Depending on how long you’ve known about SDG, you may have a couple different perspectives on who they are. They’ve long been well-known for their cycling saddles, but more recently have been involved in creating complete seats and gripper covers for motocross bikes. But more recently, they’ve embarked on a new and even more ambitious project¿a complete adult-sized mini, dubbed the SDG Speed Mini. It’s something they’ve been working on for nearly two years, and when we stopped by this week, the crew there were anxiously awaiting their first shipment of production bikes, which are en route to the U.S. from China, and should be here early next week.
We sat down with Jeff Christman, SDG’s V.P., who gave us the low-down on the company, and the Speed Mini project.
TransWorld Motocross: After the time spent building cycling saddles, how did you come to add motocross seats to your line?
Jeff Christman: “Well, going from bicycle saddles to motorcycle seats was an easy transition. We’ve all gone through the arduous task of re-covering a motocross seat, and realizing how much time and energy it takes. You get the cover off and realize that your foam may be bad. Then what does the base really look like? How are the brackets? When you add that all up and you have to buy those pieces just short of the base, you come up with over a hundred dollars worth of product, plus you still have to wrestle with the whole thing to get it together.”
“We tried to take the technology we’ve developed in mountain bikes to the motocross industry, starting with making a better foam¿a lighter closed-cell foam that resists water¿which helps with power washing as much as we do. We already had the mold machines to build bicycle seats Once we thought out the concept and put it down on paper and actually had a hard product, it was the way to go. You get a gripper seat cover, which is an added benefit that a lot of bikes don’t come with nowadays. You get a much better foam, and the key thing is that we offer the foam in two different heights. Standard as well as tall. You also get a lightweight composite nylon base that is stronger and lighter than stock, with replaceable brackets. If you do have a pretty hard crash, where you bend brackets, it’s replaceable rather than replacing the whole unit.”
TWMX: So how did you end up making the jump to producing the Speed Mini?
JC: “It was sort of an accidental thing. We were looking for a way to broaden the product line. With the 50 market growing as rapidly as it was, we saw the need for high-quality mini products. After building a couple of our own 50cc bikes, we realized that there weren’t a lot of good chassis out there that were affordable and high-quality and worked off the right geometry for an adult to ride. So we looked at building a frame and a swingarm, and some peg mounts.”‘
“After finishing the frame and swingarm, we were tooling plastic molds for the bodywork. It was sort of a joke sitting around the table¿’Let’s build the whole bike.’ Almost two years later, that’s what you see. We held back on the parts and didn’t introduce anything to the market, just putting all the efforts into the complete bike progm and we came up with what we have today. A from-the-ground-up race-ready play bike that’s purpose-built for an adult. It’s not a child’s bike. It’s designed to try to withstand all the forces that a rider between 140 and 200 pounds can put on it.”
TWMX: Before firing up the recorder, you mentioned that the Speed Mini uses a chromoly frame, right?
JC: “Absolutely. That’s one of the first parts that we came up with. The XR50 comes with a mild steel frame, and we all know how mild steel reacts to heavy weights. We came up with a chromoly frame. We gave the bike a really strong structure to the chassis, and that was the only way to do it.”
“We also went with some key things that other manufacturers don’t usually do. We powder coated all of our parts, rather than just painting them. We also have a high-end aluminum swingarm, plated and gusseted in all the correct places so that you don’t have any cracking. It also has real motocross chain adjusters.”
“The bar height is approximately ten inches higher than the seat, which allows you to get your legs up underneath them, and you corner much like a big bike instead of dragging your leg out there and waiting for someone to run it over.”
“It’s got a long-travel rear end with six inches of rear travel and adjustable rebound. The forks are 36mm, with five inches of travel.”
“The brakes are actually motocross hydraulic brakes. No mountain bike parts. Real true rotors worthy of big bike stopping capabilities.”
TWMX: How about the engine?
