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.