TWMX All Access: Fox Racing

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Visiting the lobby at Fox Racing’s Morgan Hill, CA, headquarters is a bit like visiting a motocross museum. Against one wall is Pat Richter’s ’77 RM125, equipped with the air-filled Fox Shox that really got things rolling for the Fox clan.

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On the opposite wall is a vintage Husky, the Suzuki that Travis Pastrana launched into the bay during the San Francisco X Games (complete with salt-water corrosion on all the aluminum parts), as well as a glass-enclosed showcase crammed to the gills with various bits of Fox-related moto history.

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Behind the receptionist’s desk is another cool item¿one of Donny Schmit’s Chesterfield Yamahas that he used while racing in Europe.

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While touring though the building with out host for the day, Fox’s Warren Johnson, there was plenty of other history on display. One section of wall hosted all the early catalogs that Fox produced (and their production values have obviously come a long way since those early days).

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But whether it was downstairs that houses the consumer call center, dealer sales, and marketing (which overflowed from the design and development area upstairs) it’s obvious that Fox has experienced explosive growth, and that the building that was expanded just a few years ago is already starting to feel snug.

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Talking with Mark Finley, Merchandise Manager for the Fox Racewear line, he said, “I started here when they just had the single building, and this one was built probably two or three years after I got here. As you saw, upstairs we’re jammed. We’re out of room up there. The company is definitely growing. We’re reconfiguring the warehouse to get more space. We’ve got an off-site warehouse in Gilroy, where we actually receive anything that comes from overseas. It gets received there, and then brought up to this warehouse for picking.”

After wondering aloud if being just a few minutes south of San Jose was a benefit, or a liability, Mark offered, “It has its pluses and minuses. I kind of like the secret factor up here, where we’re kind of stealth. The one drawback is we’re not in the heart of where the industry is. Going out to Elsinore on a weekday and seeing some of the top guys, or getting a flavor of what’s going on in Southern California, which is where a lot of our sales are. We’ve got Warren down there, and we’ve got a tech rep guy who does travel to a lot of the tracks. But we also now have an Irvine office where we have some sportswear designers, and couple of the guys in the Irvine office ride as well.”

With the quantity of energy devoted to the sportswear side, we had to put the question to Mark, is Fox a motocross company that produces sportswear? Or a sportswear company that still makes motocross stuff? He was emphatic with his answer. “We’re a motocross company that makes sportswear. Definitely. That’s where our roots are for sure. Sometimes our dealers may think, ‘Ah, Fox is in the malls.’ You’ll never see a Fox motocross product in the mall. You’ll never see a race pant, you’ll never see a glove. We’re true to our dealers who got us to where we are now. We enforce that where we don’t let jerseys, gloves, pants get into any malltores at all.”

We’re kind of two groups here. We have the racewear sides, which is myself and our design and development teams. We really focus on the racewear products. Then we have our sportswear team, and honestly, we work pretty separately. As far as when they release product and how many seasons they work on, it’s completely different than motocross. So we really focus on the racewear side, and they focus on the sportswear side. Chip (Jones, Product development Manager) and I are like tunnel vision for motocross. That’s our gig. It’s our passion, and that’s what we’re into.”

So what about the occasional rumors that Fox will be gobbled up by a giant like Nike? Mark smiled and said, “Man, the rumors are crazy. We hear that all the time, and we always laugh about it. It’s the Internet, and just the rumor mill. Fox is family-owned and operated. Geoff Fox, who started the company, is still in here three or four days a week. Pete and Greg¿Greg’s really kind of the leader of the sales side, and Pete’s really our creative director. John Fox, their younger brother, is a sportswear designer and a super-good guy. He’s totally athletic. Surfing, skating, wakeboarding¿he just rips, and he rides moto quite a bit as well. Anna Fox, their sister, works in our call center and is a supervisor there. So we still have the family totally involved.”

Life As A Merchandise Manager

So you want to work in the motocross industry? We asked Mark to outline his job at Fox. “I started as a developer, so I started from the bottom and worked into the merchandising position. As Merchandise Manager, my role is really to decide what the line’s going to be each season. I’ll decipher hits and misses from a previous season, analyze the line, and see how sales were for various color ways, sizes and styles. Once that’s approved through Greg and Pete, then I go ahead and create a design list¿basically a huge spreadsheet of all the products that we need to design for the upcoming season. Then I’ll do product briefs for every product. They’re a description of what the product should be, so the designers know going in what I’m expecting from them. I’ll create briefs for every product in the line. Some are really complicated and long. Some are super-short, like, ‘Socks: update the colors.'” (laughs)

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“After I hand those off to the design team, I’ll keep them on track with their milestone dates. Those guys have their chunk of time to work on designing, and then it gets to our development team and developers have their chunk of time to get it developed with our factories over in Asia. From that point, once it’s developed and finalized, it goes into production and gets shipped over here. We’ve learned lot in the seven years that I’ve been here about what factories can and can’t do, and delivery time. “

