TWMX All Access: Applied Racing

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This week we stopped by the newly-relocated offices of Applied Racing, where we sat down with Applied’s Head Honcho, John Duffy. Applied is well-known for their triple clamps, but their artistry in aluminum recently extended to the trophies that will be presented to the TWMX Racer and Freestyler of the Year, as well, as the winners of our various new bike shootouts. You’ll see more on those in an upcoming issue.

But in the meantime, interviews with guys like John are always extremely fun, since he was both friendly, but very candid in his answers. Read on.

TransWorld Motocross: When did you guys make the move from Escondido to Temecula?

John Duffy: We kind of started in August, but we’re still at moving. There are still boxes of stuff out there. We’re still not organized.

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TWMX: Why’d you make the move?

JD: (Chuckles) I bought 40 acres out near Warner Springs. I put in a motocross track and built a house up there, and I didn’t want to drive all the way back to Escondido.

There’s also a lot of reasons to be up here. KTM’s moved up here, and we’re a little closer to them. We do a lot of stuff with Doug Dubach, so they’re all happy about it as well.

TWMX: How’d you get started doing this?

JD: With the machine shop, we’ve been in business almost 25 years now. We used to do aircraft-quality kind of stuff, making airplane parts and bomb parts and stuff for the wars. All those markets were just pretty spotty. We made great money when it was there, but we’d have to wait for someone to design something, and then pick us to build it for them. I just decided that we needed to get out of all that. We design our own stuff in-house, and we build it, sell it, and do it all in-house. If we’re too busy, we just slow down on new product introductions. If we’re not busy enough, we introduce some new products. We have complete control over it.

I’ve been riding motorcycles all my life, so it was a natural. Not many people get to work in an industry that they enjoy. That’s pretty much how we started…we didn’t want to the job shop kind of thing any more.

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TWMX: I thought you’d have moved into the new business complex where KTM is now.

JD: Actually, it all happened so fast, we probably will, eventually. We’ve only leased this building, we didn’t buy it. It’s not really what we’re looking for, but we needed to get something going. So we’ll probably build a building further up in about four or five years.

TWMX: You’re obviously well-known for your triple clamps. How you get started doing them?

JD: We pretty much created the triple clamp market. I was just noticing this a month or two ago, looking through some really old magazines. There didn’t even used to be a category for triple clamps. You’d look at a spec sheet for Broc Glover’s bike, andt’d talk about what tires he had, what pipe he had, what was going on with his motor. There was no triple clamp category. It was just works parts…you can’t get these.

That’s really what we started, and part of what I saw. There wasn’t really any market, and no one was doing that at all. In some respects, it was kind of neat to build that up and create this whole niche that didn’t exist before…and then invite all these other competitors in and let them play too. I expect Christmas cards from all of them. (Laughs)

In some respects it’s kind of neat, but on the other hand, it was tough going. It took several years to convince people that this is something that was marketable, and you could sell.

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We worked really hard, especially in the beginning, to make sure that it had to have some function to it. Whether it was moving the handlebars forward, or making it lighter in weight. Changing something. CCMs and those kinds of bikes, they were breaking all the time. Any more, now that all these other competitors are doing it, we still try to do it as much as we can, but you can’t on everything. Some bikes are just pretty damn good the way they come.

Honestly, unless you’re changing offsets, the average rider probably doesn’t need the lower triple clamp. The stock one’s great. You may need an upper triple clamp even if there’s no other function than the value of an oversized bar. But everything has to have a function, or I’m not interested in making it.

TWMX: When you’re working on triple clamps, and talking about trimming a pound from the weight, where’s the balance on reducing weight vs. maintaining strength?

JD: It’s hard to do. That’s why I appreciate all this other competition, as long as they do a good job at it. There’s some stuff out there that’s questionable. I almost feel like calling them up, and sayin, ‘We tried that, and we screwed up, and we’ve paid our dues. Don’t blow this market.’

Two years ago we had horrific failures with bottom clamps. I remember seeing a picture in Cycle News of a bike with the front end snapped off because the bottom clamp broke. I flew out there and looked at it to find out what was going on. We went back and traced it, and I found out I had a bad batch of aluminum, and we found that it wouldn’t have failed if I’d put some more ribbing and structure in the area where it broke. So that’s what we did immediately…redesigned it and built some more things in there.

You can’t be afraid to try new stuff, but you’ve got to test it, and you’ve got to fix it if you find there’s a problem. There’s no way to sit down and engineer all these things out and make sure they’re absolutely going to be bulletproof when you first build it. You give it your best shot. You can say, ‘I think that’s it, but I want to lose another pound.’ Or, ‘I think we can get away with this in here,’ and you got out and bend it and twist it and test it, and it looks great. But there are so many different forces in play when you’re actually riding, that you can’t duplicate it in the building where you’ve got little stress testers.

