Over the last eight years, the gang at One Industries have been making motocross a more colorful place with their ultra-clean bike graphic kits. But last year they surprised a lot of people by introducing their own helmet, the Trooper. One’s Brand Manager, Danny Dobey explained, “That’s why we got into the helmet market—because we thought we could make a better-looking and better-performing helmet.
Of course, it wasn’t a fast or easy project to take on. “When we first introduced the Trooper, it was almost a year behind schedule. It took us two years to develop it because it was our first venture into that market. We couldn’t come into it halfway…it had to be top-notch right from the get-go. So we took our time, which was tough because we’d already had invested a lot of money into molds, but we couldn’t release a product yet. It was frustrating at the time—and a lot more difficult than we anticipated—but we had to do it right.”
Apparently their dealers and customers were happy with the result, because as Danny showed us around the One Industries headquarters, quantities of the ’05 Trooper were dwindling. But at the same time, they were looking at creating more space for new Troopers, and their latest model, the Kombat.
The Kombat uses a thermo alloy resin/PC shell as opposed to the Trooper’s Kevlar/fiberglass composite shell, but retains a surprising amount of similar features—though at a $169 price tag. Danny said, “Obviously the Trooper was a success last year of the Trooper at $299, people liked the design and shape of what we had, but they wanted something a little more affordable. We said, ‘Okay, let’s take a price point of an affordable helmet, and make it the best possible helmet we can. I mean, it has the soft liner, and it has a washable/removable liner and cheek pads. It has the air ventilation system an fully adjustable visor. For an affordable helmet, it’s killer.”
So we had Marc, our head designer, sit down with the manufacturer, and we came up with what we were originally targeting as a $149 helmet, Well, when you have the President of the company who’s also a designer, there are only certain things that he’ll give up.”
So what did One learn from the first round of helmets that you can apply to this? “Mainly functionality of a helmet. What type of channeling works the best for air flow, what shell shape offers some of the best protection. We were able to quickly move through a lot of that. The Trooper was such a different looking helmet as far as shape. A lot of people compared it to the old JT ASL-2, Picture that helmet modified for 2005, and that’s kind of what we liked about it. What we learned on the Trooper helped us tremendously. It took us a year. We wanted to come out with it sooner, but we wanted people to see it and have the “Wow” factor. We also had to wait and make sure we got through all the new Snell 2005 standards, which it is.”
Danny then told the tale of receiving some validation on the final result of the Kombat helmet last weekend in Colorado at Thunder Valley when they had several of their sponsored riders try the helmet in the heat on Saturday practice for a catalog photo shoot. “That was a great test because nobody had seen it, nobody had known about it, and we did a good job of keeping it under wraps and just putting it on these guys heads. Jason Lawrence. Michael Blose and Willy Browning were wearing the helmet. I didn’t even tell them that it was a price point helmet. I just said, ‘Here, I want you to wear this for the photo shoot.’ They had no idea that it was an affordable helmet. When I told them, they were surprised that it felt so good and was so comfortable. Saturday was really hot…probably close to 100. That was the best result to have them go, ‘Man, it feels great. It’s light and comfortable. Then I pulled the liner, cleaned it and put a new one in, they said, ‘Ah, it has all the features.’ When I told them it was $169, they were surprised. We showed it to some shops and got the same kind of response. Everybody’s pretty excited about it.”
Of course, graphics are a huge part of any helmet, but Danny said that wasn’t their primary consideration in the early stages of the project. “Obviously with us doing graphics, and being one on the industry leaders in that, that’s actually the easy part. The hard part was taking a shell design, taking Marc’s ideas, and putting them into a functional and affordable helmet. Once we got that, and that’s the majority of it, then it’s on to the designing the graphics, which is the fun part, and when Marc gets to be the designer that he is.
“We actually have six colors in the Kombat—three that we consider lifestyle from a design standpoint, like a tribal flame. Then we go to an aggressive lightning bolt, and then we have what we call our racing line, which is more the clean-cut design for the racers.”
The plastic surrounding the eye opening and chin bar is grey on the Kombat, which enhances the open look of the already substantial eye port. “That was one of the best features of the Trooper that we took to the Kombat, was the eye port opening and its excellent peripheral vision. We very much based the design on the shape of the Trooper.”
The Trooper remains the same for next year, only with modifications to the color ways, and both models are targeted for a September 1st release. “We’ve pre-booked a lot of helmets with our dealers, and the listing will be updated by the end of August on our web site.”
Overall, Danny’s happy with where they’re at in the pecking order of helmet manufacturers. “What is now setting helmets apart is much like when we entered the graphic industry. There were probably 15 different companies doing graphics. Obviously that has slimmed down to some core guys, and we’re probably seeing that same effect starting to happen with helmets. But in helmets, it’s those companies that can take the functionality of a helmet, and keep it comfortable and looking good. Those are the three elements that you’re going to have to do to make it. That’s where the challenge is now, because there are so many different people doing it. But this is definitely the largest market for helmets, the under-$199 range.”
“Some people say low-end helmets and they think $169. Some people think $79, because there are some out there. We don’t want to go any lower than $169. To put out a quality helmet that has function and works and we’re happy with and our riders are going to enjoy and feel good about, we can’t go any lower than the threshold of what we’ve done here.”