Dealernews: Let’s talk trikes. Do we forecast long-term growth?
Rymer: It has been a great market segment for us and I am confident it will continue to grow.
Baker: Most customers I know with trikes have stacks of cash, so that is a good thing for our industry. Baker reverse systems are selling well to the two- and three-wheeled people.
Flintrop: Trikes have really caught on, but the buyer demographics are very one-dimensional. The typical trike customer is generally an experienced rider who feels he can no longer safely operate a motorcycle. I would have expected that we would see less experienced riders using them as a gateway into the sport, but that hasn't happened. This year we are considering adding a trike to the rental fleet in an effort to see if familiarity and a positive experience will increase sales.
Fairless: Everybody digs looking at them, but trying to get them to put their money on one, it’s tough.
Yaffe: Tom Motzko from Drag Specialties talked me into customizing a trike. We both thought that the three-wheeled segment was up-and-coming, and it fits into the Bagger Nation product scope. I purchased a new 2010 FLHXXX and created about a dozen products for it while customizing it. (Editor’s note: check it out at http://www.baggernation.com/bn-sl-trike/.) When the bike was complete it received rave reviews and everybody loved it. We have added the parts to our product line, but they really haven’t moved much. I think we were a bit ahead on that move. We also created a pretty radical trike for a market segment that is perhaps still conservative. Maybe I should have focused on a cool cup holder rather than big wheels and sleek body?
Dealernews: Where do you see the V-twin aftermarket trending in the short term?
Baker: No great changes are expected in the next year. Mike Corbin is a wise old owl and he is a student of the cyclical nature of the American V-twin scene. He said that choppers/bobbers have come and gone over the last 50 years and will continue to do so. The popularity of choppers has coincided nicely with economic peaks, and then they die. Choppers will be back in seven years. Sorry to be bearer of bad news.
TRENDS TO WATCH
Yaffe: Touring segment will stay hot. We are expanding the look into Softail formats for 2013 and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Kanter: More low cost bolt-ons that look good and work. Fewer sales of higher ticket items. More product focus on keeping a motorcycle on the road.
Flintrop: I think you will see it rise and fall in step with the Harley market. The Motor Co. has done a great job of creating accessories for the bikes that they manufacture, and following trends that they see in the aftermarket. For this reason, aftermarket parts styling will have to run to stay ahead. The biggest change for the aftermarket seems to be transitioning from being positioned as a low-cost alternative to factory parts to being a source of truly bolt-on custom parts. You can transform the look of your bike completely by bolting on deep bags, extended fenders and stretched tanks without ever picking up a TIG welder or grinder. [It is] a trend that has put a one-off mild custom within the reach of the average customer, one piece at a time.
Dealernews: So is the ground-up custom market dead?
Baker: Hell, no. Our nostalgic 4-speed and our 6-into-4 transmission are top-sellers for us. From this, I know the old-school bike builds are popping.
Rymer: I hope it’s not dead anytime soon. After all, it helps create and drive the OEM’s platform.
Yaffe: Not dead, just in transition. “Transvestbike” companies like Big Bear Choppers, Big Dog, Titan and IronHorse killed the chopper market by flooding it with cookie-cutters until they just weren’t cool anymore. Look where they are now, and the consumers who bought into that instant gratification are stuck with inferior product with little or no value. That’s why they are all going back to customizing their H-Ds and other favorite brands. I hope they’ve learned their lesson.
Flintrop: I think that ground-up customs have evolved from scratch-built Softail replicas to big-tire choppers, and finally to very high-end, one-off baggers. Everything is touring bikes currently. The latest piece that we are involved in is setting up bikes with killer sound systems — amps, sub woofers, etc. — sound that you would not believe.
Yaffe: I don’t know for sure if the recession played a part in the decline of the ground-up custom market. We were lucky in that area and we had already created the custom bagger market before the bottom fell out of the chopper market, so we never really felt the recession. Bagger Nation at least doubled its footprint every year for the first five years and we’ve seen about a 30 percent increase in sales annually since then. Lucky timing on our part.
Fairless: We are still doing several ground-up customs each year. But we are doing way more custom bikes where we start with a Victory or a Harley and customize it to the customer’s liking. The ground-up customs seem to be bought by companies as advertising tools. I like it better when we customize an existing bike — it’s quicker and the end result is the same.
Yaffe: The custom ground-up market thrives on innovation and uniqueness. There will always be a customer and market for a unique, well-built hot rod. Folks like to customize their bikes to fit their unique vision of what’s cool. That’s why there is an aftermarket. The OEMs and aftermarket have a good relationship and, in my opinion, one wouldn’t exist without the other. (continued)