With mandated and suggested stay-at-home and quarantine orders commonplace around the U.S. since the onset of COVID-19, many powersports enthusiasts are finding the silver lining by spending extra time alone on their machines.
Known locally for their dedication to serving the surrounding communities, Reno’s Powersports of Kansas City, Missouri, has annually hosted track days at Heartland Park for patrons — this season being no exception. Powersports Business staff reporter Nick Longworth learned more about how dealerships can capitalize with track day events.
From early April through September, participants can test bikes on the track for packages beginning at $160, with 10 track day events annually, and two of them being two-day offerings. Each day begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., with each group riding for 20 minutes intervals.
“Under normal circumstances each month riders can sign-up, head to the track and ride all day,” said Steve Okenfuss, president of Reno’s Powersports KC.
But due to COVID-19 restrictions, two events were canceled at the beginning of this season, with the track closed until May 1. Not to be deterred, a three-day Memorial Day weekend event will be held May 23-25 to make up for lost time, and resume the season as usual.
“The event gives everybody the opportunity to ride with a group they are comfortable with, in a skill level they are comfortable with,” said Okenfuss.
Riders are designated into three groups, each with their own passing rules: novice, intermediate and advanced. No riders ever come within six feet of each other on any given ride — the same distance as the recommend social distancing requirement provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have corner workers who keep an eye on things, and we also have control riders who keep an eye on the groups who offer coaching, assistance and training. Depending on the size of the crowd we often have classes in-between sessions to help people learn other elements of riding as well — braking, downshifting, corner entry/exit and so on,” Okenfuss explained. “It gives people an opportunity to get on a track and enjoy their bike in a way that it was designed to be used. We don’t look at it as a race day, but motorcycle-training day because what you can learn on the track immediately transfers to the street — bike control skills, confidence and comfort level with making decisions on the fly; those immediately transfer over and make you a better rider. That’s what these track days offer — that and a great deal of fun.”
Okenfuss doesn’t anticipate any additional challenges this season due to COVID-19, given that the event is highly individualistic. However, his team remains ready to make adjustments as necessary (the backup plan being full cancellation of the season and refunds issued).
“This will be our first pandemic event, but at a track social distancing is fairly easy because everybody tends to cluster with their own groups. There used to be a lot of social interaction between the riders, and this year that might be less because people are going to be more aware… But to a certain degree we think that is going to be very manageable,” said Okenfuss.
The annual track days have only increased in popularity.
“We started doing this 10 or 12 years ago and we would have 20 riders. Last season we averaged 100 to 110 riders, increasing enrollment 500 percent over the years. This year we expect the same amount,” said Okenfuss. “Fortunately we’ve had a decent spring weather-wise and people are tired of being locked up. There’s not much to do by yourself that’s any fun except get on your motorcycle, get the ATV out in the woods, or take your PWC to the lake… Fortunately the powersports industry offers a great alternative to quarantine.”
Although hosting the event doesn’t directly lead to sales for the shop, creating the reciprocating relationships has undoubtedly paid dividends. The original series was organized by St. John 27 Racing, who is now both the organizer and administrator, with Reno’s Powersports being a principal sponsor. The yearly partnerships have become a staple in the motorcycle community surrounding them.
“We help them sell tickets, and manage collections of funds for tickets and scheduling,” said Okenfuss. “We bring the people to the track, and turn them over to the experts at St. Johns. We’ve been the suppliers of people, and then have gone out over the years and solicited other dealerships to participate. We now have five that participate in some form or another. This gives us more reach. We don’t get any financial benefit from doing it, but we do it to make it easy for our customers.”
Used as a marketing tool, the event that has no financial payoff on the surface has become as an invaluable part of Reno’s yearly operation.
“I look at the message that it sends, and that’s of engagement… We have a platoon of people that attend practically every event, and see a lot of familiar customers.”
Contact Nick at nlongworth at epgmediallc.com.