You can model things with Finite Element Analysis, and it’ll look great, and we have done all that. That’s not real world. Who would have thought that they were going to do a little bit of a slap-down landing, sideways with it all the way against the steering stop, and they had landed at just the right angle that the forks hadn’t moved at all. They acted as a big lever. You can’t model that. You have to look at it in the real world to find out what’s happening.

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TWMX: In a way, I guess it’s lucky that we haven’t had more catastrophic failures.

JD: Yeah, we have a lot of experience with it, and we still screw up. I look at some of these other guys, and I just know that it’s not going to work. We already tried that.

TWMX: You mentioned earlier that you were building some parts for Doug Dubach. How much of that type work do you do?

JD: Well, we don’t actually do any private label stuff. We design, manufacture, distribute and sell all of our own products. With Dubach, he just doesn’t have the capability to build all his components, so he’ll say, ‘I need a little end cap, or this part here,’ so at that point we’re basically a job shop. This little doodad, or that little doodad. For his next run of pipes, we’re just going to make some of the step rings and brackets for it. He still has complete control over the design of everything, and he’s pretty picky about it. He just doesn’t yet have the facilities to manufacture everything.

He allows us to distribute his products, as well, so it works out pretty good both ways. We get to sell his stuff, and we get to make some of the parts that go into it.

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TWMX: How much of what you sell is through dealers, and how much is via your web site?

JD: The web site, on a good month, generates $200-$300. Very little. We actually try to discourage that. I talked to a lot of the major distributors. I won’t name names, but when I first started, I said, ‘I don’t really want to sell these things. I don’t know how to sell motorcycle parts. I know how to build things, but I really don’t know how to sell them.’ Most of them said, ‘Yeah, send me a couple, and we’ll put them on consignment.’ I said, ‘No, I want to really make this thing move, and I want your help, and of course you’ll make some money doing it.’ Nobody wanted to play. They all thought that this was kind of a silly little thing where some guy was in his garage building parts.

So what we were forced to do was sell to dealers. I could have gone retail, but that’s even harder to accomplish when you’re just getting started. So I went and found the names of all the dealers and started selling to them, cutting out the distributor. Manufacturer direct to the dealer. So we try really hard to help our dealers out. We try to point sales their way, even if we have a lead on the web site, we’ll tell them, ‘Well, you know what? You have a dealer right next to you. You can go hit those guys up.’ So almost all of our sales are to dealers, mostly because they’ve helped us to get where we are.

It’s like having 2,500 salesmen out there, scattered all over the world, and if you treat them well, it’s a pretty good way to go. I could sell to millions of end users, but the logistics of that are just incredible. Or you could sell to one or two distributors, but they didn’t even want to play with us.

TWMX: Who are some of the guys out there using your triple clamps now?

JD: Honestly, we’ve lost almost all of our riders. We don’t pay anyone to run our stuff. Some of the other guys are paying some pretty good money to run the product, but I just never believed in that. We still have a few here and there, but almost no professionals. We have some intermediates and that kind of stuff.

TWMX: How do you compete with that?

JD: I don’t. I’m not worried about it at all. Our sales haven’t really dropped off. The more competitors there are out there, our sales just keep increasing. It makes this market more acceptable. You got a new bike? You’ve got to go get your pipe, and put i guess it’s lucky that we haven’t had more catastrophic failures.

JD: Yeah, we have a lot of experience with it, and we still screw up. I look at some of these other guys, and I just know that it’s not going to work. We already tried that.

TWMX: You mentioned earlier that you were building some parts for Doug Dubach. How much of that type work do you do?

JD: Well, we don’t actually do any private label stuff. We design, manufacture, distribute and sell all of our own products. With Dubach, he just doesn’t have the capability to build all his components, so he’ll say, ‘I need a little end cap, or this part here,’ so at that point we’re basically a job shop. This little doodad, or that little doodad. For his next run of pipes, we’re just going to make some of the step rings and brackets for it. He still has complete control over the design of everything, and he’s pretty picky about it. He just doesn’t yet have the facilities to manufacture everything.

He allows us to distribute his products, as well, so it works out pretty good both ways. We get to sell his stuff, and we get to make some of the parts that go into it.

[IMAGE 5]

TWMX: How much of what you sell is through dealers, and how much is via your web site?

