Tell us about Rally-Raid, what were your humble beginnings?
Rally-Raid Products started 10 years ago (2009) as an off-shoot of our existing engineering business – using the machinery and equipment we already had in house, to initially manufacture rally parts for the new KTM 690 Enduro that I had recently bought to use in rallies in North Africa.
I had always modified and machined custom and one-off parts for all my motocross, trials and enduro motorcycles over the years; and subsequently moving into rally racing, the range of modifications expanded – starting with a KTM 400 EXC on which I entered my first event, the Tuareg Rally in 2008.
Together with my friend Wesley Beane (aka ADV inmate @Beaney), we then developed parts for the KTM 690 and we raced together in several rallies, until he tragically died on the Tuareg Rally in Tunisia in 2013.
Initially we really just focused on parts to improve our own bikes, but after sharing our ideas online – particularly ADVrider – we found there was a lot of interest from other 690 and EXC owners, so we put our key parts into limited production to try and meet that increasing demand.
The KTM 690 became the pivotal machine to start developing the business, and we soon
realised that a good number of customers were essentially buying our 690 Rally kit to build more of an Adventure 690, a bike that KTM never chose to introduce themselves of course, so we expanded our Rally range to include a dedicated Adventure version of the kit for the KTM 690.
Throughout this evolution, we had a lot of advice from fellow inmates in the ADV rider
community, this certainly helped us to focus on our marketplace.
Can you give us a basic shop tour, what kind of machinery do you use to make the parts you make at such a high level?
Our sister company concentrates on plastic [injection] molding, but we also have in-house facilities to CNC mill and turn aluminium and steel components; while in the unit next door we have been able to bring all our welding and fabrication into the family run business too.
The majority of our billet components tend to be machined on our HAAS 4-axis mill, together with a CMZ mill-turn lathe which we bought in 2015 – specifically for machining our own wheel hubs and fork damper components, starting with our comprehensive adventure kit for the Honda CB500X.
We also have in-house CAD facilities, and can prototype designs using 3D printing – meaning we can test fit new components very quickly and reduce our development time and costs.
What was your first product with Rally-Raid, and do you still make it or something like it?
Our very first product was a billet sprocket guard for the 690 engine, and 11 years later we are still producing these (and a version to suit the Husqvarna 701 Enduro) – we have probably CNC machined over 400 of these to date.
Other popular products introduced at that time and which continue in production are our range of billet bar-risers/top-clamps and [Scotts] steering damper mounts, and the billet brake pedal for the 690.
What is the thought process behind one of the conversions from a stock bike to something more off-road capable?
For any model that we might consider suitable to make more adventure proof, the basic
elements are that the OEM spec bike must be generally robust, reliable, and be available
Generally speaking, the Japanese brands seem to have got the combination of strength/build quality and reliability – although typically those manufacturers tend to down-spec their bikes with only average or budget suspension, and are not so concerned about overall weight perhaps – so that is certainly something that we can address to improve the overall package.
Where do you get your inspiration, your thoughts, and ideas – do you accept suggestions from customers/ friends?
It can be anything from a gut reaction to a new bike announcement/launch in the media, to an email suggestion or a forum post. These days the internet has made it so easy to communicate and research, and we are constantly engaging with owners and potential owners who have very good ideas as to what their particular bike needs – to just make it that bit better for traveling overland. Some of those bikes (such as the CB500X back in 2014) were obvious candidates, while others, unfortunately, could be considered too niche, or else are well-served by the aftermarket already.
Ultimately though, there are so many bikes out there these days, that we still
tend to concentrate on those models that personally appeal – those we would want to
own and ride ourselves.
Do you have a preference for certain brands to work on and make products for?
We like to think we always choose what we consider to the ‘best’ platform in a particular class/category, regardless of the badge on the tank.
For rally racing and aggressive off-road conditions, KTM is still hard to beat of course;
but for more general purpose adventure and trail riding, The Japanese brands are very good at manufacturing a strong and reliable package, which we consider is ultimately of greater importance for someone who is going to traveling overland for an extended period.
Equally though, when we were looking for a smaller lighter bike to compliment our existing Honda CB500X twin cylinder adventure bike, for example, it was the BMW G310GS that stood out above the others for us in that particular category.
The CB500X has been a very successful conversion, (link to the thread) what was the deciding factor for that bike over any other one that was being manufactured?
At the time it was and still is, other than the 300cc Kawasaki VX300 which was introduced in 2016) the smallest and lightest twin-cylinder bike on the market – and that was key to the all-road ability that we wanted to offer, something more refined on the highway than a traditional dual-sport thumper.
Although it’s not really ‘adventure ready’ out of the showroom – the CB had many of the key attributes we wanted – a wonderfully smooth engine with good gearing and fuelling, great (250+mile) fuel range and frugality, and comfortable all-day ergonomics. A robust steel frame meant it already had excellent passenger and luggage capability too. We soon realized that with better suspension and stronger spoked wheels, this could turn it into a very competent round-the-world bike. It is also fairly inexpensive to buy in the first place of course, so a perfect platform to personalize with your own modifications.
