Indy Dealer Expo 2008: Apparel

Because you can’t ride naked.

Indy Dealer Expo 2008: Apparel

A big part of the industry is selling riding apparel. Like helmets, parts or even bikes themselves, riding apparel was everywhere at Indy and it was apparent that manufacturers are striving to differentiate their products in a very competitive business. Gear targeted at the growing markets of younger riders and women was especially apparent.

The young, style-conscious "urban" rider was well catered to. Stunter Nick Brocha, sponsored by Japanese firm Rush Deal, showed me a line of stylish, colorful protective wear that looked like it would work well in hot climates protecting riders from low-speed crashes. Over in the Parts Unlimited booth, Icon Brand Manager Phil Davy displayed fervent zeal for his trendy, aggressively styled jackets and helmets. When I asked him about the protective qualities of his new Automag and Accelerant jackets, he told me Icon adheres to the highest standards of protection, but it makes sure the styling celebrates the "death-defying element to motorcycling...if they just wanted protection, they wouldn't be riding motorcycles." Young riders want to look good, so Icon reaches out to the rider who is looking for style, not just protection; "They get the protection by accident," said Davy.

More and more women are riding, and apparel manufacturers are moving to take their money. Many booths featured fashionable ladies footwear, and Todd McNabney from Heroic Racing Apparel boasted of specializing in women's sizes in his custom and off-the-rack roadracing suits. Women riders, like their male counterparts, want practical designs and features in their equipment—no need for frippery or "girly" features: "Only about two percent of serious women riders say they're interested in the current riding gear for women (only) on the market," said McNabney.

But there are brands you can count on never changing too much. Fall River, Massachusetts, leather manufacturer Vanson has been doing the same thing since 1974: making tough, thick jackets and pants that last forever. Founder Michael van der Sleesen admitted they're not a huge company, but they’re hanging in there and developing new products, like a two-piece textile touring suit and a lighter, more flexible leather race suit designed for supermoto racing. How will Vanson survive? van der Sleesen revealed plans to open a tannery in Central America to provide low-cost, high-quality leather. There's also a new website and more innovative products on the way.

The huge selection of stylish, protective, practical gear reminded me that this is a great time to be a motorcyclist—or a powersports retailer.

It?s not all about motorcycles: Vanson makes this varsity jacket for hip-hop apparel maker Rich Yung. It?s priced at a cool grand, the same as Rich Yung?s diamond-studded New York Yankees baseball cap.

All-American company Vanson was started by Michael van der Sleesen (left) in 1974. He?s showing off his first designs with Alan Slavin.

Heroic Racing Apparel?s Todd McNabney shows off the easy-access bib opening on his racing suit. "I'm the only guy on the market doing pre-curved racing suits...I make suits to race in, not stand around in," he claims.

In the Teknic booth there was a huge selection of stylish women?s apparel.

The Comp 5?s sole is softer and easier to walk in than before, something requested by the more casual ATV, women and child riders.

Fox Racing?s John Kirchner shows off new Comp 5 boots.

On closer examination, what looked like a cow-spotted design on these Alpinestar racing boots turned out to be tiny MotoGP circuit maps.

These fashionable women?s boots wouldn?t be out of place sashaying down the street in Milan.

Alan Zafrin, importer of Forcefield body armor shows off his new Adventure Harness, which he says offers the highest available levels of impact protection to dirt and street riders.