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 Renthalís, 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?
Weíre going to continue developing lightweight aluminum aftermarket products for off-road vehicles. In general, we have a couple of really cool inventions that weíre currently testing with our race teams. When those come to the fruition itís going to be a really good thing. Weíre not big on line extension and we want to stay focused on what weíre doing.
For example, you know how Ricky [Carmichael] was winning a lot of races last year, but this year heís winning by a bigger margin? Thatís what we want to do, increase our lead. Where weíre winning we want to increase, but where weíre 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 donít 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. Itís also a pound and a half lighter, so it helps weight and rider fatigue. There was a problem, and hereís a solution. Weíve also created the Twinwall handlebar, which looks like a 7/8" bar but itís the strongest and safest bar on the market. Also, steel sprockets weigh a lot and itís 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 riderís 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 WRís 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 theyíve dropped two pounds off of the new 450F, and the Renthal handlebar alone makes the bike 1.6 pounds lighter.
Like you said, whatís unique about that is that factories donít 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 isnít bendable like steel is. Thereís a lot that has to be done to the aluminum because itís 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 itís an open celled material it will not bend back correctly. You donít ever want to bend back an aluminum bar because then the bar will be super weak. Itís a great thing for Renthal to show up on the stock bikes because if itís good enough for the manufacturers then why wouldnít it be good enough for the consumers? Itís a cool deal.
How much did it make Renthal jump in sales?
Itís on every large bike that Honda makes, every large bike that Yamaha makesÖI wonít give you the exact number, but itís 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?
Thatís 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 thereís an aluminum handlebar on the bike. A possible downside is that aftermarket-wise, we might sell fewer handlebars because Renthalís come stock on the new bikes, but thatís a risk weíre willing to take.
And finally, letís do some word association with riders that Renthal sponsors. The first name is James Stewart.
What a great guy. Well thatís not really a word, so how about the word Ďniceí.
HmmÖare we talking about supercross or the Nationals?[laughing] I would say Ďpotentialí.
This isnít exactly a rider, but how about Renthal?
And finally, Shawn Norfolk?
Fat [laughter], noÖSexy[laughing]. Hold onÖDriven
[Laughter] End of interview, thank you.
[Laughter] No problem, thank you.
WARNING: Much of the action depicted in this magazine is potentially dangerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced experts or professionals. Do not attempt to duplicate any stunts that are beyond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear. Copyright 2008 Hi-Torque Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Console Login