Excalibur Motorcycle Works Provides Exceptional Service
By Scott A. Sumner
Larry Lage is the owner of Excalibur Motorcycle Works and enjoys his job. "I love the business and I look forward to coming to work each morning. I like dealing with people one on one and helping them with their needs, putting them in to the right product." smiles the 44 year old Larry Lage. Lage was born in Jellicoe and went to high school in Geraldton. He bought his first bike at 14, a Suzuki TS18. "I spent years in the trucking industry and moved all over the place until in 1988 I moved back to Thunder Bay. A friend of mine bought a shop and I helped him out working with him. We started Excalibur in 1990, a time when the motorcycle business was basically in the toilet, nothing was happening," notes Lage.
The company started from their current location at 316 South May Street in Thunder Bay. "The Downtown Southward is a wonderful place to have a business. It's like a little community here. We started in motorcycle parts. The idea of buying new motorcycles wasn't that common then. In the mid 80's the industry crashed and there was a lot of product around. In 1990 you could buy a brand new 1985 at a good deal," states Lage. "We started really small and just plugged away. Now there are 12 to 14 staff at the peak of summer. My first strategy was to sell parts. You can sell a unit but even through it is a big item it has a small margin. There is big risk and low return." In the showroom at Excalibur during my visit was a Kawasaki Nija GX10R, a 1000cc 175 HP machine that weighs 370 pounds and costs about $14,200. In 1998 Excalibur became a Kawasaki dealer.
"Kawasaki came to us after turning us down once to be their dealer and we said sure if we could do it our way in a loose relationship with give and take. If it was too corporate I couldnt do it. We sell lots of bikes with a bigger market share than this brand usually has in a city. It is all dealer based in Thunder Bay," notes Lage.
" Everybody who works here rides a lot, almost every weekend, in different forms like motocross or street. We also got into the ATV business which is huge. Snowmobiling has gotten smaller and ATV bigger."
Excalibur got involved in snowmobiling in 1993 with parts and accessories, clothing and helmets.They carry the lines from Coldwave, Scott, FXR, Trukk, Altimate Boots, CKX, HJC and Arctiva. "We now have more high end clothing. Any low end jacket can keep you warm but that's not the issue. It's when you are working and sweating that the newer ventilation and more breathable materials come into play and work better. That's what we focus on," states Lage. "The newer sleds lend themselves to that with rider forward and stand up riding styles. You use your body more and sweat. There also has been a trend to a motorcross helmet with a no fog mask and good googles as you can move a lot of air in and out of the helmet. Full face helmets are fine and they have better breathing apparatus. You can spend $800 to 900 on a helmet if you want."
"When some people come in they might say we just want a cheap helmet. We ask them why and they arent sure sometimes. We have helmet from $59 on up. Then we will show you a helmets for $159 and it might have the features you want. I can place 5 helmets all in black in a row facing the same direction. If we didnt tell you what was what you wouldn't know," smiles Lage. "We have a hands on approach to make sure you are fitted right. One thing I can tell you is from the time I've spend in the business is almost everybodies helmet is too loose. The customers will come and they are aiming for a comfort fit. The helmet will loosen up to one full size. Safety is the biggest concern. A customer will come in with an older helmet and want to buy a visor. The thing may be 3 sizes too loose. That is a dangerous situation and you can hit the inside of the helmet. We are really concerned with safety."
Does Larry Lage think snowmobiling will expand. "I think snowmobiling has a great future. We do need some doors opened for us. I think the trail club is doing a good job negotiating with the governments. The trail for next year will head towards the border. That is the biggest thing we need to have happen. We have 3 or 4 million people with 300 hundred miles of us and we need to make it easy for people to come here - make it fun and appealing for people to come here," says Lage. "The club has also got to get the trail back through the city. It has to happen. The fact that any one would oppose this given the economic climate in the city right now is ridiculous."
"I'm not a big believer in some government agency stepping in and helping in free enterprise. I'm not looking for assistance. What I'm looking for is less resistance to ideas and the business people. Less Resistance. We don't need government to step in. Just back off, open the door and let us do things." Lage is trying to get some motorcycle racing going in Thunder Bay again. "For example the race at Innova park has been cancelled. There was a noise concern. Motorcycle racing is done on Sunday in the mid day so noise isn't a factor." states Lage. There will be a track next year with in 20 minutes of town. Every time we suggest an area all we meet is resistance. I'd like the powers to be to try how it works out give it a try. We'll make it happen. It would be good for our economy."