And for other environmental and temperature testing, the group learned that the lab called the "Comfort Room" is anything but comfortable. This is where garments, gloves, sleeping bags — the whole lot of 'em — are subjected to simulated hot/cold environments that cycle between -20F and 120F. Real people test the products in a large chamber where sensors measure their physiological reactions. Not too comfortable, no?
The most rigorous bit of testing at the facility involves the friendly, everyday washing machines — about 200 of them. But in this case, they are used in a very unfriendly way, running nonstop as fabric samples are sloshed about and abused to check how such controlled violence affects flexibility and abrasion resistance. "This takes days, and hours and months," explains Louise Brown, the facility's manufacturing leader. "It has nothing to do with washing, it's all about wear. This is about durability. It's about stressing the fabric."
VALUE IS MORE THAN DOLLARS AND CENTS. All of this testing by Gore is an indication of how seriously Klim takes its products. It's also something of an explanation of why Klim's products are so pricey. Couple this with the amount of design and development that Klim puts into building apparel, as well as the other materials it uses, and one can see that it's more than dollar figures. It's a cliche that you get what you pay for, but within every haggard phrase there's a nugget of truth. Such is the case with Klim.
Klim's development process is unique in an industry where most products are developed to sell at a particular price point — usually in the mid to low range. High-end products are a niche because the bulk of the U.S. riding population sets its sights low and keeps a firm grip on the wallet when buying motorcycle parts and apparel.
The company doesn't operate this way, says Klim's Wilkinson. They don't build to a budget, but rather design and manufacture products that feature exactly the features they need to have to serve their intended purpose. It's a niche product by design and function. There's also another end in mind.
"We've never built price-point gear," Wilkinson says. "We produce product to order. What that does for the industry is provide product value. At Klim, we build it this way so you won't see 10,000 of these jackets produced."
There is a unique parallel between Gore and Klim in that both companies start with a vision of the finished product and end user and then try to understand all the needs of this final customer. Add to this direct and constant feedback from consumers and dealers that the company actively seeks. It's from this framework they develop the product.
The process is definitely more costly, but results in a piece of apparel that meets or exceeds the particular demands of a particular market. The process also helps them heavily scrutinize every detail of every design, and makes sure all the trick bits and pieces are as functional as necessary, says Klim's Summers.
From these processes, and through the partnership with Gore, Klim is building a unique lineup of riding gear that exists on its own plane within the powersports market.