“As a kid growing up, I was always riding bicycles, fixing and working on them. I got my first motorcycle when I was sixteen years old and started working for Scorpion Cycles in Newport News, two years later. That was in 1991, and it’s what I’ve been doing ever since, the whole time right here in Newport News,” says Joel Plassman, owner of Absolute Performance Cycles.
Plassman says that despite the myriad changes the world has seen in the past several decades, the motorcycle business is largely the same as it was when he began in 1991. “Online resources have allowed for riders that are more informed and aware of all aspects of motorcycle riding and maintenance, but aside from that the biggest change I’ve seen is that more women are riding these days, which is great.”
The “Big Four” Japanese brands are still popular: Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki, as well as Harley Davidson and the lesser known American motorcycle manufacturer, Indian. Plassman explains his business is just about evenly split between import and American motorcycles, with the occasional British-made Triumph or Italian-made Ducati.
“I don’t have a particular favorite motorcycle manufacturer; I like them all, but I am partial to cafe racers, bobbers and choppers,” Plassman says. “Each style involves stripping down and removing unnecessary parts of the bike to cut down on some of the weight and to give a sleek, clean appearance. The main difference between choppers and bobbers is that choppers traditionally have an exaggerated front fork with a lot of rake.”
Plassman stays busy year round, as long as winter isn’t too extreme. He says that this year has been just as good as years past. “Like a lot of businesses, the pandemic has had an effect on the type of business that we’re seeing,” Plassman says, “but we’re definitely no less busy than we’ve ever been. We aren’t selling as many tires as we normally do, and the off-road bikes are more popular than they have been in the past. I couldn’t tell you why that is, but that’s what the business looks like at the moment.”
Motorcycles are less common in the United States than some other countries, so American riders bring several misconceptions with them when they first get involved. “Motorcycles are very economical, which is one of the reasons they are so popular in less developed countries, but repairs and maintenance costs are similar to cars, and that surprises some people at first,” Plassman says. “In America, motorcycles are seen as more of a leisure activity than a mode of transportation.”
Looking to the future, Plassman sees battery technology and electric motorcycles as being the next frontier. “I used to be into battery powered RC (remote control) cars, so I know first-hand how great the performance is with electric-powered vehicles,” Plassman says. “As battery technology continues to be improved and refined, electric motorcycles will become better and more common. Right now the cost of electric motorcycles is high, and that’s a major hindrance, but the cost will come down and we should start seeing more of them on the road.”
When Plassman isn’t working on motorcycles at Absolute Performance Cycles, he is usually working on some other type of motorized vehicle or craft. “I’m a true gear-head. I don’t necessarily look the part so people are often surprised to learn that I’m just as knowledgeable about aviation, space craft and rocket technology,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
TO THE POINT:
Absolute Performance Cycles
Address: 13379 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23602
Contact: Joel Plassman