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Phoenix Handlebars and Motorcycle Industry Jobs - Jason Gearld

Our guest on this episode, we have Jason Gearld, founder and owner of Phoenix Handlebars and Business Development Manager at Motorcycle Industry Jobs. Jason shares how he applied his accumulated industry knowledge and experience to start a dirt bike handlebar brand. Then, he talks about his other role helping powersports companies find new hires through the industry-specific job board motorcycleindustryjobs.com.

Dave Sulecki: Hey everyone. Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings the biggest names in the motorcycle industry right to you. I'm Dave Sulecki.

Dale Spangler: And I'm Dale Spangler. This week our guest is Jason Gearld, founder of Phoenix Handlebars and Business Development Manager for Motorcycle Industry Jobs.

This episode of Pit Pass Moto is brought to you by MotoAmerica. MotoAmerica is the home of AMA Superbike racing and is North America's premier motorcycle road racing series.

Rewatch every round of the 2022 series and revisit all the action with the MotoAmerica Live+ video-on-demand streaming service. Or visit the MotoAmerica YouTube Channel for race highlights and original video content.

To view the complete 2023 MotoAmerica race schedule, head over to motoamerica.com, and be sure to follow MotoAmerica on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, for real-time series updates.

Welcome to episode 150, everyone. This is our final show of 2022 and we'd like to wish everybody happy holidays, give everybody a big thanks to everyone who's listened and supported this show this year. We really appreciate it.

Dave and I will be on break after this episode and we'll be back with our first 2023 episode on January 12th. So, stay tuned and look for us then. And again, have a great Happy New year. Wish everybody all the best going into 2023.

Well Dave, all access this week. Some big news that I saw breaking — well, it seemed to be dominating all the news this week was the Triumph entering SuperMotocross in 2024.

We finally heard some more big details about this. I think there's just kind of like the Stark VARG, it's a little bit of a mysterious project at the moment. We're all wondering when we're going to see a motorcycle, but it's exciting because they announced some of the additions to their technical team.

We've got Bobby Hewitt, former Rockstar, Husqvarna Team Manager joining Triumph as the, let's see, I think he's going to be the Team Principal.

And then we've got Stephen Westfall, who's also known as “Scuba” Steve, that's his nickname. He'll be the Factory Team Manager and he'll be alongside Ricky Carmichael.

And then they also added some other technical people. Dave Arnold, who's the lead chassis engineer, and Dudley Cramond, who's lead powertrain engineer.

So, they're really building this like powerhouse team at Triumph. They're saying it's their own original motorcycle. And so, I'm excited to see. Yeah, we've got a year to wait. They'll be lining up with three 250 riders for the first year in 2024, and then they'll add a 450 rider in 2025.

So, what do you think, Dave, like what were your thoughts on all these announcements? Did you watch a few of the videos of them explaining?

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, I did. And it's exciting to see that they put some names behind the effort, so that we've got some idea where this is headed. They started this back in ‘21 when they kind of announced it with Ricky Carmichael at the time. And Iván Cervantes, he's the off-road rider that we're going to help develop the bike, but it’s got a little more substance behind it.

So, still haven't seen wheels in a frame. But I think there's a lot of risk when you announce something that big and come out and try to design a new motorcycle to compete at that level. I think they've really got their hands full and I hate to say it, but they've got to avoid being compared to Cannondale, because we all kind of know how that turned out in the end and it brought entire company down.

So, I don't think that's necessarily where Triumph is headed, but that's what I think a lot of people will try to draw parallels to, as they roll this program out. But once we see a motorcycle, I think they're saying in June we're going to see an actual motorcycle.

Dale Spangler: I can't wait to see it. And they're saying it has its own unique identity because I think the first thing people think of is they default to, “Oh another KTM looking bike,” because we've seen it with the KTM Group and the Husqvarnas, the Gas Gas, the KTMs all look like the same motorcycle.

And so, I think a lot of people thought, “Yeah, it's just going to be another KTM.” But they're saying it's its own look. And Ricky Carmichael said he’s ridden the bike. And so, I'm excited to see what they actually roll out.

Because to me, I'm like thinking like, what is it that's going to be different about it? Is it going to be the way the shrouds look? Because like, I feel like all the bikes these days, they're starting to kind of somewhat look the same in a lot of ways. And so, will it be something completely different or not? So, that's the big question mark for me.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah. And if you believe the message boards, which is an easy trap to fall into and go down the spider hole, but they're claiming it's going to be somewhat of a unique frame design over what we traditionally see on motorcycles, which to me from a technical side kind of excites me because I think a lot of it's become, I wouldn't say cookie cutter, but they're all very similar except for the Austrian brands, which are also all very similar.

So, it'll be interesting to see if they kind of turn left and do something really unique there. Because the rest of the motorcycle I think is got to be pretty standard other than maybe they turn the engine around all Yamaha, which I think may be difficult to do due to some patents that are in place or some IP that they can't violate.

So, that part of it, I think once we see the actual motorcycle will be interesting to me, just really what they do with the frame and what they do with the engine positioning.

Dale Spangler: Yeah, well one thing that's for certain is like, these projects always seem to take way longer than they should, but that's just part of the process. And one thing that really struck a core with me, and I think it was Jeremy Appleton, the Team Manager said that they were not — it might have been Ricky Carmichael too, but they're not in a hurry to bring this to market, meaning they're not trying to go as fast as they can to get this motorcycle out there.

