TWMX All Access: Oxtar TCX Pro Boots

Intersport Fashions West might not be a familiar name to moto fanatics, but they’re familiar to most dealers as the importers and distributors of street clothing lines like Gericke and FIRSTGEAR, as well as Concept helmets and Held gloves and tank bags from Germany. They’re also licensed by Honda and Suzuki to create street and road racing apparel.

They’re also making forward progress into the MX and off-road market, as the importers and distributors of the Oxtar boots. Paul Golde, Product Development Manager for Intersport Fashions West, gave us the inside scoop on the history behind Intersport Fashions West, the Oxtar brand, and about how the new Oxtar TCX Pro boot was developed.

Paul told us, “While we’ve been on the street side of things on Intersport doing all the various brands, we have a long-standing background in dirt, and we certainly understand the off-road market. That’s why it was pretty easy to actually develop the boot, because we knew the market, and we worked with the technical guys at Oxtar to actually make a boot that was going to be world class.”

“Oxtar is located in Montebelluna, Italy, which for Italian motorcycle boot manufacturers is like the Napa/Sonoma area in California is for wineries. All of the manufacturers are there, including Alpinestars, Sidi and Gaerne. They’re all in Northeastern Italy just north of Napoli, and just below the Dolomites.

“The President of the company is Ivo Zanatta and his father Giulliani is the owner. It’s a family-run business. The daughters and brothers and sisters…everybody works there, though it’s obviously a much bigger company than just the family. Ivo’s a past Italian National Enduro Champion, and he’s definitely into motocross. He loves off-road. He loves street, too, but his heart’s kind of in off-road.”

“Before Oxtar, they got started in 1982 with Jolly Scarpe in what they call their industrial division. They were very influential in developing technical boots for the state police in Italy, for the military, and for firemen. Fireproof, bulletproof, just super-technical boots. It’s their biggest division. Oxtar is only motorcycling, and they’ve been doing that since 1989. “

[IMAGE 1]

So what does Oxtar mean? Paul explained, “The literal translation from Italian means street strength, because that’s what they first started out with—their street boots, but you could also, now that we’re in off-road, look at it as track strength. Ox is the strong animal, and tar is the pavement.”

With their road experience, Oxtar already has an impressive roster of riders in Moto GP, including Norick Abe and Shiya Nakano, as well as World Superbike competitors like Stephane Chambone and Pierfrancesco Chili. Closer to home, Larry Pegram and Jake Zemke are both wearing their road boots.

“Several years ago when we became the importer of the Oxtar brand, they only offered the street boots, but after a couple years they decided they’d like to get into the off-road market as well. I told them there was a lot of competition out there, and that there were only a couple really good boots. If we couldn’t come up with a motocross boot that was better than the Alpinestars Tech 8, we weren’t really interested. They said, ‘Well, that’s our goal, too.'”

“When we started developing our TCX Pro, we looked at the Tech 8. How it protected the foot, how it lasted, the comfort of it…just everything about the boot, and picked places we wanted to try and improve. The main gist of what we did with road racing boots was develop an exoskeleton that’s sewn, glued and riveted into the boot. It protects your foot on the outside, instead of on the inside.”

[IMAGE 2]

“The first thing we wanted was to have lots of protection and rigidity in the boot. We didn’t want it to break down prematurely. That’s what the exoskeleton does with the flex areas. Igives you plenty of flex for walking around, shifting and braking out on the track, but it doesn’t easily fold over sideways. We offer a lot more protection in a pro-level boot. The whole back has the exoskeleton, and it provides strength and protection without compromising the comfort of the boot.”

“The tooling costs on a lot of these pieces are astronomical, because they’re all injection-molded. What we did is work with prototypes that were hand-cast out of a nylon resin. They had the characteristics of the production boot, but for a very short period of time. Then it just falls apart. So we’d use different prototypes and work on evaluating a certain area, then another part of the boot would start to break, but we knew that was because we weren’t using the proper materials.”

So how much design input did Paul and the rest of his U.S. test crew get to provide? “A lot, actually. They brought the first prototype out and the first thing we did is go to the desert and we rode and critiqued it. We had a huge amount of input on it, right down to the graphics and everything. Everyone who sees it like the look of the boot. It’s not too Euro. Oxtar is extremely interested in the U.S. market is huge, and they know if it works in the U.S., it’ll work everywhere else. They wanted to make sure that the TCX Pro, TCX Comp and to a certain extent the Blast recreation boot was right for the U.S. market. The sizing, the color ways, the pricing, everything about it…so we had a lot of input.”

