Not your average parts maker…
It is remarkable to think that the boom in European custom motorcycle parts manufacturing, and the phenomenal growth in Harley sales that fuelled it, is already 20 years behind us.
In truth, it was a phenomenon that had started in the mid 1980s and was associated closely with the then burgeoning European-style and streetfighter style scenes.
With the honorable exception of Swedish style long-fork choppers and the British taste for featherbed frames and BSA and Triumph engines, the custom scene in Europe had been largely dominated by either concourse/heritage style restorations or imitative west coast low-rider styling up to that point.
European designers had so far struggled to find their own voice where custom v-twins were concerned, and there was next to no demand for locally made volume parts with customizers eager to display their credentials by consuming American made or sourced product.
Distributors such as Custom Chrome, Midwest, Gary Bang and Jammer, and manufacturers such as Arlen Ness, PM, Paughco, V-Twin and S&S were among the first to benefit - along with the growing number of domestic European distributors (Zodiac, W&W, Tom’s et al) as the market started to grow and evolve.
By the early 1990s streetfighter styling had started to migrate into Europe's custom Harley market, especially in Germany (and the UK), and when the fat rear-end boom combined streetfighter styling with the west-coast low rider vibe, demand was created for European made off-the-shelf parts that met the specific tastes of the emerging “Euro-Style” – a demand also fuelled by the back then largely unrestricted export of used and late model Harleys to customize in shops in a Europe in which Harley’s own distribution and dealer network was at a positively juvenile stage.
Indeed, we are talking about an era in which Harley’s total production had bottomed out at around 36,000 bikes a year in the mid-eighties, with promises by the Motor Company to get to 100,000 units a year by the mid-nineties widely regarded as optimistic.
By the mid-1990s many of the European parts businesses that had started in the prior decade were growing as quickly as the market, and one such v-twin specialist was RST in Germany – owned and operated by founders Roland and Elke Stocker.
When they decided to sell their company to pursue other motorcycling interests, it was acquired (in 2000) by present owner Michael Zupritt – another pioneer of European custom parts design and manufacturing whose principal focus up to that time had been in the so-called ‘metric’ parts market.
His MIZU operation (taken from his name MIchael ZUpritt) had also started in the 1980s, focussed primarily on street bike and Supermoto parts – another sector that, when he got in to it, was a shadow of the market it was to become.
Zupritt was also an early adopter and pioneer in what became known, a decade later, as the "Stunting" market. He and his MIZU business played a key role in the early stages of the evolution of the Supermotard parts and styling industry - today's Enduro and Adventure tour markets are the progeny of the work done by pioneers such as Zupritt and others in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.
The match between MIZU and RST Performance Parts (as the Harley aftermarket and custom v-twin side of the business became known) was perfect. The two complemented each other well, with MIZU bringing the next stage of investment and manufacturing processes to a product range which he was able to refine and bring substantial development to.
MIZU is itself a remarkable business. Its operations are “diverse” to say the least - from authorized KTM and Suzuki dealerships to race teams, own brand products such as Holeshot exhausts, famous name third party exhaust and suspension distributorships, and a comeback for the legendary L&W exhausts brand; right through to a performance parts and engine business for the boat industry that the company was able to exploit on Lake Constance and elsewhere near its southern Germany headquarters.
That manufacturing experience and capital base has allowed Michael Zupritt to take RST Performance’s product range forward to the point where they now offer one of the largest ranges of custom parts made by anyone, anywhere in Europe.
From brake calipers and rotors to suspension cartridges and complete front ends; from triple trees and risers to frames and swingarms; from controls and cables to lowering kits, pegs and grips.
The company received ISO accreditation around 10 years ago and designs, makes and tests all its products in-house (except for the Austrian made Sebring custom exhausts they sell), and that testing revolves around a multi-award winning custom bike design and building program that has been a custom-show staple in Europe for many years.
RST PERFORMANCE PARTS