“Last year we went out and saw Ricky and James, and we talked about changes they’d like to see on the pants, gloves¿basically our entire line. Things they’d like to improve on. When I did the 360 pant brief last year, weight was a giant consideration that we wanted to work on. I think our ’05 pants have come quite a ways from last year’s style. The way we did it is we didn’t skimp on any of the materials. It’s the same nylon, and same Cordura on the back of the pant. But what we did was change the way we applied the logos. Instead of sewing down really thick-based rubber logos, we’ve gone to direct inject where they’re bonded directly to the nylon without a giant base that we call pancakes. With the pancakes you’ve got a big flat piece of rubber that’s all filled through the middle. The logos are now all directly bonded to the nylon, so you’re not sewing down these big pancakes.”

“On the back of the pant, we went to more of a PVC material, which is pretty slippery. The reason we did that is we don’t want them to stick to the seat and pull the pants down.”

“The other thing we did was change the rear yoke on the pant. We raised the yoke area by about an inch-and-a-half. Last year what we noticed, not only on our pants, but some of our competitors¿the riders ended up sitting on the logo, and that’s where the rubber would grab the seat and pull the pants down. So we’ve move it all up, we got the stretch rib material up higher to where the rider’s really sitting on the nylon, which also helps keep the pant up on the rider’s back.”

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“It’s unfortunate¿I’ve noticed what we’ve done in the past as far as the big rubber on the back of the pant, some of the other companies are doing that right now. It’s really almost a mistake that we made¿and we’ve gone away from it, and I’m sure those guys are feeling the same thing, because the pants have gotten really heavy. So we’ve gone back to just a nice light pant.”

We also went back to leather on the insides of the knees. We want pants that are going to last longer for our customers, so we’re stoked on the durability side, but we’re also stoked on the performance side where our top guys really like it. When James saw the leather, at first he was like, ‘Man, that might be a little too tacky for me. I kind of like to float around a little bit more.’ So right away we built up some of our current pants, put leather in the knee, and sent them out to him. He got them and said, ‘Yeah, I love it. It’s killer. Not too tacky, and works just fine.'”

“We also built samples and gave them to Jeff Pestana. He’s our local pro, and we see him almost every weekend. He also does durability testing for Honda. In a day of riding with Honda, he can do what it would take me like six months to do to a pant. He’s got grip tape on the side of his bike, and he can wear right through Kevlar in two or three hours with his knee braces. We have him take the covers off the knee braces, and leave the edges really sharp. I just picked up a pair of pants that he’s had for two months at hangtown. He was like, ‘These are so much better. The leather is so durable.’ He also likes the way it feels against the side of the bike.”

“The other thing we ended up doing after testing pants and with four-strokes being so popular now, we increased the length of the burn guard. Where last year’s pants didn’t go all the way into a boot, or a guy who was taller would have a gap between the top of the boot and where the knee material started, and sure enough, half the guys would melt it on their pipes. So we’ve increased the burn guard by about two inches, and we’ve changed it to leather this year, which is much better.”

“Every time Bubba comes through Fox, we have ladies upstairs who take all his measurements. He’s only 18. We’re waiting for him to finish growing, but he still wears a size nine boot. We’re waiting for that day when we send him a pair of nines and he says, ‘Dude, these are way off.’ Chip measures his foot at least every two or three months when he comes in here.”

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“Same with Ricky. Ricky came through a couple months back, and we did the full measurements. He was here for the San Francisco Supercross. It’s funny with Ricky, because he definitely fluctuates, depending on what program he’s on. He’ll be like, ‘Hey, I need 32 pants for the beginning of the nationals, but as we go along, I’ll probably need to go down to 31s or 30s.’ We saw him about three weeks ago out in Florida. We went and visited Ricky and James for like five days, just making sure Ricky was dialed because he hadn’t raced Supercross. We took new gear to him, new gloves, pants, and jerseys¿everything. We watched him ride and took a bunch of digital photos so Pete and all these guys could see it on him. Right away when he put the new pants on, he was like, ‘Man, these are so much lighter. It’s awesome.’ Those are the types of tat and pull the pants down.”

“The other thing we did was change the rear yoke on the pant. We raised the yoke area by about an inch-and-a-half. Last year what we noticed, not only on our pants, but some of our competitors¿the riders ended up sitting on the logo, and that’s where the rubber would grab the seat and pull the pants down. So we’ve move it all up, we got the stretch rib material up higher to where the rider’s really sitting on the nylon, which also helps keep the pant up on the rider’s back.”

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“It’s unfortunate¿I’ve noticed what we’ve done in the past as far as the big rubber on the back of the pant, some of the other companies are doing that right now. It’s really almost a mistake that we made¿and we’ve gone away from it, and I’m sure those guys are feeling the same thing, because the pants have gotten really heavy. So we’ve gone back to just a nice light pant.”

