Since Shawn Norfolk is such a talker, we had to break up the interview into two sections. In the first part he discussed Renthal’s history and how to break into the ATV industry, and now Norfolk talks about company direction, stock Renthal’s, and word association. Read on and get ready to enter the wild world of Shawn Norfolk.
To continue, where is the direction of the company going in the future?
We’re going to continue developing lightweight aluminum aftermarket products for off-road vehicles. In general, we have a couple of really cool inventions that we’re currently testing with our race teams. When those come to the fruition it’s going to be a really good thing. We’re not big on line extension and we want to stay focused on what we’re doing.
For example, you know how Ricky [Carmichael] was winning a lot of races last year, but this year he’s winning by a bigger margin? That’s what we want to do, increase our lead. Where we’re winning we want to increase, but where we’re not winning we want to gain on the leader. Our goal is to be number one in everything that we do, be that racing, products, quality, service, or customer service. We want to win on the racetrack and in the dealerships. We build championships and we want to build the best products. We want to have you put something on your bike that makes a difference. We don’t just want to sell a widget with a cool name on it. Every single product we have addresses an issue.
Our handlebars have 300% more flex than what used to come stock on bikes. It’s also a pound and a half lighter, so it helps weight and rider fatigue. There was a problem, and here’s a solution. We’ve also created the Twinwall handlebar, which looks like a 7/8″ bar but it’s the strongest and safest bar on the market. Also, steel sprockets weigh a lot and it’s a lot of revolving unsprung weight. The way to get power and traction to the ground is by having less revolving unsprung weight. We created aluminum sprockets, which are 66% lighter than steel. With grips, they used to be thick and uncomfortable. The rubber was firm and it felt like you had mittens on when you would grab the grips. We developed a soft compound and thinned the grip out as much as we could. It took less pressure to hold on and that helped rider fatigue, and with the soft grips it made it easier on the rider’s hands.
There was a problem and we found a solution for it. Every product has a story and Renthal wants to make a difference. Basically, we want you to want Renthal.
For this upcoming year, many of the bikes come stock with Renthal bars. How did that formulate?
KTM was the first manufacturer to use Renthal as stock, and the bikes came with our Fat bars. Then Honda was next, and this year for 2005 we have all the Yamaha YZ, YZF, and WR’s 125cc and higher using the 7/8 aluminum bars. Also, Suzuki is using the Fat bars on the RM-Z450. How that came about is that the manufacturers want to have a better bike to sell every year and improve on the previous model year. One of the factors is weight savings. Yamaha says that they’ve dropped two pounds off of the new 450F, and the Renthal handlebar alone makes the bike 1.6 pounds lighter.
Like you said, what’s unique about that is that factories don’t have to spend tons of money to drop extensive weight off their production bikes.
Factory race teams spending thousands of dollars on titanium parts to shave ounces, but you can shave pounds just with Renthal handlebars. Everyone had to come and tour the factory and make sure that everything was up to standard, because when you make an aluminum handlebar it isn’t bendable like steel is. There’s a lot that has to be done to the aluminum because it’s an open celled material. With steel you can bend it, tie it in a knot if you want to, then bend it back and go ride if you want. With aluminum, because it’s an open celled material it will not bend back correctly. You don’t ever want to bend back an aluminum bar because then the bar will be super weak. It’s a great thing for Renthal to show up on the stock bikes because if it’s good enough for the manufacturers then why wouldn’t it be good enough for the consumers? It’s a cool deal.
How much did it make Renthal jump in sales?
It’s on every large bike that Honda makes, every large bike that Yamaha makes I won’t give you the exact number, but it’s a substantial amount of handlebars.
What about the consumers who purchased bikes that have Renthal bars come stock on them. Are you hoping that those consumers will continue using Renthal bars in the future?
That’s all we can hope for at this point. Then manufacturers wanted an aluminum handlebar and they wanted ours, plus they wanted our name on the bars. The bar pad says Renthal because it helps legitimize the reason why there’s an aluminum handlebar on the bike. A possible downside is that aftermarket-wise, we might sell fewer handlebars because Renthal’s come stock on the new bikes, but that’s a risk we’re willing to take.
And finally, let’s do some word association with riders that Renthal sponsors. The first name is James Stewart.
What a great guy. Well that’s not really a word, so how about the word ‘nice’.
Hmm are we talking about supercross or the Nationals?[laughing] I would say ‘potential’.
This isn’t exactly a rider, but how about Renthal?
And finally, Shawn Norfolk?
Fat [laughter], no Sexy[laughing]. Hold on Driven
[Laughter] End of interview, thank you.
[Laughter] No problem, thank you.