TWMX All Access: Dubach Racing Development

About a year ago, we hooked up with Doug Dubach for an interview and career retrospective that appeared in TransWorld Motocross. Back then, Doug was just setting up his own manufacturing facilities inside the cavernous warehouse that’s home to MTA West, a distributor of tires and other goodies. Since it had been quite a while since then, we wanted to see how the facility, and Doug’s company, had progressed. When we caught up with Doug, he was squaring away the shop before taking off on a business trip to Japan.

How do you juggle your duties here, as well as your testing?

“That’s the difficult part. We’re trying to hire in more staff to do a lot of the stuff that I’m currently doing, because I run the bender, I prototype on the bike, and I do all the testing. I’m a man that wears a hundred hats. We’re hiring people every week it seems like. We’re getting a new guy and giving him his job description and getting him on his way. It’s slowly helping me, but it’s been really tough over the last six or eight months. You’ll probably notice that I haven’t raced as much as I normally do, even thought I managed to win Mammoth a few weeks ago. That was a nice little feather in my cap for being a 41-year-old businessman. But there’s no place I’d rather be.”

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“I’m a family man, so I do chop it off when I get home, and I see my family. They mean more to me than anything in the world, but it’s just a matter of I’m up before 5:00 every morning and I work well into the late afternoon or early evening. I thought being a factory rider was tough. That’s like a spit in the ocean compared to my responsibilities and how full my day is now.”

Do you think that testing for Yamaha and knowing what you know about future bike models gives you an advantage when it comes to developing new products for DRD?

“Well, it certainly does, just in that I have knowledge of where the industry is going in a couple years. I don’t want to call it an advantage, but it certainly keeps my brain going in the right direction, because whatever is happening in one place is probably happening somewhere else. I can see into the future with my opportunities that I have at Yamaha, so it certainly helps in knowing what my next steps will be.”

“If I was maybe a little more aggressive, I would have jumped into this side of the industry early on. I kind of started this business out of frustration, because it seemed that no one could build a good four-stroke pipe. I don’t say that insultingly, but I was kind of disappointed in what I saw early on. My wife’s actually the one that finally said, ‘Quit complaining and just build your own stuff.’ That was the beginning of DRD.”

“I love the work that I do with Yamaha because there’s nothing I love more than riding dirt bikes. Fortunately, being a test rider I get to ride them all day long most days.”

How much of buying a pipe for a four-stroke these days is about looking for a big power boost versus putting the power where you want it?

“Well, it can be all of those things. What we try to do here at DRD is make the bike have a better performance. That’s not necessarily more power on some models. On some models, it can be taming the power down, or putting it in a different place. I have so much experience with data acquisition on a bike, and we actually have a data acquisition system ourselves. It’s basically a computer that you hook to the bike while you’re riding that tells you what throttle angle, what RPM, what wheel speed, the O2 output of the air/fuel mixture, and more. With that we understand very well where the average guy rides. I’ll ride with it, and I’m a pro level rider, but we’ve got other riders¿intermediates and novice guys, so we understand where these guys ride in the throttle. Then we look at ose areas and determine whether they’re good or bad. We don’t just try to make big numbers on a dyno. Our dyno actually collects a lot more dust than it’s used. It’s a tool that we use, but I think in this industry too many people put too much emphasis on that tool. Not too many guys buy their bike and go take it to a dyno. Most of them go straight a race track. That’s where we’re developing our products at.”

“That’s what I think we do differently. It’s 90% seat-of-the-pants, and 10% dyno. We often put it on the dyno at the end and see what it did number-wise. It’s a tough thing to break through that barrier of what the industry has understood to date, that the dyno is everything. The more I learn over the years, it is just another tool, and if you put too much emphasis on that single tool, you’re not really doing a good job.”

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“It’s different on the 450 versus the 250. On the littler bikes, everyone does want more power. But if I made one more horsepower than say a stock pipe, but it took 1,500 RPMs to get there, that pipe is, in fact, worse than stock. You have to pay attention to where you’re making your power. The average rider almost never sees 100 percent throttle, unless he’s on a fire road. Most people do their dyno runs at 100% throttle. It’s such a mismatch of testing procedure to what the real world is, it’s almost ludicrous. But not a lot of pipe companies have the access to a good test rider. I’m not going to toot my horn and say I’m the best in the world, but that is what I do for a living. People have often said that I can feel a pea under a mattress¿I’m very sensitive. They’ve called me the human dyno and all these other things. But it’s an asset that I really think brings a lot to the company. Who better would you rather have developing a pipe than a professional developer? That’s where I think we separate ourselves from the other guys.”

A year ago we came in here and it was pretty empty. Now it looks like you’re fully set up and cranking.

“Yeah, we just had some benches built, a few pipes together, and that was the very early stages of making our won stuff. We have well over doubled our sales from last year. I’m sure everyone wishes they could do that. It’s just a matter of that we only had three systems last year. We had an XR50, a YZ450F and a YZ250F a year ago, and now we’re up over 20 different models, with play bikes, ATVs, and all the motocross bikes.”

Prior to setting up product here, how were you getting stuff built?

“We had some outside vendors just keeping us alive in the transition from private label to making it ourselves, so we were just kind of hanging on and keeping some product out the doors, but now we make everything in-house, barring some machining and machined parts that we still have a couple of machine shops that work with us. But we do everything else in-house. We do all the cutting, bending and welding. All those processes we do here under our own roof.”

Before we fired up the recorder you also mentioned that you’re already outgrowing this space?

“Yeah, it’s funny because we thought we’d be in here for at least a couple years. The growth has been more than we expected, and we’re in escrow in a brand new building. It’ll be finished at the end of September. Once that’s finished and we do a little build-out there, then we’ll be moving¿maybe at the end of September or the beginning of October.”

Given all the money that you invested in here for things like electrical, does it bug you that you’re moving out this early?

“Yeah, it does. Fortunately we knew that the growth was going to happen, and all our tables are on wheels and not too much is bolted down. We anticipated this, it just happened a little sooner than I expected. The electrical is the thing that’s going to kill me. I did put quite a bit of money into the transformers and sub-panels put in here. Two years was our minimum in here to absorb that and amortize it, but you’ve just got to go and do what you can do.”

“Commercial buildings out here in the Corona/Norco area were just getting snapped up like nobody’s business. We got into a really nice building in a brand-new little center. I’m sure I’ll piss and moan about the price per foot for a long time, but it’s one of those things¿you just have to do it. You’ve got to seize that opportunity.”

“In order to get things moving through, I’ve actually hired on a guy who looks at production flow¿getting all the machines in the right places. We’ve got a pretty good idea after working in here for the last year, but there are people who do it professionally, and if you’re going to set up your next shop to be maximum production capability, those are the kind of things you need to look at. I’m really excited because I’m a tinkering kind of guy, and I’ve always been hands-on, and it’s hard for me to release a lot of these duties back to other employees. But it’s exciting to get into my own place and really set it up the way I want. With sub-leasing you’re always a little careful. You’re not going to be knocking holes in walls. With this new shop it’s brand new. They just tilted up walls and they’re putting in the roof and everything else, so I can do it my way from ground zero. It’s going to be awesome to just see how well everything can be put together and flow through there. It’ll make it possible for us to produce even more and meet the demands.”

Has the rapid growth been good or bad for you?

“It’s funny, because people ask why we’re not done with this model or that model, but then when some people from inside the industry come over and see what we’ve done in under a year, it floors them, because they know how long it took them to get to whatever levels they were at.

Everything has growing pains, and growing pains are a good sign, because that means you’re going to eventually get more market share, make more money, and be more of a presence. I couldn’t have expected it to go any better, really. We had some exposure and some impact early on because we weren’t making it ourselves. We were just designing it and so we kind of made a pretty big splash in the early stages from going from zero to selling pipes. But now, making this next big transition of making it ourselves, it’s unbelievable the amount we’ve grown, and really the acceptance from the public. It helps when we get good reviews and things like that, but I think people recognize that we do things a little different here with more seat-of-the-pants testing and all that we bring to the product on the four-stroke side with my experience and everything that DRD has to offer.

What’s the biggest challenge been in the last year?

“Early on, the biggest challenge was timing all the parts that it takes. People just see a tube and a muffler, when there are over 50 parts. Some of those are nuts and bolts and washers, but there are a lot of pieces that you don’t even think about that go into building an exhaust pipe.”

“We would get X amount of numbers in, and we didn’t have much history of building things, and all of a sudden we realized we needed to order something by next week, but no one told us that it was a four-week lead time. It was just all those kinds of pains. I just got off the phone with someone who’s done that his whole life. He’s going to work with us on inventory control and product planning. I never imagined that I’d need a guy just for that, but I do. You’ve got to have all of that just in time so you’re not sitting on too much of it, but you always have it when you happened a little sooner than I expected. The electrical is the thing that’s going to kill me. I did put quite a bit of money into the transformers and sub-panels put in here. Two years was our minimum in here to absorb that and amortize it, but you’ve just got to go and do what you can do.”

“Commercial buildings out here in the Corona/Norco area were just getting snapped up like nobody’s business. We got into a really nice building in a brand-new little center. I’m sure I’ll piss and moan about the price per foot for a long time, but it’s one of those things¿you just have to do it. You’ve got to seize that opportunity.”