We also went back to leather on the insides of the knees. We want pants that are going to last longer for our customers, so we’re stoked on the durability side, but we’re also stoked on the performance side where our top guys really like it. When James saw the leather, at first he was like, ‘Man, that might be a little too tacky for me. I kind of like to float around a little bit more.’ So right away we built up some of our current pants, put leather in the knee, and sent them out to him. He got them and said, ‘Yeah, I love it. It’s killer. Not too tacky, and works just fine.'”

“We also built samples and gave them to Jeff Pestana. He’s our local pro, and we see him almost every weekend. He also does durability testing for Honda. In a day of riding with Honda, he can do what it would take me like six months to do to a pant. He’s got grip tape on the side of his bike, and he can wear right through Kevlar in two or three hours with his knee braces. We have him take the covers off the knee braces, and leave the edges really sharp. I just picked up a pair of pants that he’s had for two months at hangtown. He was like, ‘These are so much better. The leather is so durable.’ He also likes the way it feels against the side of the bike.”

“The other thing we ended up doing after testing pants and with four-strokes being so popular now, we increased the length of the burn guard. Where last year’s pants didn’t go all the way into a boot, or a guy who was taller would have a gap between the top of the boot and where the knee material started, and sure enough, half the guys would melt it on their pipes. So we’ve increased the burn guard by about two inches, and we’ve changed it to leather this year, which is much better.”

“Every time Bubba comes through Fox, we have ladies upstairs who take all his measurements. He’s only 18. We’re waiting for him to finish growing, but he still wears a size nine boot. We’re waiting for that day when we send him a pair of nines and he says, ‘Dude, these are way off.’ Chip measures his foot at least every two or three months when he comes in here.”

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“Same with Ricky. Ricky came through a couple months back, and we did the full measurements. He was here for the San Francisco Supercross. It’s funny with Ricky, because he definitely fluctuates, depending on what program he’s on. He’ll be like, ‘Hey, I need 32 pants for the beginning of the nationals, but as we go along, I’ll probably need to go down to 31s or 30s.’ We saw him about three weeks ago out in Florida. We went and visited Ricky and James for like five days, just making sure Ricky was dialed because he hadn’t raced Supercross. We took new gear to him, new gloves, pants, and jerseys¿everything. We watched him ride and took a bunch of digital photos so Pete and all these guys could see it on him. Right away when he put the new pants on, he was like, ‘Man, these are so much lighter. It’s awesome.’ Those are the types of things they asked for from last year that we did for them.”

“It was really gratifying to go out there. We didn’t even say anything. We were just like, ‘Hey, here’s the new 360 pant.’ Right as he slides it on in his garage, he instantly says that to us. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Right on, we did our job.’ He told us then, ‘Hey, I’m probably going to lose six or seven more pounds before Hangtown.’ This was like three weeks ago. I was thinking there’s no way you’re going to lose that weight. But sure enough, we had 30s for him, and we opened the waist just a little bit. We made them 31s. But he’s almost down to a 30 now.”

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At this point, Warren chimed in, “Everything is function and performance-oriented first. Fox will not release a product unless it’s the absolute best product that it can possibly be. Not just because it looks good, and not because it’s pretty cool, but because function-wise it’s the best that it can possibly be.”

Mark agreed. “Absolutely. That comes straight from Pete. We have kind of a ten commandments of design upstairs. It really is function first when it comes to motocross. Pete’s funny like, ‘We know we can make it pretty, but let’s worry about that later. Let’s make sure we can make a product that functions correctly. Then we can go back and make it look great.”

Contact:

Fox Racing, Inc.
18400 Sutter Blvd.
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
(408) 776-8633
www.foxracing.com

Sponsored by:
of things they asked for from last year that we did for them.”

“It was really gratifying to go out there. We didn’t even say anything. We were just like, ‘Hey, here’s the new 360 pant.’ Right as he slides it on in his garage, he instantly says that to us. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Right on, we did our job.’ He told us then, ‘Hey, I’m probably going to lose six or seven more pounds before Hangtown.’ This was like three weeks ago. I was thinking there’s no way you’re going to lose that weight. But sure enough, we had 30s for him, and we opened the waist just a little bit. We made them 31s. But he’s almost down to a 30 now.”

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At this point, Warren chimed in, “Everything is function and performance-oriented first. Fox will not release a product unless it’s the absolute best product that it can possibly be. Not just because it looks good, and not because it’s pretty cool, but because function-wise it’s the best that it can possibly be.”

Mark agreed. “Absolutely. That comes straight from Pete. We have kind of a ten commandments of design upstairs. It really is function first when it comes to motocross. Pete’s funny like, ‘We know we can make it pretty, but let’s worry about that later. Let’s make sure we can make a product that functions correctly. Then we can go back and make it look great.”

Contact:

Fox Racing, Inc.
18400 Sutter Blvd.
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
(408) 776-8633
www.foxracing.com

Sponsored by: