Sundance Motorcycles focuses on helping customers get the most

June 20, 2004|TIM WISEMAN

Merle Wilcher had been riding motorcycles for three years when he got his first ticket - because he was still too young.

Wilcher was 15 and riding a Cushman Scooter when the police pulled him over, but that didn't keep from riding for long. Pulling pranks and having stories like that earned him the nickname "Sundance," as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

"That's a long story," Wilcher said of the nickname. "Nobody's called me that in a while - I'm not getting into trouble."

Last fall, Wilcher took a different kind of risk by opening his own business, Sundance Motorcycles.

Wilcher had no experience in the motorcycle business, so he turned to his friend Wayne Phillips, who had a Harley-Davidson dealership with his father in Danville in the late 1980s. It was there that Phillips and Wilcher met, when Phillips built a motorcycle for Wilcher's son Marshall.


"I'd been riding all my life, and I knew Wayne wanted to get back in the business, so I went ahead and just did it," Wilcher said.

Wilcher's whole family helped make Sundance Motorcycles a reality. His son Marshall joined the shop as a mechanic, and his wife, Karen, spent hours helping with advertising. Phillips' wife, Judy, also got into the act.

"It's been a total team effort," Wilcher said.

In the years since they started riding, Wilcher and Phillips have seen changes in the people that buy and ride motorcycles.

"You still have that outlaw element or whatever you want to call it, but the prices are so high now, you see doctors, lawyers, preachers, you know, professional and middle-aged people buying motorcycles," Wilcher said. "Bikers are accepted a lot more now."

Phillips agreed that motorcycles are a luxury item for some.

"Over the last 20 years, the clientele has changed drastically," Phillips said. "Now it's kind of status thing."

As the culture of the motorcycle has evolved, the trends in customers' taste have gone retro, Phillips said. People want older-style bikes known as choppers, called that because the motorcycles have been stripped down, or chopped, to be more streamlined.

These type of motorcycles let people choose their own styles, customizing everything from headlights to handlebars, and that's where Sundance Motorcycles comes in.

"People go out and buy a brand new bike, but they want to personalize. So they end up with a big pile of parts in their garage that no one wants," Phillips said. "We try to tell them we can build it just like they want - they can have exactly what they want right of the gate."

Recently, the shop finished rebuilding a motorcycle that had been left in barn for more than six years. The process took eight months and $16,000, and it is the kind of job which Phillips and Wilcher said sets Sundance apart.

"Some of these new shops won't work on the old things, because they just got into it and don't know anything about the older things," said Phillips, who is a certified Harley-Davidson mechanic and trained at the company's plant in Milwaukee, Wis.

"This is one of the few places in the area that will work on the older models," Wilcher said. "Danville has needed a place like this."

Wilcher and Phillips said they hope the shop will begin to build its own bikes in the near future, but in the meantime, the focus will be on helping area customers get the most out of their motorcycles.

The shop provides any type of repair or maintenance work, from oil changes to major projects. Also, Sundance sells motorcycle accessories and can special-order items for customers who want to customize their motorcycles.

"People are only limited by their imagination and their pocketbook," Phillips said. "We can design the bike to suit them - the sky's the limit."

Sundance Motorcycles is at 1115 Lebanon Road, Danville. Phone: 936-1570, fax 936-1572.

Central Kentucky News Articles