Factory Connection – Company History
Factory Connection was founded by Mike McAandrews in 1988. Mike was a race mechanic and suspension technician for Kawasaki in the 80’s. During his tenure at Kawasaki, he won several championships with Jeff Ward and also spun wrenches for Ron Lechien.
The relationship with Kawasaki and KYB is where the name originated from.
The original Factory Connection logo was drawn freehand in pencil by David Bailey on a napkin!
In 1989, Mike was running Factory Connection in Rutland, Vermont and committed to being Bob Hannah’s mechanic at Suzuki for his last year of racing. Bob used a Factory Connection shock that year and many of his teammates used suspension built by Mike and Factory Connection at several races that year.
In 1992, Mike was asked to lead the R&D Department at Rock Shox by his longtime friends Steve Simons and Paul Turner. This was a difficult decision as Mountain Bike suspension was just taking off and Factory Connection was showing potential. Mike did realize Rutland, Vermont was a challenging location if Factory Connection was to grow.
Mike was friends with Rick Zielfelder (Ziggy) and was even responsible for getting him hired by Dave Arnold and Roger DeCoster at Honda. While at Honda, Ziggy had the opportunity to work with HRA and Showa on pre-production testing of new CR models. Ziggy would work with Mike at Factory Connection during the busy times of the year.
After much debate, Mike approached Ziggy regarding purchasing Factory Connection. The idea was for Mike to stay involved with development of settings and be available when needed. It was also suggested that New Hampshire would actually be a better location as it was closer to the New England motocross scene. The agreement was made and ownership transferred on November 16th, 1992. It was at that point, Factory Connection was relocated to Rochester, NH.
Once in Rochester, Ziggy needed to share some of the work load. He turned to a person who had taught him a lot about racing many years earlier and was a trusted friend. Tim Street was the first to come to work for Factory Connection in NH. Tim is still with the company today working as our shop manager.
Ziggy was focused on insuring that Factory Connection would succeed. He was motivated to earn the respect of the two men he respected most in the industry, Dave Arnold and Cliff White. 1993 was a challenging year in many ways but the business was stable and many of Ziggy’s past experiences and contacts at Honda and Showa were adding to what Mike had previously assembled. Being experienced at a high level of racing and having traveled to many tracks around the majority of the country was an asset. This really helped when it came to understanding how different the needs of riders could be in all of the various conditions that exist.
Factory Connection was incorporated on January 7th, 1994.
Ziggy’s background was primarily motocross. As a New England motocross racer he had raced a couple of hare scrambles but that was it. Factory Connection was providing suspension services to Randy Hawkins who was decimating the National Enduro series in the early 90’s. Kevin Hines was also very active in off road racing and was a Massachusetts native. Working with these two riders really had an impact on Factory Connection when it came to understanding the performance needs of off road racers.
The first ad Factory Connection ever ran in a national magazine was all because of a bet with Kevin Hines. Going in to the 1994 California National Enduro Ziggy spouted off to Kevin Hines “if you win, I will use you in a full page color ad”. First call Monday morning after that race was Kevin asking if we have placed the ad yet. Ziggy’s words were larger than the check book. The ad was placed but it was a half-page, black and white ad!
Craig Morgridge joins the team in 1995. “Zak” is local to our area but spent time working with DGY Yamaha, Yamaha and Pro Circuit. Zak has worked as a shock and fork technician, trackside support, sales and technical support. These days, Zak has such a broad set of experiences he gets called in on many projects or tests.
Honda called during the National MX series in 1995. Factory Connection was asked to work on a set of KYB kit suspension for Steve Lamson. This was an interesting request as he was winning Nationals with Showa suspension, but we did as asked. In the end, this was a test to see what we could do. Honda had contracted a satellite team called “Primal Impulse” for 1996 and asked us to be the suspension supplier. I guess we passed the test.
The following year Manchester Honda, a New England shop, supported Damon Bradshaw to contest the SX and MX Series. Factory Connection was asked to support this program as well. Damon would be riding the 1997 CR 250 which was the first aluminum framed production bike. This bike really put Factory Connection on the map on a National level. Many shops struggled with this motorcycle. The magazines were really high on our work. Damon making podiums and even winning a National that year with FC suspension didn’t hurt.
The decision to go racing happened in the fall of 1997. May LaRocco was Ziggy’s travel agent. Mike LaRocco didn’t have a ride secured and was looking at racing as a privateer. Ziggy mentioned to Mike’s mother that Factory Connection would be interested in helping Mike with his suspension. Somehow this comment led to Mike calling and Ziggy committing to taking him racing in 1998. Armed with nothing but a Visa Gold credit card Factory Connection went about organizing a race team.
Working with Jeff Fox at Parts Unlimited, a local bank and a business consultant, Ziggy writes a plan, secures a purchase order and a line of credit which resulted in Factory Connection launching its own line of fork and shock springs in 1999.
Also in 1999, Factory Connection hires Steve Ross as the General Manager. Steve brought business professionalism with him from the cell phone industry but had lots of motorcycle and racing experience. Steve had road raced, raced motocross, worked in a large Honda dealership plus his father had run the road racing organization in New England for many years.
