Alpinestars celebrates 50th anniversary

Honda Racing

Supercross racer Justin Barcia is one of many riders who sport Alpinestars boots.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of motocross' biggest names. For 50 years, the Alpinestars brand has had its fair share of dominant athletes and products.

Products such as the Tech 8 and Tech 10 boots, along with riders like Ryan Villopoto and Jeremy McGrath have set them apart from their competitors for the past 20 years. So what goes into a product of this level?

We linked up with outside communications manager Nic Sims over at the Alpinestars headquarters in Torrance, Calif., to get to lowdown on life around the office, what goes into design of products, and of course the company's 50th anniversary.

Courtesy of Alpinestars

The Tech 10 boot "grew out of a need for new levels of support and performance because riders were jumping higher and riding faster," says Nic Sims of Alpinestars. Nic Sims, how are things around the Alpinestars design offices today?
Things are going very well. We have had some great weekends at Supercross recently, with Justin Barcia, Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac in good form, and it looks like we are in for an exciting season with a lot of exciting new technology and ideas in the pipeline.

With Supercross in full swing and 2013 merchandise on shelves all over the world, does this mean the work is over and the designer team gets to play ping-pong at the office for the next few months?
Alpinestars has a diverse business model and our involvement in Supercross, though significant, is only one part of a much bigger picture, which includes MotoGP, Formula 1, NASCAR, and cycling and action sports such as surfing. So, to continue the pace of product development and the high quality performance products we are renowned for, we always looking at new technologies and design innovations. It's a constant cycle, so there is not much time for ping-pong.

I was told you were the guy to talk to about boots. How does it feel to be part of a company that has pretty much dominated the motocross scene for the last 20 years?
Motocross has a very special place at the heart of our company, which was founded in 1963. From that point, when we pioneered off-road footwear and boot technology and worked with stars such as Roger De Coster, and continuing right up to today, motocross has been part of our DNA.

This year is the company's 50th anniversary -- that's a half-century of performance, protection and style in motocross and beyond, which is a fantastic achievement. From the first motocross boot to the most technically advanced off-road body protections, such as the Bionic Neck Support, Alpinestars has always been propelled by innovation and a commitment to performance excellence.

This is why the biggest names in motocross, Supercross and enduro, from Roger De Coster and Bob Hannah through to Jeremy McGrath, Ryan Villopoto and Marc Coma, have all placed their trust in our products.

We want to talk about boots, you had dominated the industry for such a long time with the Tech 8 boot, why and when did Alpinestars decide to design a new boot in the Tech 10 when the Tech 8 was and still is such a success.
The Tech 8 remains one of the most technically advanced and popular boots on the market today. The Tech 10 grew out of a need for new levels of support and performance because riders were jumping higher and riding faster than ever before.

All our products are extensively tested and developed to offer riders that crucial competitive edge, and we developed the Tech 10 boot in order to meet these tough new demands. And it was truly revolutionary. It was a totally new construction concept and the first boot to feature a fully, multiple density foot with a lightweight and seamless multi-compound sole and it features an internal bio-mechanical, double torsion bar, ankle brace for excellent support and safety.

Rick Scuteri/AP Photo

Two-time defending Supercross champion and current points leader Ryan Villopoto frequently steps onto the podium with his Alpinestars boots.

From the day the pitch for the Tech 10 was made, how long did it take to put the product into stores?
The concept to final production sign-off period for the Tech 10 was 2½ years. The project started in 2004 and the boot arrived in the market in the fall of 2006.

So when a design team sets out to come up with a new boot … do you just grab a handful of plastic, leather and tools, then look yourself in a room until you're done?
Designing and developing a new product takes time and involves many highly skilled and specialized people, from design, development, production, testing and indeed the owner of Alpinestars, all of whom are passionate about creating ever better performance.

We are talking about a full prototype development process here and we have to ensure that every part of the boot from material choice to construction exceeds high testing standards that we set. Every individual piece of the boot has to be extensively tested to ensure it can withstand all possible conditions that it may encounter.

When going through test runs on any of your boots…did you have well-known pro riders part of the process or do you have a crew of "test" riders for the bulk of the design and testing.
All athletes who are a part of Alpinestars racing development program and whom we support ultimately contribute to the testing of our racing products, from Jorge Lorenzo to Sebastian Vettel and Justin Barcia. Our racing service departments are out at the track for every race weekend and often testing in between, ensuring that detailed performance information is fed back into product development process.

"Race on Sunday, innovate on Monday" is a key philosophy we embrace at Alpinestars. For the Tech 10, apart from Alpinestars own, in-house test riders, multiple AMA SX and MX Champion Jeremy McGrath was the initial development test rider before all Alpinestars supported riders came on to the program.

With a product line as deep in quality as yours, is there a need to change the recipe that has made you as successful as your product has?
Our success over the last five decades has been based on three key concepts: Focus, on new innovation; commitment, to invest time, energy and resource on relentless development and vision, in bringing new design concepts and performance to our customers. This recipe is employed across all our product lines and we are constantly pushing to develop new technology and designs that ensure Alpinestars products continue to offer even greater benefits.

A great example of this is the Tech Air (air bag) road race suit, which took 11 years to make it to market. The early years on that project were spent gathering data to help build the software that could predict a crash before development commenced on the components that made up the actual airbags, custom gas inflators and electronic control system All products that we develop involve intensive R&D and as we regard every Alpinestars customer the same as we do any of our pro athletes when it comes to protection.

Last one, are we going to see a Tech 12 soon?
The Tech 10 is the benchmark Motocross boot and remains a technically innovative, class-leading product in terms of protection, comfort and performance. We are constantly developing and improving all our product lines and it is only after they have gone through the most rigorous of testing that we can understand what to launch on the market and when.

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