About three years ago I had an idea of building a little bobber, maybe 250cc, and manufacturing them. I figured times were tough, they weren’t going to get better any time soon, most people live in urban areas, gas is going to continue to rise, and a cool little bobber would be a great way for the young urbanite or college student to get from class to the bar to the job and the market and look cool doing it while getting over 100 miles per gallon. Sell them solo bags or small saddlebags for books, beers and food and price them for three grand so kids can afford them.
I started to research. Where would I get the motors made?
Then I came across Cleveland CycleWerks and thought, “f***, somebody beat me to it.” Then I discovered their motors were made in China. “Well hot d**n. There’s no way in **** those are gonna sell in the USA!”
Trying to find American-made motors was more difficult than I thought, and I began to understand why the CCW bikes had Chinese power plants. I shelved the idea for another day and convinced Bandit to let me edit the metric side of Bikernet (when he had one) for 60 hours a week for a $200 bar tab. Needing more beer money, I struck out on my own seven months later and here I am, full circle, writing an interview from conversations and emails I shared with the founder of Cleveland CycleWerks, Scott Colosimo:
TR: Okay Scott, this is what everybody wants to know so let’s not dance around the subject. What’s the deal with the Chinese motors?
SC: I had an idea, and it was either make it happen, or go back to being unemployed. CCW is the essence of American small business. The guys b***hing about me? guess what? I was you three years ago. I was unemployed, ****** off, and trying to figure out what to do when my job was eliminated.
There are about $40 million in machines needed to make a motor. I went to several companies to try to partner up in the USA. When I told them my idea of making small displacement “Made in the USA” bikes, they all laughed or told me it was a stupid idea. We spent six months hearing “no” from companies all over the USA. If it wasn’t liability concerns, it was that they thought my idea was lame.
When people want to get all political about China, all I have to say is China made my company happen and I work with amazing people there. I get excited when I am in China. People actually want to build things, invent new ideas, and try to make new technology happen. The people I work with are inventing new battery technology, working on direct injection for motorcycles, 150 MPG motors, and building new hydroform machines to make bike frames and more. I know a high tech, new technology China, and it is nothing like what people in the USA think. It is like what I imagine the USA was like back in the 1900’s.
Here is the reality. My operations in China have allowed me to do the following in the USA:
One; buy a factory in Cleveland. Two; affordably rent the extra factory space to new startup US companies. Three; build a design and engineering center in Cleveland. Four; spin off several other business such as Weaver Rides. Five; support PIT Motors Ltd., my US distributor which employes ten people. Six; have CCW warehousing in Cleveland, a distribution warehouse in New Jersey and another in Sacremento. Seven, support a dozen local manufacturers in Cleveland. And most importantly, eight; support nearly one hundred American families.
CCW is creating high-paying US jobs and we are investing millions in our US infrastructure. There is so much more to a manufacturing business then just the parts. Additionally, we are looking for US manufacturing partners. If anyone reading this article has the ability to make motorcycle parts, any motorcycle parts, send me an email. We are strengthening our US manufacturing footprint in the USA. Our goal is by 2013 to have 100% Made in the USA bikes!
TR: You’re saying that there was no place in the States who would build 250cc motors for you?
SC: Trent, I tried. S&S’s latest motor was the X-Wedge…
TR: That’s been a huge success, huh?
SC: Um…. yeah, and HD is busy making nine hundred pound baggers and cross country touring bikes. Motus is a new motorcycle company who is building a bike using half a small block Chevy motor. America is obsessed with showing how big it’s d**k is. Do you think any of these guys want to manufacture a 250cc single cylinder motor in collaboration with CCW for on-road use? We do have plans on assembling our 250cc’s in Cleveland, but this will be a stepped approach, calculated over the next several years. I would venture to say the majority of our 250cc bikes will be sold outside of the USA, similar to our current structure.
We have some traction now with our 500cc development in the USA. As development goes, it will definitely be two years before this motor makes it into our test market, then into full scale production. It really s**ks that we had to prove we could do it in China, then finally after magazines report on what we are doing, manufacturers in the USA began to take us seriously.
Once again, people here in the US laughed while people in China said “how many do you need, what quality and when?” It was a serious reversal for me. I guess these (American) guys figured since I got on a plane and flew half-way around the world, I must have been serious.
TR: What can you tell us about what you have planned for your American-made 500cc bikes? Will they be twins or singles and will you stick with the clean bobbers and cafe styles you currently offer?
SC: Right now I need to keep most details under wraps. Keep in mind development takes years. In a “I want everything now” world, this is an eternity to the customer. This will be a “world motor” for us, meaning it will go in all of our bikes that we sell worldwide, so we need to get the motor clean enough to pass USA and European emissions. What I can say is we are keeping it simple as a 500cc single, overhead cam, four valve. That is about all I can say.
