The California Scooter Co. Booming Small Motorcycle Market

We all know that in any struggling economy business opportunities still exist, if not abound. And the past is full of examples of new ventures whose successes have been amplified during recession times.

I remember that in October 2009 just before I reported for the 1st time in my Blog on the new California Scooter Company, I called its owner Steve Seidner (also President of Pro One Performance Manufacturing) to tell him that I strongly believed in the success of his small motorcycles inspired by the legendary American Mustang Scooter.

I had good reasons to feel this way. An affordable discretionary motorcycle purchase (and not so discretionary for those looking for an efficient daily work ride.) For young riders, the hip and fun factor. For the oldest, a motorcycle with direct filiation to the Mustang that they have ridden or at least belonging to their past. For women, a friendly non intimidating 2-wheeler that they can easily handle and that is always family approved (by both life partners who are big bike riders and teenager children who want to share the riding experience.) For all, enough performance to feel like riding a true motorcycle, a fuel efficiency at about 98 mpg to add some “green feels good” factor, rare and easy maintenance duties, a wide range of options and indefinite possibilities of customization to make it yours, a la MINI. For motorcycle dealers, a new exciting and complementary product requiring a light investment, creating family traffic to the showroom, with service limited to a minimum but multiple opportunities to provide customization work.

During Daytona Bike Week, intrigued by the California Motorcycle Co. launch, I went to check their display set up inside the Convention Center. No surprise there. Visitors are (I exaggerate somewhat) from 7 to 77 years old, both sexes. The surprising part, listening to conversations, is that most place right away a “personalized” or “customized” order. Either from the after-market parts already offered by California Scooter (wheels, handlebars, mirrors, tires, seats, chrome parts, exhaust pipes, etc.), or mixing and matching parts from the 3 main models (body, wheel and bar colors), or going right away for the total custom job including the one-off paint job that the company can handle in house.

I also learned that California Scooter is developing performance options working closely with Oregon-based Raceway Services’ Jim Pettiti (the guru of small engine performance upgrades): both a big bore and a stroker kit, ignition modules, performance carbs, and other competition options.  Hopping up a 150cc motorcycle might seem to be an unusual move, but the original Mustang (with its short wheelbase and small diameter wheels) was the hot ticket in the 1950s. Walt Fulton nearly won the Catalina Grand Prix on a Mustang in 1951. He did so well in his first Catalina appearance that race organizers outlawed his bike under pressure from the other manufacturers!

Interesting to mention, California Scooter is actively targeting the youth market by sponsoring design competitions among nearby Cal Poly Pomona engineering students. This is the way the next models will be decided. In addition, the company also make intensive use of Social Medias and Blogs to spread brand awareness among potential new young bikers. Of course, listening to President Steve Seidner describing his plans, I wonder what would have happened to Harley if 10 years ago the Milwaukee company had started creating their own retro-styled, scooter-sized street motorcycles for the youg crowd… During this time California Motorcycle Company is redefining the US small motorcycle market.

Zipper's

22 Responses to “The California Scooter Co. Booming Small Motorcycle Market”


  1. 1 Kirk Perry May 16th, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Interesting to mention, California Scooter is actively targeting the youth market by sponsoring design competitions among nearby Cal Poly Pomona engineering students. This is the way the next models will be decided. In addition, the company also make intensive use of Social Medias and Blogs to spread brand awareness among potential new young bikers.

    California. Looks like one of the original founders in that pic too. Full circle for him. Bomb scoot.

  2. 2 Jeremy May 16th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    You are right Cyril. If Harley would have done what California Scooter did, they would have less to worry about attracting young people to their brand.

  3. 3 John May 16th, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Congrats California Scooter Company.

  4. 4 Patrick R. May 16th, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Cute looking. Have to try one.

  5. 5 Shifter May 16th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I know that the Mustang had small wheels, but wondering why California Scooters didn’t install bigger ones. Any reason?

  6. 6 Ben Ashley May 16th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Maximum speed? Motorcycle license needed in Wiconsin?

  7. 7 Joe May 16th, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Joe here from California Scooter. Thanks for the kind words, folks.

    Shifter, Steve Seidner stayed with the 12-inch diameter wheels as part of the old Mustang’s original styling inspiration, and I am glad he did. When you take one of these bikes into the twisties, you’ll quickly realize (as I did) that Chuck Gardner and Howard Forrest (the original Mustang engineers) and Steve Seidner (California Scooter Company President) knew what they were doing. These bikes absolutely rock on a twisty road, with handling that is quick and stable. We have a couple of reports on our blog (www.CaliforniaScooterCo.com/blog/) about rides on Glendora Ridge Road (an incredible local ride) that give a bit more detail on the bikes’ handling.

    Ben, the bike’s top speed is highly dependent on your size. It’s a 150cc engine, so weight and frontal area make a bigger difference than they would on, say, a liter-sized sportsbike. I’m what you might call a “full figured rider” and I can see a bit over 50 mph. Our lighter test riders will see between 60 and 65. Here in California, we require a motorcycle license; you’d have to check with your local folks on their requirements.

