At some point in their riding time, almost every motocross rider will long for a special part that they’ve spotted on a factory-built bike. This is exactly what happened to Eric Phipps in the late 1980s. But rather than settle for a less than stellar part, the machinist decided to make his own “works” style aluminum pieces and then founded Works Connection. The company has become a giant in the accessories division of the motocross industry first skid plate was cut, and it’s common to see a number of their products bolted onto the bikes in the pro pit area. During a recent visit to their headquarters (which happens to be down the street from Hangtown), we spoke with Phipps about his twenty-five years in the business.
“My first item was a skid plate. I couldn't find a factory style skid plate, because they were all the bigger wrap-around type. I saw a void and went after it. I was a machinist and I worked for my dad building street rod parts. I took what I learned from him and building street rod parts, like shifter and other billet aluminum parts, and applied it to what I was passionate about.
“In those days, it was easier than I thought it would be but that wasn't our goal. Our goal was to cater to the weekend warrior guy that wanted factory-style parts, and it surprised me when the factories started to call us. Steve Lamson was the first racer to call and I helped him out as a privateer, because he was local and I knew him already. We ran products on his bike privateer but when he went to the Peak Pro Circuit team in 1991, we had skid plates on those bikes instantly. That was our first factory effort and it came a little over a year into our business.”
“We took a hit like everyone else did in 2008 and 2009, but we soldiered through and did what we had to do. There was a time before that when there were a lot of start-up companies, and some of them went away, so we picked up a little bit. It wasn't easy through those years, but we were solid enough as a company to withstand the downturn. It's coming back slowly. I wouldn't say it's all the way back, but we're seeing growth now.
“Our staff is 14 people, and that's the most we've had in five years. With the workload that we do, we all wear a few hats, so we could each be doing sales calls or marketing and then trade off.”
“Being in Northern California has pluses and minuses. I grew up in this area so I love it. It's a little harder to find employees, because if we were in Southern California we'd have a bigger pool to draw from, but we have a great group of people now. From the manufacturing side of things, it's comparable and I wouldn't trade it. The cost of living here is definitely less expensive and if we need to test with someone, we just make the drive down.
“It is tough to make it in the industry. If the product is over the top awesome, it will sell itself. But if the product is just a slight fix or something that already exists, there is a longer road for it to get the public's attention or to make it popular.”
Works Connection’s Top Products
“A lot of the bikes now have weak radiators, so guys are bending radiators without even crashing. These have been important.”
“This started in 2002. We saw them on the factory bikes and anything we see there, we want to offer that to the general public. We took what they were doing, improved on it a bit, and brought it to the general market.
“They are are great for anyone that races with dirt starts. I feel we have the market cornered with all of the teams and privateers that run our starting devices, just because they are simple and they work.”
“It was the first item we ever had. Whether it's a motocross style skid plate or a full-coverage unit, they're still solid. Now that bike are built with some flex, our rubber mounting system allows for the frame to flex while still getting an aluminum plate that works.”