If you polled the paddock with the question of what would be the one product that you simply can’t go to the track without, aside from the kart and your safety gear, many would say their kart stand. From working on the kart to taking it to the grid and back to the paddock, or just to keep it up off the ground, the kart stand is a must-have for karters. While most are at the track with their father, son, or some type of family or friend, a number of racers get their start and attend the track by themselves. They are both the driver and the mechanic. Most spend time asking for help to lift and lower their kart from the typical rolling stand, and after many years, the wear and tear on the back can be dangerous. That’s where KartLift comes in.
KartLift is based in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, a suburb of the state’s capital city of Madison, and they manufacture one-person kart stands. The company is owned and operated by Tim Koyen, a 42-year old Wisconsin native. Entered into the sport as a karting father, Koyen took the step into the industry roughly nine years ago when he purchased KartLift from its original owner. Adding in his involvement with the Midwest Sprint Series, Koyen is a full-time member of the karting community. Now, KartLift has three KartLift models, along with many other products targeted at kart racers.
The ‘Pro KartLift’ is the manual stand for the one-person race team. Designed for karts weighing up to 60 lbs. more than the operator, it is ideal for nearly any type of kart. With the foot lever and gas lifts, you can make lifting and lowering a kart a one-person job. The four 10” pneumatic premium tires on one piece steel wheels allow the stand to tackle any paddock area to get you trackside or back to your hauler. A recessed tool tray, at 14 inches by 18 inches, gives you the extra space to hold your tools and parts.
| Tim Koyen|
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
The ‘Electric KartLift’ is the one-switch solution for your kart stand needs. The electric stand allows any karter to be able to lift and lower their kart without any physical exertion. The Electric version has a longer base, providing increased kart stability while in the raised position, and is powered by a sealed battery that allows the stand to be stored vertically in your trailer or at home.
The ‘WinchLift’ uses a powerful, high-quality electric winch to provide the lifting power. The stand is capable of lifting karts weighing up to 250 lbs with a push-button ease. The powdercoated frame is fabricated from 1.25-inch steel tubing with a 2-inch strap used in place of the typical winch cable to provide a reliable and safe lift. Just like all KartLift stands, the larger wheels and tires are capable of navigating through any paddock condition. The WinchLift HD version is capable of lifting karts weighing up to 300 lbs thanks to the thicker wall tubing.
KartLift also manufacturers traditional stands and equipment. The KartLift BigFoot is not your standard scissor-style stand. It is a sturdy steel frame atop four rugged pneumatic tires with a steel tool tray that can withstand many seasons with of wear and tear. The KartLift Upright Stand is for storing and transporting any kart in an upright or vertical position. The cantilever axle support allows karts with full width bumpers to be handled with ease. The KartLift Stacker Stand is a simple, heavy duty stand that allows you to stack two karts to be transported, one above the other. A strong 1.25-inch steel tube for the main structure, with 1-inch tubular gussets, keeps the rolling stand rigid and stable during the transport.
Koyen is focused on customer service, both on-site and through the website KartLift.com. Under the support section, customers can find various manuals and videos instructions on how to operate properly all the KartLift stands. Aside from the online store at KartLift.com, karters can purchase the stands from nearly 50 kart shops across the country, including dealers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
We were able to talk with Koyen after returning from the WKA Daytona KartWeek event about KartLift.
| Pro KartLift|
eKartingNews.com: First off, how did the Koyen family get involved with karting?
Tim Koyen: My wife’s family (Chris Koyen) was heavily into midget racing and we took my son TJ to the races when he was 6 weeks old. When he became old enough and wanted to race himself, we learned about Badger Kart Club, and realized it was only an hour from home. TJ was 11 by the time we finally committed to karting. Our family, including our daughter Kaylee, has spent the last 10 years at kart tracks all over the Midwest and US.
EKN: I’m sure the small stature of your son TJ was part of your reasoning for a one-person kart stand, such as the ‘KartLift’ you are producing? Where and when did the conception of the ‘KartLift’ come from?
TK: Yes, my son was too small to pickup his own kart, so I was researching a one-person stand called the KartLift that was being sold by a guy from Maryland. After talking to him, I found out he wanted to change careers and was trying to sell the business. I was a Plant Manager at a plastics factory at the time, but I was looking for a business of my own and KartLift seemed like a good fit. We worked out a deal and I bought him out in 2003. I operated it part-time for a few years before going into it full-time.
EKN: When you bought the brand and company, what products were available at that time?
TK: We had two products, the Pro KartLift and the Electric KartLift. Now, we have more than 10 different kart stands available.
EKN: What changes have you made, if any to the initial design and construction of those two stands when you took over KartLift?