They want to make sure everything is right along the way, which I think is admirable. But it's tough when you've got a whole other year still before you start racing. But I guess that year will probably go by pretty quickly.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, and that's maybe taken a lesson from the Cannondale handbook, which was they did so many little things wrong that added up to a lot. And even when they knew they should have taken another route, they still went the wrong direction and ended up failing.

So, we don't want to see it fail. I want to see another brand in motorcycle racing, a storied brand, one that's been around for such a long time and in the early years of scramble racing as it came out of England, which is really kind of how a lot of that began, there was a lot of triumph motorcycles out on the track. So, it'll be kind of neat to see that come full circle eventually.

Dale Spangler: Yeah. I'm a fan of the brand for sure. I have a Triumph T120 myself, and their marketing to me is like, I'm a huge fan of their marketing. They're on it as far the video production and just everything they do. When they roll out a new model, it's always pretty dramatic. They've done collaborations with some of the James Bond films, so they're really doing a lot of cutting-edge stuff.

But one question I have though, I've already started to think about what this announcement is, who will they sign, who will their 250 riders and who will their 450 rider, more important? I have a guess. And my opinion is there's that Jason Anderson, Bobby Hewitt connection from back in the day.

I have a feeling that there's a possibility that by the time we get to 2025, the timing might be perfect. We could see Jason Anderson be their first 450 rider. Pure speculation. But that would be one of my guesses.

And then maybe even we could see something like, Osborne a couple years down the road on the off-road side ride for Triumph. So, those are a couple of my guesses. I don't know what you think Dave, but that's kind of what I'm thinking.

Dave Sulecki: So, kind of putting that old Rockstar energy group back together and you see these things happen and they tend to pull on people that they knew from their past. So, those are known quantities for a guy like Bobby Hewitt, he goes to a rider, he knows his tendencies, knows what he is like to work with. So, it makes sense on paper and I guess that's kind of really putting the cart way before the horse.

But I think that 2024 season, which is going to get here sooner on the 250s, who do they go after? Do they bring in just young riders to help develop the bikes or they go to an experienced rider to try to get the most out of it?

So, that's number one is get on the racetrack, can you get the thing working? Is it going to operate exactly like you planned? What do you got to change? You've got a good crew to kind of build that foundation. But then who takes it to the next level on the racetrack, I guess is still to be determined and next year's silly season, I'm already looking forward to it.

Dale Spangler: Absolutely.

Dave Sulecki: Sometime after what, we say end of October we can start talking about, okay, who's riding for Triumph next year?

Dale Spangler: It's to the point now where I think silly season's about to become year-round here at this point, with more OEMs entering in more series like world Supercross.

And so, we're talking about predictions there, like I was mentioning my predictions for who would ride for the Triumph team, but I thought we would maybe pick out a few of our top three, I've got a couple different segments. Your predictions for 2023, your top three predictions of things you know that could happen in the industry in general, and then your favorite episodes of 2022 from our show.

Dave Sulecki: Sounds good. Okay.

Dale Spangler: I'm going to start it out with the predictions here. So, these are my top three predictions for 2023 as to things that could happen in the industry.

So, my first one is World Supercross, with World Supercross entering the Fray and kind of pushing the U.S. to end up creating this SuperMotocross series, I feel like 2023 is going to be one of the biggest changes in decades we've seen for the sport of Supercross and Motocross. So, that's probably my number one prediction. I think that's going to be a huge change going forward.

And then my second one is the electrification, the Stark VARG, supposedly they're shipping, we keep seeing these dates getting pushed further and further back, but supposedly it is happening in 2023.

And I feel like when we start seeing these Stark VARGs showing up at the local tracks and the local trail riding areas, then we're really going to see a transformation in the electrification of Powersports. So, that's my personal opinion.

I feel like until we really start seeing those showing up, it's probably — I don't know, to me it still doesn't feel like it's happening yet. So, that's my second one.

And my third prediction is this trend, and we talked a little bit about it quite a few times this year, Dave, but this trend of performance groups and I'll use Vista Outdoors and Arrowhead as examples. Will this trend continue?

And I think it's going to keep continuing where these Powersports industry companies get purchased. We have these performance groups that are kind of consolidating brands together in one group and becoming sort of these super groups.

And I don't think that's going to change going forward and we're just going to see more of it, unfortunately, that's my personal opinion, but I think we're going to see more of it in 2023. What about you, Dave? What do you think?

Dave Sulecki: Oh, those are good predictions and probably not far off on a lot of them. So, let me go down my top three here. So, I see for 2023, my biggest prediction is the return of Honda to the championship status in the premier class of racing, at least in the U.S.

Dale Spangler: Well, that's a good one.

Dave Sulecki: They've already been on top of the world. They've set the stage, they put the players in place, the riders are a top caliber. I see Sexton leading the series this year. I see the Lawrence Brothers coming into their own and they've got nowhere to go but up and they're just going to kill it. I think Honda is going to become that premier top brand. That's my prediction for 2023.

Dale Spangler: Good one.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, my second one, I see electronics moving further into the motorcycle. I see possibly experimentation with active suspension. That's an area where they've kind of left electronics out of motorcycles, for the most part.

There's a few brands where that's an exception, but because they can control so much more with electronics, I kind of see that moving that direction. That's the next plateau, I guess, I think is taking electronics further.

And my last one is actually right in line with yours Dale, big money and private equity groups further kind of killing off the smaller players in Powersports. That's kind of like the Amazons and Walmarts, the big are getting bigger. And I see a recession looming and I think that's going to shake the monkey tree and the weaker companies are going to suffer and it kind of feels like 2008 all over again.

