Business

Fast Forward Cycles owner came home to the family business

A Day in the Life: "It's hard to have a bad day when you're coming in to motorcycles every day"

Taylor Wilkin, president of Fast Forward Cycles, sits astride a 2006 Harley Davidson Road King Classic, in his showroom in Cedar Rapids. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Taylor Wilkin, president of Fast Forward Cycles, sits astride a 2006 Harley Davidson Road King Classic, in his showroom in Cedar Rapids. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

The repeated spring snows may have slowed things down a bit at Fast Forward Cycles, but owner Taylor Wilkin is gearing up for a hectic season.

“Things get pretty busy here in the spring,” Wilkin said of his Cedar Rapids motorcycle dealership. “But a late snow puts the brakes on things for a few days.”

Wilkin expects to sell 130 to 150 pre-owned motorcycles before he closes up shop for the season in early October. At that point, his focus will shift from selling motorcycles to buying them — to restock his inventory before the store reopens next February.

“I’ll have nearly 100 bikes here at the beginning of the season,” he said. “As many as I can cram into the building.”

Wilkin has followed this same pattern of selling motorcycles during the spring and summer months and buying them during the winter since he was 24 years old.

In 2010, after graduating from Iowa State University with a finance degree and pursuing a short-lived career in banking, Wilkin started his first retail motorcycle business, Clutch Cycle Co., in Des Moines. Having grown up around his father’s former business, European Motors in Cedar Rapids, he said owning a dealership was a much better fit for him than finance.

“I always liked the business and meeting the people that came in,” he said.

In 2012, expecting their first child, Wilkin and his wife made plans to move back to Eastern Iowa. At the time, his father owned Fast Forward Cycles in Cedar Rapids.

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Wilken closed Clutch Cycle, brought his remaining inventory with him and bought out his father’s business interest in Fast Forward.

During the next five years, Wilkin grew sales at Fast Forward Cycles by over 50 percent. He also oversaw the company’s 2015 move to a larger, higher-profile building on Blairs Ferry Road.

Wilkin attributes the success of his business to maintaining a simple business model.

“I only do sales,” he said. “I’m only buying or selling or trading. I don’t have a service shop. I don’t offer parts or accessories.

“It’s just me here most of the time, although my dad helps during the busy season.”

Wilkin primarily sells pre-owned Harley-Davidsons, from smaller street models to high-end touring bikes, with prices ranging from around $4,000 to around $19,000.

About 10 percent of the inventory comprises other brands.

Because he buys most of his inventory during the winter months, Wilkin is able to take advantage of steep discounts from dealers trying to unload trade-ins. He said that approach allows him to pass along significant savings to his customers.

“I’m getting bikes at the right price and I have low overhead,” he said. “I’m not adding any extra expense for the end user.”

Fast Forward Cycles has completed sales in more than 30 states.

While the next several months will not leave Wilkin much free time — save for Sundays when all Iowa dealerships are closed pursuant to state law — he said he doesn’t mind.

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“It’s hard to have a bad day when you’re coming in to motorcycles every day,” he said.

At a glance

l Business: Fast Forward Cycles

l Address: 1810 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

l Website: fastforwardcycles.com

l Owner: Taylor Wilkin

l Number of employees: 2

l Years in business: 7

l Want your business to be considered for The Gazette’s monthly “A Day in the Life” feature? Fill out the quick application for The Gazette’s 2018 Business Awards below or at fusionfarm.wufoo.com/forms/the-gazette-business-awards-2018.

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