TK: It’s been a lot of small technical improvements that we’ve made along the way to improve both the Pro (manual) and Electric models. On the Pro, we upgraded to steel wheels with solid axles, moved the telescoping handle pins 90 degrees to make folding up easier, as well as a few other tweaks. On the Electric stand, we designed and built a new power pack and switchbox to improve reliability over the older version. We also added a caster wheel option to the Electric and increased the overall length of the actuator to improve its structural integrity. All our one-person kart stands now also have a "hook" option to accommodate the newer plastic rear bumpers.
| Electric KartLift|
Unfortunately, the cost of the actuator on the Electric model has spiraled upward while the demand for that stand has decreased since we introduced our WinchLift stand. This means that the Electric model is likely not going to be available for much longer.
EKN: As you mentioned, the rear bumpers were much different before the new full plastic rear bumpers. Are the hooks the only modification that you’ve made with the new rear bumpers? And what other things should people expect to change depending on what type of kart they have, be it an oval or road racing kart?
TK: The hooks are the only feature that really changes from one kart style to another. There are some provisions for adjusting the height at which the kart sits at that can be useful in customizing your KartLift to fit your kart perfectly.
EKN: In addition to the KartLift, you also produce your typical rolling karts stands, everything from a ‘Euro-style’ trolley to the BigFoot roller as well as trailer stands - Double Stacker and Upright stands. What is the normal production time for the multiple items you have available?
TK: Production time is usually around a week or less. My dream, of course, is to have everything in stock all the time, but the reality is that with this many stands and numerous color choices, stocking a lot isn't real practical. In a previous career, I taught and implemented concepts of Lean Manufacturing, and one of the tenets is that too much inventory is wasteful, so I try to produce every thing, every day, as the need arises. I have a very good relationship with a local powder coater that will turn around my work within a day or two, so it works out well. On the flip side, since I'm my only full-time employee, getting buried with orders (which happens from time to time) can delay things by a few days. I'm constantly working to streamline the process though to improve speed and efficiency.
EKN: Looking on your website, you are working with a number of kart shops across the country (nearly 50) as current KartLift dealers. Are you looking to expand your network at this time?
| Winch KartLift|
TK: I'm always looking to expand my dealer network, but I tend to be fairly selective about who I setup as a dealer. There are far too many karting businesses that sell to anyone who wants to be a dealer, without regard for how they will represent the product, or if they will sell it dirt cheap and devalue the product for everyone. I do sell both retail and wholesale, but I hold the price on retail transactions. I respect and value my dealer network and therefore I don't generally offer retail discounts as I know how hard it is for legitimate kart shops to stay in business. There is a very small margin on kart stands and I wouldn't want to take that away from my dealers by just throwing around deals to anyone. I frequently hear from my dealers how much they appreciate this policy.
EKN: Also, you listed a European KartLift representative. Has the brand picked up over there?
TK: The European market has been fairly fickle. It goes in streaks that have a lot to do with the value of Euro to the Dollar. One of the biggest problems (aside from shipping costs) is the tax that is collected on incoming shipments, then again every time it crosses a border. It makes exporting to Europe very difficult. I have a dealer in Japan as well, but it is fairly new there and they are still in recovery mode. I have exported a number of units to countries like South Africa, and obviously Canada, but because we are talking about heavy steel fabrications, the freight costs can be prohibitive unless you find someone in the right situation, like a half empty container headed to where you want to go. I am always on the lookout for good international representation as well.
EKN: Do you have any more products in development stage right now?
TK: While the WinchLift winch-powered stand has been on the market for over a year and is gaining momentum every day, the latest product to hit the streets is a bolt-together Double and Triple Stack stand. This has been a stand that I think is long past due. The beauty of it is that it holds 2 or 3 karts just like a traditional stacker, but it comes unassembled and fits into a box that will ship for $50 in the case of a Double, and $65 for a Triple. Now, any address that can get a package from FedEx can get a stacker stand delivered to their door for a reasonable price. Additionally, kart shops can stock more of these stands in a much smaller space than a welded version. Plus the capability to reasonable ship it, means they can offer it for resale to a larger group of customers, beyond just who walks through the door. All of this is at a price that is very competitive.
EKN: Thank you, Tim, for your time and best of luck to the entire KartLift operation on a successful 2012.
TK: Thanks. KartLift wouldn't be possible without the great customers we have and of course the help of my wife Chris, daughter Kaylee, son TJ, and father-in-law Jim. They all pitch in to help whenever I get myself in over my head at the shop, track, or office. Whether it’s paying bills, making flyers, cutting steel, or assembling stands, KartLift truly is a family affair for us.