So, kind of squaring with your prediction that these big money groups coming in and buying up all these companies and creating these super companies, kind of see it happening some more. So, I'm not I'm not far off on that prediction either.

Dale Spangler: On the flip side of that, if you're the company that gets bought, maybe it's not such a bad thing, you can go retire.

Dave Sulecki: It depends on who you are in that company, right? If you're the owner, like say you're the owner of a small handlebar company in the Midwest and you sell to a huge corporation and you cash out, that may not be a bad thing. And then you maybe turn around and start another deal.

But yeah, it's sure looking that way, it's sure feeling that way. And in some ways, it kind of makes me sad because I like the entrepreneurial base of our industry, but I understand why it happens.

Dale Spangler: Yeah, I like the mom and pop aspect of it too. Like we've worked for some companies, like Wiseco is such a perfect example, like just great people that own the company and that you looked up to and worked for. And so, it's just same thing I've had.

And so, seeing that, it's a little bit shocking when I've worked in the industry and it's been more family businesses that I've worked for. And so, yeah, when they have a board, it's a different world.

Dave Sulecki: No doubt, no doubt. And justifying everything you need to do is difficult. I understand why they do it because they've got their debtors to serve.

But I prefer the more hands-on grassroots world of our Powersports world. And it's just, to me, it hits home more. And I guess that it may have to do with where I'm at in my career, as far as my career arc goes, I'm on the down slope, hopefully. I don't plan to do this till I'm 87. I'd like to not have to.

So, I could see that happening on our industry as it has happened in others. And part of me says it's somewhat of a maturing of the Powersports industry. It's becoming more professional, it's becoming bigger, like say the automotive industry, which is huge and extremely professional and extremely well populated with companies like that. So, I could see Powersports kind of heading in that direction.

Dale Spangler: For sure. Well, to wrap up this last all access of 2022, here are my top three episodes. And I think you even said this Dave, before we came on, like it's hard to choose. I really enjoyed all of our guests that we've had on this year on 2022, but if I had to pick top three, these are the three that I came up with on the podium.

So, third place for me is Skyler Howes, and Skyler Howes is just one of those guys that, I think he's just super down to earth. He's fun, honest, transparent when you interview him. He's got great stories and he just has a good story.

The guy practically sold everything he owned so that he could go to Dakar and hoped that he got a Factory ride and he ended up landing the Factory ride and getting it, making it happen.

And so, I really enjoyed that interview. I always enjoy talking with him. And he's just an open book. So, third place was Skyler Howes.

Second place would be Robbie Petersen. Robbie Petersen's a guy I didn't know much about until we had him on the show. And what a fascinating guy, coming from South Africa, growing up there, coming to the States with his son now, Cam Petersen, who races in MotoAmerica, I think we could have filled three, four episodes, Dave with his stories.

Dave Sulecki: No doubt.

Dale Spangler: He's my second place guy. Number one though, and this one surprised me so much. I was even telling my wife about this when I was coming up with this list, Mark Merical, the Chaplain for MotoAmerica.

That to me, was the most just refreshing interview. I learned so much from him. It opened my eyes to the importance of what he does. He's not there just proselytizing religion. He's there supporting the racers through hard times and good times and bad times.

And so, I just really had a tremendous amount of respect after that interview with him and he even got emotional, he didn't feel the slightest bit embarrassed, sharing his feeling emotions. And so, I just had nothing but respect for Mark. And he was my favorite guest of 2022. How about you Dave?

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, it was a good choice, Dale. I thoroughly enjoyed and I agree with you, I was equally surprised at how that interview went and how Mark opened up to us and shared his story. Actually, all three of your choices are great choices. It's tough when I look back at the year.

Dale Spangler: That's tough. Yeah.

Dave Sulecki: It really is. Everybody was a genuine pleasure to talk to and try to pick top three is like trying to pick your favorite child. So, it's just not possible.

But all that being said, my number three was Kayla Yaakov. I enjoy talking to young up and coming racers and getting their perspective on racing and things. But Kayla, she was impressive as hell. Just the way she presented herself, the way she told her story, the way she shared her thoughts on the sport, she was polished and professional. And I think all young racers should listen to Kayla and do what Kayla does because she gets it and she understands how to do it. And to me, her future's huge.

Now, on top of all of that, she's extremely fast, extremely talented. And when we talk to other racers, they all mention Kayla. So, that to me kind of sets the tone for her story. Just really enjoyed talking to her. And I look forward to this next year when she does some more racing.

And then my number two on the podium was Matt Burkeen. He was such a neat guy to talk to. Just intriguing, the consummate upbeat guy and he just reminds me of that old school jump in your pickup truck, go racing professional from back in the day.

And as simple as that sounds, he's got great moto skills and he's just somewhat of a throwback. And I think the sport needs more Matt Burkeens to kind of help grow it because there's not many guys that are kind of wired like he is.

Dale Spangler: Racers going to race. That's what he always keeps saying.

Dave Sulecki: That’s right. And last but not least, number one on my list, because these are not only great interviews and with great stories, but kind of friends of mine from the industry and I've known these guys a long time and I really respect them, Jeff Bailey and Wes Orloff.

Now that's two interviews separately, but let me kind of tie that together because they're competing against each other in that Baggers series in road racing. But doing it from the opposite ends, one's from Team Harley, one's from team S&S.

And to hear both of those guys tell their story from their perspective, I just really enjoyed that rivalry, that isn't really a rivalry because they're still friends at the same time and they're living the dream.

Both these guys are racers, gearheads, hardcore motorcyclists, and they hold key positions in major companies in our sport. They're movers and shakers. And for them to come on and share their story in the way they did, I thought was great.

So, sorry I put two guys on my number one list, but there's a reason why I did that.

Dale Spangler: Well, that's a great explanation though. We've had so many great guests and we've enjoyed all of them and yeah, I just can't wait to see who we get on next year. Like it's get even more guests on and I guess if our listeners out there have some ideas for people they want to hear about, let us know. So, looking forward to having more of these awesome guests in 2023.

[Music playing]

Dale Spangler (interview): We're happy to welcome the founder of Phoenix Handlebars and the Business Development Manager for Motorcycle Industry Jobs. Jason Gearld, welcome to Pit Pass Moto. How’s life treating you? How's business with Phoenix Handlebars and MIJ?

Jason Gearld: Thanks a lot for letting me come on, be able to be part of you guys' awesome show. Life is good because all my world revolves around motorcycles/Powersports, but I always say motorcycles. I have very little to complain about guys.

Dale Spangler: So, what are things like these days, like obviously it's holiday season, you’re probably pulling parts and shipping orders. What's it look like, an average day for Jason Gearld at the Phoenix Handlebars and Motorcycle Industry Jobs? Because you split your time somewhat between those two. What's a normal day look like?

Jason Gearld: Yeah, Phoenix Handlebars being still like under five-years-old, it's still growing and I will pat myself on the back for thinking like it's been pretty awesome to be at least in the conversation of like those elite brands that are up there. I'm pretty proud of that fact. So, that part's really awesome. And we've stayed pretty consistent and I'm always like designing, doing orders.

And Motorcycle Industry Jobs, it's one of those where it's a never ending, every day is whether it's employers like posting jobs, looking for help, looking for advice.

I'm not a recruiter, so I don't have to deal so much on the job seeker side, but our industry, as we all know, is relatively small. So, a lot of people do like reach out to me and ask for help and like, “Hey, what do you know about this job?” And stuff like that. So, I obviously try to help when I can where I can. So, it keeps me pretty busy.

Dale Spangler: Yeah, having known you now for a couple years, I feel like you're one of those people that gives back a lot. Like you're always looking at the big picture. How can you help grow Powersports in general?

Because it's your passion, stuff like these videos you were doing for a while, that you were putting out, that were just out enjoying motorcycling with your son and you've kind of pulled that into your Phoenix Handlebars brand. And I just think you're doing a really good job of building that brand in just a organic way, I guess, for a lack of a better word to describe it.

But let's talk about that Phoenix Handlebars though. Like how did this idea come about? Because obviously like I look back at your past you have quite a few jobs in the industry, jobs like Hammerhead Designs, which is hard parts, MSR Hard Parts, like to me that sort of set you up for this creation of this brand. But I'm curious to know more about that story. Like how the whole thing came about with Phoenix Handlebars.

Jason Gearld: Well, we're both Midwest guys and growing up in Indiana it's like I lived in the motorcycle magazines. It’s like so many of us working on flunking out of high school and wishing that I had Dale Spangler like speed. Unfortunately, I was blessed with Jason Gearld speed, which was not very quick.

So, they always say like you make your own luck. But I definitely feel like I got lucky and had an opportunity to move out to California and work for Fox Racing. I had to take that chance.

I had never been out to California and that was like a dream come true, walking through the doors at Fox and that was my university of … and one thing led to another and I ended up at Hammerhead then SoCal, to work for MSR Hard Parts and it's just like that building of your own little internal resume. I had always wanted to own my own company. I just really hadn't decided on what that was going to be.

And when the MSR Hard Parts brand went away and I found myself unemployed for the first time, it was kind of like that was like that little lightning bolt moment that had hit me that it was kind of by virtue of working under the same roof as — a little bit as like working with Pro Taper at the time the MAG Group owned Renthal.

So, I always liked what those guys were doing, who couldn't be a big Renthal fan? But at the same time the way that it was positioning MSR Hard Parts to be was rather than just be this just sort of faceless hard parts brand, like they were three little letters that still stood for something.

MSR stood for Malcolm Smith Racing and we have this living legend who was so awesome and smiley and all things moto. That's what I was trying to kind of really build into, at least on the MSR Hard Part side of stuff and brought back in his name.

And one of my like things that I was trying to always get through when it came like with the marketing was like, get the helmets off. I don't need another photo of somebody like riding the motorcycle, that's all fine and dandy.

But having the pictures of like people with their helmets off and smiling and the awesome part of like sitting like on a tailgate and BS-ing about moto is about as much fun as the riding itself sometimes.

So again, when the MSR thing went away and I had landed on what it was going to be for a product mix and my son's name is Phoenix, that's where the name came from.

Dale Spangler: Very cool.

Jason Gearld: And it was just like, I am going to do what we were building with MSR, that is going to like come into Phoenix Handlebars and that's going to be like about all people that moto, it's like, yeah it's just a handlebar brand.

But my thing is, is we're a small little industry and if what I can do to deliver some happiness on the other end, whether it be it like through advertising or a box of like bars showing up on your doorstep and it gets you jazzed to like want to like mount them up and go moto this weekend, and it all started with a box that had a logo on the outside and all that stuff, and it's like then I've done my part.

If the bars like got you that much more jazzed that you're like, “Holy smokes, I can't wait to get these on. I've got to go moto.” Then that's my win. Good for the industry.