JC: “It’s a three-valve 107cc powerplant with 9:1 compression. It’s got a 22mm carb, and it’s putting out around eight horsepower. I think we’ve made some of the biggest changes by bringing a three-valve head to production. Two intake, one exhaust. Everyone has run off a two-valve system for so long. We know that there are four-valve systems out there, but we feel this is more efficient and less weight. Obviously you’re only using one cam rather than a dual cam. It creates almost a horsepower-and-a-half on the dyno, with just the head.”
“That was among the first goals that we set out ¿we had to have certain points in the motor to make this project work. It had to have the right horsepower. It also had to have the right gearing and transmission. It obviously had to have a clutch for a bigger rider. It couldn’t be a centrifugal clutch, waiting for it to wind up because different weights take a little longer. It had to start in any gear. That was number one on the list.”
“The key thing is it’s a primary start, and has a clutch. It starts in any gear. It was really hard to find a mechanism that would work, and it actually took about seven months of hard work before it worked properly. The way it’s set up is first is a utility or a granny gear, and second, third and fourth is set up like a race transmission, and having ratios correct so that they pick up in the right RPM range and you can continue on with the gear and not have to short-shift the bike.”
TWMX: How will the bike be sold? Through dealers? Do you do direct sales? What’s the plan?
JC: “They’ll be distributed through Tucker Rocky and White Brothers, and sold through dealers. The dealer list will be available sometime in the next two weeks.”
“Our bike has a 17-digit VIN, and falls under all the franchise laws for the states that require franchise laws. Those that don’t, we’re going to give the dealers a five-mile radius to protect their territory, and give the product some integrity as far as selling price and competition. If a dealer wants to do advertising he’s obviously protected and more willing to commit to the product. We’ll advertise that dealer ‘s address on the web site where people can actually get into our site and target what state and zip code that they’re in, and it’ll direct them to those shops.”
TWMX: How about parts availability?
JC: “Parts will be through us. At this point we’ve spoken to White Brothers and Tucker Rocky and it may be a little bit large of a parts catalog to actually put within their catalog. We may do some supplemental catalog add-ons for parts that continue to be wear issues, like on big bikes. Broken levers, bent bars, plastic, stuff like that. But as of now, all parts we have through SDG and they can contact us directly.”
“All bikes come with an owner’s manual and a parts list, so that the end user can actually look in the parts list. It has a blown-up drawing of every part of the bike so they can pick out which part they need. It has the part number and they can call us directly and get it shipped in UPS that same day. Availability will not be an issue.”
TWMX: Is there a standard class at the races that this will fit into?
JC: “I believe it fits into a modified class now because it has a clutch. The classes are changing every day. You look at what the race demands and how the class rules lay out, and even from the Vegas event at The Orleans, it’s different today.”
“These are 10-inch wheels. We’re working on a 12-inch upgrade for it. A lot of the classes have changed since we set our specs up. That’s why we’ve lengthened a few things like the wheelbase since then, because they’ve loosened the rules.”
TWMX: “One of the things that people seem to like about the minis, is doing their own hop-ups. Have taken that away from them by already adding so much of what people would normally change to the bike?”
JC: “Not at all. White Brothers is working on some performance parts. They’re known for their pipes and they’re really anxious to bring something to market that enhances the performance.”
“We’re also looking at some higher-compression pistons and different cams to enhance the bike’s performance.”
“The thing that we tried to build into the bike was reliability. Give the everyday rider a bike they could ride every single day and just follow the maintenance charts within the manual. Change the oil, tighten and inspect like they’re supposed to, and the bike runs for years. That was one of the things we looked at as well¿the parts availability. At the end of the year, we want to have every bike that was sold still running. If it’s not, it’s because the customer is tired of it, not because there’s not parts available.”
“We torture-tested it through things that’d make you sick when you see what you’ve done to it because it’s such a nice bike, and you got out and literally try to destroy it. It gets the best of you every time. The things that we put it though are pretty harsh.”
“It’s just the fun factor. When you race a big bike it’s so serious, and when you take these little things out there, there’s no ego. Let’s be honest. It’s a bunch of big guys running around on little bikes, and it brings the fun back to the sport. That’s what makes me so enthusiastic about the project.”
Santa Ana, CA 92705