TWMX All Access: Alpinestars USA

Anyone with more than a passing interest in MX knows about Alpinestars. Their Tech 8 boots are as legendary as the list of championship-winning riders who’ve buckled them up. But these days (as you’ll soon see) they’re branching out, using the name recognition of the Alpinestars brand to launch full speed ahead into the apparel world.

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We visited the Alpinestars USA offices in Torrance, CA, and met with Malcolm McCassy. At 26, Malcolm is an easily recognizable face in the sport, having spent the last eight years working with No Fear and Spy, and helping to tend to riders like Jeremy McGrath and Travis Pastrana. At times, that visibility (along with his action figure and bonus TV appearances) have brought him some flack, but there’s no denying that he’s a spark plug who gets things done. The only challenge is whether you can keep up.

The first question posed to Malcolm (in-between calls on his constantly ringing cell phone) was about the new apparel line, which Alpinestars had shown off at the most recent ASR show in Long Beach, CA. Malcolm took a deep breath and dug right in. “The company started in ’63, and everything’s just been an evolution from boots, to the SMX boots for the road race GPs, and even driving shoes. But now, we’ve evolved from the t-shirts and basic accessories that most companies have, to a full sportswear line that’s launching into the mainstream… kind of what Fox or No Fear and other companies have done. This is full mainstream, like Tilly’s and stores like that, so it’s a totally different type of launch and requires a separate sales force, because these type of accounts need pampering.”

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“We have a whole new team devoted to this line, including a sales force and production. Honestly, after my past eight years at No Fear, being able to go into the Reef Brazils, the DCs and everything, it’s the most incredible team I’ve ever seen.”

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Since Malcolm is a relatively recent recruit at Alpinestars, after moving there from No Fear last fall. What prompted him to make the jump? “Gabriele (Mazzarolo, the owner of Alpinestars) is an amazing businessman, and an amazing person…how he works with you, how he listens, wants your input, and gets you involved. Jeremy McGrath always said if he was to pick one sponsor, Gabriele was a true friend, and had always taken care of him. I heard that stuff for six years, so it made it a lot easier to make the switch. I threw off my security blanket and headed over here.”

“Actually, before I was doing No Fear, Spy and Alpinestars, so you can imagine all the hats to fill. I was running around thinking, ‘How the heck am I doing this?’ Like you’re on a podium at the X Games and reach into your bag and go, ‘Okay, what do I do?’ (Laughs)

“Before I started at No Fear, I used to get in trouble for talking in school. Then all of a sudden I got paid to talk, which kind of worked out. Jeff Surwall and everyone at No Fear, I don’t know if you could say they took me under their wings, because I was doing manual labor in the warehouse. (Laughs) But No Fear was a great learning experience. It was an incredible time. I got to travel with Jeremy McGrath, and have the team and the tools to work with riders like him and Travis Pastrana.”

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So what exactly is Malcolm’s title and mission, now that he’s at A-Stars? “My title’s Front Line…I guess I take the grenades for the team. I come in there swinging, whatever needs to be done. It’s media, marketing, and special projects. It’s kind of a joke because I’ve always in the past like at No Fear it was ‘Prince Charming.’ I’ve always had funny names. It’s a fun world, and you only live once. Enjoy it.”

It used to be that almost anywhere Travis went, Malcolm was seen in the background. Is it a little less like that now? “My nickname in the past, wasThe fluffer.’ For example, Travis would be out there with a fractured arm with a cast, and he’d sign autographs for 20 million people. I’d run 20 stories down at a supercross to get him a slushee…something like that. That wasn’t kissing butt, that was because I know how hard these guys work and how much they go through. To me, I kind of accepted the fluffer name, because if I’m fluffin’ and they’re stoked and everything’s good, I’m doing my job.”

“Right now I’m adjusting. I bought a house in Temecula, which is my dream. I have two athlete rooms so people can come stay. I’m putting in the shifter karts and the whole deal. I’m having an Alpinestars room and everything. Once again, Gabriele totally supports me on that. But then I work in Torrance three to four days a week when I’m not traveling…it’s been hard because I’m so used to being there. I have a job now, and have things that I have to get done. If I get them done, I can go play.”