Dale Spangler: Definitely.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah. And that's that personal touch you feel when I go to the website and I just can understand your point of view and you're really up against the behemoths in the industry. I hope you know that. Renthal and Pro Taper are two big two big brands, but-

Jason Gearld: Yeah, Coke and Pepsi. Yep.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah. No, kudos to you for choosing that segment. But it's just an impressive website.

Jason Gearld: No, thanks man.

Dave Sulecki: I went there and I took the handlebar online test and really enjoyed the — to me it's the simplicity of figuring out handlebars because for a newcomer to this sport, if you got into Motocross and tried to figure out which bar bend to buy, you would be so confused after five minutes of poking around.

Because what does … I don't want to pick on the other brands, but what's a McGrath bend and what's a CR High or a CR Low? You've broken that down, I think and done a pretty good job of conveying it.

Jason Gearld: You're 21, did you ever even see McGrath race?

Dave Sulecki: Exactly.

Jason Gearld: So yeah, obviously, the catalyst for it was like when I ordered some Renthal mountain bike Handlebars. And it was really simple and I was like, “Hmm,” I was doing a MSR bar at the time, and so, I was kind of looking at some stuff there and I was using the Pro Taper sales and it was doing that same thing. I was trying to whittle it down to like, let's just do like five bins. I don't think we need to have the whole gamut of everything.

But even once you get past that, it's like you find a width that you are like satisfied with, and then the height is like not anywhere near where you want it to be. So, now you find something where the width and the height kind of like match up, but then the sweep might be really far off.

Jason Gearld: And trying to pull all that together I feel like is really daunting and not just for a beginner. Market research and me like don't go together hand in hand, but I would still reach out to a few friends. I'm like, “What bar are you running?”

And the answer so many times was like, “Uh,” I was like, “Perfect, that's all I needed to know.” You don't know. And so, the idea was just like, let's create a band where the width and the sweep are going to satisfy the 90% of us that aren't going to necessarily like be able to like feel those nuances. Like if you have Dale Spangler speed, yeah, maybe two millimeters here or there’s going to be like, “Holy Moly, this is unrideable.”

But I think for the vast-

Dale Spangler: I could ride with bent bars, no problem.

Jason Gearld: You know what man, and that's what was so funny, I had so many people like, who would be like, “Dude, I'm like riding on bars, they're bent.” And I'm like, “Thanks. You're proving my point. You’re adapted.”

It doesn't mean that, like I said, we ever set out to just make a like who cares bend. It was like, no, no, no. It was like I knew what sold, I knew what sold well. Obviously, I had that knowledge. So, that was kind of the whole like try to come in and get something that was going to satisfy most people and make it a lot simpler.

Hence the guy that helped me come up with — when we came off the tagline, SimplyMoto. I think like one of the things that ends up being our detriment is because we've made it so simple, that I think like you also come off like not looking like a technical brand, like where that stuff didn't matter.

That's the part where, like you said, we're up against some big names, we're up against 40 years’ worth of world championships and people asking for their bar by name and trying to build that trust is awfully hard.

But again, it's been a solid five years and we're still plugging along quite nicely. So, I think we could say there's a nice tipping point that's probably only 10 to 15, maybe even 20 years away.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, no doubt you're on your way and I think you've got a good team there. I'd like you to maybe talk about, you got Miles, is it Shugg? Is that how you pronounce Miles’ name?

Jason Gearld: Shugg. Yeah, Miles.

Dave Sulecki: And Kyle James is Rider Support, so he's kind of … it's putting that message out to the market for you. Right?

Jason Gearld: Dude, I'm glad that you like brought him up because for so long it was, you're a one dude operation and my wife looked like she had marbles in her eyes when I would be talking to her about handlebars. You're just clamoring onto anybody that wants to listen.

And when I had brought on Miles, it's like he's a moto head. He was relatively new to the industry, but that's what's so exciting. And part of the reason why with my motorcycle industry jobs, like part of my life, that's one of the things that I was trying to look at, was like, could I be able to give somebody that ability to live this like little dream with me.

And Dale knows, it's like, I live a dream life. It's like I know that I do because again, it's just, I always kind of jokingly say I'm just that kid from Indiana that never would've thought that it was going to like go like this. And I know I'm really lucky.

I rode trail riding with Gary Jones on Saturday and then afterwards sat there with like Rex Staten, Rick Dowdy and Ty Davis just BS-ing like with a barbecue like lunch. It was pretty amazing.

Dale Spangler: Yeah, you're right in that perfect spot too, where I think I saw where you went to the Red Bull Straight Rhythm and you were able to go to the San Diego Supercross and Anaheims. And you're just right in the middle of it to where you're able to be absorbed in that, like you said, you're living it every day, like you're just living moto, living in the moto life.

Jason Gearld: Yeah. And when Miles came on, it's like he just became like such a sounding word. He's based out of Arizona and we spent a lot of time on the phone and always just trying to like uncover like how do you bring that awareness and build that trust?

And then one thing led to another, like on a way to a Glen Helen ride and I had this sort of super fan customer and Kyle James who bought multiple sets of bars, paid retail, raced flat track and I decided to like reach out to him and ask him if like he'd be interested in doing some of the Rider Support and you could hear the excitement through the phone.

And he's based out of Memphis and races flat track but grew up racing moto and it's just like, they're just so passionate like with me and that's one of the things that I'm ... it was always important on my side. I think everybody knows I wear a lot of my passion on my sleeve and I wanted people to be a part of this brand that like shared that. And I got super-duper lucky with those two.

Dale Spangler: We'll get back to the conversation in one moment, but first here's a word from our sponsor.

So, what I'm curious to know is like, as this continues to grow, obviously now you have employees, went from the one-man show. What are your ultimate goals with these more long-term goals? Do you think it's something to where you want to look for like a distributor to eventually pick up the brand or is it just going to maybe sell it to another brand? Or is it just keep doing what you're doing for as long as you can?

Jason Gearld: When I named it and called it Phoenix Handlebars, my idea was I wanted to be on that control group. So, there's so much room still to grow, like in the handlebar world, all the controls. When you look at it, we have a pretty basic offering like still today and if you saw my visual line list, it's like no, we got a lot of ways to go.

The e-bike market being so strong, it's like going to be nice to have a mountain bike bar like come down the pipeline at some point, once the budget allows. Lot of room for growth and grips and levers and hand guards and all that stuff.

So, when I always close my eyes, I see it being a brand that just is everything to the control segment. Obviously like thought track, adventure bike bars, all that stuff would be super exciting.

Thinking about like the future of distribution, like obviously we both have worked in this industry for a long time and you may or may not be familiar with some of the distributors there, Dale.

Dale Spangler: Couple of them.

Jason Gearld: I don't think they want any part of me like today anyways, but I don't know that I want any part of that either. It's like being able to control your own message and what's the future for retail.

I always want to be supportive of our dealer channel. I always want to. I just want dealers to also be supportive of themselves and sometimes I don't see that. It's like part of the thing like trying to create — I've got a cool display downstairs and this piece that we made, so that, like as the bars are like sitting in a dealership.

And even if there's not a passionate Jason Gearld behind that parts counter that's going to come out and help a customer, I want the customer to be able to like figure out what bars they need sitting there in front of the bar display.

Because like that's still that challenge, when I was coming up with the one question, I couldn't answer for anybody still easily was, well this is awesome, what bars do you think I need?

And it wasn't until we kind of came up with that quiz, that at least I felt like that helped kind of get people to think about the questions, because just if you're a Motocrosser or you're a dual sport rider, you're going to have completely different needs. Whether you're 6’1 or 5’6 and you're one of those, but with different segment of riding, genre, it's like you're going to have completely different needs.

And so, the quiz kind of helped, at least I think like get people to think about that and it's not like it's perfect, but I feel like it's a little guiding force.

And so, kind of when it came up with the display piece was a little QR code that allowed people to maybe be able to quickly hop on and take that quiz and what's it take, like 15/20 seconds and be able to get that answer while sitting in front of the display at the dealership and hopefully make their own choice without needing to go grab somebody from parts.

Dale Spangler: Yeah, love it. Work smarter, not harder. Just make it easier where it's turnkey, someone walks into a dealership. We all have been there, we walk into a dealership and it's like a ghost town sometimes where it's like, does anybody work here?

Unfortunately, that's still how it is sometimes in a lot of dealers. You end up walking around and kind of helping yourself. And so, to be able to have something like that, point of purchase displays seems like it'd be pretty helpful.

And then that translates to your website because it seems like everything is really easy there as well. I think your brand, to me, just is summed up really well in this little quote I think that you came up with, “Our passion is growing this sport we love so much, keep it fun and keep on moto’ing.”

I just feel like that just embodies your brand. I don't know, seems like you're doing well with it.

Jason Gearld: Thanks.

Dale Spangler: I definitely hope to see you keep going and growing this thing, man. I love seeing the underdog coming up and doing well against these bigger, bigger brands.

Jason Gearld: I appreciate. I was at a Motocross Action ride day the other day and Johnny Jump from ODI, was over there and we were talking and there's no animosity to me with like any of those brands, we're — again, I always say this with everybody, with what I do with MIJ and Phoenix … we're still a small, fragile industry.

I see it all the time. Thankfully with the things that I get to see with MIJ, it gives me a lot of insight. I never try to badmouth anybody because it's like, man, we're all just kind of fighting for the scraps of people's disposable income and I just need everybody to be strong.

I hope that like I'm here for years to come with this brand. I do try to say we like to grow the industry, but really by and large, I just don't want anybody to leave. And not only do you lose that one person who went to the track, most likely it meant that their buddies didn't go to the track either. So, that track just lost upwards of not just $25 entry, but maybe 50 or 75. I don't want that to happen. I'm not good at golf and I don't want to play golf.

Dale Spangler: Me either. So, let's talk a little bit more about your other half of your — I don't know if it's half, but like of your typical day with Motorcycle Industry Jobs and the job market in general.

Like what's your kind of take on the outlook of the job market at the moment in Powersports? Because it seems like I'm seeing your posts daily on LinkedIn and other places where it seems like there's a lot of companies looking for people out there. So, if there's listeners out there that want to get into the Powersports industries, now, it could be a good time.

Jason Gearld: It's in a great time. There's so much stuff that's getting posted. The other day there's a Kawasaki Team Green Technician job. We grew up in a period where/one that nothing like MIJ existed. Alex Baylon, who started this almost nearly 20 years ago, even back then, probably didn't need to ever post a job like a Team Green Technician.

But nowadays, techs are hard to find. And even Kawasaki's like putting the fillers out there with — and we love seeing it because obviously those are super fun and exciting jobs to get on our website. Because they bring eyeballs over to see all the other stuff, the bread and butter of our MIJ business are the dealers.