“In order to get things moving through, I’ve actually hired on a guy who looks at production flow¿getting all the machines in the right places. We’ve got a pretty good idea after working in here for the last year, but there are people who do it professionally, and if you’re going to set up your next shop to be maximum production capability, those are the kind of things you need to look at. I’m really excited because I’m a tinkering kind of guy, and I’ve always been hands-on, and it’s hard for me to release a lot of these duties back to other employees. But it’s exciting to get into my own place and really set it up the way I want. With sub-leasing you’re always a little careful. You’re not going to be knocking holes in walls. With this new shop it’s brand new. They just tilted up walls and they’re putting in the roof and everything else, so I can do it my way from ground zero. It’s going to be awesome to just see how well everything can be put together and flow through there. It’ll make it possible for us to produce even more and meet the demands.”

Has the rapid growth been good or bad for you?

“It’s funny, because people ask why we’re not done with this model or that model, but then when some people from inside the industry come over and see what we’ve done in under a year, it floors them, because they know how long it took them to get to whatever levels they were at.

Everything has growing pains, and growing pains are a good sign, because that means you’re going to eventually get more market share, make more money, and be more of a presence. I couldn’t have expected it to go any better, really. We had some exposure and some impact early on because we weren’t making it ourselves. We were just designing it and so we kind of made a pretty big splash in the early stages from going from zero to selling pipes. But now, making this next big transition of making it ourselves, it’s unbelievable the amount we’ve grown, and really the acceptance from the public. It helps when we get good reviews and things like that, but I think people recognize that we do things a little different here with more seat-of-the-pants testing and all that we bring to the product on the four-stroke side with my experience and everything that DRD has to offer.

What’s the biggest challenge been in the last year?

“Early on, the biggest challenge was timing all the parts that it takes. People just see a tube and a muffler, when there are over 50 parts. Some of those are nuts and bolts and washers, but there are a lot of pieces that you don’t even think about that go into building an exhaust pipe.”

“We would get X amount of numbers in, and we didn’t have much history of building things, and all of a sudden we realized we needed to order something by next week, but no one told us that it was a four-week lead time. It was just all those kinds of pains. I just got off the phone with someone who’s done that his whole life. He’s going to work with us on inventory control and product planning. I never imagined that I’d need a guy just for that, but I do. You’ve got to have all of that just in time so you’re not sitting on too much of it, but you always have it when you need it. It takes a guy to put all of that in place. When I’m out riding having a good time pretending that I’m testing, but I’m really just getting out of the office, ‘Oh! I forgot to order more of that tubing.’ This guy will take care of that.”

Is there something that you’re most proud of in the last year?

“Probably just the finished product. I really take a lot of pride in it, and every time I get a cool e-mail back. You lose sight of just how excited people get when they’re opening that box. Maybe it’s because they’re a fan of me personally and my company, or it’s someone who’s plunked down his hard-earned money and wants to see a good product come out of that box. For whatever reason, we’ve got a ton of response back, like, ‘This thing bolted right on,’ or, ‘It looks so bitchen,’ or, ‘It ran so great,’ and that’s the thing I like most. I’m a real person, I’m not a person who sits up in a big boardroom and barks commands all day. I’m down here, I’m bending the stuff, I’m riding it and coming back. I’m cutting this and moving this over, and measuring volumes. I’m right in the meat of it, so I see every angle from the start to the finish, and when a customer appreciates that, that’s the satisfaction and what makes all the 4:00 am to midnight days worthwhile.”

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Contact:

Dubach Racing Development
1550 Melissa Court
Corona, CA 92879
(951) 808-1114
www.dubachracing.com

you need it. It takes a guy to put all of that in place. When I’m out riding having a good time pretending that I’m testing, but I’m really just getting out of the office, ‘Oh! I forgot to order more of that tubing.’ This guy will take care of that.”

Is there something that you’re most proud of in the last year?

“Probably just the finished product. I really take a lot of pride in it, and every time I get a cool e-mail back. You lose sight of just how excited people get when they’re opening that box. Maybe it’s because they’re a fan of me personally and my company, or it’s someone who’s plunked down his hard-earned money and wants to see a good product come out of that box. For whatever reason, we’ve got a ton of response back, like, ‘This thing bolted right on,’ or, ‘It looks so bitchen,’ or, ‘It ran so great,’ and that’s the thing I like most. I’m a real person, I’m not a person who sits up in a big boardroom and barks commands all day. I’m down here, I’m bending the stuff, I’m riding it and coming back. I’m cutting this and moving this over, and measuring volumes. I’m right in the meat of it, so I see every angle from the start to the finish, and when a customer appreciates that, that’s the satisfaction and what makes all the 4:00 am to midnight days worthwhile.”

[IMAGE 3]

Contact:

Dubach Racing Development
1550 Melissa Court
Corona, CA 92879
(951) 808-1114
www.dubachracing.com