“We also have our racing development team to take care a lot of stuff that I used to do. They go to the races, they’re in uniforms, and it’s a real professional group that gets the job done. We take our vans to every race, and those things are stocked with the boots. There’s no custom stuff… actually, everyone wears a Tech 8, which is pretty amazing, because a lot of other boot companies have to customize things. So they take the boots, take all the stuff, and having a team like that makes my job easier. But I still hand deliver a lot of stuff, like Ryan Hughes and Grant and Chad. Like Chad Reed had those painted boots in Las Vegas. Mitchell Bailey actually helped me out last minute and believe it or not, he used a Sharpie to do the artwork. He hooked it up. I like painting stuff, like the boots for Chad, or the ones for McGrath. It’s fun doing stuff like that. I love it.”

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The ever-elusive Alpinestars gear (which is worn by top freestylers and the Red Bull KTM team) prompted our next question. It’s available in Europe, but not in the U.S. Alpinestars is sensitive about their relationship with Parts Unlimited (who also own Thor). “The gear is a great marketing tool and that’s kind of how we use it in demos to build the brand awareness. But the stuff’s going to stay in Italy.”

“My philosophy is, anyone can make gear, but not everyone can make boots. Ever since we introduced the Tech 8, what… four or five years ago? People have been cutting that boot apart. Finally, the Oxtar boot with the name and all, is pretty close.

But we actually do have a Tech 9 and a Tech 10 in a vault. We’re just waiting for them to get eight steps behind our bootie Tech 8. The reason there’s a bootie is because that’s the safest thing. Everyone markets a non-bootie boot. We offer both because some people want to go ride trials and they don’t need it, but for racing, there’s no question that the Tech 8 is the safest. For that reason we don’t want to bring the gear here, because we want to be the boot that goes with Fox, that goes with Thor, that goes with whatever company’s out there. It’s super-competitive, and I think our gear would do well, no question, but we’ve had this conversation in meetings. We love our relationship with Parts Unlimited, and obviously we take pride in making the best boots in the world.”

So how far off is a Tech 9 or Tech 10 boot? “To tell you the truth, about two years ago I went with Travis to Italy, and it was like my initiation. They couldn’t show me everything because I was still working for other people, but they let me into the secret vault, and I saw one of the most incredible boots I’ve ever seen, which was the initial stages of the Tech 9. It’ll probably be eight to ten months before it comes out. It sounds dumb, but the Tech 8 is by all means the safest boot out there, and the new one is going to redefine things. But at the same time, we have a laboratory in Italy, and everything we make undergoes impact, abrasion, and every kind of test you can think of. The boot definitely is there, but it’s fine-tuning and polishing. It’s like the new Honda CRF250. I’m sure they could release it, but at the same time, Honda are such perfectionists that when it does come out even though it’s three months late and everyone’s mad, it’s going to be the sickest bike ever. I guess that’s the same thing with our boots.”

“Look at the riders we have, and they’ve all been super-supportive in testing it, too, so it’s not just built by some guy in a suit and tie, saying, ‘Well, this looks cool.’ Our stuff’s built for a technical purpose first, and then put the beauty behind it.”

So have there been prototypes floating around? “Um, yeah… there have been a few prototypes. But I don’t know if they’re floating, though. When they come in, it’s in full undercover.”

“Every rider that’s racing in a Tech 8 boot is 100 percent in the boot you buy. I think that’s pretty rare. For example, the gear you buy is altered for Travis Pastrana. It’s hard to fit everyone. But that boot is directly out of our warehouse onto Chad Reed, Carmichael, Pastrana, all these guys. Gabriele definitely takes pride in the work and focuses on that.”

“The R & D obviously happens a lot there, but we learn a lot here, too. For example, we’re learning a lot on the gear just having the gear here, because we’ve had it on Euros over there, and the people here ride totally different. For example, one of my heroes and one of the baddest guys out there right now is Ryan Hughes, and gosh that guy can tear through anything. He’s all over that bike, just owning it. So we constantly learn through our athlete involvement. We also have an R & D facility here that’s top secret, and have a team of probably 12 guys at that building who are constantly plugging at the next thing. The new prototype, the new materials, the new fabrics, how to make it better, more breathable. It’s probably 50/50, just because there are so many products coming out. If you look at our catalog, or alpinestars.com, you’ll see what I mean.”

