Attract Urban Sportbikers With Apparel that Appeals

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When it comes to apparel, are urban sportbikers buying what you sell?

apparel sportbike urban Shift Alpinestars

During a recent visit to the bookstore, I came across a copy of Motorcycling for Dummies. I immediately opened the book and turned to the sportbike section to see what sage advice it offered to the crotch-rocket crowd. I may have drawn a few stares with the amount of giggling that ensued.

The author suggested that in order for a newbie to fit in with other sportbike riders, it would be wise to don a full set of leathers. (Fortunately, he resisted mentioning that you can buy racers' scuffed knee pucks on eBay so you can really "look the part.") Yes, there are plenty of sportbike riders who prefer the roadracer look, but you aren't likely to find those riders in the urban sportbike crowd.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you're stocking apparel that will appeal to urban riders. First and foremost is this: it's important to look just as good off the bike as on. Safety is still important (more about that later), but style is a necessity. What's the point in riding a sexy bike if you look like a catwalk reject?

For years, the options afforded to sportbike riders were limited and, in my humble opinion, pretty ugly. Choices ranged from neon leathers to fringed chaps intended for Harley riders. As more and more apparel manufacturers began to market directly to sportbike riders, a little friendly competition fueled better designs and edgier style. As more companies enter the urban sportbike arena, more styles continue to evolve, encompassing looks that range from retro to tacky and proud of it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you're stocking your apparel, and some examples to get you started.

  • Check out the latest styles, both on the road and on the catwalk. Motorcycle apparel used to be a world unto itself, but these days the popular styles reflect fashion trends. This can be a real challenge since designs sometimes begin a couple of years before the finished product ever hits the market. Designers have to understand fashion trends, and accurately predict how those trends are evolving.

Bold graphics are popular right now. Take a look at Shift's Avenger jacket (opposite page) to get an idea of just how bold: the textile jacket comes in pinstripes, plaid, a bright neon design, and even a montage of brass knuckles, mudflap girls, guns, and other icons. That's right, I said plaid.

Tattoo-style graphics are also a common theme, such as the Hang 'em High jacket from Speed and Strength (below) and the Joe Rocket Rave jacket. If you've gone to the mall lately, you've seen these same trends hanging on the racks there.

  • Save some room for ladies apparel. When it comes to ladies apparel, things have never looked better for us. My Joe Rocket Gold Digger jacket (above) gets compliments every time I wear it out. It has a feminine cut, flashy graphics of money and poker chips, and "Gold Digger" written in gold script across the back. That sort of attention to detail and feminine style is de rigueur when it comes to ladies apparel.

Among urban sportbikers, the male-to-female ratio seems less skewed toward the boys. There are a lot of women at every event, and many of them have their own ride. Women represent a big part of the market; one that's been overlooked for far too long.

Scorpion's Haley pants feature boot-cut styling and laces up the sides, making them some of the most detailed women's motorcycle pants around. Good-looking ladies gear also extends to footwear. Boots like the Hella from Icon look good enough to wear even if you're not riding (and I firmly deny any rumors about me going out dancing in their Bombshell boots).

  • Armor isn't just for protection. Body armor isn't something to be hidden under your jacket anymore. The look is sort of "Batman meets Road Warrior," and it seems that every urban biker wants it. Icon's biggest seller in the urban rider category is the Field Armor Vest, which can be worn underneath a jacket or by itself. Likewise, Joe Rocket has the Riot Jacket, with external armor that they say is "just too sweet to hide inside." Even Alpinestars offers armor that can be worn alone in the form of the Bionic SP vest.

  • Don't forget the clubs. I've mentioned in previous articles how beneficial it can be for you to befriend your local clubs because of their loyalty and networking capabilities. In addition to those advantages, club members also need vests so they can show off their colors when they ride. Most clubs still go for black leather, though white is a good alternative — especially for female clubs — and brighter colors are coming available.

Joe Rocket offers a textile Street Vest, which includes reflective panels for added safety. Icon's Regulator vest is extremely popular with the club set, though ladies often prefer the form-fitting Bombshell vest.

Phil Davy from Icon suggests offering incentives for clubs. "Offer a discount for 'club buys,' when more than a few club members all want to buy matching products," he says. "Offer the first one at a big discount to just the club president. Then offer a smaller discount to the club members if they buy the same (matching) one."

  • Stylish doesn't have to mean unsafe. Urban riders want to look good, and chances are they want to continue looking good for a long time. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that road rash is attractive. However, your average rider isn't likely to come to your dealership and say, "Give me the safest thing you've got!"

Quality apparel manufacturers are going to retain both form and function (though there are plenty of brands who only care about style points). Consider important features like body armor, leather or textile quality, and stitching (you know: the usual stuff) when you stock up. Even vests are now coming with built-in back protectors.

Speaking of vests, many riders in the military are required to wear bright safety orange vests when they ride on base. The last thing a rider wants is to look like a crossing guard while he's cruising around, so if you have a military base nearby, consider stocking apparel that meets the military's safe-riding requirements. Icon's Mil Spec and Joe Rocket's Military Spec vests were designed specifically for riders in uniform, while Scorpion's orange and black Vision Vest is also intended for the safety-conscious.

If you want to tap into the urban sportbike market to boost your apparel sales, remember: style reigns supreme, so it's important to know what's hot and what's not. Plaid jackets: hot. Your pants tucked into your boots: not hot. Any questions?

Manufacturers worth checking out:

Alpinestars: www.Alpinestars.com

Icon: www.RideIcon.com

Joe Rocket: www.JoeRocket.com

Scorpion: www.ScorpionUSA.com

Shift: www.ShiftRacing.com

Speed and Strength: www.SSGear.com