It seems most every business in the motocross industry finds its start in the back of a truck, spare bedroom, garage or even closet. Impassioned motocross enthusiasts start building and selling their products any way they can. The story is no different for Sunline ARC. In 1972, Dave Ekins–a member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame–founded Sunline with the sale of his unique levers and grips. Dave started by selling the trick parts out of the back of his truck and grew the company from there. Recently through acquisitions and product development, Sunline Racing has experienced significant growth.
Eddie Cole, now President and CEO, negotiated the purchase of Sunline from Ekins approximately two years ago. Seemingly in no time at all Cole, Ekins and the Sunline management team have quickly expanded their product line.
We had the chance to sit down with Dave Ekins, Eddie Cole and Greg Berg to learn more about Sunline Racing, and one thing that impressed us most is the passion these guys share for what they are doing.
Where did Sunline get started, and how did you arrive to where the company is today?
Berg: It all started with Dave (Ekins). Dave was the originator of Sunline.
Ekins: Back in the early 70’s I invented short levers and flat/smooth-top handle grips. Those are both standards in the industry now. The other thing I brought out was the two-piece lever bracket. It used to be the brackets that hold the levers onto the bars were one piece, so to remove the brackets you had to cut the grip off. The English used a two-piece bracket, and we borrowed the idea from them. Within about three years of us bringing them out, the Japanese manufactures caught on and now it is an industry standard. It took about a ten years or so for the short levers to catch-on.
Cole: Dave started the company in 1972, and was really one of the pioneers of the sport. He started with levers and grips, then expanded into fenders. Dave had very strong ties to some of the popular riders in the late sixties and through the 80s. Roger DeCoster and Bob Hannah were two of the riders that Sunline was involved with, and they both did a lot of endorsement around Sunline at the time.
We were able to acquire the company in June of 2004, and Dave and his daughter Christina stayed with us through the acquisition. Our strategy has been to take what Dave has built and expand on that into a complete components product line. We were fortunate that Greg joined us as V.P. of Sunline Brand Development about that same time. Bob Hannah is still involved today as a product advisor. We have also acquired the worldwide rights to ARC levers with Bob Barnett who invented the folding and rotating lever technology that James Stewart is using now. We really have a great team.
Sunline has really just exploded as a brand. This year we’ve added handlebars, sprockets, chains, brake pedals, new foot-pegs, and colored levers (coming Fall 2006). There is a lot of expansion happening with some exciting new products.
You mentioned your new handlebars. Obviously, given your background with Answer, the addition of handlebars to your lineup seems to fit.
Cole: The whole handlebar program is new. We’re starting out with the AVone OS X, which is an oversized handlebar with an anti-vibration device that will remove 40% of the vibration found in normal handlebars. Plus the bars come as a complete kit with grips, glue, grip donuts and safety wire. In addition to the OS X, early next year we’ll have the OS bar, which is an oversized bar without the crossbar. We’re very excited about it.
Who are some of the top riders that are using your products now?
Cole: It’s almost easier to say who isn’t using our stuff (laughs). Some of our pro riders include Mike and Jeff Alessi, Nathan Ramsey, James Stewart, Michael Byrne, Chad Reed, Tim Ferry, David Vuillemin, Josh Hill, Broc Hepler, Ryan Dungey and Travis Pastrana. The Rockstar team also uses our stuff.
It really is easier to list who isn’t using your stuff.
Cole: We’ve been able to get all these guys to use our stuff because they believe in the products and want to use them. It’s not like we are paying them a bunch of money to do it.
Where do you see Sunline ARC going from here?
Cole: We’ve really been able to grow the business in the two years that we have had it. It’s our vision that we will be able to double the business in the next twelve months and then double it again in the following year. Those are our expectations.
Berg: We’re able to offer products to hardcore motocross riders, casual riders, desert riders, freestyle guys, everyone. We cover a lot of the motocross and off-road market.
Cole: There really are no boundaries. If it’s an off-road motorcycle, we’ve got a component for it.
Where can people find Sunline ARC products?
The first place we want people to go is their local dealer. Our products are available through every major distributer, so even if your local retailer doesn’t have it in stock, they can get it. They can also go to our website and order direct at www.sunlineracing.com.