Meet Your Merchant: Getting ready to rumble
The song of a Harley Davidson is Dennis Manning’s Mozart. A gearhead at heart, the owner of the world’s fastest motorcycle and Grass Valley-based BUB Enterprises sounds more like an opera critic than a grease monkey when he talks about the rumble.
“There’s a cadence about it,” Manning said. “People just enjoy that sound, and it’s a funny thing, because a good-running exhaust pipe that sounds good is part of the experience.”
From his office atop BUB’s headquarters, the owner of the motorcycle parts production company is hoping Harley owners like the sound of BUB’s new catalytic converter-equipped exhaust system – the first on the after-market for Harleys to receive government approval.
Designing the system – which needed to meet both emissions standards and the 80-decibel sound level required for highway bikes – wasn’t easy, Manning said.
“There was a lot of gray matter thrown at it,” Manning said of the part, built this year. “It took us four years to develop it. You have to find out everything that doesn’t work before you finally find something that does.”
Manning founded BUB (Big Ugly Bastard) in 1976, turning his lifetime love for motorcycles into a career. He said the research and development process is hard-wired into his DNA.
“My company in totality doesn’t have as many assets as some of the major motorcycle companies do in R&D alone,” Manning said. “When good product perpetuates your business, you’ve got to be good at testing it.”
From his earliest exhaust systems – BUB built parts for everything from motorcycles to speed boats – Manning’s R&D process has evolved.
“At first it was just me. I didn’t have resources,” he said. “Now, I’ve got people who’ve got experience in the motorcycle business. There’s a lot of science that goes with it.”
Despite the added help, developing a product and putting it on the market are two different things, Manning said. BUB handles all of its own marketing and advertising, which has shifted in recent years due to the Internet.
“We’ve always had products that are going to be a banger or a dud. Some of our products are a great tube, and some are a hula hoop,” Manning said.
“One of the most significant things the Internet brings along is that it forces you to have a quality product,” Manning added. “It’s a hell of a resource, because if you don’t, people on the Internet can and will advise everyone on whether or not to buy.”
But Harley riders, who congregate in western Nevada County, throughout the country and internationally, will be the ultimate salesmen for the new exhaust system, Manning said.
“To assess the sound, you’ve got to hear it,” Manning said. “You’ve got to get them out into the field and hope everybody who’s heard it and tested it tells another couple of people.”
It all gets back to the sound, Manning said.
Not too loud: You don’t want your bike roaring into everyone else’s personal space. But not muted, either: Along with the hum of the engine working, you want to hear the purr of the pipes.
It’s got to be just right, and if it is, as Manning hopes, customers will respond.
To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239.
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