Biker Audio is Now a Real Thing

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As many as 50-100 soundoff contests held this year will not involve cars, but they will feature motorcycles crammed with amplifiers, speakers and maybe a subwoofer in the saddle bags.

The rise in motorcycle soundoff contents is a sign of the growth in motorcycle audio as a whole, with motorcycle audio shops cropping up around the country, especially in the South.

Three or 4 motorcycle audio shops have opened in the last year in the Atlanta area alone, says Mike Hall of new competition organization, SLS Soundoffs, which has become a champion of the motorcycle soundoffs.

Hall says the contests started informally a few years ago, judged simply by crowds cheering for the system they liked.  Then he started using a Term-Lab Magnum meter with an RTA and mic to measure SPL at full range.   It caught on.

He’s held about 15 motorcycle events so far this year.  Also, Garage Bagger Stereo of SC, a leading motorcycle audio shop, has held about a half dozen shows in the past 3 or 4 months, it said.

An SLS motorcycle soundoff in Greenville, SC last month drew about 1,000 people with 20 bike contestants.

“Motorcycle audio is growing. Every year Victory, Indian, Harley is growing.  The audio has been a niche market and it’s really starting to come to where a customer may spend $30,000 a new motorcycle and then $20,000 on upgrades and another $5,000 on audio,” said Garage Bagger Stereo’s Chris Lowe.

“I’m 44.  My generation grew up when car audio was huge in their life.  Now they own a bike.  That’s how I got into it. I bought a bike and was very unhappy with my audio.  I started looking for a better alternative,” he said.

At soundoff contests, the bikes are typically “baggers” or the larger bikes with fairings, although SLS divides up contestants into street bike and bagger classes.  “I’ve seen bikes with as many as 30 speakers. Some get carried away but I’ve seen many really high end quality systems,” Hall said.

Garage Bagger’s Lowe started installing motorcycles part time out of his garage, while holding a job in sales and marketing.  Around 2014 he opened an 1,100 square foot motorcycle audio shop in Greer, SC and then moved again to a larger shop with 5,200 square feet in Taylor, SC.  He won’t let us print it, but his sales volume is enviable.

Lowe began promoting on Facebook and now customers ship their motorcycles to him from all over the country. Also, customers will ship their saddle bags and he cuts and wires them and tunes the amplifiers to the bike and then ships them back with a front end kit with plug and play harnesses for the particular bike.

Many of Garage Baggers’ installs run $4,000-$7,000 and it works on about a dozen bikes a month.  Its Facebook group (originally Harley Davidson Baggers Stereo and now All Bagger Audio) has 15,442 members.

Lowe’s specialty is pro audio installs with mid range drivers, horns and multiple amplifiers.  Suppliers include Hertz, Memphis, DD Audio, Diamond Audio and JL Audio.

His installs can start at about 80 watts a speaker and go up to 2,000 to 3,000 watt systems.

“People didn’t realize they could put sound on their bikes.   They are discovering it can be done and more people are looking for it and shops are catering to them,” he said.

Cartronix, IN said it plans to hold its first motorcycle soundoff next spring.

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Great article and very true. I started very much like Chris, installs on the side in a small garage. That was a little over a year ago, we just moved into our second building. Bike audio is what we do and it’s amazing how big the market is growing. The point about the good old days of car audio is so true, many of my customers were rocking big car systems back in the 90’s (myself included). This industry is a blessing and I’m beyond thankful I can do it for a living. Good things ahead for all of us!

  2. Bob, you have the absolute wrong attitude about the new 12 volt market. I’m guessing your business doesn’t actively seek this kind of business. (UTV’s, Motorcycles, golf carts, boats, etc.) Where as my business specializes in it. The biggest key to success in this market is that you need to realize… these are the people with expendable income! There are many people who will drop $5,000 on a stereo for a RZR but wouldn’t spend a penny on their daily driver. This business is about passion! A lot of people are passionate about wakeboarding, riding UTVs at the sand dunes, etc. But, they only see their car as transportation and have no desire to spend money on it… including the stereo. I’m a long time car audio “Sound Quality Competitor” and of course I love traditional car audio. But, I’m also a business man! Why should I tell someone where they can and can not put a stereo? You can sit around and wait for the “Good Ol Days” of car audio to come back… or you can innovative, be profitable, and be a leader of the new 12 volt market. My 2 cents. -Joe

    1. I agree with you 100% on the market. The article actually contains my shop info and who and what we do.

      All we do are bikes, very niche market and a passion. Is it loud and obnoxious yes, but only if you want it to be! Is it fun and creative and challenging and a pain in the rump, yes!

      But that’s any passion and anyone who loves what they do and loves to do it for other people and to support yourself doesn’t care.

      We’ve worked hard to get here and have no plans of walking away or leaving anytime soon. We are constantly working with other companies, testing brands and developing new things to keep it alive.

      I miss the old car audio days I grew up in, during HS and College, this for me is that all over again plus 1000! I share it with my kids, work with my family and work hard and enjoy every minute of it.

      We didn’t create this, we aren’t the original source for Bagger Audio, but I’ve worked hard, traveled far and continue to do so to give it a make and a face, so it can continue to grow and grow and grow.

      1. Some people can’t see past the end of their nose. You have to either adapt or die…..some people would rather remain a dinosaur!

    2. My business does very well in all categories (including boats, bikes, etc.) and will continue to do so. It is pretty hard to imagine a shop, which doesn’t cater to all categories, actually surviving in this day and age. We are not outdated by any stretch of the imagination and have embraced every new category that has ever popped up. We would never tell anyone what they can and cannot do. However, I loath myself more and more each and every day knowing I am making the world a shittier place. How can we as business owners, in all good conscious, say that destroying the outdoor experience for untold individuals, is acceptable, because recreational vehicle sound systems are the only current growth areas. Charles Manson was passionate about his craft, did that make his actions acceptable? My viewpoint, as stated before, was on the average customer and how our industry has changed to encourage idiotic behavior. These poor individuals are so desperate to get attention (I assume because they didn’t/don’t get it from any meaningful source) that they have to force themselves upon the world. Thankfully, (joking of course) we the trusty electronics shops are here to sell them shit to make the world shittier. Gone is a love of good music, ushered-in by energy drinking idiots ripping everywhere with loud machines/boats/bikes/whatever and even louder stereos who are just trying to out-do the next guy. This is one massive reason why many Wilderness/Riding areas have (or are reviewing) banning recreational vehicles altogether. The fact is that, we the manufacturers/dealers cater to adolescent (mostly male) behavior of all ages. While this is good for business (dumb males breaking shit and then pay over and over to fix) I think it is time to step out of our bubbles and see that there is a huge world out there that thinks us incredibly idiotic. Not-to-mention the vast majority of manufacturers are barely holding on. Catering to stupidity has never worked long-term and pushes many prospective life-long customers away. We are eating our own tails people. That is the reality.

  3. 3000 watt continuous on a bike? I would love to see a bike charging system keep up with that. Interesting category, like the Side X Side market, to further hit home human stupidity and lack of respect for other motorists/residents/actual outdoors/love of the road/periodic silence. I have owned a shop for over 16yrs, and as troubling as it is, the only growth areas seem to be where citizens become more of a nuisance and crave more attention, whether negative or positive. Our customers have never been more empty, superficial, disrespectful, dumbed-down, painfully uninformed/mislead (due to BS online knowledge), polarized,etc. These are indeed strange times that make many shop owners question the path they are on. Sorry about the rant…but this is the business owner reality. Praying for some change…

  4. Good news.
    Maybe not a huge opportunity for alotta retailers BUT certainly appears to do quite well for a number of folks.

    Thanks all !!!

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