TWMX All Access: Sunline ARC

A lot of old school MXers will recognize the Sunline brand via their Gold Belts, which were standard issue pieces of moto garb for riders in the 70s and early 80s. Sunline was also known for their shortened DeHandler brake and clutch levers (the name was derived from a contraction of DeCoster and Hannah). According to Greg Berg, current VP of Brand Development for Sunline, “Dave Ekins was the founder of the company, and it started in the late 60s with his brother, Bud Ekins. Bud was involved in the movie studios, and he was the one who jumped the bike in the Steve McQueen movie, The Great Escape. Their heritage in the early days of off-road motorcycling was pretty special. There’s a book out now called Forty Summers Ago…it’s a thick coffee-table book all about the motorcycles coming over in the late 60s, and then the Americans going over to East Germany for the ISDE (International Six Day Enduro). Steve McQueen, and Bud and Dave Ekins were a part of that. That’s where Bud and Dave met Roger DeCoster and all European guys when they were just in their teens. Shortly after that is when the European riders started coming over here, for the Trans-Am, and Inter-Am.”

The Sunline brand name has been plugging along for over 30 years, with innovations like split perches, and half-waffle grip designs, and for bringing Kraton into vogue as a grip material. Even until recently they were still going strong with distributors, but their visibility in MX racing had been reduced to nearly zero. Dave Ekins was nearing retirement age, so last summer he worked out a purchase agreement with Eddie Cole over at the Valencia Sports Group. Dave’s daughter, Christina Van Houdt, had been running Sunline, and continues on with the brand, assisting in new product development. Since the purchase, Greg Berg and the crew at Sunline have been on a six-month plan to assemble an enhanced product line, build a catalog, and put a new shine on the brand.

According to Greg, “I was brought into the program unexpectedly. I had just sold my company, Berg Racing, in February of ’04. I’d been doing that for ten years, building carbon fiber, titanium and aluminum products; and had developed products for the Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and KTM race teams. But my primary team that I really worked with closely was Kawasaki. They’re the ones who got me on the board. The other individual who really had an influence on me was Ross Maeda. We shared a shop for eight years. With Ross’s position in the industry, and his contacts, he helped me move into the market a lot easier than it would have been otherwise for someone just starting out.”

I’m 46, so I was a part of that 70s MX movement. I was at all the races at Saddleback Park. It was an interesting time, and I love that period, because it’s when the works bikes were just developing. It was more of a grass roots time where everyone was fixing the bikes up and welding and modifying. It wasn’t as professional like it is today.”

“So I’d sold my business, and was looking at a couple other opportunities. ARC levers just happened to be right down the street from us, part of the little grass roots motocross network in Santa Ana. ARC’s Bob Barnett had made some parts for me as well. He was talking to Eddie (Cole), negotiating a deal for ARC, and Bob brought my name up.”

Of course, it’s awesome when a plan comes together, and Sunline got a big boost in their product line when they signed an exclusive licensing agreement with ARC for their line of folding levers. “ARC really had more of a racing edge name in the industry because it’s very current, with Bob’s innovative idea. So to bring that back to the same level, we decided to revamp the whole image. Combine the logos together, and create a product line that showed Sunline and ARC tied together. It’s similar to like Answer Manitou. So we’re trying to combine the two names to create the overall image of quaty and performance. My goal, and I think we’ll achieve it, is to be the brand leader of controls and components. Bob’s really good at designing and innovative ideas. Eddie signed a deal with Bob to market his idea on the flex levers and the rotator clamp, and possible new ideas, through Sunline.”

The ARC Axis perch and folding Flex levers are cool-looking pieces, with a factory look. As Greg describes it, “That’s the flagship product that identifies Sunline ARC, and no one else in the world has it. The Axis Perch works on a detent system where it’s clamped onto the handlebar with three ball-bearing detents. If you hit it with a hard enough impact, it easily spins out of the way. It still has tension on it, but you just push it back into its usual position and it clicks back into place.

“Bob can only produce so much in 24 hours. To take this to the next level, we needed to get the correct designs, and I flew to Taiwan and sourced some really good machine shops that have the capabilities to do high volume…and obviously the prices are pretty good, too. The main issue is retaining the quality of the part, and that’s something you always have to address when you see the samples. Usually it takes a couple times of back and forth. But we’re getting the parts made overseas, they are CNC-machined. We’re having these new elite levers machined in a titanium color.”

There’s also an Elite line of levers, which uses the same folding design, but a simpler Teflon sleeve that allows the perch to rotate easily on the bars in the event of a crash. Greg said, “It still utilized the same adjuster knob feature and same boot design and billet perches, There are four Elites. The first one is an Elite perch with the quick-adjust and a Flex lever. The second one is an Elite CNC perch with a standard lever. The other two options, you’re just adding on a hot start. It’s a quality lever perch assembly to go up against the competition, which is Works Connection and ASV. I’m trying to get the level up on everything we make. The people we work with are factory teams, and that’s what they expect.”

