TWMX All Access: Bill’s Pipes

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This week we met with Bill Cervera, the soft-spoken leader behind Bill’s Pipes. Bill has been involved with various factory-backed race teams since 1990, building pipes for Damon Bradshaw when he was at Yamaha. Topics ranged from where Bill’s Pipes is at now, to what sort of team involvement they’ll have with Suzuki (now that they’re coming out with their 250 four-stroke), whether they’d get back into racing (like when they ran the Primal Impulse team), and the future of two-strokes.

TransWorld Motocross: How are sales?

Bill Cervera: Sales have been good. If you talk to all the tube sales guys who come through here, they’ll tell you that everyone who has anything to do with recreation, hasn’t slowed down as much. Once we went over to Iraq and it didn’t turn into a long conflict, you could see the orders start to come in. You could see it picking up and up. May was a big month for us, June was an exceptionally big month, July was a big month, and we already have plans for August to be a fairly good-sized month, though this is a soft part of the season.

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TWMX: We heard that you’re putting together a new marketing push.

BC: We haven’t advertised a lot in the last couple years, and last year we didn’t advertise at all. We’re still having our biggest years. Let’s say that Mitch (Payton at Pro Circuit) didn’t advertise any at all. He’d still be strong. Maybe a little edge off the top, but he would still be strong because he’s been there so long. He’s laid such a big foundation, and the same with FMF. The dealers know where to go, and the distributors know where to go. That’s what it takes.

Racers are still demanding the product, and that’s why we stay really strong. I think that we’re going to try to do a big sales push. We’re going to do an advertising campaign in motocross, maybe an ATV magazine, and maybe do some co-op ads with White Brothers, where we can build up our four-stroke recognition, along with the White Bros.

TWMX: It sounds like you’re trying to build your reputation on the four-stroke side, like you’ve done with the Team Suzuki two-strokes.

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BC: I don’t know yet what’s happening with Suzuki, because they’re bringing out their four-stroke 250. We’re still waiting to see what’s actually going to happen—if they’re going to run all Bill’s Pipes, or Bill’s Pipes on just the 125s, or Bill’s Pipes on both. I think Roger is going to have to go with Yoshimura. If that happens, and we go out with the Motoworld four-strokes, we’ll still be on a factory-backed team. We’ll really push the connection where the factory-backed team is using Bill’s Pipes on four-strokes, and the factory team is running the Bill’s Pipe for two-strokes. It will continue to give us that high-end racing image where we need to be. It’ll also give us a foothold so when things change in the next four or five years.

TWMX: Year-to-year, how much do you have change your products?

BC: Two-strokes? For a while, it seemed to be every year. But now the two-strokes have gotten fairly good everywhere, so it’s very little here, and very little. Before that, there were wild swings.

In the next five years you’re going to see a lot more four-stroke stuff. The two-stroke stuff will there, but not as strong as the four-strokes. We’re really pushing on trying to get a big foothold on where we’re going to be in the next few years. You have to. You’ve got to move with it.

TWMX: How hard is a transition is it for you guys, after years of doing two-stroke pipes?

BC: The transition’s not that tough. The manufacturing of a four-stroke pipe is actually easier than a two-stroke pipe. The hard part about it is the machinery it takes to make it.

TWMX: More machined parts?

BC: Right. It takes about $100,000 worth of machines. Mitch (Payton) said the same thing. He said, “Man, the four-stroke stuff as far as fabricating is not that tough, it’s just the machines and money that it takes to get there.”

TWMX: In ten years from now do you see two-strokes around?

BC: I still see them, but I don’t know if they’re going to be manufactured or not. I worked for a company out of high school called J&R Exhaust Systems. We built nothing but pipes for two-stroke street bikes. That was with the big 750s and all that stuff. You can see the same trend happening again, only in dirt bikes. I think the legislature’s not going to let us have too many two-strokes.

TWMX: How much time do you spend working with the Suzuki guys?

