14 November 1997

Boom trade in

bikes

"You describe it, and Ill

build it" is the philosophy

of Welsh specialist

ATV equipment maker

Rob Astley.

Robert Davies reports

The 10-year-old business, based in well-equipped workshops on his parents hill farm, has a full order book. What started as an extension of a farm motor cycle/quad bike sales and repair business, now also makes and sells tackle to all parts of the expanding ATV and light tractor market.

Off-road and road-legal trailers, including tippers, still represent the bulk of business. Retail prices range from £325 for the smallest off-roader to £950 for the biggest drawn by an ATV.

About 50% of sales are to farmers, but customers now include local authorities, golf clubs, riding stables and film and television companies. Sixteen trailers built at Gwern-y-Bran, Llanfair Caereinion, Powys were used to move equipment during the recent refilming of Hamlet.

"It is impossible to keep up with demand, and 60 galvanised trailers were on order in the last week of August," says Rob Astley. "They sell because they are well made and are priced competitively. Buyers can choose from the existing range of designs, or we will build one to the required specification."

But the fastest future growth is likely to be in sales of more sophisticated machines like ATV-towed sheep feeders. Prototypes of two models were tested on several farms last winter, and are now on the market. One places feed in troughs, or along a feeding barrier, the other drops measured amounts in spaced piles on the ground.

With the trough feeder, the ATV driver releases the concentrate from the hopper by operating a spring loaded lever system. This raises a sliding panel a pre-determined amount. A plastic spout at the end of the delivery chute guides the feed into the trough. It retails at £675.

The floor feeder retails at £695 and has a gravity fed rotary delivery system.

Concentrate at the bottom of the hopper fills hollows in an adjustable cylinder. Thus turns and dispenses measured amounts. An optional £60 digital counter informs the driver how much has been fed.

A range of fuel or water bowsers, rollers, soil graders, yard scrapers and timber carriers are also made to order. Rob Astley and his father Ken, a retired engineering lecturer, are also working on the design of an ATV-hauled miniature muck spreader.

"When I started in business I expected demand to gradually level off, but there is no sign of it," Rob Astley claims. Instead ATVs are getting bigger and more sophisticated, and they are being used in many more places. There is growing demand for specific tackle to use with them."

Most Astley products are fitted with standard 50mm (2in) ball hitches and can be towed by ATVs, off-road farm vehicles, or light tractors, but orders are taken for bespoke designs.

Rob Astley gives his sheep feeder development a test.