There's upwards of, I think like close to 10,000 dealers in the U.S. and most of them are looking, unfortunately most of them are looking for service techs, which again, are very hard to find like right now, which I'm always trying to guide them along, give them advice, telling them, it's like, “Hey, look, unfortunately most of the techs aren't sitting at home on their couch watching Ellen. They're probably employed.”

So, we have to work. On their side, they have to be a little bit like more clever about how they write job descriptions. I always encourage people to like, could you please put like a salary range in there? They don't and then the thing is, is that effort that's put in there just always bumps me out because I'm like, “It's going to be hard.”

And I don't like those things that reflect bad on MIJ, that if you don't find somebody that you didn't do your part and it's like well, we did. Again, I can't magically make people show up in that regard.

So, it's like we try to really like help them along and show them like ways to be able to make it more enticing. But yeah, as a whole, the industry's not in a bad place. It's not an amazing place.

Obviously, everybody went hog wild during the COVID period and it's like you couldn't get inventory fast enough and we needed more people and people were allowed to work from home and now things have like settled back down. But there's still a ton of like great remote positions that keep popping up and-

Dale Spangler: Yes, please.

Jason Gearld: Just good jobs, like all in all. I get surprised every day at like some of the cool stuff that I see go up. For those that like want to work in this industry, there's a lot of good stuff out there for you.

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, we've often talked about that subject, about the COVID bubble and when is it going to burst, but it seems like it's still steaming along. Maybe not like you said as much, but it's still going.

But I want to ask you, as the industry as a whole is based in that entrepreneurial spirit and your company is a good example of that, people who just came up with an idea and ran with it.

Do you see that kind of evolving in your hiring practices? Are you seeing less of the entrepreneurial type companies and more shifting towards these corporate entities that we've seen, roll into the Powersports world in the last four or five years? Do you see any kind of shift or change?

Jason Gearld: I'm going to be maybe a little negative. I don't like seeing like some of the companies that I loved so much, like no longer be family-owned. That always makes me sad.

The first 12 years of me working, I always say on this side of the counter was for Fox Racing. Obviously, I had an affinity for that brand. That's why I moved from Indiana to be a part of it. And for Greg and Pete and Scott for them to not be involved in it anymore, it just makes me sad.

It's like, obviously anybody who works over at Fox is still stoked, they get to work for a cool company. But for me, I was a part of that family environment and now what we're seeing with like WPS and with Craig Shoemaker leaving and other, but I'm not sure who. It's just like that stuff like is interesting.

It's cool that people like see like value in our industry, but then I like those little family-owned companies I think are super cool. I've got a lot of friends who like do the Gogo company and you look at somebody like me with like Phoenix Handlebars trying to be that entrepreneur type, but definitely see a lot of that stuff popping up.

But not so many like people hiring as much for it because I think they're like me where they're just trying to be scrappy about how they go about things. I don’t know that I answered your question properly there, Dave. Sorry.

Dave Sulecki: No, that's fine. It's just an observation type of a question because Dale and I have hit on this subject many times and we’ve both (I don't want to use the word victim), been involved with companies that have gone that direction and I've seen a shift in the mindset of ownership and leadership in those companies change.

And I'm kind of like you, I kind of pine for the more entrepreneurial type approach to our business, because that's what our industry seems to gravitate from versus the more corporate approach to how you do business.

They're both important. You got to make money and you got to do it responsibly. But it kind of sometimes sucks the fun out of it, for lack of a better term. And I don't know if you agree with that or don't agree with that, but that's my observation.

Jason Gearld: I started my own company. What do you think?

Dave Sulecki: Yeah, exactly. I'm kind of preaching to the choir and myself. I left that environment to work for a very similar situation. So, I went to a family-owned business that is very similar to what you're doing and it's a lot more grassroots and it's a lot better feeling when I walk in the office every morning and go to serve the industry.

Jason Gearld: Well, during the COVID period, at the very beginning, like when so many people were kind of looking to do something new and I got a lot of phone calls through the MIJ site or people finding my jobs like on LinkedIn, because I'm always posting them up there. And people would be like, “Hey, how do I get in the motorcycle industry?”

And again, I say you … because I'll say over and over I've lived a lifetime of dreams, you could do six podcast worth of my stories. But one of the things I was trying to tell people is that whole sort of talking them out of, it's like working like in something that you're passionate about, be careful, but at the same time I said, “I'm here to tell you how much I love it. So, I like to just kind of get that part out.”

It's like, well we're a small industry, we tend to not pay great, not bad. It's like say, don't ever compare it to like whatever you might be making, like in a comparable industry.

We have ambiguous job titles and we wear lots of hats and we kind of like tend to like fly by the seat of our pants and all that stuff. And if you can get like over all that and accept that, that's part of the charm of what we do, it's freaking awesome.

It's like, I used to like always point that out at like Fox. I'm like, “Dude, nothing to get that worked up about we're selling dirt pals, we're not curing cancer here folks.” It's like-

Dave Sulecki: Exactly. We're selling fun stuff and I'd sell everybody that, we're selling fun stuff. I always had this saying that it's the industry we love, but it doesn't love us back. And that's usually from a financial perspective. But definitely, we love what we do. We sell fun. Nobody needs what we sell, but we sure sell a lot of it anyway.

Jason Gearld: Yeah. I'm a I'm a rah-rah cheerleader for it, that's for sure. And I know that not everybody's going to get lucky enough to get to go do some of the cool things that I've done.

But I started off doing grunt work, worked in a motorcycle shop, like so many, which is part of the thing that I try to encourage people to do. If you want to get started in the industry, more when you're young and you don't have all the mortgages stuff to pay for.

