Regaining a Foothold in Motorcycle Retreads
Tomahawk has been through some major changes since its inception eight years ago. Set up in Wolverhampton, following two and a half years of research and testing it was the first business of its kind to retread motorcycle tyres in the UK. It was business as usual for the company until an American firm approached it two years ago, wanting to join forces to develop the retreaded motorcycle tyres for the US. Tomahawk entered into a commercial agreement with Cycle Tires, a subsidiary of aircraft tyre technologist, Desser Tire & Rubber and hasn’t looked back.
“It has been a very good relationship, for us and them,” explains Mr Rose, Tomahawk’s director, adding “they have got a massive market capture on their side of the water and we’ve got the whole of Europe here. Cycle Tires benefited from our expertise and experience and we benefited from their backing. Things are going very well, we’re very busy and even have back logs of orders.”
Following a fire in the company’s former premises, Tomahawk entered into a joint venture with Maxsport six months ago to produce its tyres from the company’s 40,000 square metre factory in Wales. The director claims that the company is just now regaining a foothold in the market after recovering from the fire and loss of production.
Despite the transition period the retreader is currently adding new tread patterns to its offering as well as brand new scooter, motor cross and ATV tyres. The company is also sponsoring a Supermoto rider this season and is looking for a Superbike rider with which to do the same; all signs that the company is back on track.
Although bike registrations were down this year scooter sales have been on the up over the last few years. Considering Tomahawk is making a new move into the market it must see a profitable future there? “There has been a lot of demand for coloured scooter tyres, people have been asking at various shows. I think the tyres appeal more to the younger generation who like to colour coordinate their bikes and tyres. It is an increasing market, but it is bigger in other European countries than it is in the UK. You have to remember the UK is behind the rest of Europe, the age restriction for riding a scooter is only 14.” Hence, Mr Rose is currently looking for new distributors in markets such as Italy, where scooter tyres account for a large proportion of motorcycle tyre sales. The company has the UK, Sweden and Norway covered, in terms of distribution channels. Mr Rose claims that he exports to nearly every country, however he is currently looking to set up bigger and better distribution chains and is aiming at big wholesalers across Europe to increase volumes. Germany is next on the company’s list of priorities, with France and Italy close behind.
The UK is, undoubtedly the company’s strongest market at present, but how is business going in such a competitive arena? “We’re not interested in poaching the manufacturer’s territory, we can exist easily alongside the major manufacturers,” maintains the company director. “Demand in the market is good and in peak season we aim to sell between 300 and 400 tyres a day. I think we can easily increase this to 500 a day, but it would be good to add another distributor to our existing accounts.”
The retreader’s tyres are aimed at the Superbike segment and it offers three compounds in its original black tyres; race, sport and mileage. “Our tread patterns and rubber compounds are designed to provide the rider with superb grip, stability and aesthetic appeal,” explains Mike Rose.
“The race compound is our softest and stickiest compound, used for track days and aggressive riding styles. It gives the rider the most grip at the expense of higher wear rates, and is comparable to D.O.T legal race tyre rubber. Our sport has a mildly harder rubber compound than the race, but is the best compromise for maximum grip on the street, and a longer wearing tyre for less frequent tyre changes. This compound is similar to high-end street radial tyres. The mileage compound is for everyday use and long wear, and as such it’s aimed at touring, commuter and cross-country use.”
Mr Rose claims that Tomahawk is the only motorcycle tyre retreader in the whole of Europe, as well as being the only company that produces coloured motorcycle retreads. Coloured motorcycle tyres are few and far between, and Mr Rose has certainly cornered the UK market with his originality. But where did the idea come from? Tomahawk’s coloured tyres were not a result of endless hours spent cultivating new ideas, nor from in-depth market research, the idea grew from a spontaneous move by Mike Rose. “I painted some tyres as a bit of a joke for a show we were attending in Sheffield, as a way to attract more people to the stand, and the interest they generated was incredible, people thought they were made like that and were asking me where they could get them from,” explains Mr Rose. And the rest, as they say, is history. Tomahawk has now been remanufacturing the coloured tyres for 18 months and is adding a coloured range in its new scooter and motor cross tyres. “The tyres have a good following,” says Mr Rose, claiming that red, yellow and blue are the most popular. He also claims there is a good profit opportunity in the coloured tyres for wholesalers.
The tyres certainly have the aesthetic angle covered, but how do they fare in terms of performance? “There’s no difference in performance between our tyres and other brands, and they are as safe as any other leading product,” explains the company director. The retreaded tyres are tested to ECE regulation 75, that of new motorcycle tyres.
There is a lot more to come from the company on top of its new tread patterns and tyres. The introduction of some new slicks and a tyre for the Harley Davidson is right around the corner. “We will be introducing a lot more tyres as we go, we have a lot more to come,” adds Mr Rose. The company is also looking into adding another race tyre to its portfolio, but the specifics of the range are off limits, for the time being.