The MudSling rear fender for the GS was not the first product of its type – Wunderlich made one that attached entirely with zip ties – but our design is a functional improvement because it fastens firmly to the frame with screws and is only supplemented with zip ties at the sides to triangulate the assembly. And, as is characteristic of every product we design, its function and appearance are equally considered. We were able to make the MudSling less expensively than the Germans, so sales took off.
A good idea too often tempts unscrupulous competitors and after a year of MudSling sales, a copycat version was introduced by Maier Manufacturing in Grass Valley, CA who sells it at a very low price. Instead of evolving their solution in an original way, they copied our fastening method, mounting surface geometry and even the exact shape of the depression for the ESA unit. It could have been done any number of different ways just to avoid the stigma of “copycat” but they didn’t even bother.
The reason Maier can sell it at less than half of our price is that they did not have to incur any design and development expenses and do not have to amortized them in the cost of their product. Our product cost reflects the weeks of development labor – mock-ups, CAD modeling, multiple prototypes and lots of trial and error. Machineart paved the trail – Maier rode it without paying a toll. To their advantage, because they have a huge line of thermoformed motorcycle and ATV parts for which they are purchasing the same sheet material, their material and tooling cost is low. Despite those advantages, the parts are poorly trimmed and look as inexpensive as they are. There is a market at the low end, apparently even for BMW customers. It reminds me of a description posted on ADV Rider by a GS guy explaining proudly how he fashioned a splash protector out of a gallon milk jug spending nothing at all.
MudSlings sell well, despite their higher price and seeing the knock-off and the MudSling side-by-side reveals the difference in quality. This is important to relate so that customers know that the products they perceive to be beneficial and want to buy are so because innovative companies have invested in identifying needs and taken an original design approach to fill them. The benefit derived from that investment is reflected in a fair price set for the item.
A case in point is the newly introduced MudSling-AVANT front fender extension for the R1200GS and F800/650GS. We designed the Avants to install without having to drill the front fender, something many riders are averse to doing, especially on a new bike. We identified easy installation without the anxiety of surgery that could go awry as a need that drove the design solution. Instead of bringing out a drill, our solution only requires a Torx driver. Existing fender extensions provide additional length but all taper toward the bottom negating some of the benefit because they become narrower than the tire. We made the AVANT wide at its bottom – wider than the tire – to increase the splash back surface area. To visually compensate for the width, we added flared- back winglets to the outer edges that decrease the impression of width. The shape not only provides a functional benefit, but results in a characteristic brand appearance. The MudSling-AVANTs cost more than the other extensions out there that require drilling because they reflect the effort put into improving the product type. Both design and utility patents are applied for.