“They’re really refined now, but I’d say the next step would be to make it even smaller and lighter. Our next project based on the rotator is the master cylinder…we’re working on that now. It’ll include the whole master cylinder and a rotator. Then we’ve got the whole system.”

Of course, team endorsements are a big part of racing, and the Sunline ARC crew has been very successful at getting teams to run their products.”Through my racing and association with all the factories, I was able to get sign Team Yamaha. I’m working with Team Kawasaki. Team Honda, they’re looking seriously at our parts right now. Team Suzuki’s been using the parts, they’ve been using them for two years. Team KTM with Larry (Brooks), they’re using selected parts. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a dream come true to get five factories. Then we’ve got Hamblin on a satellite Kawasaki team. We’ve got PPG MotoworldRacing.com, We’ve got Factory Connection…the 125 team is using the parts, and then the final team is Yamaha of Troy.”

“We had to do custom blades for Yamaha, we’re making a custom blade for Burner, and a custom blade for Bubba. Morphing levers is not cheap…it costs thousands and thousands of dollars to do that. But you know what? If they get what they want, that’s cool. I think we’re just blessed that out of all the companies in the United States, we have the opportunity to work with them, and that’s a nice thing to have. It’s a dream, and I need to give them what they want. These guys are at the top level of their game. They’re professionals, just like Formula One drivers.”

“The Yamaha factory team wanted them polished, so it looked more OEM. Yamaha has that corporate image of keeping it really OEM looking. I’ve noticed that with their sponsors. It’s very minimal, and very minimal changes on the plastic. Whereas the Yamaha of Troy guys, with Dave Osterman, he wants the factory look because he’s from my era, with the works bikes.”

While having the ARC levers gives them a solid product that fits in with the company’s heritage, Greg’s aware that it doesn’t make a complete product line. “The meat and potatoes of the company are the levers, but we also expanded into components and controls, including grips. We’ve designed a whole new line of grips, and the Pro grip kit comes with two grips, grip glue, safety wire, throttle mud donut, and two neoprene donuts for $15.95. No one’s done this before, and I think it’s going to be a hit because normally you can’t just go out and get all of this in one kit.

Among other pieces in the line you’ll find a throttle tube, “It has two nylon bushings in it that’s a step between a standard aluminum throttle and one that Pro Taper offers that has bearings in it.” There are also goodies like handguards, colored with hot protective sheathing to match the OEM bikes, and another brand that they have an exclusive agreement with, Hammerhead, who makes shifters. Explaining their features, Greg said, “They’re billet shift levers, and it’s like buying shoes that fit. When you buy a bike, the shifters are generic, what they think is a median design. Looking down from a top view, you can actually adjust the lever forward or back, and there are washers where you can adjust it up or down. These are really popular with the mini and 110 riders, because they come with such short shifters and the big guys are riding them.” The’ve also got stainless and welded titanium footpegs, as well as several other items. “Those pegs are hot sellers and we’re out of the titanium already. Factory Connection uses the footpegs, and we’ve got Moto XXX and various other teams using them.”

Wrapping up, Greg looked satisfied as he commented, “This is where we are after six months. It’s been a lot of hours, and a lot of commitment with the team here. But it kind of had to be done like that, to get ready for Indy.”

Contact:

Sunline ARC
29018 Hancock Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355
(661) 257-2756
www.sunlineracing.com

 

 

imal changes on the plastic. Whereas the Yamaha of Troy guys, with Dave Osterman, he wants the factory look because he’s from my era, with the works bikes.”

While having the ARC levers gives them a solid product that fits in with the company’s heritage, Greg’s aware that it doesn’t make a complete product line. “The meat and potatoes of the company are the levers, but we also expanded into components and controls, including grips. We’ve designed a whole new line of grips, and the Pro grip kit comes with two grips, grip glue, safety wire, throttle mud donut, and two neoprene donuts for $15.95. No one’s done this before, and I think it’s going to be a hit because normally you can’t just go out and get all of this in one kit.

Among other pieces in the line you’ll find a throttle tube, “It has two nylon bushings in it that’s a step between a standard aluminum throttle and one that Pro Taper offers that has bearings in it.” There are also goodies like handguards, colored with hot protective sheathing to match the OEM bikes, and another brand that they have an exclusive agreement with, Hammerhead, who makes shifters. Explaining their features, Greg said, “They’re billet shift levers, and it’s like buying shoes that fit. When you buy a bike, the shifters are generic, what they think is a median design. Looking down from a top view, you can actually adjust the lever forward or back, and there are washers where you can adjust it up or down. These are really popular with the mini and 110 riders, because they come with such short shifters and the big guys are riding them.” The’ve also got stainless and welded titanium footpegs, as well as several other items. “Those pegs are hot sellers and we’re out of the titanium already. Factory Connection uses the footpegs, and we’ve got Moto XXX and various other teams using them.”

Wrapping up, Greg looked satisfied as he commented, “This is where we are after six months. It’s been a lot of hours, and a lot of commitment with the team here. But it kind of had to be done like that, to get ready for Indy.”

Contact:

Sunline ARC
29018 Hancock Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355
(661) 257-2756
www.sunlineracing.com