The whole plan for CCW as a company is to keep doing what we are doing, keep generating revenue from our current bikes, use that money to invest back into the company, new products, people, and manufacturing.
TR: What does CCW offer in terms of warranty and service for the dummies that can’t check or change oil or replace worn brake pads? What if something serious on the bike goes ka-blewie?
SC: Our warranty is twelve months. It covers everything that you would expect, mainly manufacturer defects. It does not cover abuse, crashing, and general stupidity. We do however want our customers to be happy, so we do everything we can to make sure our customers are taken care of because they’re important to us. We listen to their suggestions for improving the bikes. We listen to what parts they want for customizing and we try our best to offer the best service we can. Everyone at CCW takes ownership personally in their actions, and this shows when it comes to customer service.
TR: Cool. So Joe Schmo in Tombstone gets one of your bikes and treats it well, and one day the doohickey flies off and his thingamajig breaks. Since the motors are essentially Japanese knock-offs, should he have it repaired at the nearest metric shop, or do you have authorized dealerships to perform repairs, both for warranty and for general maintenance?
SC: Trent, that is like saying you are a knockoff of your dad. It’s not the same. Our motors are not Japanese knockoff motors. I do not want to go into detail, just wanted to make that clear. CCW has nearly 100 dealers nationwide. All CCW dealers are authorized to work on all our bikes. Most dealers will work on our bikes as well. So, yes we have a pretty extensive dealer network and we will support our products even if there is no dealer in the direct area.
TR: But I am a knockoff of my dad. A better, less hypoctitical version concerned more with equality than the accumulation of stuff. It’s the last concern I hear out there, Scott. The first Yamaha was a knockoff of the old German DKW125 workhorse. Everybody starts somewhere and I don’t think it’s bad to copy what works. Copying it poorly is another matter, but it seems you’re down with a decent warranty and a quality product. I know you’re aware of the general attitude of some people who hear “Chinese motors” and flip out about it, and I can imagine the stories you could tell about this but I don’t care to expose the ignorant, only to inform them of the truth. Please tell us why your motors are more than mere copies of a Suzuki thumper.
SC: Our OHV single is quite unique with secondary air induction and full 50-state certification. Suzuki cannot get their TU250 to pass California’s strict ARB standards but our bikes did. The intake, valves, valve angle, cylinder, rockers, piston, connecting rod, cylinder head, and many other components are nothing like other metric singles out there. Furthermore, we worked for a long time on the counter balance and making sure the motor is very, very smooth. We are so confident that we hard mounted this motor to our bikes. I believe we have the smoothest running small displacement motor out there.
We also have many CCW bikes running 12:1 compression, with many other hop-up parts. We have raced these motors, over revved, lugged them everywhere, and generally beat the s**t out of them. We believe in a business mindset which will never sacrifice quality for a quick buck. Our vision is long term and I think once people see our upcoming 450 and 500cc motors and bikes, a lot of things will change.
TR: I bet they will. You mentioned earlier that most of your bikes ship overseas. I think there is a market in the States around urban and university areas. Five miles in any direction is often as far as these kids venture. A little bike that looks cool to get them to school, job, shopping, and the pub for three grand? What hipster wouldn’t want that? I’d get one for my girlfriend, too, just to bop around and run errands. Sell a little solo bag that will hold a six pack and some Ramen and you’re golden.
SC: The US has been so prosperous over the last twenty years that really everyone could get a huge displacement bike for ninety-nine bucks a month. Even though the deals were interest only for six months, then up to three-ninety-nine a month for five years, but that is beside the point.
TR: Really? That’s a good point to me and it illustrates to all the dumb*** motherf***ers who thought their house was an investment in equity and not a banker-owned property where slaves live.
SC: The days where the majority of people spending four hundred dollars a month on a bike are over. There will still be that crowd, but my generation has never seen stability. I am the generation of graduating from college with a hundred thousand in school debt. There is a huge appeal in the USA for affordable bikes that you do not have to get a five year mortgage to own and once you get on a three hundred pound bike with a single cylinder motor, there is something so pure about it. I get guys telling me all the time how their d**ks are too heavy for a two-fifty. f*** that! If you can get over your fragile ego and ride one of our bikes, I guarantee you will be grinning from ear to ear.
We’ve already sold fifteen hundred bikes in the USA. In 2012, we plan on doubling this. It is really all about fun. That is what riding is about and we bring the fun factor back to riding a bike on the street.
TR: Fifteen hundred last year or total since you started business?
SC: We have sold about five thousand bikes worldwide since starting the business.
TR: That’s about two thousand a year, then? Five thousand seems pretty good. Are you hitting your projections? How about telling us about what you do when you are not working? Stamp collecting? Home brewing? I know, a lot of questions but it’s the coffee. Also, I’m thinking of mounting a jockey shift to my bike using an aluminum **** plug as the handle. Would you consider purchasing my patent on this and how soon can I expect to see them on CCW bobbers?
