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1/8/2004

A woman’s touch

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

LYONS — Redhill Motorcycle Werx plans to unveil a women’s custom motorcycle at the end of January to capture the imagination of that growing segment of the motorcycle industry.

Scot and Mercedes Ross, the owners of Redhill, say 40 percent of motorcycle riders are women, and yet most custom motorcycle shops do not take into account that women would prefer a lighter, shorter machine. Women also complain that so-called hard-tail motorcycles, which allow the rider to feel every bump in the road, are too hard on women’s tailbones.

Designed by Mercedes, the new Redhill motorcycle is under wraps until its debut Jan. 31 at a Denver motorcycle show.

The motorcycle is shorter in stature and made almost entirely of aluminum, knocking off about 100 pounds from the weight of the vehicle, Scot said.

“You don’t see custom bikes built for women,” Mercedes said. “We’re bringing in the comfort part of it.”

The motorcycle also has a larger engine so the woman riding it can keep up with her husband. Women’s engines typically come smaller.

Mercedes, 42, and Scot, 44, hope this new custom motorcycle will help grow the custom part of their business.

Redhill does about $1 million a year in business, with only a small percentage of that revenue coming from custom-built bikes.

“I think we are well over the average (revenue) for this size shop,” Scot said.

The Rosses and their five employees build between three and four custom motorcycles a year and, according to Scot, would like to build that piece of the business up to between 12 and 15 annually.

At $26,000 to $52,000 a motorcycle, it would add significant revenue to an already burgeoning business.

Redhill has grown about 30 percent a year since its inception four years ago, Mercedes said. Even when the rest of the motorcycle industry was flat, Redhill continued to grow.

Part of that is the shop has become a destination for many hard-core riders from all across the country, she said.

The Rosses have been invited to show off their wares in Sturgis, S.D., where the most famous biker rally in the country takes place, and have attended other national motorcycle shows to get their name out.

The store also is strategically placed along the combined Colo. Highway 66 and U.S. Highway 36, which is the main route up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, both popular biker destinations.

Redhill, which is east of the Lyons town limits, has been successful because it offers more than just custom bike building, the couple said. It has a full-service shop, specializing in Harley-Davidson; a high-tech diagnostic center; a parts shop that includes parts fabrication; a paint shop and more than 1,000 square feet of retail space.

“Scot and I ride. We’re out there. We love to ride, and we apply what we’d want as riders to our shop,” she said.

As far as the couple’s five-year plan is concerned, “we’re right on schedule,” Mercedes said. Their first goal was to establish themselves in the local motorcycle market. Their next step is to gain more of a national reputation.

The Rosses started the shop after getting a wake-up call 10 years ago. Doctors found a cancerous tumor between Mercedes’ heart and lung, and she had to undergo months of chemotherapy and was told at the time it was terminal.

When her cancer went into remission, Scot decided life was too short not to follow his dream.

A former professional cyclist on the U.S. cycling team, Scot quit his job as a French bicycle manufacturer’s representative in the United States and got his certification as a Harley-Davidson mechanic.

He decided it was time to pursue his other two-wheeled passion: motorcycles.

He chopped his first bike — a bicycle, not a Harley — at age 10, Mercedes said, explaining that means raising the handlebars up high, elongating the front forks — which extends the front tire out — and lowering the bike’s frame.

Scot still rides a chopper, only now it’s a real one: a custom-built motorcycle he designed himself.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.