things that really improve the motorcycles over the stock parts,” he said.

Przybylo’s shop custom builds bikes, in addition to doing repairs, restorations and parts sales. He’ll also make parts upon request. Przybylo says the profit centers in his shop in 2011 were service and custom parts.

“This past year I haven’t had the wont for work like I did the previous two years,” he said. “We didn’t have any bike builds from the ground up unfortunately, but we did lots of repairs, and a lot of people returning bad work from other shops!”

Since he opened the store in 1976, Przybylo has seen a variety of economic climates make their way through Michigan. In the end, maintaining an excellent service reputation has allowed him to remain in business.

“Two-thirds of the work I get is from word of mouth,” Przybylo said. “I’ve tried different types of advertising, and nothing works as good as word of mouth.”

Picking up on trends
Frankie Taylor likes being a step ahead, and he figures the most effective way to do that for his Iron Horse Cycles shop in Camden, S.C., is to attend the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati every year.

“This will be 10 years in a row that I’ve been there,” Taylor said. “I really enjoy being there, seeing the all the new products that are coming out and getting a heads-up on what’s new. You can almost tell what the trends are going to be for that year just by going to the show.”

Taylor always slots time for the extensive list of seminars available to attendees in Cincinnati.

“I’ll definitely be interested in seeing the bagger trends,” he said. “Baggers are becoming more prevalent in terms of growing my business. I try to push baggers and I like them myself. Six years ago, it was a lot of Softails. Now baggers are taking over.”

Taylor reports that business in 2011 “has been OK. It hasn’t been the best. No custom work, mostly service and selling parts. I’m a very small shop, and when I say very small — it’s me. It’s a small town but I’ve got a good name. The factory that I used to work at closed, and I turned a hobby into a business.”

More bagger chatter
“Baggers are in. I’m not sure what’s driving it. I think the biggest thing is when Harley finally came out with the Street Glide. It gives it a little more custom look, a younger look. And I’ll tell you, my clientele is younger with some of these baggers. When I was growing up I wouldn’t have thought about anything with a windshield or a bag on it. Finally, I realized I was stupid and got my first bagger, a Road Glide. Although I still have a Softail, too.”

That’s how R&R Cycle owner Jim Kelly describes the recent surge of bikes being brought into his shop in Orleans, Ind. Located about a two-hour drive away from Cincinnati, Kelly is eager to get the latest on bagger nation at the V-Twin Expo.

Tire sales and service also serve as profit centers at his shop, so he’ll be sure to check out the rubber also.

“From a practical end, it’ll be tires that I need to see. We keep about 400 tires in stock — Metzler, Pirelli, Dunlop, Avon, Shinko” he said. “We do a lot of service work and sell a lot of tires.”

K&R Cycle, which opened in 1975, added a computer balancer for its tire service in 1984, and continues to capitalize on its tire service to grow revenue.

Oil change or a custom?
C&C Cycle owners Roy and Margaret Nicastri have been in the motorcycle business for nearly three decades. The husband and wife from Severn, Md., have been spent the past 11 of those years annually attending the V-Twin Expo.

Roy continues to build custom bikes in the wintertime with tremendous success, and enoys the renewed relationships he builds upon at the show with product designers.

“He explains the issues he’s having to them, and enjoys having the one-on-one conversations,” Margaret said.

Margaret typically finds herself immersed in several seminars throughout the event, while Roy spends time walking the show.

With their combined experience in the V-twin service and maintenance industry, it’s no surprise that they choose to give back to their local community. Margaret oversees the local chapter of the Hogs and Heroes Foundation, which benefits children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty, as well as families of fallen military members.

One recent night found Margaret gathering 50 members of her chapter at the local airport for Operation Welcome Home.

“The last flight of nearly 400 troopers came off the planes and we were there to greet them, thank them, provide them with care packages. Some of them didn’t have family there to meet them, so it was real nice to be able to do that,” she said.

Similarly, C&C Cycle tries to make its customers feel like the business is a place where they feel welcome.

“We schedule everyone by appointment, so that that they’re in and out the same day,” she said. “It’s personal service. That’s what the customer likes.”

And if the shop down the highway doesn’t perform satisfactory work for its customers, C&C Cycle will gladly take the business.

“We get a lot of business from people who have tried to go other places,” she said. “They aren’t looking at tire pressure, they’re not lubing. It’s like ‘Didn’t you feel the clutch level, and doesn’t it seem to be a little tight?’ It’s all customer service, and you see that one-on-one at the V-Twin Expo.”

Roy, meanwhile, admits that while business has been “really good for us in 2011,” some of the store’s success has been to due to attrition.

“There are shops closing up all the time. All these guys think they’re going to be OCC [Orange County Choppers],” Roy said. “You’re not going to make it just building customs.”

Roy, however, has found success as a custom bike builder as part of his operation. He’s won at the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show in Sturgis, and has had bikes selected for Essen Motor Show in Germany.

“You can do that stuff, but you’ve got to do that along with giving service to the normal everyday guy who needs an oil change or a new tire,” he said.

12th Annual V-Twin Expo Schedule

Cincinnati, Ohio

Saturday, Feb. 4
8 a.m.-5 p.m.  On-site registration
9 a.m.-5 p.m.  Exhibit halls open

Sunday, Feb. 5
9 a.m.-5 p.m.  On-site registration
10 a.m.-5 p.m.  Exhibit halls open

Monday, Feb. 7
9 a.m.-1 p.m.  Exhibit halls open

Expo seminars include:

Saturday, Feb. 4
9-10 a.m. — Power Commander V & Autotune: Set-up and Operation
10-11 a.m. — Power Vision: Flash Tuning System for Harley-Davidson Motorcycles — Dealer Basics
Noon-1 p.m. — Gears, Beers, and Websites
1-2 p.m. — Patent Law Changes & How They Impact You
2-3 p.m. — How to Win Sales and Influence Horsepower

Sunday, Feb. 5
10-11 a.m. — ThunderMax — Dynamic Business, Sales and Customer Satisfaction!
11 a.m.-noon — Make Noise on Audio Sales
1-2 p.m. — Fast Track Your Marketing
2-3 p.m. — 5 Easy Steps to Boosting Your Online Presence

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