SC: Honestly Trent, it is not about what I want to sell. I would be happy with five hundred bikes a year, but when you get into serious tooling and production, all pricing is based on quantity. My parts suppliers are always pushing me for higher quantity. I guess if you make just one special bolt for CCW, and we only sell five hundred of those bolts, we are not really making that manufacturer any money, so I just want to enjoy work, but it is really my parts suppliers pushing for higher volume.
After work? Ha ha, well…. I enjoy road racing, but now that I have the company to run, I really cannot afford it, so I just do track days, which are fun. Other then that, I like building bikes and cars and actually just about anything involved building is enjoyable to me. I am looking at a three-window coupe project now. You know; new chassis with old body so I can drive the **** out of it. I am building out CCW’s factory in Cleveland and a new design studio for CCW in Little Italy, so that is taking a ton of time. For me, relaxation is keeping my mind and hands busy and while some people might look at building a bike as work, for me it is relaxation. When I am really into something like racing or building, that is when I really feel like myself.
Not really sure what to say about the **** plug idea, I really dig it, but I was thinking it would be better out of brass, and it would be nice to use the shifter shaft and **** plug as an oil cooler, so it would keep the brass **** plug warm during those cold rides.
TR: Now that’s an idea! We’d make a great team! How much do you want to hire me for as “Special Design Consultant of Freaky S**t?”
SC: We can pay you in doughnuts, raw honey and Red Bull, if that sounds good to you, then you’re hired.
TR: What, no beer? No hooker/secretary? Sheesh. If you were based in Bangkok, maybe… but Cleveland? Since I’ve got access to a CNC machine now, I guess I’m going to have to manufacture them myself. I’ll try aluminum first to keep it cost effective for the buyer. “The bikerMetric **** Retentive Cooling System.” Or maybe I’ll simply call it “Santorum.”
Your marketing man contacted me about riding and reviewing one of your bikes. I’d enjoy doing that with a tweaked bobber by your dude Tom in Jersey this summer in New Orleans. You could bring others, such as your cafe and/or your street tracker. The tracker might be good to review for some of the pothole-ridden streets. Put drag bars on it and I’ll see if I can break it on St. Charles Avenue.
SC: For sure, whenever you are ready we can get you several of our bikes to test.
My Ace dirt tracker has been crashed five times and it’s still going strong, and I doubt any street could disable it. I took the bike on a motocross track last season and jumped several doubles, now that was a bad idea as the suspension completely bottomed out as the bike is really a street bike, but still running strong!
TR: We will have to give it the old gentleman’s try then. Having never been to New Orleans, what would you like to do besides drink hurricanes, hand grenades, and hit boobie bars?
SC: Down in New Orleans, well I would like to check out what you guys are famous for; jazz and local music. I would imagine this could be accomplished while drinking some good whiskey or moonshine. Other then that, I heard it is still pretty gnarly in the 9th ward, so I think a ride through there is in order. I believe it is important to see what is going on to really get a sense of what has been done and not done by the US government to rebuild. I have heard little has actually been done with old cars, decrepit houses and trash. Anyhow it is sad but interesting to me.
Strip clubs do not interest me, so that’s out. Hurricanes scare the s**t out of me, but hand grenades…. We will talk about that after the article.
TR: Hurricanes and hand grenades are gnarly drinks they mix in the Quarter but yes, the weather kind of hurricanes s**k. As for jazz, I know a few places to go and have a great time. I live in a part of town that many still consider the 9th ward, the “Upper 9th” they call it, although it’s becoming gentrified and the white folks like to call it “Bywater.” I know all these ‘hoods and we can scoot through any time, even seeing the Brad Pitt houses, of which he and his group have built about 30 in the “Lower 9th,” where they really got slammed. There are decrepit houses across the street from me. It’s interesting to look at photos of NOLA from the 1930’s and, even though the photos are black and white, the houses still look worn like an old work horse put up wet. I believe it’s beautiful in it’s decay and some of it, old and clean or ancient and condemned, is amazing when taken in as a whole. The cars have been taken and recycled, but you can still see piles of junk where a house once stood in many places.
What the “government” has done is probably not what they say they have done, if history has proven anything. Katrina was a man-made disaster. The levees were supposed to hold for a storm of that magnitude. That they did not is a testament to complicit avarice on many public levels.
So no boobie bars? We’ll see how you feel about that after a couple of hurricanes…. That, and how much money we, I mean, you have. I honestly haven’t been able to afford them since 2008.
Thanks for the great interview, Scott. It was very illuminating and I bet many bikerMetric readers are going to be watching Cleveland CycleWerks closely now, especially with those 500cc bikes coming, and your new motorcross-style 250 arriving in the not-too-distant future.
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