We are a direct Pacific Rim importer and a licensed off road vehicle dealer in the state of Washington.
Our motorcycles, parts and engines are made by precision tooled Chinese manufactures. Many sellers claim to be selling Lifan branded merchandise and unscrupulous sellers compare their products on appearance. Please beware.
You are considering buying a product from Hooper Imports LLC. You probably have noticed that the classics bikes are very expensive. You wish to purchase a motorcycle for utility, not as a collector, and would like to ride this bike up the trails fishing or around the RV Park. Maybe you just want to introduce your kids to the same fun that you had putting around the trails. This was the thinking that I had, but wasn’t willing to pay $2000 or more for a classic. However, around $1000 would be acceptable.
It is this simple thought process that started me down the trail of becoming the premier motorcycle importer, Hooper Imports LLC. The next few paragraphs will bring you through most of the thoughts, questions and answers that has led me to invest $1,000,000.00 inventory.
In fall 2001 I purchased a 1969 Honda Z50 hardtail for $650. It was just like the one I had while attending junior high. It took more time and another $200 getting the bike to be functionally sound. Now my son had a bike that he could ride, so I thought. There was only one problem, he didn't want to risk crashing and ruining a classic Honda so he wouldn't ride it. I went to plan "B" and purchased another Honda 50 from eBay that my son could ride without worry. This time it was a 79 Honda Z50R. It was in rough shape but it was listed a runner so I purchased it for $325. The previous owner assured me that it ran well, all that it needed was a new throttle assembly and it was ready to run. After receiving the bike it wouldn't start so the carburetor was rebuilt and a throttle assembly was purchased for about a $100 from the local Honda dealer. It was hard to believe that this simple throttle grip and cable should cost this much. This is when it was decided to find a less expensive alternative to the affordable Z50 dilemma. Since retiring as a Buyer for a large national chain and a ten year stint as a manufacture's representative for several companies that imported goods from Asia, I suspected that there was a better alternative.
Knowing that motorcycles are the number one source of motorized transportation in China and its' cheap labor is why this country was chosen over Taiwan and Vietnam. After searching the country, several manufacturers of motorcycle engines were discovered. The theory was that if a high quality power plant was used on Hooper Import's bikes, there would be little or no chance of expensive problems arising once the bikes arrive in the USA. The Lifan Company was chosen. It is an ISO 9001 certified company that manufactures over one million units per year. ISO 9001 means that all of the engines are made under strict quality control monitored and certified by the International Standards Organization. This is a big deal because many of the parts of an internal combustion engine cannot be evaluated by eye. The tolerances and metallurgy are of utmost importance and must be consistent with all manufacturing thus needing an ISO 9001 certification.
Logistics is always been a concern when dealing with an overseas product. Will parts be readily available? Answering this question confirmed that we had a winning combination. Many of the Lifan engine parts are interchangeable with its' Japanese cousin. It was a concern that these engines were being pirated. The factory informed me that the engines that they manufacture are made without any copyright or patent infringement. The engines were cloned from the classic design that was implemented in the late 1960's. Patents have expired since more than 30 years has past. Lifan engines still shift in the classic pattern three or four down. The only change that Lifan has implemented is the CDI or capacitive discharge ignition eliminating points and condensers. The physical change to the engine is a different stator coupled with a wider flywheel. The right side cover has been enlarged a few centimeters to accommodate the flywheel. This did not change the bolt pattern of the engine. This engine bolted into the 79 Honda Z50R mentioned earlier. The original pegs and muffler bolted on without any modification. All of Hooper Imports' Lifan engines are guaranteed to be free of manufacturer’s defects. Parts are available from Hooper Imports and stock all parts that are cosmetic or are easily damaged like the threads on the oil filler plug and plastic fenders.
After securing the most dependable engines that China has to offer we worked with two separate factories to assemble our goods. We started with four models; the Cub, Pitbull, Badger and Trail Ryder. The parts for these motorcycles are made by large producers of motorcycle parts. Hooper Imports maintains parts diagrams and list online to assist their customers after the sale.
These bikes are imported in accordance to United States Customs, Department of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency rules. These motorcycles are imported for off-road use only unless specifically stated. Hooper Imports is a Washington State Licensed Off-Road dealer. We provide all customers an invoice and Manufacturers Statement of Origin (MSO) that can be submitted to the Department of Licensing of the purchaser's appropriate state for a title in most states. This is mailed separately after receipt of disclaimer. Hooper Imports LLC may be contacted via email at anytime or telephone from Pacific Time.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Minibike replica importer gets off to roaring start
The older the boys, the better the toys. For proof of this developmental principle, one need look no further than a drab industrial building in Redmond.
There, entrepreneur Larry Hooper, 44, stockpiles Chinese-made versions of the tiny but powerful Classic minibikes he loved as a child. Dealer Erik Moseid, 49, greets local customers who gleefully tear around the parking lot on the blue, red and silver four-stroke bikes.
||Phil H. Webber / P-I|
||Erik Moseid, owner of Fun-Bikes.com, assembles a minibike at Hooper Imports in Redmond. Larry Hooper began bringing the bikes in from China after he and Moseid talked about how expensive similar small Classics are.|
Like Hooper and Moseid, many of those grinning riders are adults -- though the two Redmond neighbors swear they got the idea to commission the bikes a few years ago only because they couldn't find real Classics for their kids.
A mint-condition ClassicTrail 50, like the one Hooper remembers buying for $50 growing up in the Midwest, now sells for $2,500, he said. Cheaper ones are too old to repair economically.
"We got to chatting at one of our kids' football games about how outrageous the prices were. I told Larry, 'If you can bring 'em in, I'll sell 'em,' " recalled Moseid, whose Fun-Bikes.com is the exclusive Washington dealer for bikes designed and imported by Hooper Imports LLC (www.hooperimports.com/).
Larry Hooper started that company in 2000 with his brother Mark, a general contractor. He had plenty of money to finance his notion, having retired after a short career in sales that featured imaginative ideas like selling heavy athletic jackets in Honolulu.
"The manufacturer said I was nuts, but it was a young man's fashion, what every gangbanger had to be wearing, and I knew every kid of Japanese and Australian tourists who came through would have to have one," he recalled. "I sold $1 million worth."
Pursuing his minibike dream, Hooper did extensive Internet research and found a Chinese factory called Lifan that was willing to turn out bikes to his design.
"There was no information. It was all a leap of faith," he said. But it worked.
OK, the first one arrived bearing the name "Yiper" rather than the requested nameplate "Viper." But "the quality was there -- it just has to be the American business that's managing it, to be sure they're making it to the specs," he said.
||Phil H. Webber / P-I|
||Larry Hooper was sure that importing minibikes would succeed. "The market for little motorcycles is hot," he said. "If they see it, they buy it."|
Since April, Hooper has imported six cargo containers of bikes, in about a half-dozen models. Among them are faithful copies of the claasic popular dirt bikes.
Some of the classic models aren't made any more. Some are, but they cost roughly twice as much as Hooper's imports.
His line, at Moseid's retail prices, includes:
- The Cub, an $849, 50cc, three-speed automatic with no lights or mirrors, modeled after the classic discontinued 50.
- The PitBull, a $949, 50cc, three-speed street-licensable automatic with lights and mirrors, replicating the classic diminutive, discontinued 50.
- The Badger, a $999, 70cc, 3-speed automatic replicating the larger classic 70, which is still in production. It's also available with a four-speed manual transmission (also $999). There's a 90cc model with a four-speed manual and a 90cc model with a three-speed automatic (both $1,149).
They're intended for off-road use only, though some can be licensed, for riding in campgrounds and on Forest Service roads.
The first 40 bikes, Hooper sold out of his garage within a month with a single classified ad. Through eBay, he has recruited seven dealers, each of whom gets exclusive rights to sales in one state.
Moseid's territory is Washington, and he said he's sold "several hundred" since opening for business in April. To save money, he doesn't have a showroom, displaying bikes at fairs and shows, even at roadside fruit stands. A laid-off computer network engineer, Moseid said his new full-time job "is a lot more fun than explaining why a virus has wiped out their entire system."
It's also lucrative. Selling 500 bikes a week, a goal Hooper thinks is realistic, would yield at least $50,000 per week directly to him, and an equal amount to be split among the salespeople. Hooper owns all the inventory -- about $600,000 worth at retail -- which he said can be "logistically difficult." But he's not worried.
"The market for little motorcycles is hot," he said. "If they see it, they buy it."
The competition includes at least a half-dozen other importers of replicas of Chinese bikes. Hooper said he has far more inventory than them and uses higher-quality engines.
The competition also includes Honda itself, of course.
"On one hand, it's flattering that they'd go off Honda's success," said Scott McMillan, manager of Lynnwood's Cycle Barn. "My fear is that somebody will think it is really a Honda. They (Hooper's bikes) will not have continued operational success like Hondas do."
Hooper said the bikes don't infringe on Honda's intellectual property because the Japanese company's patents, at more than 30 years old, are outdated. He's also careful not to identify his bikes with the Honda brand.
Some might worry that putting 4-year-olds on dirt bikes -- yes, that's widely done, the men said -- is irresponsible. Not in their view.
Their arguments: It's a good way to learn balance, it teaches principles of internal combustion engines, and it's safer than skateboards and Razor scooters because safety gear is commonly used. And it's "perfect family fun," Moseid said.
"It's hard to get kids excited about going on a hike with their parents, and with video games, they're in their own little world," he said. "But if you get a couple of motorcycles, the kids are excited about it."
Four-year-olds need a little help starting the bikes, he conceded. But "at 5, they're riding on their own and racing. All the kids who are 10 and really good racers started at that age."
But again, the older boys -- and their wives -- also want the toys.
Pat and Larry Shrout of Renton, both 66 and retired, each bought one from Moseid last week to carry in their RV and aboard their 34-foot trawler.
"We've been riding them around in the back yard, and they're very fun," Pat said.
P-I reporter Dan Richman can be reached through the Seattlepi.com