Johnny Humphreys enjoys golfing and motorcycling, so its not surprising that the retired but still enterprising former top executive of Liberty Lake-based Itron Inc. would come up with an invention that seeks to merge the two pastimes.
The invention, called Bike n Golf, is a golf bag system that attaches to a motorcycle, and is designed to make journeying to and from the golf course as enjoyable as the round of golf itself for similarly conflicted dual enthusiasts.
Its one of those inventions driven by your need, says Humphreys. Often torn between spending his spare time hitting the links or taking a ride on his Harley-Davidson, he says he realized that, What Id really like to do is both.
He came up with the concept for Bike n Golf, but asked employee Michael OCallaghan and Spokane sports-product designer Lars Huschke, whose fathers he formerly had worked with at Itron and, before that, at National Semiconductor Corp., to design and engineer it.
The golf bag system retails for about $300, and Humphreys is marketing it through a company he founded here last month named Bikengolf LLC. It includes two side bags, a center bag with an attachment harness, and protective hood covers for the side bags.
One side bag attaches to each side of the motorcycle, resting on the passenger foot pegs and connecting to the motorcycle frame with attached bungee straps. The center bag rests on the passenger portion of the motorcycle seat and connects to each side bag via a nylon-strap-and-clip system that extends beneath the seat.
The system, currently available in black-and-gray or camouflage versions, is designed so the side bags can be disconnected quickly from the motorcycle, then combined to make a full-sized golf bag. The expandable center bag is designed to hold items such as golf shoes and extra clothing.
Bikengolfs Web site says the system, for which a patent is pending, has been tested on moving motorcycles with a full set of clubs at speeds over 80 mph and on tight, curvy roads without the hoods attached with no problems. Though being marketed heavily for golf-related use, where its believed to have its strongest market potential, the system also is well suited for carrying hunting, fishing, and baseball or softball gear, among other uses, the Web site says.
Basically anything long and awkward that you want to put on a motorcycle, says OCallaghan, who is a longtime friend Humphreys and manages a couple of business ventures for him.
He says that he and Huschke, both of whom have minority ownership interests in Bikengolf, initially considered creating the golf bag so it could be towed somehow behind the motorcycle, but, The more I looked at it, it didnt look feasible, which led to the current design.
We worked on that prototyping until we felt we had a good design, structurally and appearance-wise, concluding that work about last November, he says.
Robinson Windword Inc., a longtime contract sewing business here, assisted Bikengolf with the design and now is producing the bag systems, OCallaghan says. Bikengolf is shipping the bags largely from the owners homes, he says.
The company has sold only about three dozen of the golf bag systems so far, but sponsored booths at recent golf and motorcycle shows here, and also at earlier shows in Seattle and Portland, to help boost awareness of the product, OCallaghan says.
Also, it is negotiating to sell the bags through motorcycle dealerships in the region, he says, adding that Shumate Harley-Davidson, which has stores here and in Kennewick and Lewiston, has agreed to carry them.
As the weather is starting to turn, its becoming more encouraging, OCallaghan says. I think weve got a pretty good product. Our intent more than anything was to make it adaptable to most motorcycles without bolt-on hardware.
Meanwhile, in a separate venture, Humphreys plans to open a business called Virtual Golf this fall in a 2,300-square-foot shop building on Appleway Avenue, just east of Barker Road, thats located on a two-acre parcel of land that Humphreys bought in January. OCallaghan says it will include at least two computerized golf simulators, plus beverage and light-food service, and probably some golf supplies and accessories, and might be expanded later to include an indoor driving range, depending on demand. An RV sales and rental business currently located on the property will move, he says.
OCallaghan also manages a racing business, called Flat Out Racing, that Humphreys owns. Founded here in 1993, it rents out and maintains race cars called Spec Racer Fords that compete in the largest division of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Spec Racer Fords are enclosed-wheel, open-cockpit, purpose-built race cars that are powered by a 1.9-liter Ford engine, look like a Le Mans Series race car, and have a top speed of about 135 mph.
OCallaghan says the company, which is in the process of moving to the Portland area, offers an arrive-and-drive type of service to people who want to compete in SCCA-sponsored road-racing events, but cant afford or dont want to own or maintain race cars.
OCallaghan says he has known Humphreys since 1976.
When he asked me if I wanted to run a race-car business, my eyes lit up and off I went. I just had a knack for it, he says. He adds that Humphreys has always been an important part of my life, and he describes the business ventures as very much a family deal, because of the Humphreys, OCallaghans, and Huschkes longtime close relationships.
Humphreys worked for Itron, a fast-growing maker of automated utility meter reading technology, for 13 years before retiring as the companys chairman at the end of 1999. He had resigned as the companys CEO and president earlier that year.
My wife would say I flunked retirement, Humphreys notes.
In addition to his racing, riding, and golf business pursuits, he currently serves on the boards of Spokane-based angel investment fund WIN Partners LLC, lender Business Development Corp. of Eastern Washington, and artificial-intelligence technology developer Next IT Inc. Also, he is board chairman for GenPrime Inc., of Spokane, which primarily develops rapid-detection devices for substances that might pose a biological threat.
Contact Kim Crompton at (509) 344-1263 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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