Sportbike Builders Tell Us What's Trendy

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When it comes to apparel, are urban sportbikers buying what you sell?

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IT DOESN'T MATTER whether you're into sportbikes, cruisers or off-road vehicles: At some point in time, you've seen a bike and thought, "Oh, that style is so five years ago!" The custom sportbike industry is still young compared to other aftermarket niches, so trends come and go quickly as the styles evolve.

If you want to offer sage (and stylish) advice to your customers, then you'll need to be in the know when it comes to the latest trends in the custom sportbike industry. Since the professional sportbike builders are the trendsetters, we turned to them to find out what the big sellers are now, and what to expect next.

CONTRASTING BLACK AND CHROME FINISHES

When Louis Grasse of H2o, Cycles says something is going to be a hot seller, you'd better listen. This is the guy who first perfected the copper chrome finish, so usually he's the one starting the new trends.

Grasse names black-and-chrome contrast finishes as a trend that's still growing. Roland Sands Designs has a whole line of Contrast Cut pieces, which feature both silver and black chrome (black nickel finish over chrome) on wheels, frame sliders and anything else that can get the chrome treatment. "Black is the new chrome," Grasse says.

Expect to see black-and-copper contrast finishes from Grasse in the near future. In the meantime, black-and-chrome parts are the hot ticket (see above pic).

BLACK IS THE NEW CHROME, PART 2

According to Voodoo Industries boss Rob Uecker, black isn't just for your contrast chrome parts. The stealth look is big, which is a 180-degree turnaround from the flamboyant chrome-and-airbrush jobs of the not-so-distant past.

The look is known as "murdering," as in, "I'm murdering my bike out." (Cut and paste the previous sentence into your sportbike lingo dictionary!) Basically, murdering entails powdercoating every shiny bit black, painting the bodywork black, and then adding more black wherever possible. Uecker notes, though, that contrast black-and-chrome wheels are acceptable for a little shine.

COLOR, NOT CHROME

If black is too sedate for a rider, then powdercoated parts in any color are better than bolting on a bunch of chrome. Chrome has been done time and time again. And again. Coordinating a bike with a few powdercoated parts that match the paint scheme gets extra style points and shows more originality.

The color factor goes beyond powder coating: Color-coordinated LEDs are popular, too.

240 KITS: SMALLER IS BETTER

Sportbike tire kits started getting wider and wider a few years ago, with rear tire sizes jumping up to 330. Turning is a task with a tire that size, and anything other than cruising down a straight road is pretty much pointless. Sportbikes are engineered for carving corners, and fans of custom rides are beginning to remember that.

Wide-tire kits are still popular, but more customers are opting for the more manageable 240 size. We've even seen brave souls take to the track on 240s, with only a slight hindrance to cornering.

"People are going more toward performance and rideablility, and tire manufacturers have decent 240s now, some of which are even Z-rated," says Voodoo's Uecker. However, saving a few bucks also plays a part in the 240's popularity: "Widening the stock wheel is really popular, too. It saves customers about a quarter of the cost of buying a new wheel."

STYLING KITS

Sportbikes are covered up by a lot of plastic, and over the years bodywork has been painted, illuminated and reshaped. Perhaps no one has taken that third option to the extreme like Pit Stop Motorsports owner Dennis Vasquez. Better known as D-Man, he's a genius at molding bodywork into art: He's turned a front fairing into the Predator, and his Godfather-themed bike has a classic Caddy driving out of a side panel.

If customers want bodywork that doesn't retain the stock lines, though, they have to pay big bucks for a custom one-of-a-kind job from someone like Vasquez. Adam Canni thinks that bodywork kits to replace the stock setup will be the next big trend. He's so certain of this that the Canni Design owner is putting an aftermarket Hayabusa bodywork kit on the market.

"I hate to say that everything is played out. We've seen so many billet kits and wheels," Canni says. "The market seems saturated with it, but there's been nothing to change the appearance of the motorcycle [bodywork]. Nobody has offered a full kit that's bolt-on for the customer."

NEW PARTS FOR OLD BIKES

Custom Sportbike Concepts is always on the cutting edge of sportbike style, and owner Nick Anglada says he's already working on a line of products for 2010.

However, Anglada does have some words of wisdom for dealers: Help customers outfit their older bikes with new parts. He's been getting a lot of calls lately about bolt-on parts for older models, so CSC is producing styles for bikes that are a few model years out of date.

While many riders may not have the ways and means to purchase a brand-new bike, you can still form them into great customers by hooking them up with some aftermarket parts. And, in turn, you can be a great dealer by letting them know what options are available for older models, and how they can update their ride without signing loan papers.

YOU WANT CUSTOM WITH THAT?

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Put a custom package on one of your showroom floor models, and it's going to get a ton of attention. Wrap up those options into the price of the bike, and it's going to sell.

Customers, especially in the current economic situation, love incorporating the cost of aftermarket goodies into their new-bike financing. Robert Fisher of Roaring Toyz pioneered this concept, introducing dealer packages that have helped sell many a sportbike. Voodoo's Rob Uecker also has a successful dealer program, and receives both positive feedback and additional orders from the participating dealers.