As regional roads and highways clog with commuters heading out of San Benito County to business hubs in Salinas and Silicon Valley, local motorcycle company Corbin stays ahead of the curve and that means staying put in Hollister.
“Technology and innovation comes from being aware of what’s going on in the world,” said Mike Corbin, owner of the company famous worldwide for motorcycle seats and accessories. “I travel a lot to stay grounded and study riders. Of course with the electric car, that’s my background. I’ve always been interested in electric cars. You can be innovative and inventive anywhere.”
The local business is set to revive the three-wheel electric car known as the Sparrow.
The Sparrow is five-feet-wide and 10-feet-long, about one-third the size of a regular car and one-third its weight. It has room for a single passenger, which caters to the commuters that leave the local region everyday. It might be considered niche, but Corbin said it’s more efficient than other cars on the market because of it’s lightweight design.
It’s possible to park three Sparrows in a single parking space that would normally fit a single, four-door sedan.
While the cars aren’t for sale yet, they’re expected to sell for $36,000 and consumers will be able to purchase them directly from the Corbin factory in Hollister.
“We’re our own dealer,” Corbin said. “We have a vehicle manufacturer license and a motorcycle dealer license.”
Corbin started designing the Sparrow in 1995. The company made 300 Sparrows between 1998 and 2003, but stopped production after financial troubles.
Now over a decade later, the company will put forth a new version of the Sparrow in an age more familiar with electric cars.
“We haven’t taken any pre-orders or deposits, we didn’t want to be under pressure to do a timeline. Timelines don’t really work. We said we’ll wait until we’re really ready.”
While Corbin crusades to change the electric car, they’ve already changed motorcycle seats with the Fire and Ice Saddle, the first seat of its kind to offer heating and cooling capabilities.
Corbin started manufacturing heated seats in the early 90s, but there’s never been a seat that can both heat up and cool down.
“I started doing research to figure out how to do a seat that could heat and cool,” Corbin said.
The company debuted the new saddle earlier this year at Daytona Bike Week in Florida. The seat is currently made for touring models for Harley Davidson, Indian Motorcycles and BMW.
“We got all of the hardware, elements, fans and wiring in the seat,” Corbin said. “All you have to do is hook it up to your 12-volt source on your bike and it works.”
The heating and cooling system was made for simple installation and is fully self-contained in the saddle without the need of any pumps, compressors or fluids.
It uses the Peltier Effect to heat and cool, meaning heat is emitted or absorbed when an electric current crosses a junction between two materials.
The Fire and Ice Saddle, which currently retails around $900, has been well received by the public.
“They love them, we’ve never had one back,” Corbin said. “They work well.”
Corbin’s history with both Hollister and motorcycles runs deep. He helped revive the Hollister Independence Rally in the mid-90s and relocated the company factory from Castroville to Hollister.
“We thought it would be great to come to Hollister with the rally coming back,” he said. “Now we’ve got a great building here and a great team of people, most who live in Hollister.”
Since relocating to Hollister, the Corbin factory remains open, hosts vendors and offers discounts during the rally.
Corbin’s roots in the community are further visible with his involvement with Quilts of Honor, a local group that gives handmade quilts to veterans to show appreciation for their service and sacrifice.
“Bev and Mike Corbin, both members of the Pinnacle Quilters of San Benito County, have been generous supporters of the Quilts of Honor since its inception,” said Irene Towler of Quilts of Honor. “Mike has let us have a booth at Corbin during the motorcycle rally to sell our handmade quilted items as well as our awesome cookies to help raise money for our other charitable endeavors.”
The group, which formed in 2015, will present 43 quilts this year at the San Benito County Fair.
Bev Corbin, Mike’s wife, is the community liaison.
“She spearheads the making of quilts for the children at Chamberlain Children’s Center,” Towler said. “It’s our goal to see that each and every child receives a quilt. She also works with Emmaus House to help the families in crisis. They receive quilts. At Christmas time we do a big push to make Blankets and Bears, a stuffed animal wrapped in a quilt. Mike and Bev open their home each week so that we can work on our many projects.”
Bev will present Mike with her own handmade quilt at this year’s county fair.
“He also opened Corbin Motors photo studio to have each and every one of our quilts for this year professionally photographed,” Towler said.
The Quilts of Honor ceremony will be held at the main concert stage at the county fair on Saturday, September 30 at 10 a.m.
“I’d just like to say thank you to the county for being such a great home for our company,” Corbin said.