But that's a great time to like just start working in a shop and hone your skills there. Get to know the like local sales reps and develop like those relationships and you never know. Next thing you know, it's like that rep moves on and you fall into that role from a parts kid to a sales rep for whoever. One thing leads to another and you like move up to regional then sales manager.

Mine didn't quite work out like that, but I mean it was a little bit, it was just a parts kid who moved to California to become an inside sales rep at Fox and tried to do good work.

One thing led to another, they brought me upstairs, they'd be a product developer. Didn't even know what a product developer did, which I guess it shows how dumb those guys were to have dragged me up there, so-

But it was a dream. Now I get to go see like what happened on the other side of the curtain at the Wizard of Oz scene, and you got all those things shaped me to be where I get to be today, talking to you guys.

Dale Spangler: I have this theory because all of us, Dave's from the Midwest too, like we both grew up in the same area, but with all of us being from the Midwest, I have this kind of like this theory that the Midwest mentality is you kind of let your actions speak louder than your words. You're kind of more humble.

Like I think of like racers like Jeff Stanton and Mike LaRocco and Ryan Dungey. Like they're not like super shiny, like out there in the public eyes much, but they performed on the track.

And so, I kind of look at you Jason, I'm like you kind of seemed like you're came from that same mold. You're humble down to earth guy, but you're doing good things for the sport.

So, what are your thoughts on that though? Have you kind of ever thought about that sort of Midwest mentality that we all have, that we're sort of more quiet and humble but let our actions speak on the track or?

Jason Gearld: Giving me compliments like that makes me think that I like owe you 20 bucks or something like when we get off here, that I'm supposed to Venmo you for saying such nice things.

Dale Spangler: I think you do actually.

Dave Sulecki: This isn’t a pay program, is it? Wait a minute.

Jason Gearld: It's funny you say it, because I always feel like I'm always — because I'd have so many of these darn stories, that I tell my friends and stuff that I always feel like I … my wife even points it out that it's like that I'm bragging. Like I always say like, “Hey, I'm not trying to brag.” She goes, I don't think anybody takes it at you're bragging.

And I'm like, no, my stories are more because I'm like, they're little pinch me moments for me that, if I've gotten lucky enough and went out to Ricky Carmichael's house when we were testing the Fox Instinct Boot. And I'll tell these stories of just all the little like things that I've gotten to do and yeah.

So, I think when I'm always telling them it's me just going, “Hey, I could have real easily just been working, like clamoring to get off the third shift at the Walmart distribution center, in Greencastle, Indiana. That could have been my path.”

I wasn't exactly college material. I did go to Purdue briefly; it wasn't for me and I ended up in a shop and working for shops and I guess it was a lot of it like treating people good.

So, it's part of the thing, like what I do with on the MIJ side of things, is always thinking it's like there is some Jason Gearld that's out there that would like give like eight quarts of blood to like be like sitting in the chair that I sit in and get to do the things that I do.

Dale Spangler: Well, keep up the good work on both sides, on MIJ and with Phoenix Handlebars. And like as we wrap this up, I wanted to give you some time to kind of point out where people can go find your MIJ and Phoenix Handlebars. But I also understand that didn't MIJ also just launch a separate v twin job site that's catered towards Harley type jobs?

Jason Gearld: Sure did, man. Thanks for bringing that up. Yeah, so during the summer we brought harleyjobs.com to just be V-Twin centric, as like the Harley stores have a lot more employees.

It's not that we don't want them to live like on the MIJ site, actually they'll continue to, but it just kind of was like in terms of being able to do some like different marketing, get other people involved, people like Jeff Holt from V-Twin Visionary, these people who will have a good audience and able to help out that segment.

It's still getting ramped up. But it's doing awesome. We don't market to like get more employers. That sort of happens naturally. All of our marketing dollars are generally spent like trying to do SEO, like in advertising, anything to get in front of more job seekers.

That's why doing a show like this is so helpful. It's like if people discover it and tell their friends, it's like, “Wow, did you know about this? Check out these cool jobs.” And so, on Motorcycle Industry Jobs, we have a really simple website, motorcycleindustryjobs.com.

It's always free to put a resume up there, even if you have a job, it's like, just put that you're not looking in your profile, but it's a good thing to keep an eye on. It's free to do so. And then Phoenix Handlebars also a simple website, phoenixhandlebars.com.

[Music playing]

Dale Spangler: Awesome. Well, keep up the good work Jason and really appreciate your time today and again, listeners out there for looking to get into the Powersports industry, definitely check out Motorcycle Industry Jobs and the new Harley Jobs. So yeah, check those out. And Jason, really appreciate your time today and all the best with everything going forward.

Jason Gearld: Thanks guys.

[Music playing]

Dave Sulecki: If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to follow Pit Pass Moto on your favorite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. If you have a moment, please rate and review our show. We'd really appreciate it.

You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and visit pitpassmoto.com, where you can check out our blog, listen to past episodes and purchase your own Pit Pass Moto swag.

Dale Spangler: This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson and the production team at Wessler Media. I'm Dale Spangler.

Dave Sulecki: And I'm Dave Sulecki. See you next week on Pit Pass Moto.

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The Team

Dave Sulecki

Host
Dave Sulecki is a 37 year industry veteran, and a lifetime motorcycle rider, racer, builder, restorer, and enthusiast.

Dale Spangler

Host
Dale Spangler is a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, former racer, and powersports industry marketing specialist, writer, and content creator.

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