Protection has made gigantic leaps in terms of comfort and usability. How do you incorporate these features?
Lowry: Creating more protection while keeping the rider unrestricted is a constant goal. We use the most up-to-date materials that range from a hard plastic to a foam cover to abrasion-resistant panels in outerwear.
"Creating more protection while keeping the rider unrestricted is a constant goal."
Redford: CE-approved protection has become a standard for impact protectors, but [we also regard the] tear strength of fabrics and threads. Macna always uses CE protection, German SAS-TEC foam in our top products and Asian protectors in the entry-level products. Macna also uses abrasion-resistant fabrics, such as Superfabric that offers added protection in critical areas.
Blakeney: To complement the continued evolution of our own textiles like RockTex and FreeAir mesh, our product design focuses on the fusion and precision tailoring of these materials, resulting in products that maximize performance and consistently exceeds the consumer’s perception of how a riding jacket should feel and perform.
Berroth: AGV Sport is always trying to offer the best “standard type” protection in its products. For high-end protective devices, riders have personal preferences (like Forcefield) that they want to incorporate into their suit or jacket purchase.
Clover: Firstgear was a pioneer in the use of d3O armor in our TPG collection and [has] expanded its use by incorporating d3O into our Kilimanjaro jacket and Kathmandu jacket and pants.
Sims: Alpinestars developed its protection philosophy over many years, pioneering the use of external protection, formed with advanced polymers that offer increased protection while... reducing friction in an impact, and dissipating the energy over the surface of the protector to reduce the force on the rider. Body armor is improving in impact protection and absorption all the time. At the same time [it is] getting lighter and more comfortable, allowing better rider performance. If you look at motocross boots, Alpinestars [is] constantly developing new materials to reduce weight and increase feel and feedback. In some boots there are over 100 different pieces that go into construction.
So, what’s the next big thing?
Redford: D3O material stiffens on impact, but this technology does not absorb impact. Recently, this technology has evolved to include more standard foam to address this issue. Airbags are a significant area of development; however, the cost is prohibitive. Macna offers a SAS-TEC armor upgrade for their back protectors, which has been tested and proven as the best impact protection material.
"Airbags are a significant area of development; however,
-- Adam Redford, Twisted Throttle
Blakeney: D3O seems very promising and is very marketing-friendly; however, I am not yet convinced that its key “stiffening” characteristic doesn’t just translate more impact energy into the rider. From what I have seen, nothing beats sculptured, high density, CE-approved armor combined with a properly fitted jacket.
Berroth: Forcefield is the only brand of armor that does the following: passes the CE back protector test at an industry leading 3.38kn; has truly three-dimensional molding character; has multi-impact technology; is breathable and perforated; is comfortable to the point you don’t know you are wearing it; and has a slim line and is nonrestrictive.
Sims: While Alpinestars is constantly developing new, passive safety technology with highly advanced materials and polymer compounds (D3O is not one of them), active safety systems, in the form of air bag technology, is a major focus for the future. The ... Tech Air suit is on the market for track and high-performance riders, and a fully street-optimized system is due next year. The Alpinestars system is a fully self-contained, electronically managed device which has sensors in the suit worn by the rider, and a constant data analysis processor that determines whether a crash is happening, and deploys the airbag in under 45 milliseconds.
More brands are fighting for space within dealerships. So what kind of POP items and displays are available to make yours stand out?
Lowry: Complete wall modules. Multiple floor displays. Display “silent salesman” cards. Informational brochures. Window, door and wall signs. Banners.
Redford: You need to be versatile. When designing a POP display and the program to go with it, you must be sensitive to the needs and limitations of the dealer. This is why we have developed a variety of display options — as small as a 2x2 glove placard, and as large as full-on multipanel shop systems that allow for the display of our entire range of product. Our goal is to give each of our sales reps the ability to lay out a custom display that will not only meet the needs of the dealership, but will look great.
Clover: We have branded fixtures available. We are very close to rolling out a new fixture that will enable dealers to merchandise multiple product segments within one, easy-to-move fixture.
Blakeney: We are researching multiuse systems capable of being reconfigured by the retailer to suit the shops needs. Hopefully this will be of value to any dealer regardless of his showroom footprint.
What are some of the changes you’ve made to keep connected to the market?
SIms: [We] are always looking at ways to interact, whether it is with the Q & Astars sessions held on the Facebook page or the Supercross abductions that were run during the year. This was something we did with a chosen dealer near to the different SX venues: We asked people to come down to the store, and entered their names into a draw. If they got picked, we whisked them away to the SX.
Berroth: Unfortunately, we have found that most dealers are far less connected than their own customers. Some dealers totally get the new world and others totally do not. The consumers, on the other hand, are generally very switched on. Motonation has its own social media marketing team and we are always pushing new ideas, contests, news content through all the social media sites.
Lowry: Social media has allowed us to interact directly with our end customers, while at the same time continue to build the brand for our dealer network. We’ve recently overhauled the FLY Racing website and implemented a new socially driven interface that allows fans to feel like they are more a part of the brand. One example is the FLY Wall, which allows a fan to upload a photo of his or her self wearing FLY products, and the photo is posted to the wall for all to view.
Redford: We are active in the motorcycling community through traditional venues, such as rally and show attendance, and through events held at our headquarters in Exeter, R.I. We also have an active presence in message boards and forums, such as ADVRider, Stormtrooper, YamahaSuperTenere.com, and KLR650.net, as well as on Facebook.
Clover: Our latest Firstgear catalog has been digitized and will be debuting on our website. Additionally, we have created an app that Tucker Rocky sales reps will use with their iPads to get up-to-the-minute information while in the field. The app also features full catalog product information with pictures and short video product tutorials — concise, targeted product information that is engaging, informative and fun. (continues)