Michael Holigan and Jim Lewis founded Dallas-based Merge Racing Technologies in July 2007. Holigan said the major shift toward four-strokes a few years ago opened a market that yet hasn't been fully tapped. "There's just so many things that are different about them compared to a two-stroke," he said. "There are a lot of products that have never come out. That's what we wanted to do: come out with new products originally for the pro race teams that could then be sold to the public."
Merge Racing's first product was the Merge AJL, an adjustable leak jet quickly picked up by the MDK KTM Factory Team and then other teams. The company's lineup now includes a rising-rate cartridge fork spring, a device for hydraulic preload, an accelerator pump spring and a fuel mixture screw. "Today's four-stroke motorcycles and ATVs are incredible," Lewis told Dealernews. "Now it is about solving the small problems to improve performance." (Tucker Rocky is the company's exclusive distributor, though Merge will still sell directly to dealers not signed up with Tucker.)
Holigan and Lewis have strong racing backgrounds. From 2004 through 2006, Holigan owned and managed a team in the AMA Supercross and Motocross series. He needed somebody to head up R&D, so he hired Lewis, who had spent the past 13 years at White Brothers where he'd built pipes for Factory Honda and Factory Yamaha. For the first two years the team competed in the Lites series. Then it moved to the primary series with David Vuillemin, Josh Demuth and Brock Sellards.
The daily lives of the racers were chronicled in the TV series The Reality of Speed on the Speed Channel. The team's main sponsor left at the end of 2006, so Holigan and Lewis formed Merge Racing the following year.
Holigan rides a KTM two-stroke and is a big fan of thumpers in general. He said, however, that the predominance of four-strokes has made it easier for Merge Racing to sell to quad riders. "ATVs are a huge market," he told us, "and they're basically running the same equipment now as the motocross bikes." He pointed out that seven-time champ Bill Balance also uses the adjustable leak jet on his race quad. "It's the same piece," he said. — Arlo Redwine