FX Bikes is accelerating its growth plans, hunting investment to produce the first run of an overhauled model of its lightweight offroad motorbike the Mountain Moto.
It's been a bumpy road for the company, which launched in Christchurch in 2002. The motorcycle industry was hit hard by the global financial crisis, says founder and CEO Mike Hodgkinson, adding a former FX Bikes manufacturer in China closed during that time.
But the firm has identified Italian factories as potential bike makers and is developing the new FX5 model with UK-based Moto GP engineers Harris Performance.
The bikes are now purpose built using motorbike components rather than those used for mountain bikes — from Italian-made suspension frames to shock absorbers from Ohlins in Sweden, the same brakes as the Enduro 350cc motorcycle, tubular frames rather than sheet metal and a chassis designed and developed with Harris Performance.
"We've toured New Zealand and the US and Canada, getting feedback from hundreds of users," says Hodgkinson. "There's a huge amount of user feedback in there and general engineering and design learning. No one has made a bike like this before and there's a few goes to get it right."
Late last year FX Bikes secured US$200,000 from an Australian construction sector company that was interested in being an FX distributor and saw an opportunity to buy in. Hodgkinson wants about another half a million in investment from the UK, the US and New Zealand to finalise the first production run.
So far the company has only made a limited number of bikes for testing, development and promotion, he says. It aims to produce 100 limited edition bikes and will offer its waiting list the choice of this edition or the standard model, says Hodgkinson.
The company plans to start production after June for the Northern Hemisphere summer, he says.
In 2011 Hodgkinson told the New Zealand Herald angel investors had put $650,000 in to FX Bikes. He said at the time it expected to sell 25,000 bikes a year to earn US$80 million in revenue by 2016.
However, he told Idealog these targets had been revised to 5000 bikes per year to create a $30 million company.
FX Bikes' former advisor, ex-Harley-Davidson chief engineer Michael Hillman, is now its chief technology officer. Its team also includes Honda R&D's former chief designer Franceso Santillo.