After much discussions with Jenny Morgan (aka ADV inmate JMo&Piglet), we developed a series of parts which we then tested comprehensively off-road to prove their capability before production of the complete conversion kits started in spring 2015.
Jenny then rode her US-based CB500X across the US on the TAT, whilst I went and did a great Australian outback trip with David Darcy, of MAD-TV fame, to comprehensively prove the durability of the kits, to coincide with them going on general sale.
How many different/unique products does Rally-Raid make?
Currently, we have nearly 800 individual products available through our website for an
increasingly wide range of bikes – the majority of our own in-house products tend to be model specific, but there are also a good number of more universal-fit components (such as the rally navigation equipment, parts, and accessories), and even luggage and tire options.
All our key product ranges are grouped under their own sub-headings on the www.rally-raidproducts.co.uk web-shop making it easy to navigate and choose complimentary products for your particular bike, and all our stock is shipped worldwide from our premises in the UK.
Are all your products made in house?
All of our machined and fabricated products are manufactured here at the Rally-Raid factory, but we do use external suppliers for some of the finishing (such as anodizing and powder coating).
We are also partnered with TracTive suspension in Holland who exclusively manufacture our rear shocks (and certain fork components) for the KTM 690/Husky 701, Honda CB500X and BMW G310GS models.
We also have a similar partnership with Scorpion Racing here in the UK who manufacturer our exclusive exhaust systems (for the CB500X and G310GS), while our spoked wheels are all hand-built here in the UK by a specialist wheel builder using our in-house designed and manufactured billet hubs.
How long does it take from an idea, to design, to prototype, to the final product on the shelf?
It very much depends on the product in question. For example, we made a huge commitment in 2015 by investing in a dedicated CNC mill-lathe, which allowed us to manufacture our own one-piece billet hubs in-house. This not only sped up the prototype to production process, but has allowed us to subsequently develop a series of dedicated wheel hubs for a range of bikes (currently including the Honda CB500X, the CRF100L Africa Twin, and BMW G310GS) based on similar design principles – such as incorporating all the OEM brake/ABS and drive components from your existing wheels – but with specific dimensions to suit the various models.
Working in partnership with TracTive Suspension in Holland also gives us access to very
talented suspension engineers and a whole host of specific testing/development equipment which means we can design what are essentially bespoke products for the bikes in our range.
We are constantly listening to feedback from customers and potential customers, and typically there is always something new on the prototype work bench – be that a simple fabricated product like a luggage rack, a more complex billet component, or even trying to stay one step ahead for the next new bike around the corner…
I hear you are getting a new bike, let us in on the secret, and are you planning on doing anything special to it?
Currently, we are focussed on the new 2019 model CB500X which has undergone some
significant changes – not least a 19” front wheel as standard and longer travel suspension… I don’t know where they go that idea from! – and are updating and expanding our existing CB range of products, including specific parts for the new model as required.
However, we have also ordered one of the first Yamaha Tenere 700 models due in the UK a little later this summer. We’re confident it will continue the Yamaha tradition of being a rock- solid RTW style bike right out of the box, but for those of use who might want a little more
edge, I’m sure there will be a number of weaker specification OEM components that can easily be improved and upgraded.
Do ADVrider and its inmates play a big part in your business, do you offer any kind of incentive or discount for inmates?
Ever since Wes and I first started developing parts for the KTM 690 we have always engaged with the online community; and especially during the development of the CB500X project we received a great deal of support and encouragement, particularly here on ADVrider – and continue to use customer feedback to try and incorporate any modifications and improvements to our products. Without a doubt the ADVrider community is a great resource for us as engineers and manufacturers; and in turn I think they also feel we, as a company, are more accessible than a much larger enterprise.
Being a small family run company means we are not often in a position to offer blanket
discounts, rather we generally prefer to try and keep our overheads and prices low to begin with…
However, we are delighted that the support for our CB500X products has grown to such an extent here on ADVrider that our dedicated Vendor thread for the CB500X has now reached a massive one million views – making it by far and away the largest single model thread in the Vendors section!
So to celebrate this milestone, and as a huge thank you for your support over the years – we would like to offer all ADV inmates a 10% discount* off all Rally-Raid website products throughout the month of May 2019 – that’s not just Honda CB related parts, but everything in our online store!
*note. To claim your Inmate discount – just email your ADVrider user name to: firstname.lastname@example.org and in return we will PM you here at ADVrider a unique discount code to use at checkout when you place your order.
Finally, We want to thank the ADV community for all the help and support they have given us over the years, and the hundreds of thousands of test miles covered that enable us to design, develop and machine the most suitable parts for their travels.