The Oxtar TCX Pro also uses an internal bootie that’s similar to the Tech 8. “The advantage of that, is more accurate fitting of your foot, and provides padding exactly where you need it. What we’ve done on our bootie is that it’s fully breathable on the forward portion, and we’ve molded in a lot of padding around the heel and ankle. It’s actually memory foam that heats up and kind of conforms to your foot, It’s a little tight when you first put the boot on, but after ten minutes or so your body heat warms it up and it molds around your foot perfectly.”

[IMAGE 3]

“That’s one thing that people love about the boot is that they feel so secure and that they have this perfect connection to the footpegs for weight transfer and peg weighting.”

“The booties are also washable and have a herringbone pattern that keep them from sliding on the bottom of the boot, as well as ridges in the heel, that when combined with a strap that goes over the top of your foot, keeps you very secure inside the boot.”

“The third thing that we’ve done is make the sole longer-lasting. Some boots have replaceable pads, but in reality we find that they’re sometimes more hassle than they’re worth. In some cases their design philosophy may have gone too far and they’ve out-tricked themselves. They’ve gotten too complicated, and in reality it doesn’t work that well.”

“What we’ve done is design a dual-density sole system. The black part is fairly soft so that it provides a lot of cushioning when walking or riding. They gray area is a much higher durometer rubber. Our pro racers like Wey and Povolny are just blown away at how long-lasting the sole is. Of course, if you do wear it out, you can have a cobbler replace it, because we do offer replacement soles.”

[IMAGE 4]

“We wanted something that was really long-lasting, because the rest of the boot is not going to wear out. With the exoskeleton, the boot isn’t going to break down, but they break in really nice because they have full-grain leather and flex panels in key areas.”

“I’ve taken pictures of Nick Wey’s boots after five or six races, and the soles look brand-new. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’d good for consumers because they can have a boot for a long time, but it’s kind of bad for dealers in a way because they won’t be selling as many boots. But we want to be different and the highest quality, so that’s some of the things we’ve done.”

Considering that this is Oxtar’s first year on the track, they have an impressive off-road roster as well. Nick Wey, Josh Woods, and the entire Team Subway Honda crew (Ted Campbell, Joe Oehlhof, and Jason Thomas) are in the boots, as well as Euro stars like Javier Garcia Vico, Stephane Pourcel, and Andrea Bartolini.

[IMAGE 5]

“None of our racers would sign before they actually got to try the boot, but we only had a prototype. Just about every single one of them came back after a few laps on the track saying, ‘These are the prototypes? These are bitchen!’ I told them there would even be a lot of improvements. We made a bunch of improvements, even from the pre-production prototypes.”

So how long was the total development time? “It was almost two years, and it was a really interesting process. It was a lot of fun to do the prototyping and get the feedback. I would go to all the supercrosses and talk to the riders to get feedback. I’d take notes and photos, and send them back. It was a real intense four-month period when we were coming down to the wire as far as getting all the input and going into production. It was fun to actually deliver the production boots to the riders, because they could see the changes we made based on input they’d given us.”

So what’s the cost of the Oxtars? “We’re right there with Alpinestars. They’re at $329 retail for the Tech 8, and we’re at $325. In reality, Alpinestars sell all day long over the internet and in mail-order catalogs for $300. That’s probably what a lot of dealers will do is offer the TCX Pro at $300.”

“We also offer a TCX Comp, and it has a lot of the key features like the Torsion Control System exoskeleton, the dual-density sole, but it uses internal padding instead of the inner bootie. It also has plastic buckle levers instead of aluminum. It uses a coated split-grain leather instead of the full-grain leather. They retail for $269.95.

So since they offer similar features, and are priced in the same range, how will they compete with Alpinestars? “It certainly won’t be easy. They’re huge, and have great distribution through Parts Unlimited and other distributors. A lot of dealers are looking at the TCX Pro and Comp and say, ‘Wow, this is definitely a different boot,’ and that’s something I wanted to completely avoid. I didn’t want to copy anybody, I wanted to use the best boot on the market as a springboard for what we thought could be a much better boot.”