BC: We pay Jeff (Springman) a salary to do nothing but work on the race team, because we think that that’s part of our cutting edge because he’s in there all the time. It really shows on not only the products we build, and a lot of them are for Suzukis, but across the board. I notice that this last year-and-a-half or two years working with Roger (DeCoster). Roger’s unbelievable. He is just phenomenal when it comes to work. It doesn’t matter what it takes, and I think Jeff has learned from that. He’ll just sit there and dyno stuff day after day after day until he gets something to where he wants it to be. I would have given up a couple times. Jeez, that’s good enough. Not only on Suzukis, but we noticed that it’s traveled to our mini bikes. He was really interested in getting our minis working really good. Our mini stuff is good…really good. The work Jeff has put into it is just like Roger. We knows that anybody that runs a race team or has anything to do with a race team, has to devote their time to doing all that stuff.

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Jeff’s job is to make sure that Bill’s Pipes on those bikes are the best, all the time. We were helping with the motor stuff for a long time. The last few years we’d helped with Travis Pastrana. When we helped Sean Hamblin…in fact, the bike that Sean rode at Glen Helen was Jeff’s bike, it wasn’t a factory bike.

Jeff’s my step-son, I don’t have to worry about having him going somewhere else. Mitch has that problem over at Pro Circuit…Honda’s picking them up every other week. “Oh, you’ve got a new employee? Who is it? We’ll hire ’em. (Laughs)

TWMX: Does having Jeff around free you up to take care of other things?

BC: Back in the the Honda days, I did it all. I was the one who was building all the pipes by hand, and I was the one who was doing all the dynoing for them. I would do that and try to run a business at the same time. One year it was okay, because we weren’t in the limelight yet. But the next year it started getting worse. I was running myself ragged, and couldn’t do anything. I would lose focus on the business and what was happening. “Bill, when’s the material coming in for the CR125? We have 300 here that we’ve got to build. 300 for us is a lot of pipes. I’m going, “Holy smokes! I forgot to order them! I’d be panicking because I was so busy doing other things. It got worse and worse.

Later, we had to split up the race effort and production, and office. Amber is a fantastic asset to us. She takes care of the rider support and knows all the guys and all the people. A lot of people will call in and ask, “Who’s this? Bill? Okay, can I speak with Amber? She’s out to lunch. “Okay, I’ll call back. That’s great.

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When we had the Primal Impulse thing here, we had the race shop in the back and manufacturing up front and it was just a nightmare. The mechanics would come in all the time and it was impossible to get anything done. Now, when we do have a race team, we’ll have it somewhere else.

TWMX: Given your past history with running the Primal Impulse arenacross team, would you ever do a race team again?

BC: You know, I’ve thought of that. Yeah, I think I would, but it’d be way different. I know what it takes, and there are three ingredients that it takes to make a race team. Riders are one, factory backing is the second, and funding. Without those three, you can’t have it. You can’t have the riders without telling them, that you’re going to have factory backing and the money. You can’t have the funding without the riders. If you’ve got those three, you can do it. I’ve thought about it and I think I could and I would, and I think I’d be in a better position probably in the next year-and-a-half or two years to do something like that, where we have all of our machinery bought, and I could buy a tractor-trailer. Unfortinately, some of this machinery costs as much as a tractor-trailer.

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ch. “Okay, I’ll call back. That’s great.

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When we had the Primal Impulse thing here, we had the race shop in the back and manufacturing up front and it was just a nightmare. The mechanics would come in all the time and it was impossible to get anything done. Now, when we do have a race team, we’ll have it somewhere else.

TWMX: Given your past history with running the Primal Impulse arenacross team, would you ever do a race team again?

BC: You know, I’ve thought of that. Yeah, I think I would, but it’d be way different. I know what it takes, and there are three ingredients that it takes to make a race team. Riders are one, factory backing is the second, and funding. Without those three, you can’t have it. You can’t have the riders without telling them, that you’re going to have factory backing and the money. You can’t have the funding without the riders. If you’ve got those three, you can do it. I’ve thought about it and I think I could and I would, and I think I’d be in a better position probably in the next year-and-a-half or two years to do something like that, where we have all of our machinery bought, and I could buy a tractor-trailer. Unfortinately, some of this machinery costs as much as a tractor-trailer.

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