JD: The web site, on a good month, generates $200-$300. Very little. We actually try to discourage that. I talked to a lot of the major distributors. I won’t name names, but when I first started, I said, ‘I don’t really want to sell these things. I don’t know how to sell motorcycle parts. I know how to build things, but I really don’t know how to sell them.’ Most of them said, ‘Yeah, send me a couple, and we’ll put them on consignment.’ I said, ‘No, I want to really make this thing move, and I want your help, and of course you’ll make some money doing it.’ Nobody wanted to play. They all thought that this was kind of a silly little thing where some guy was in his garage building parts.

So what we were forced to do was sell to dealers. I could have gone retail, but that’s even harder to accomplish when you’re just getting started. So I went and found the names of all the dealers and started selling to them, cutting out the distributor. Manufacturer direct to the dealer. So we try really hard to help our dealers out. We try to point sales their way, even if we have a lead on the web site, we’ll tell them, ‘Well, you know what? You have a dealer right next to you. You can go hit those guys up.’ So almost all of our sales are to dealers, mostly because they’ve helped us to get where we are.

It’s like having 2,500 salesmen out there, scattered all over the world, and if you treat them well, it’s a pretty good way to go. I could sell to millions of end users, but the logistics of that are just incredible. Or you could sell to one or two distributors, but they didn’t even want to play with us.

TWMX: Who are some of the guys out there using your triple clamps now?

JD: Honestly, we’ve lost almost all of our riders. We don’t pay anyone to run our stuff. Some of the other guys are paying some pretty good money to run the product, but I just never believed in that. We still have a few here and there, but almost no professionals. We have some intermediates and that kind of stuff.

TWMX: How do you compete with that?

JD: I don’t. I’m not worried about it at all. Our sales haven’t really dropped off. The more competitors there are out there, our sales just keep increasing. It makes this market more acceptable. You got a new bike? You’ve got to go get your pipe, and put it on, right off the bat. Gotta get your suspension done. Now, if you’ve got a new bike, you’ve got to get triple clamps on there, also. So the market is expanding, and all I have to do is stay on top of the market, and it’s really pretty simple to do.

In the old days, the way I got started, we gave away almost everything we manufactured for the first year. That would be ’94/’95…just to get them out there. The coolest thing I remember was at Mammoth in ’96, I think, every single pro rider on the 250 gate had my stuff on there. Every single one. That got our name out there, and got us started. There is a value to that, but at the same time, I’m not going to pay for it. If you believe in my product, you’ll want to run it. I’ll give it to you for free, I’m not going to charge you for the product, but I’m certainly not going to give you the product and pay you money, because I don’t think I really need to do that. It’s an okay form of advertising, but advertising in magazines is a traditional ordinary method that I know works. Just some guy running my clamps is not guaranteed to work for me. I don’t know who is going to see it, and how they’re going to see it.

Of course, there are exceptions. We’d helped out Chaparral. We had done them for maybe three years, and when McGrath came on board, he said, ‘It’s time to step up. You’ve got to pay some money for this team.’ I asked, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘$2,500.’ I said, ‘Of course. All that’s going for is to pay for painting my name on the side of your rig.’ But it had to be something that was of value. I gave them a lot of product, a lot of support, and special parts. That had the value of helping them succeed. So I looked at any money that I spent to be only necessary to cover some direct expense. You want to paint my name on there? Absolutely. You want to print out some posters? I’m in for that. Want some t-shirts? I’ll help you pay for those kinds of things. But just as a signing bonus for running my product? I don’t need to do that.

TWMX: How did you get started on doing different offsets for the triple clamps?

JD: Bill Werner (mechanic for Harley-Davidson racers Gary Scott, Jay Springsteen and Scott Parker) taught us everything we ever wanted to know about how motorcycles turn. That’s how we were able to understand what to change, and what we have available to change, and how it would affect the handling of the motorcycles. Our 18mm KTM clamps are extremely popular. Our 22mm CR clamps are extremely popular. We tried it with Kawasakis, and Suzukis and Yamahas, and it didn’t work. All that was knowledge gained by Bill Werner.

It’s so misunderstood. The offset is the measurement from the steering stem to the forks. On a Honda, the stock offset is 24mm. If I make that 22mm, you’d think, ‘Ah, this is a supercross kind of thing. It’s going to turn way better…turn sharper. It just seems intuitive that’s what it’s going to do. I’m shortening up the wheelbase, and bringing everything in. In reality, it’s not that at all. You’re actually increasing the trail. If you see it drawn out, then you’d understand. It’s not intuitive, though. What that actually does, is make the bike more stable.

What I’m looking for is a balance between the force required to turn the handlebars, and leaning the bike. I want those two in balance. The more I lean, I want the bars to follow into that. I don’t want it to flop in, I just want it to follow with it. I lean and turn the bars at the same time. I’ve demonstrated it to a lot of people. I used to have a model XR400 that was just perfect. You could push it along on the rear fender, and lean the bike and the bars would dip a certain amount. WWhen you straightened it up, the bars would come back straight again. That’s the concept, and that’s what we’re looking for. A well-balanced feel between turning by leaning, and turning by handlebar pressure. You don’t want to fight the bars, and you don’t want to fight the lean. That’s really what we’re looking for.

Contact:
Applied Racing
42345 Avenida Alvarado
Temecula, CA 9259
(909) 694-3267
www.appliedrace.com

Sponsored by:
n, right off the bat. Gotta get your suspension done. Now, if you’ve got a new bike, you’ve got to get triple clamps on there, also. So the market is expanding, and all I have to do is stay on top of the market, and it’s really pretty simple to do.

In the old days, the way I got started, we gave away almost everything we manufactured for the first year. That would be ’94/’95…just to get them out there. The coolest thing I remember was at Mammoth in ’96, I think, every single pro rider on the 250 gate had my stuff on there. Every single one. That got our name out there, and got us started. There is a value to that, but at the same time, I’m not going to pay for it. If you believe in my product, you’ll want to run it. I’ll give it to you for free, I’m not going to charge you for the product, but I’m certainly not going to give you the product and pay you money, because I don’t think I really need to do that. It’s an okay form of advertising, but advertising in magazines is a traditional ordinary method that I know works. Just some guy running my clamps is not guaranteed to work for me. I don’t know who is going to see it, and how they’re going to see it.

Of course, there are exceptions. We’d helped out Chaparral. We had done them for maybe three years, and when McGrath came on board, he said, ‘It’s time to step up. You’ve got to pay some money for this team.’ I asked, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘$2,500.’ I said, ‘Of course. All that’s going for is to pay for painting my name on the side of your rig.’ But it had to be something that was of value. I gave them a lot of product, a lot of support, and special parts. That had the value of helping them succeed. So I looked at any money that I spent to be only necessary to cover some direct expense. You want to paint my name on there? Absolutely. You want to print out some posters? I’m in for that. Want some t-shirts? I’ll help you pay for those kinds of things. But just as a signing bonus for running my product? I don’t need to do that.

TWMX: How did you get started on doing different offsets for the triple clamps?

JD: Bill Werner (mechanic for Harley-Davidson racers Gary Scott, Jay Springsteen and Scott Parker) taught us everything we ever wanted to know about how motorcycles turn. That’s how we were able to understand what to change, and what we have available to change, and how it would affect the handling of the motorcycles. Our 18mm KTM clamps are extremely popular. Our 22mm CR clamps are extremely popular. We tried it with Kawasakis, and Suzukis and Yamahas, and it didn’t work. All that was knowledge gained by Bill Werner.

It’s so misunderstood. The offset is the measurement from the steering stem to the forks. On a Honda, the stock offset is 24mm. If I make that 22mm, you’d think, ‘Ah, this is a supercross kind of thing. It’s going to turn way better…turn sharper. It just seems intuitive that’s what it’s going to do. I’m shortening up the wheelbase, and bringing everything in. In reality, it’s not that at all. You’re actually increasing the trail. If you see it drawn out, then you’d understand. It’s not intuitive, though. What that actually does, is make the bike more stable.

What I’m looking for is a balance between the force required to turn the handlebars, and leaning the bike. I want those two in balance. The more I lean, I want the bars to follow into that. I don’t want it to flop in, I just want it to follow with it. I lean and turn the bars at the same time. I’ve demonstrated it to a lot of people. I used to have a model XR400 that was just perfect. You could push it along on the rear fender, and lean the bike and the bars would dip a certain amount. When you straightened it up, the bars would come back straight again. That’s the concept, and that’s what we’re looking for. A well-balanced feel between turning by leaning, and turning by handlebar pressure. You don’t want to fight the bars, and you don’t want to fight the lean. That’s really what we’re looking for.

Contact:
Applied Racing
42345 Avenida Alvarado
Temecula, CA 9259
(909) 694-3267
www.appliedrace.com

Sponsored by:
mount. When you straightened it up, the bars would come back straight again. That’s the concept, and that’s what we’re looking for. A well-balanced feel between turning by leaning, and turning by handlebar pressure. You don’t want to fight the bars, and you don’t want to fight the lean. That’s really what we’re looking for.

Contact:
Applied Racing
42345 Avenida Alvarado
Temecula, CA 9259
(909) 694-3267
www.appliedrace.com

Sponsored by: