TWMX All Access: Fasst Company

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Not all cool or unique products come from the big manufacturers. Sometimes it’s the small outfits who come up with really trick goodies, and such is the case with Fasst Company. For example, if you were to check the toolboxes of an assortment of factory mechanics, we’d just about guarantee that most of them are dialed in with one of Fasst Company’s spoke torque wrenches. They’ve also garnered lots of attention for their Anti-Vibration Bar Inserts, and their wild-looking Flexx Handlebars. Not bad for a pair of guys who’ve barely cracked the age of 26.

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We met the President of Fasst Company, Cole Townsend; and his VP, Chris Tidwell, at their headquarters in Long Beach, CA.

TransWorld Motocross: How did Fasst Company get started?

Cole Townsend: I was just B.S.’ing a marketing project during my first semester at Orange Coast College at the end of ’97. I wanted to find time to ride and I didn’t really want to do a big project that the teacher asked for, so I told her I owned a company. She knew I was B.S.’ing her, but she said it was a really good idea. Starting the company was interesting, and an eye-opener. A the time it looked like it would be easier than it actually was, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s been a learning experience in itself.

My dad has a bunch of businesses, so I’ve always been surrounded by self-employed people. He said, “Okay, if you want to do it, I’ll give you some direction.”

I also brought Chris (Tidwell, VP of Fasst Company) on at the end of 2000, just because I needed more guidance. He has a marketing degree, and I needed someone to bounce ideas off of, and besides, it’s more fun to work with someone else. I was in here by myself all the time. That was the best decision ever.

Chris Tidwell: At the time Cole approached me, I was getting ready to graduate from school and was already working at a dealership up in Paramount. I’d gotten to know the family pretty well from their racing. He told me, “I can’t afford to pay anything, but if you want to become a partner, we can work something out.” I was 22 or 23 at the time, and I took the plunge. It’s been going good, for just the two of us here. I think we’ve done all right.

TWMX: You have a pretty cool collection of products that fill a variety of niches. How did you develop with them?

Cole: The Rim Lock Spacers were the first. We had a mill and a lathe in the garage, and my dad made those for Mike Gosselaar. He’d seen them on Mike’s bike, and Mike needed more, so my dad started making them for our bikes, and Mike’s bikes. So I kind of already had one product set up.

The Spoke Torque Wrench was next. It was really difficult to get going, because a torque wrench is not that easy to do. The manufacturer of our torque wrench is the highest quality, similar to Snap On. The consistency of ours is spot-on every time.

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We followed the wrench up with Bar Inserts. We were lucky enough to get those on some big-name guys right away, and more big-name guys than we actually even know of run them….we’ve heard from around the way. They’re on more factory bikes than guys realize. They add performae to your bars, and help reduce arm pump and fatigue.

Chris: When Cole brought out the spoke torque wrench, and it was something that no one else had. Fortunately, being a small company, I think it’s hard for people to compete with some of the products that we have. The ones that we do have are somewhat expensive, but for a larger company to bring that to market, I really think that it would be more money on the retail end versus what we’re selling it for.

From the get-go, the philosophy has been that we want to make products that only we make. Unless we can significantly improve on someone else’s product, we’re not going to try and make it. We’re not going to make stuff that doesn’t add value to a customer’s riding program. If it works, and we believe in it, we’ll make it. Otherwise, we’ll pass.

Cole: Throughout our racing, we only put things on a bike that add performance. We never even had graphics, and we wore white helmets. We were always on a budget. My dad always taught us to make the decision by asking, “Is that adding value to the program? Or it is just looking good.” We kind of try to take that look at it as, “Is this going to make a guy’s playriding experience enjoyable, or a racer more effective. We don’t like to build products that are just Gucci stuff that doesn’t really add value.

Chris: If it doesn’t make you perform better, we’re just not that into it. We’re into whatever’s cost-effective for you.

That’s kind of the battle that we’re facing with the Flexx Handlebar. It’s so new and so different that the people have never seen it before, so they’re interested, but a little reluctant to try it. The same people, dollar-for-dollar will spend the same amount in a lot of different areas of their bike that will not do the same thing. But that’s the battle we’re facing, that people want the bike to look good, rather than perform good.

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TWMX: How much of a battle has it been, since it’s such a different-looking product?

Chris: I kind of relate it to how Pro Taper must have felt back when their handlebar came out. I know, just from being around the industry a long time that it was a shock to people to see a handlebar without a crossbar. Although they were obviously a bigger company when they brought that product to market, I think they were in the same position that we are now. People look at it and it’s different. It’s a big change from whatthey’re are used to, and this industry is not always receptive to change. People know what works and what they’re used to using, and they don’t want to try something new. But all the people who have stepped up and tried the bars have had nothing but good feedback.

TWMX: Is it almost like you need one top rider to step up and use them?

Chris: It’s funny that you ask that. We were just talking about that yesterday. We run a 4-Stroke National team, and there aren’t a lot of companies that are as small as us or who make products like we do who run their own team. They usually invest in someone else’s team. That’s kind of what we’re debating on for next year, is whether we want to continue to run a team, or do we want to try and go out and get a big-name guy to run the bars? It’s a coin toss.

Cole: One thing that we offer is we allow you to try the product for 30 days. If you’re not happy, we’re happy to buy it back. I guarantee that once you put the bar on your bike, you’re not taking it back. That’s for both customers and dealers. It takes the risk out of everybody’s end but ours, and we’re happy to take that risk. We know that once you put them on, you’re not going to want to take it off.

Chris: That goes for the rest of our products, too. We stand behind the Anti-Vibration Bar Inserts, and the Torque Wrench. Being that no one else makes them, we’re pretty confident that they work. If the customer’s absolutely not satisfied, we’ll take them back. Knock on wood, we haven’t had to do that too much.

TWMX: You guys have the appearance of being a small, speedy company that can move faster than some of the bigger companies.

Cole: That’s what we try to be, because we can adapt quickly. We actually have a machine shop, too, and have really good R & D capabilities there. We can do a lot of stuff really fast, and make changes.

Chris: I think it’s a lot easier for us to bring a product to market than it would be for a big company. The first year that we took the handlebars to Indy for the dealer show, I think the big guys from every handlebar manufacturer stopped by to check them out. Being that it was a billet CNC bar, we were worried that everyone would jump on the idea right away. But for a big company to switch over and change to a whole different type of manufacturing is really tough. I think that’s where we have our advantage of being small. Like Cole said, if we have an idea, we can get the R & D done pretty quickly, inexpensively, and bring the product out.

TWMX: How much patent and trademark work did you have to do on the Flexx bar before you launched it?

Chris: The patent side of the handlebar is still ongoing. It’s been over two years since the first pencil sketch of the handlebar to what we have now. Since day one we’ve been working with the patent attorneys. It’s tough.

None of our other products have a patent and our initial feeling was, a patent is only as good as how deep your pockets are. If a big company takes over your idea, sure, you’ve got a patent, but how are you going to go to court and defend it? But the handlebar was so unique and so different that we decided that we needed to step up and get the patent done. We’ve already had some instances where we’ve had to send out cease and desist letters.

TWMX: Have you had any interest from other companies in licensing the design?

Chris: Initially we thought that would be a road that we’d go down, because to take the bar and have it mass-produced in the numbers we’d need might be tough, but with the machine shop capabilities we have, it hasn’t come to that point. Now that we own the patent, we’re going to protect it and carry the bars as our own line.

Cole: By offering a handlebar it puts us in competition with some of the biggest companies, even though we still have a niche product because it’s so unique. But at the same time, they have their ad campaigns and marketing that is so effective, where we don’t really have that much marketing. (Laughs). It makes it tough, but at the same time, we just look to the future. Hopefully in a few years we’ll be one of the big guys.

Chris: One of the other products that people don’t know about are our aluminum clutch plates. Originally we developed them for Yamahas, which come from the factory with steel plates. By putting an aluminum plate in a Yamaha, if you did a back-to-back dyno run against the steel, with the aluminum the power curve would shift to the left. The power curve comes on sooner with the aluminum, with quicker acceleration. For Yamaha it was more of a performance issue. At the same time we also made them for the Hondas; two-stroke Hondas come with just regular aluminum plates. With the hard-anodized aluminum and the cryogenic freezing on our plates, you get longer oil life and longer plate life.

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The short version of the technical jargon for the cryogenic freezing is that it tightens the molecular structure of the aluminum. There’s a better description of it on our web site.

Cole: It’s an instant gratification product because you can tell a difference right away. Anybody who’s ridden a Honda two-stroke knows how you contaminate the oil and how fast the plates wear. They’re something that workf the customer’s absolutely not satisfied, we’ll take them back. Knock on wood, we haven’t had to do that too much.

TWMX: You guys have the appearance of being a small, speedy company that can move faster than some of the bigger companies.

Cole: That’s what we try to be, because we can adapt quickly. We actually have a machine shop, too, and have really good R & D capabilities there. We can do a lot of stuff really fast, and make changes.

Chris: I think it’s a lot easier for us to bring a product to market than it would be for a big company. The first year that we took the handlebars to Indy for the dealer show, I think the big guys from every handlebar manufacturer stopped by to check them out. Being that it was a billet CNC bar, we were worried that everyone would jump on the idea right away. But for a big company to switch over and change to a whole different type of manufacturing is really tough. I think that’s where we have our advantage of being small. Like Cole said, if we have an idea, we can get the R & D done pretty quickly, inexpensively, and bring the product out.

TWMX: How much patent and trademark work did you have to do on the Flexx bar before you launched it?

Chris: The patent side of the handlebar is still ongoing. It’s been over two years since the first pencil sketch of the handlebar to what we have now. Since day one we’ve been working with the patent attorneys. It’s tough.

None of our other products have a patent and our initial feeling was, a patent is only as good as how deep your pockets are. If a big company takes over your idea, sure, you’ve got a patent, but how are you going to go to court and defend it? But the handlebar was so unique and so different that we decided that we needed to step up and get the patent done. We’ve already had some instances where we’ve had to send out cease and desist letters.

TWMX: Have you had any interest from other companies in licensing the design?

Chris: Initially we thought that would be a road that we’d go down, because to take the bar and have it mass-produced in the numbers we’d need might be tough, but with the machine shop capabilities we have, it hasn’t come to that point. Now that we own the patent, we’re going to protect it and carry the bars as our own line.

Cole: By offering a handlebar it puts us in competition with some of the biggest companies, even though we still have a niche product because it’s so unique. But at the same time, they have their ad campaigns and marketing that is so effective, where we don’t really have that much marketing. (Laughs). It makes it tough, but at the same time, we just look to the future. Hopefully in a few years we’ll be one of the big guys.

Chris: One of the other products that people don’t know about are our aluminum clutch plates. Originally we developed them for Yamahas, which come from the factory with steel plates. By putting an aluminum plate in a Yamaha, if you did a back-to-back dyno run against the steel, with the aluminum the power curve would shift to the left. The power curve comes on sooner with the aluminum, with quicker acceleration. For Yamaha it was more of a performance issue. At the same time we also made them for the Hondas; two-stroke Hondas come with just regular aluminum plates. With the hard-anodized aluminum and the cryogenic freezing on our plates, you get longer oil life and longer plate life.

[IMAGE 4]

The short version of the technical jargon for the cryogenic freezing is that it tightens the molecular structure of the aluminum. There’s a better description of it on our web site.

Cole: It’s an instant gratification product because you can tell a difference right away. Anybody who’s ridden a Honda two-stroke knows how you contaminate the oil and how fast the plates wear. They’re something that work really well, and you get your money back for sure.

TWMX: How do you get your product to the market? Distributors? Direct?

Cole: We do some direct, but started with White Bros., and picked up Parts Unlimited and Western Power Sports. We just gave the bars to Western.

Chris: Western Power Sports started selling our product this year, and right from the get-go they were interested in the Flexx bar, but we didn’t have the margins built in for distributor pricing. But being who we are, it’s hard for us to have the marketing campaign and advertising to get the bars out there, so the next best thing is to have a distributor do a lot of that work for you. They have over 60 road reps. If each of those guys could sell a couple bars a month, that’d be great, added on to what we’re already doing. The guys at Western are awesome. They were so jazzed about even having a chance to sell the bars, that they really feel they’re going to do good with it, and it was a big step for us.

TWMX: A couple years ago, you had a team racing the SX and MX circuit with some support from Papa John’s Pizza. How did that work?

Cole: My dad’s in a bunch of restaurant businesses. He has a friend who is a really large franchisee, and had a bunch of restaurants in Riverside. What better place to advertise? He just helped us out doing the west coast supercrosses last year, and we did the nationals, too.

We’re trying to figure out if we’re going to do a team for next year. We switched venues to the 4-Stroke Nationals this year because it’s such a grassroots series. We thought we’d be more effective at getting the bar in front of people…be a big fish in a little pond instead of a little fish in a big pond. The team is really fun, but a lot of work, and sometimes it’s tough because then we don’t get to go ride. It’s more work than anyone can ever imagine.

Chris: For us it’s done good. People realize that we have a team and are following a series. Exposure-wise it’s helped a lot.

Cole: We have a possibility of sponsoring a big team for next year. We want a big rider, but you’ve just got to weigh what’s going to be the best decision.

TWMX: What’s next for products?

Cole: We have probably 10 possibilities of really good products, but I think it would be too soon to release them. Based upon the reception to the bars, I think they’re things that people wouldn’t be quite ready for yet. It’s frustrating because they’re really bitchen products.

Chris: We’re all about keeping it new and innovative, and for some of the stuff on the drawing board people would be like, “I can’t believe you guys thought of that. Where has this been?” But that’s what we were saying when the bars came out, and right now we’re seeing the effects of having a new product and how it’s not an overnight success. Right now, our main focus is getting the bars off the ground. With Western Power Sports picking them up, it’s been good. If it continues to go this way, it’ll allow us some more time to start working on the next couple projects.

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Contact:
Fasst Co. Inc.
25 Savona Walk
Long Beach, CA 90803
Tel: (562) 439-1025
Fax: (562)424-3037

www.fasstco.com

Sponsored by:
work really well, and you get your money back for sure.

TWMX: How do you get your product to the market? Distributors? Direct?

Cole: We do some direct, but started with White Bros., and picked up Parts Unlimited and Western Power Sports. We just gave the bars tto Western.

Chris: Western Power Sports started selling our product this year, and right from the get-go they were interested in the Flexx bar, but we didn’t have the margins built in for distributor pricing. But being who we are, it’s hard for us to have the marketing campaign and advertising to get the bars out there, so the next best thing is to have a distributor do a lot of that work for you. They have over 60 road reps. If each of those guys could sell a couple bars a month, that’d be great, added on to what we’re already doing. The guys at Western are awesome. They were so jazzed about even having a chance to sell the bars, that they really feel they’re going to do good with it, and it was a big step for us.

TWMX: A couple years ago, you had a team racing the SX and MX circuit with some support from Papa John’s Pizza. How did that work?

Cole: My dad’s in a bunch of restaurant businesses. He has a friend who is a really large franchisee, and had a bunch of restaurants in Riverside. What better place to advertise? He just helped us out doing the west coast supercrosses last year, and we did the nationals, too.

We’re trying to figure out if we’re going to do a team for next year. We switched venues to the 4-Stroke Nationals this year because it’s such a grassroots series. We thought we’d be more effective at getting the bar in front of people…be a big fish in a little pond instead of a little fish in a big pond. The team is really fun, but a lot of work, and sometimes it’s tough because then we don’t get to go ride. It’s more work than anyone can ever imagine.

Chris: For us it’s done good. People realize that we have a team and are following a series. Exposure-wise it’s helped a lot.

Cole: We have a possibility of sponsoring a big team for next year. We want a big rider, but you’ve just got to weigh what’s going to be the best decision.

TWMX: What’s next for products?

Cole: We have probably 10 possibilities of really good products, but I think it would be too soon to release them. Based upon the reception to the bars, I think they’re things that people wouldn’t be quite ready for yet. It’s frustrating because they’re really bitchen products.

Chris: We’re all about keeping it new and innovative, and for some of the stuff on the drawing board people would be like, “I can’t believe you guys thought of that. Where has this been?” But that’s what we were saying when the bars came out, and right now we’re seeing the effects of having a new product and how it’s not an overnight success. Right now, our main focus is getting the bars off the ground. With Western Power Sports picking them up, it’s been good. If it continues to go this way, it’ll allow us some more time to start working on the next couple projects.

[IMAGE 5]

Contact:
Fasst Co. Inc.
25 Savona Walk
Long Beach, CA 90803
Tel: (562) 439-1025
Fax: (562)424-3037

www.fasstco.com

Sponsored by: