This week we made a trek up to Santa Fe Springs, to the headquarters of L.A. Sleeve. There we met with Mark Kalpakoff, who among his duties there, handles the rider support, and all the marketing/web site/PR.
As we settled into a conference room, Mark let us in on some of the history of the business. “The original business started in 1945, with Nicholas Metchkoff at the helm. He had a small machine shop in East L.A., and as he grew he started making cylinder sleeves for all motors. Later, his son Gary took over the business, and he passed it on to his son, Nick, who runs it now. Now there’s even a fourth generation of Metchkoff working here, Nicholas, who handles the custom big bore orders.
Speaking of big bore engines, that’s one of the specialties of L.A. Sleeve’s business…besides the obvious cylinder sleeving which we’ll get to in a bit. Mark explained. “We control the market in ATVs as far as big bore kits for Banshees, TRX 250 kits and stuff like that.” Touring through the facility, we stepped into the R&D room, where all the kits are engineered and tested, and which also houses their in-house dyno.
There Mark showed us the newest kit—a Niks 330cc GP kit for YZ250s. “It’s a YZ330 big bore kit that comes complete with the cylinder, piston, gaskets, and it has a power valve in it. We make this cylinder, and you can see how much bigger the bore is. Everything’s engineered so that it’s not going to overheat. It has bigger cooling spaces and water jackets. All the necessary stuff to make the big bore reliable.”
“We have a lot of desert guys that use our big bore kits. We also have one for the CR250, and it just levels the playing field against the four-strokes. We call it a GP kit because the GP events are getting more popular. Some GPs have open classes, so you can run whatever you want. So basically, if you’re getting beat by XR650s or four-strokes in desert races and GPs, you put this on and you’re going to the moon.”
“Big bore kits can also be custom designed for each customer. Whatever cc, head dome, porting, etc. If they want a CR330 kit, and want it ported for hillclimbing, or sand drags…either for bike or quad, we can do that. We have an in-house porter who’s great.”
Of course, with their affinity for big bores, Mark is happy to note that they haven’t overlooked the XR50 market. “We also an 80cc and an 88cc kit for the XR50 and the 70 . It’s a billet aluminum cylinder that’s red anodized. It has more cooling space than stock, it’s lighter than the stock cylinder, and the thing that’s special about the kit is it has an off-road cam. A lot of the other big bore kits out there on the market use cams that are made for the street. They have more of a top end grind. But this cam was designed by us and WebCam, and it hits harder in the first second and third gears. It’s made for backyard racing and off-road. Parts Unlimited will be carrying the big bore kits for the 50s. Dr. D developed his XR50 pipe around our big bore kit, and he has a killer pipe for that kit.”
Of course, the products that gave them their name are the cylinder sleeves. They have a variety of sleeves for nearly every model engine over thlast 30 years, which makes them a favorite with vintage racers and builders. They also do custom sleeves, as well as OE sleeves for customers like Mercury Outboards. Walking through the warehouse, you’ll see sleeves carefully stacked and available for just about everything with an engine. Funny cars, top fuel dragsters, diesel trucks, trains, and forklifts…they’re all there. Of course there’s also motocross, personal watercraft, outboard, and also street bike hardware.
Mark let us in on some of the advantages of a sleeved cylinder vs. Nikasil-plated cylinders. “What’s important about sleeves, is that they hold more compression than a Nikasil cylinder, because of the cross-hatches and the way the sleeve dissipates heat faster. The dirt trackers and flat trackers have been buying sleeves from us for the last 15-25 years—it’s their secret. A lot of the Supermoto guys are starting to buy sleeves from us, because they’re realizing they’re getting 3-4 more horsepower with a sleeve than Nikasil.”
“The only reason the factories are running Nikasil is because it’s more cost-effective in production. They don’t have to have it put in, The cylinder can go in and boom, it’s ready. A sleeve has to be dropped in, and matched. The Nikasil was just another way to cut cost with the factories, and it is lighter than the sleeves.”
What are some of the other benefits? According to Mark, “When a customer’s engine seizes, there may be a scratch that requires them to get a whole new Nikasil plating, which may cost about $300. If they have it sleeved, the next time it scratches or scores the cylinder, they may only need to hone it, or get a bore job…which runs more in the range of $30 to $60. It’s way cheaper, and you can bore it up to four times. It’s more cost-effective for the rider.”
“Sleeves range from $60 to $150, depending on the bike, and installation is around $150. We don’t just do sleeving, we also do Nikasil. We have a service in the back where dealers can send in their customer’s cylinder to get re-plated, or sleeved. We also do crank rebuilding. That’s a big business here as far as dealers sending stuff in, because the dealer can make his cut and not touch the product. We do it all.
Another facet of the L.A. Sleeve business their Pro X division. L.A. Sleeve/Pro X honcho Nick Metchkoff stopped in to say hi, and told us, “We’ve been doing the Pro X pistons as the American importer for 20 years, and it’s blossomed into what it is today. Pro X offers riders an option. Instead of going and paying the high price of a cast dealer replacement piston, we offer the same thing. It’s a Japanese-made product and comes out of the same plant. They’re very similar…almost the same in most instances. When we can find an improvement, we’ll have them change it. We’re generally always about a year behind in the current models because we wait to see what happens, and look for improvements. There can be small improvements in molding, weight, and maybe dome shape to add a little more horsepower. We don’t try to come up with something that’s way over the top. Just an improvement.”
Mark was also happy to note, “We sponsored McGrath’s team for a couple years, so a lot of people know us by the ads with Jeremy.”
“We have about 800 sponsored riders right now (and the accept resumes through sponsorhouse.com). We have about 10 or 15 teams that we sponsor, including Arenacross and Supercross efforts. There’s Ryan Clark’s Team Solitaire, Tyler Evans, the Moto XXX team. In off-road we have Steve Hatch. For freestylers we have Drake McElroy, Tommy Clowers, Mike Metzger, Nate Adams, and more.”
“We’re also the west coast distributor for Wiseco pistons, as well as Pro X. We’re a distributor for Wiseco pistons, Hinson clutches, Motion Pro Tools, FMF pipes, Dr. D pipes, Web Cam, and Hot Cam.cA lot of the lines are complementary. Dealers and customers can get what they need all in one shot.”
12051 Rivera Road
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
clutches, Motion Pro Tools, FMF pipes, Dr. D pipes, Web Cam, and Hot Cam.cA lot of the lines are complementary. Dealers and customers can get what they need all in one shot.”
12051 Rivera Road
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670