A few of my H.O.G. buddies and I were recently hosted at the very first group tour of the Rinehart Racing motorcycle exhaust manufacturing facility in North Carolina and I must say, it was a ride and day very well spent. Our H.O.G. assistant director Mike Stopp had contacted Rinehart’s VP of Sales and Marketing John Nowicki and coordinated the visit and plant tour for a Friday. Several of our crew run Rinehart True Duals and/or Slip-ons so we ended up with 8 bikes on the ride from Athens, GA up to Arden, NC for the day – and what a glorious day it was.
Aside from a few lines in their website, many don’t know Rinehart Racing started as a custom exhaust shop for several NASCAR and IndyCar teams back in the 90’s. Founder Gerald Rinehart was building exhaust systems out of his garage and doing quite well. Then in the early 2000’s NASCAR made sweeping changes to their engine and car rules across all the teams, and just like that, Gerald was looking for something to do. Like most entrepreneurs, Gerald needed to reinvent himself and began to seek council from friends. He ended up talking with several in the motorcycle industry, including Statesville, NC Harley dealer and Top Fuel drag racer Don Tiley, who suggested Gerald look into building exhausts for motorcycles, specifically Harley-Davidsons. Gerald liked the idea and recruited his friend and attorney Judd Hollifield to help him reinvent his business. Judd would practice law a few hours each day then travel to Harley dealers across the country, selling the new slip-ons and exhaust systems Gerald was designing and building. So began the Rinehart Racing high performance motorcycle exhaust business. To this day Rinehart continues to focus on the American V-Twin market, building a complete line of products for Harley-Davidson models and has also branched out into providing exhausts for the Indian Motorcycles line as well. Rinehart remains connected to NASCAR through retired drivers Dave Marcus and Rusty Wallace, who still stop by the shop every now and then. In 2015 Gerald retired from the day to day and Judd is 100% owner and CEO of Rinehart Racing.
Upon arrival, John introduced us to the VP of Operations and our tour guide Matt Boozer. A former US Marine and engineer, Matt has a firm understanding of their manufacturing processes and the markets they serve. During our tour we learned that every single component within a Rinehart system is manufactured, coated and assembled in the U.S. Without divulging any of their trade secrets (no photos were allowed in the facility) suffice it to say that several vendors who provide chroming and coating/painting for Rinehart also handle work for OEMs out of the Midwest. Having been involved in machinery sales for over 18 years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in facilities that cut and weld, so it was great to see the latest in CNC and laser technology being used to manufacture the Rinehart products. I think our group was even more impressed with the inline Quality Control we observed in the pipe bending area. You would think once a machine is set up to bend pipe it was going to be spot-on 100% of the time, but continuous improvement practices don’t allow such frivolous thought. The team at Rinehart takes nothing for granted and checks every few parts to ensure the final fit and finish are exact and repeated from beginning to end. Regardless of the cell we observed, all the guys in the back doing the cutting, welding and machine programming were very engaging with our group and you could see and truly sense the pride these people take in their work.
You could see and truly sense the pride these people take in their work.
As we buttoned up our plant tour we engaged John in deeper dialogue around his background and role. John was with Harley corporate in Milwaukee for over 10 years before moving to North Carolina to run Rinehart’s sales and marketing. John manages a handful of field agents that cover the Harley and Indian dealer networks globally and, if you ever go by the RInehart truck at a rally (Sturgis, Daytona, Panama CIty Beach…) he will be the guy running around – clipboard in hand – helping several clients with new exhaust system purchases while Kevin and Moose handle logistics and installation. John’s knowledge of the motorcycle markets, in particular V-Twin, is impressive. When asked about Rinehart expanding their product mix to other manufacturers, he shared that they currently have more business and backlogs than they can handle and are sticking to what they do best for now. John felt owners of other bike brands don’t have the same requirements that Harley and Indian owners have around exhaust sound and performance.
With John’s background at H-D corporate, I assumed he would have an inside track on new models coming so the Rinehart R&D team could get a jump on new products – turns out nothing could be further from the truth. When Harley’s Milwaukee Eight motor was launched, Rinehart lined up the purchase of a new Road Glide from their local H-D dealer pronto. That Road Glide, along with a Harley Breakout, Rushmore Road Glide and a Fat Bob are all parked in their R&D department along with an Indian Chieftain, which was sitting on their dyno unit as we walked through. The Rinehart R&D team does not take performance enhancements lightly and they regularly dyno these bikes to confirm their products deliver high performance, manageable heat displacement and that killer Rinehart sound. The team uses these bikes for rally transport to and from the truck, but the lion’s share of the mileage on these bikes is from the dyno work done back in the shop. John was quick to point out their recent R&D efforts have delivered their new EPA/Carb compliant product for California Harley customers looking to meet the Golden State’s air quality regulations.
Following our tour we peeked into one of the two Rinehart semis used for rally installations that were on the property, and as we loaded up for lunch were pleasantly surprised by an awesome goodie bag hanging off of each of our bikes. John and Matt then jumped on the R&D Road Glide and Breakout and joined us as we cruised to a local killer BBQ place (if you are ever in Hendersonville, NC be sure to check out 12-Bones BBQ). Following breaking bread together we corralled John and Matt into a few last group photos and then fired up our bikes, bringing our own Rineharts roaring to life to begin our 3.5 hour trek back to Atlanta.
Rinehart brings the absolute best value for high performance exhaust to the American V-Twin market.
Our crew agreed that while the Rinehart product line may not be the cheapest exhaust system in the V-Twin market, we felt that based on the raw materials used, their (USA based) manufacturing and QA processes and the sheer knowledge & kindness of the folks that make the products and run the company, Rinehart brings the absolute best value for high performance exhaust to the American V-Twin market. We were glad to have made the day trip up and we hope that Rinehart turns this tour into a formal event for other rider groups in the future. Well-done gentlemen, thanks for hosting us.