June 17, 2004
Colquitt County --Summer vacation travel graphically illustrates the growing popularity of motorcycles. It's not your imagination, motorcycles sales doubled in five years and that's why we see so many of them.
An ultimate freedom gets more popular. More and more people ride motorcycles these days, wirh almost a million on the road, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.
There are big ones, and small ones. Keith Brown rides what the industry calls a mini-chopper, a smaller, highly customized motorcycle, costing thousands of dollars less than the bigger ones.
More than riding the machine that can go 40 miles per hour, he builds them, starting his manufacturing business 18 months ago at his home. "Couple of folks at work wanted one," says Keith. "I had never seen one until they brought in some pictures," he says, as he prepares to drill holds in pieces of triangular metal to reinforce part of a new frame.
He got turned on to the idea after building the first one, and so did special groups of people who wanted one. "The 20-somethings and the 50-somethings," says Keith.
A spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Council says sales of new motorcycles increased rapidly during the past 11 years. "In 1998, the Council reported sales of 432,000 motorcycles, and in 2002, the last year they have data, sales of 936,000, more than a 100% growth rate in those five years, with a lot of growth in the off-highway segment" said the spokesperson.
Why such an increase? The council believes we have come to accept motorcycles since celebrities, stars and fashion designers, who include boots and leather jackets in their collections, are seen riding them. Another reason involves people who once rode motorcycles years ago, gave it up for economic reasons, decided to ride again, buying a motorcycle since they can afford one now.
Keith Brown gets a double dose of what motorcycle lovers crave. "That's the whole purpose of a motorcycle, isn't it, freedom?" asks the motorcycle builder.
He has the freedom to create. "I can do it my way here," says Keith who works at a body shop by day, and works in his own shop at night and on weekends. "This is the 16th one here," says Keith, pointing to a black skeleton of a motorcycle frame.
His mini-choppers look quite simple, but it takes him 40 hours to make one, and they sell for $2,200 each. "Try to keep them affordable so people will want to buy them," says Keith.
Three new ones sit in his shop. "They are all pretty much the same, but they are all going to be different," says Keith. One difference involves the paint styles. "Whatever you want," says Keith, within reason, of course. No cheap decals, he uses real paint.
His motorcycles have chain drives, big rear tires, smaller front tires, with a braking system. The customer picks the color scheme. He gets sparks of creativity at odd times. "Sometimes I dream about it. I go to bed thinking about a problem and wake up the next morning with a solution," says Keith just before he welds a support to the back of bike number 16.
Already he dreams of selling his 2005 models, noticeably different from his current models. "A little longer and a little taller," says Keith who has found that customers want about four more inches of leg room.
Keith Brown gets more freedom out of motorcycles than most people, creatively building one mini-chopper at a time. He has bigger plans. He wants to work his way up to building those big, customized choppers.
You can see more of Keith's work on the web, at www.kbkruisers.com
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