“A lot of riders who have been wearing top-level boots are very impressed. I haven’t had anyone yet who said, ‘I don’t like it, I like my Tech 8s better.’ They like the strength, the security it gives them, and they certainly like the durability of the boot. So our biggest hurdle is just going to be convincing dealers to put the Oxtar boot in their store right next to the Tech 8s, Fox Bubba boot, or Sidi Flex Forces.”

“The presentation I’ve been making to dealers runs something like this: “You should give your customers a choice. You have X number of helmets, and you should have X number of boots. To offer a technically different and what we feel is a technically superior boot is what you owe your customers. Let them decide.”

[IMAGE 6]

Initial reaction among dealers has been excellent, and Paul was happy to note, “We’re already running out of the first production run, and had to air freight the second production run in. While it definitely cuts into our profit, we want to make sure the dealers can get the boots when they order them. As soon as we saw the boots flying out the door, we made the decision to fly in the second production run.”

“The word’s starting to get out.”

Contact:

Intersport Fashions West
15602 Mosher Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 258-2120

Considering that this is Oxtar’s first year on the track, they have an impressive off-road roster as well. Nick Wey, Josh Woods, and the entire Team Subway Honda crew (Ted Campbell, Joe Oehlhof, and Jason Thomas) are in the boots, as well as Euro stars like Javier Garcia Vico, Stephane Pourcel, and Andrea Bartolini.

[IMAGE 5]

“None of our racers would sign before they actually got to try the boot, but we only had a prototype. Just about every single one of them came back after a few laps on the track saying, ‘These are the prototypes? These are bitchen!’ I told them there would even be a lot of improvements. We made a bunch of improvements, even from the pre-production prototypes.”

So how long was the total development time? “It was almost two years, and it was a really interesting process. It was a lot of fun to do the prototyping and get the feedback. I would go to all the supercrosses and talk to the riders to get feedback. I’d take notes and photos, and send them back. It was a real intense four-month period when we were coming down to the wire as far as getting all the input and going into production. It was fun to actually deliver the production boots to the riders, because they could see the changes we made based on input they’d given us.”

So what’s the cost of the Oxtars? “We’re right there with Alpinestars. They’re at $329 retail for the Tech 8, and we’re at $325. In reality, Alpinestars sell all day long over the internet and in mail-order catalogs for $300. That’s probably what a lot of dealers will do is offer the TCX Pro at $300.”

“We also offer a TCX Comp, and it has a lot of the key features like the Torsion Control System exoskeleton, the dual-density sole, but it uses internal padding instead of the inner bootie. It also has plastic buckle levers instead of aluminum. It uses a coated split-grain leather instead of the full-grain leather. They retail for $269.95.

So since they offer similar features, and are priced in the same range, how will they compete with Alpinestars? “It certainly won’t be easy. They’re huge, and have great distribution through Parts Unlimited and other distributors. A lot of dealers are looking at the TCX Pro and Comp and say, ‘Wow, this is definitely a different boot,’ and that’s something I wanted to completely avoid. I didn’t want to copy anybody, I wanted to use the best boot on the market as a springboard for what we thought could be a much better boot.”

“A lot of riders who have been wearing top-level boots are very impressed. I haven’t had anyone yet who said, ‘I don’t like it, I like my Tech 8s better.’ They like the strength, the security it gives them, and they certainly like the durability of the boot. So our biggest hurdle is just going to be convincing dealers to put the Oxtar boot in their store right next to the Tech 8s, Fox Bubba boot, or Sidi Flex Forces.”

“The presentation I’ve been making to dealers runs something like this: “You should give your customers a choice. You have X number of helmets, and you should have X number of boots. To offer a technically different and what we feel is a technically superior boot is what you owe your customers. Let them decide.”

[IMAGE 6]

Initial reaction among dealers has been excellent, and Paul was happy to note, “We’re already running out of the first production run, and had to air freight the second production run in. While it definitely cuts into our profit, we want to make sure the dealers can get the boots when they order them. As soon as we saw the boots flying out the door, we made the decision to fly in the second production run.”

“The word’s starting to get out.”

Contact:

Intersport Fashions West
15602 Mosher Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 258-2120

www.oxtar-usa.com

>www.oxtar-usa.com