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“If you look at alpinestars.com, you can see every product we make, and every single thing is not just something like, ‘Well, let’s just make it to make it. Let’s make it the best, let’s put 100 percent into it, let’s send it to a lab and make sure it passes the impact and abrasion tests, then let’s test it with all our athletes and make sure it’s good.’ Then they go back and finalize everything and release the safest product by all means for whatever sport it applies to.”

“It is amazing. In the past I never understood it. I’d see an Alpinestars boot and think, ‘All right, Tech 8, thumbs up.’ But to come in here and see what’s really behind it? It’s hard to get that message out. If you look at a starting line, like 80 percent of the people wear them. Yeah, I think they look incredibly cool, and I think it’s rad that he’s stuck with black and white for as much as people want to do colors. I think it’s going to go down in history as a boot that pretty much is an icon for the sport.”

Contact:

Alpinestars USA
2780 W. 237th St.
Torrance, CA 90505
www.alpinestars.com

ime, we have a laboratory in Italy, and everything we make undergoes impact, abrasion, and every kind of test you can think of. The boot definitely is there, but it’s fine-tuning and polishing. It’s like the new Honda CRF250. I’m sure they could release it, but at the same time, Honda are such perfectionists that when it does come out even though it’s three months late and everyone’s mad, it’s going to be the sickest bike ever. I guess that’s the same thing with our boots.”

“Look at the riders we have, and they’ve all been super-supportive in testing it, too, so it’s not just built by some guy in a suit and tie, saying, ‘Well, this looks cool.’ Our stuff’s built for a technical purpose first, and then put the beauty behind it.”

So have there been prototypes floating around? “Um, yeah… there have been a few prototypes. But I don’t know if they’re floating, though. When they come in, it’s in full undercover.”

“Every rider that’s racing in a Tech 8 boot is 100 percent in the boot you buy. I think that’s pretty rare. For example, the gear you buy is altered for Travis Pastrana. It’s hard to fit everyone. But that boot is directly out of our warehouse onto Chad Reed, Carmichael, Pastrana, all these guys. Gabriele definitely takes pride in the work and focuses on that.”

“The R & D obviously happens a lot there, but we learn a lot here, too. For example, we’re learning a lot on the gear just having the gear here, because we’ve had it on Euros over there, and the people here ride totally different. For example, one of my heroes and one of the baddest guys out there right now is Ryan Hughes, and gosh that guy can tear through anything. He’s all over that bike, just owning it. So we constantly learn through our athlete involvement. We also have an R & D facility here that’s top secret, and have a team of probably 12 guys at that building who are constantly plugging at the next thing. The new prototype, the new materials, the new fabrics, how to make it better, more breathable. It’s probably 50/50, just because there are so many products coming out. If you look at our catalog, or alpinestars.com, you’ll see what I mean.”

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“If you look at alpinestars.com, you can see every product we make, and every single thing is not just something like, ‘Well, let’s just make it to make it. Let’s make it the best, let’s put 100 percent into it, let’s send it to a lab and make sure it passes the impact and abrasion tests, then let’s test it with all our athletes and make sure it’s good.’ Then they go back and finalize everything and release the safest product by all means for whatever sport it applies to.”

“It is amazing. In the past I never understood it. I’d see an Alpinestars boot and think, ‘All right, Tech 8, thumbs up.’ But to come in here and see what’s really behind it? It’s hard to get that message out. If you look at a starting line, like 80 percent of the people wear them. Yeah, I think they look incredibly cool, and I think it’s rad that he’s stuck with black and white for as much as people want to do colors. I think it’s going to go down in history as a boot that pretty much is an icon for the sport.”

Contact:

Alpinestars USA
2780 W. 237th St.
Torrance, CA 90505
www.alpinestars.com