Editor’s note: we are very pleased to present another article by guest expert John Wyckoff. He profiles a red-hot trend affecting motorcycle dealers today: pocketbikes and pit bikes.
By John Wyckoff
It started when racers began bringing small 50cc bikes to get around in the pits. Most were Honda minibikes. Soon, being racers, they started to challenge each other. After a while they began to modify the bikes by changing suspension. After all, these bikes were designed for under 100 pound children. Next, they modified the engines to produce more torque and horsepower.
The European manufacturers have always been leaders when it came to race equipment. They began producing state-of-the-art pit bikes. These bikes were capable of being ridden by a 250-pound rider. Racing disc brakes, high-revving engines, adjustable front forks and race-quality swing arms soon pushed the prices to several thousand dollars.
Enter the Chinese manufacturers. Not knowing the history or market, they are producing 50cc minibikes for children. The cosmetics they incorporated make these pocketbikes look like shrunken road racers.
Although they are two different market niches, the names, “pocketbike” and “pit bike” are often used to describe both markets interchangeably.
Franchised motorcycle dealers who are into racing often sell pit bikes. Their racing customers are knowledgeable and know what they want. These dealers are often behind the scenes when promoting pit bike races. They are fun to watch, more fun to participate in and much safer when it comes to “stepping off at speed,” because the speeds are lower and the distance to the ground less.
Many of the big box retailers sell pocketbikes although there are legal ramifications. The Chinese manufacturers seldom have the necessary insurance policies to protect the reseller or the consumer.
There’s a difference between a trained racer using his or her pit bike and an untrained 8-year old child playing with his pocketbike.
If the market continues to grow, as I suspect it will, the government will soon take notice and try to establish laws governing the use of both pocketbikes and pit bikes in the hands of children.
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John Wyckoff is a true guru of the motorcycle industry. A sought-after speaker at motorcycle events and frequent contributor to the motorcycle press, he is the founder of Intersport Fashions West. He is an expert on the motorcycle business and dealerships and is known for having his finger on the pulse of the motorcycling public. He is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships.
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