Innovations in safety equipment really don’t come along very often. When you think about the core protective devices used in motocross — gear, goggles, gloves, boots, etc. — the basic designs really haven’t changed much over the past 20+ years. But recently, as the industry focuses more and more on rider safety, we are starting to see innovative new designs (Scott USA’s Genius boot) and completely new products (the Leatt Brace). Whether you like the product or not, we all eventually benefit from companies thinking outside the box and trying to find better ways to keep us safe when riding.
RXR Protect is another one of those companies. They have taken a completely new approach to back and chest protection by incorporating air bladders — think air bags — into the design of their chest protector. To learn more about RXR and their products, we caught up with Chris Favro, their North American brand manager…
TWMX: Tell us about RXR Protect and the company’s history…
FAVRO: David Schueller started the company in France. David used to own a big dealership in the north of France, and he was one of the providers of Suzuki and Kawasaki bikes when U.S. riders would go to Bercy; he’s been involved in motocross all his life. Throughout the years he saw a number of bad accidents, including in his own family, with the plastic chest protectors. His cousin was badly cut when a plastic protector broke, so he was started looking for something better.
In the last four or five years he went through a lot of different designs — foam, gel, and other things — until he came up with the idea of using air. Of course, the use of air was inspired by air bags and other products that use air to absorb shock. He wanted to design something that would protect the spine, the back, and of course the chest and ribs. They worked on it for several years, and in ’05 and ’06 worked with young riders in Europe; including Dennis Verbruggen, the 2005 Junior World Champion and 2006 125cc European Champ. He’s one of the guys we’ve used since the beginning, and Dennis has been using it in GP basically all the time. To test endurance and rider reaction to the product we also have Sebastien Guillaume; he was second to David Knight in the World Enduro Championships last year. As you know, in enduro they race for six hours on Saturday and another six hours on Sunday.
We arrived with the product in the U.S. in early 2007, but in Europe a few other riders have been working with it.
What is your role with the company?
I joined RXR last year. They were looking for a brand manager in the U.S. who knew about the MX scene and was involved in the industry, so that’s how I got involved.
Tell us more about the product itself and how it differs from a traditional plastic chest protector…
Basically we were trying to get away from being just a roost deflector, which is what the plastic stuff really is. They were never designed to protect the back or chest from impact. The plastic ones are basically a 30 year-old technology that is just made for roost deflection. RXR was looking for real protection beyond what we have now, and the secret to that protection is in absorption.
So do you use the RXR under a traditional chest protect, or on its own?
You use it by itself. The RXR is going to protect your chest, back, and spine from impact, and at the same time it’s also a roost deflector. You can use it under a jersey…or it can be worn above the jersey. We have a black model with a stronger outside material, and a white one that is more breathable.
What kind of challenges have you run into?>
One of the challenges we’ve had is concern about heat when wearing it, but it really isn’t any warmer than a traditional protector. Because it sort of sticks to the body it is a new feeling and kind of like the first time you use knee braces or a Leatt Brace, it takes some getting used to. But it’s a very light product, and people tell us the more they ride with it, they don’t notice it.
The main thing to understand is this is a product that has to be tried. Anytime you come out with something new, people aren’t sure what to think when they first see it.
It certainly is different, but we think any innovation in safety equipment is a step in the right direction.
This is true. Bikes are faster and heavier than ever, and riders have to be protected…we have to take these steps.
Where can people purchase the RXR?
They can go to our website www.rxrprotectnorthamerica.com for a list of dealers. BTO has been a great dealer for us, and so has WholesaleMX.
Thanks a lot, Chris.
Visit www.rxrprotectnorthamerica.com for more info.