Terry Edgecomb joins the Factory Connection team in 2000. Terry worked in sales initially but took over managing the Factory Connection spring business. Terry still oversees the line of springs but is now involved with parts management and purchasing of FC Specialty items as well.
In 2000 Honda calls again. FMF decides to no longer go racing in 2001 as the Honda 125 satellite team. Chuck Miller, the Honda Motorsports manager asks Factory Connection to take over the program.
Mike Carnelli becomes Factory Connections first team member dedicated to track side support. Mike attends practices and races throughout the Northeast in a box van equipped to help riders with tuning and service work.
The blessing and the curse! In 2002, Factory Connection wins the 125 West SX title with Travis Preston. This was a blessing as it happened in our 2nd year and with a 190lb rider on a 125! It would become a curse as it would be 6 years until the next title came along.
In the summer of 2003 Kevin Windham returns to racing with Factory Connection on a CRF 450! Kevin is poetry in motion on the 450 and stops Carmichael’s win streak in only his second race back. Kevin goes on to win 2 Nationals and a total of 6 moto’s.
In September of 2003, Factory Connection opens its second facility in Corona, California. The intent is to cut down on the shipping time required for riders on the West Coast. Peter Paige moves from NH to oversee the new venture. The facility is still in Corona and has been successful since opening.
Amateur Motocross Nationals was the focus of Factory Connection in 2004. The company continues its track side support in the Northeast but adds Loretta Lynn’s and the Mini Olympics to its calendar. The reception is positive and more events are added to the Factory Connection schedule in 2005. Factory Connection offers track side support at almost every National amateur event currently.
Satoru Tanno joins the team at Factory Connection in 2005. Satoru Tanno worked at Showa for 27 years! When it came to motorcycle suspension, much of the history and evolution could be traced back to this man. This includes the design of the first “twin chamber” fork.
Mike LaRocco retires after an injury during the 2006 SX season. “I’ll be back”.
Factory Connection builds its current building over the course of 2007. The move from Rochester happens in January 2008.
September of 2009 marks the opening of the 3rd Factory Connection facility. Muskogee Oklahoma is chosen because of its central location. After time working in the NH facility, Tom Wallace was chosen to manage the Oklahoma facility. He brings a wealth of motorcycle experience with him from being a race mechanic in the US and in Europe. Tom also spent time working with rider support at FMF and Dubach Racing.
Until this point all testing and development of settings has been done through field testing. In an effort to continue to learn and to see what impact it has on our settings, Factory Connection purchases its first suspension dyno in 2009.
After spending 2007 and 2008 catching up on life in general, Mike LaRocco starts consulting with the race team at selected events in 2009. He has such an immediate impact the decision is made to hand him the keys for 2010. He hasn’t disappointed, the team has won at least one championship every year under his guidance!
Tom Wallace brings a custom written program to the table in 2011. This program allows any work order, setting or customer interaction to be viewed by the staff in any facility in real time. This program shows huge potential and is utilized the remainder of the year.
Dave Miles heads up the trackside support of the GNCC series in 2011. This series spans several months and requires lots of logistics management on top of the normal demands of supporting the riders of a series of this caliber. This program continues today in conjunction with our amateur motocross support.
In the spring of 2011, Satoru Tanno retires and returns to his home country of Japan. Factory Connection chooses to promote from within and names Mike Haist as our R&D technician. Mike brings a real understanding of rider needs along with a passion to utilize new tools and technology. Mike’s innovative approach has this company excited about what tomorrow brings.
In February of 2012, a second version of Tom Wallace’s software program is combined with the purchase and implementation of SAP B1 software at Factory Connection. The efficiency in which all facilities work with one another is improved in several areas. This large project is led by Terry Edgecomb and Tom Wallace. The goal is to set ourselves up to better service our customers with an eye on future growth.
After a few years of working with our original dyno, a more powerful and faster dyno is purchased in May of 2012. With the use of this tool, many questions of the past are being answered. The exciting part of R&D is that many of these answers lead to new questions.
Dave Arnold comes to work for the race team in 2013! Dave Arnold was team manager for Honda racing from 1981 through 1995. After retiring from racing, Dave worked for Honda’s R&D group HRA. Dave brings a real knowledge and understanding of chassis geometry and design that very few in the world understand.
With the completion of the software implementation and the key team members in place, Factory Connection sets out to better service its customers by reducing shipping times and costs by making itself more accessible in more areas.
September of 2013 Factory Connection announces the opening of its facility in Ephrata Pennsylvania. Long time NH technician Tim Lingle is named as the manager of this facility. Tim brings over ten years of experience as one of the lead technicians in the NH facility. Tim is a familiar face to many Factory Connection customers on the East Coast because of the work he has done at events like the Mini Olympics, Loretta Lynn’s and the GNCC Series.
October of 2013 marks the opening of the most recent facility in Milwaukie Oregon. Jake Doyle is named as the manager of this facility. Jake spent more than ten years as one of the lead technicians in the Corona California facility. Jake is known to many of our West Coast customers because he spent a lot of time working trackside support on the left Coast.