WHILE MOST OF THE SALES REPS GATHERED for Western Power Sports' annual sales meeting expected to see the latest from the distributor's vendors, it was a special announcement from a surprise visitor that threw them into loud celebration.
Assembled groggy and bleary-eyed (you know how these meetings go) one morning in a meeting room at a Boise, Idaho, hotel, the reps settled in for what started as a lecture from Motorsport Aftermarket Group's Bill Gray. The MAG rep gave a quick history lesson about one of the group's major brand holdings, then announced that starting this month WPS would be a distributor for Küryakyn.
This is when the WPS sales folks stood up and cheered. It seemed they liked the idea of finally being able to sell into the metric cruiser market, the dimensions of which Gray says MAG found shocking.
By taking on a huge chunk of Küryakyn's bolt-on lineup, WPS will be able to make further inroads into the street market. Long considered a dirt-oriented distributor — a misconception, says company president and CEO Craig Shoemaker — WPS has been working to shore up its street offerings over the last 10 years.
To help service this new market, and to grease the wheels of the company's nationwide growth, WPS also added a new 144,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Elizabethtown, Pa., giving the company a foothold in the Northeast. Shoemaker says the warehouse — which sits on more than 23 acres — should be running by summer 2009, adding that the new location will halve the shipping time for some orders. WPS already has facilities in Boise; Fresno, Calif.; and Memphis, Tenn.
Given current market conditions, it could be a good time for WPS to be zeroing in on the street market. Scooter and small-displacement motorcycle sales are zinging upward, and many of the vendors present at the August meeting involved in those segments said they're redoubling their efforts. Leo Vince's Tim Calhoun says the exhaust company's scooter-related sales are up about 300 percent.
Here's a closer look at what the vendors had to offer:
Brian Fullerton, an Acerbis ( www.acerbis.com ) account specialist with Scott USA, pointed out the company's newest edition to its quick-fill fuel tank systems, the MDR Cap. While currently designed to be used with Acerbis oversized fuel tanks, the quick-fill cap will fit all its tanks starting next year. For most enduro models and their riders, Acerbis makes a new hard plastic skid plate that bolts up using stock hardware.
Athena USA. This Italian company (www.athenausa.org) now has an entire lineup of scooter performance products, ranging from cylinder kits and exhausts to crankshafts and CVT parts. The company also has an extensive supply of gasket kits, engine seal kits and fork seals — many for older and vintage motorcycles.
WPS reps got the lowdown on Athena's dirtbike big bore cylinder kits, which are built to keep compression ratios at or close to stock. All the company's cylinder kits are treated with nickel-carbide coating and feature redesigned porting and water jackets for two-stroke and four-stroke engines.
EBC (ebcbrakesusa.com) has an improved set of stoppers called the Extreme Pro HH plus pads. These sintered metal pads are available for all modern sportbikes, road race and Harley-Davidson fitments. A superfast bed-in means that pad friction builds to a 0.6 rating after 10 to 15 stops during race use. EBC is also running a dealer promotion through which dealerships that purchase enough products can earn a number of EBC-labeled goods. The prizes range from counter stools to floor mats.
The brake company also wants to build its dealer database and is encouraging all EBC dealers to sign up for its online dealer locator setup.
EVS' long awaited RC Evolution race collar is available. One WPS rep says the demand has been huge even though the product has yet to hit the shelves. The RC Evolution (www.evs-sports.com) was designed with help from orthopedic professionals to help reduce neck compression- and extension-related injuries. The collar uses a combination of absorption, diffusion and deflection of impact energy to protect the wearer. To help riders stay cool, weight and bulk were reduced to maximize airflow. The collar comes in red, black, blue, pink and white.
Ever see one of those products that makes you all silly inside? Fieldsheer's Visor Bag is one such thing. OK, we're easily excited, but this is a cool deal for those who need to haul around an extra face shield for their helmet. Made of 600-denier Carbolex, the bag has a soft-touch lining to keep things scratch-free. It's designed to be worn like a belt and can be expanded to fit a 44-inch waist. Also on the cool list is the Expander Tail Bag, which is built to attach to two different saddlebag models. The tail bag features a quick-release shoulder strap, three zipped outside pockets, expandable side panels and reflective logos on the sides and front. For the cruiser crowd there's the Micro Maxi back rest bag.
Maxima Racing Oils (www.maximausa.com) is taking aim at the scooter-buying crowd with its new Scooter 4T Metro Formula 10W40 oil. Branded with a scooter image, the lubricant is formulated to handle stop-and-go traffic, excessive idling and full-out riding. For modern MX/Off-road motorcycles there is the 530MX, a synthetic full race-grade oil. Road racers get the new 530RR, designed for modern, hi-revving streetbikes. These racing oils reportedly produce more horsepower and torque.
OK, the McCuff (www.mccuff.com) may not look like much. It might not even sound like much when described. But the device designed for fueling a motorcycle gas tank is the real deal when used as directed. Just slip it on, insert the gas nozzle all the way and fill up. The pump clicks off when the tank is filled. No pulling back the vapor recovery sleeve on the nozzle or peering inside the tank to check the level. The company makes a model for standard tanks and one for sportbikes with a flip-up gas cap. Your customers may never know they had a problem filling up until they try this.
The Valencia Sport Group unveiled new additions to the SixSixOne and Sunline product lines, but the big news came from a third brand, Tag Metals. After all but disappearing from the dirtbike aftermarket, Tag Metals has been completely restructured from the ground up. This means an entirely new product line made with materials from new vendors at a new facility.
Shawn Norfolk, Tag's director of marketing, says the makeover was a chance to reinvent the brand while maintaining its name recognition. "We've had a chance to bring something back from the dead," Norfolk says. The company has also assembled an impressive list of racers, including Chad Reed, Kevin Windham, Mike Alessi and Ryan Dungey.
Right off the line, Tag has three new handlebars, including the XT-1, aimed at conquering Renthal and ProTaper. The new bar features a patented anti-vibration elastomer inside it that's said to reduce vibration by 40 percent. It's also entering the grip market with the Rebound Technology Grip, a dual-compound grip designed to reduce arm pump and stop blisters from forming.
New from Sunline is the V-1 MDX multidirectional lever that's designed to move 180 degrees both horizontally and vertically. SixSixOne displayed its Comp gloves, which feature an embossed Airprene and vented Spandura mesh back for protection and breathability. The thumb is reinforced and the palm is lightly padded.
New from Twenty20 is the VholdR camera, a compact wearable camera that records up to two hours of audio and video. The self-contained unit features an oversized single recording switch that can be activated even while wearing gloves. Shock, vibration and impact resistant, the VholdR can be mounted to helmets or handlebars. It has a rechargeable battery, a USB port for uploading AVI files and holds up to a 2GB mircoSD card. The camera comes with video sharing software that's compatible with the company's Web site, www.vholdr.com.
The company also has a VholdR stocking program for dealers. Buy six units and receive status as an authorized VholdR retailer, placement on the dealer locator, an in-store DVD, fliers and membership in the VholdR Evangelist program. Under the latter, a dealer chooses one employee to be a specialist on the camera.