  8. 8 Guru May 17th, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Have a wife looking for this kind of bike. Dealer in Texas? (Fort worth)

  9. 9 Just my .02 May 17th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Wow…no haters today? Congratulations. Last time around, everybody had an opinion and a gripe about the Chinese parts on here.
    Perhaps now people realize that you “do what you’ve gotta do” to survive in this economy, and at the least, if a few American jobs are created through the assembly and distribution, then it’s better than no jobs being created, and instead, going to the local Persian guy at his “NEW Scooter Store” and buying some fully Chinese CRAP.

    Good luck gentlemen. Time to beat down the ol’ Vespa trendies with some cool American scoots.

  10. 10 Kirk Perry May 17th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    The originals were torque monsters. They had the same effect on me as a kid that a early-Big Twin does today. Something changes in you when you take off in first gear on both of them.
    The big coils seats on the Mustangs will compress and put the handlebars higher up in your vision.
    The speedometer is like the raised headlight on a Knuckle. It makes you feel like you’re piloting something.
    I keep thinking about the new ones. Are there any in San Diego I can test ride?

  11. 11 Denise May 17th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I read the article with moderate interest until the last paragraph and then lights went off!
    “California Scooter is actively targeting the youth market by sponsoring design competitions among nearby Cal Poly Pomona engineering students”
    California Scooter Co. is exactly the kind of business we need in our country, businesses that continue to promote new technology and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit with our youth. The US has lead the world in design and technology and with companies like California Scooter working with our youth to keep it that way the US will continue to lead that way.
    Good for you California Scooter Co., wishing you all the best!

  12. 12 Vette May 17th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Would love to ride one!!

    House of Kolors Magenta for me with bass boat flakes, please!!

  13. 13 Jeff Nicklus May 17th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    This would make a great pit bike at the drag races!

    Over & Out,

    Jeff

  14. 14 Big Kat May 17th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Kudos to Mr Seidner for using the US recession to re-invent himself with a smart diversification. If it starts to pay off now, wait for our economy to have fully recovered! Bling, bling. How come nobody before him thought about resurrecting the famous Mustang?

  15. 15 golfish May 17th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Pro one had some good stuff going on over there (I’m a local) Berts is HUGE and their body shops are poping up all over the valley. I don’t see any market for these bikes and I’ve yet to see one on the road or at a show.

    I kick myself because I was at Horn cycle the other day and thought about stopping by Pro One on the way home.

    All great places to deal with.

  16. 16 Woody May 17th, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Just my .02-
    Possibly folks don’t want to offend their host here, who obviously is a fan?
    Besides, it was all said before and I for one respect that there’s a difference between “don’t understand” and “don’t care”. Repeating one’s self does nothing to cure “don’t care” 😉

  17. 17 Joe May 18th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Vette and Golfish, stop by any time. Anyone is welcome to visit our production facility in La Verne (at any time), meet the folks who lead the company (including the guy at the top, Steve Seidner), and take a bike out for a spin.

    Denise, we have a great relationship with Cal Poly Pomona, one of the best engineering schools on the planet. Check out our blog for more information on what we do with these great people.

    Kirk, we have a dealer we are signing up in Oceanside (just a bit up the road from you in San Diego), and we will be announcing it soon. Feel free to call or email us, or watch our blog for the announcement.

    Guru, no dealers in Fort Worth yet (my old stomping grounds, by the way). Closest one in the great state of Texas is Barnett’s, but as I remember, the distance between Fort Worth and El Paso is a cool 565 miles. We can ship direct to you, you can arrange to pick it up in El Paso, or send us the name of a dealer where the real west begins (i.e., Fort Worth), and we’ll get a dealer out out there for you!

    Everyone else, thanks for your kind words!

  18. 18 Doug May 24th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Will you be comming out with a 250cc for a little more power and freeway legal, (if you have to be on the freeway for short time.)?

  19. 19 Joe May 24th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Doug:

    We are always evaluating new models and alternative power sources. At the current time, our interest is actually on a smaller bike, as the Europeans are interested in smaller displacement models. You might check our blog (www.CaliforniaScooterCo.com/blog/) for an update on our approach to this project (this is the motorcycle for which we are having a design competition among the engineering students at Cal Poly Pomona). There may be a larger displacement machine in our future, but it is not imminent, and the smaller displacement bike will appear first. Our current efforts are on a 125cc model.

    We are developing a line of hop up accessories for the 150cc engine. That 150cc engine is a surprisingly good motor (it’s what I ride). My 150cc California Scooter is a bright red Classic, and I plan to run the length of the Baja peninsula with it. I am organizing the ride now, and I’ll be leaving sometime this summer – let me know if you want to go. I’ve done this trip several times before on big bikes (see http://www.motofoto.cc), and I am looking forward to the fun I know I will have in doing it on the California Scooter. A good friend of mine (Simon Gandolfi) ran all the way down to Tierra del Fuego (the southernmost tip of South America) on a 125cc bike, and his story about that ride is fascinating. The Baja ride will be a lot of fun, and doing it on a 150cc California Scooter should be an adventure. Watch our blog for updates.

    Thank you for your interest in our products, Doug.

    Joe

  20. 20 BOB Mar 6th, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    i saw the nice pic but do u guys know how much a californiascooterco cost

  21. 21 Joe Mar 6th, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Bob:

    Our bikes have an MSRP of $4295.

    Joe

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