TWMX All Access: Pro Grip

We first ran into Vince Marazita about 15 years ago when he was an American working for the Italian Trade Commission. As Vince tells it, “I met the Franchi family (the owners of Pro Grip) back around 1987, and got to know them pretty well. Francesco Assaghi, who founded the company in the 1920’s, passed the companyonto his son-in-law Ferruccio Franchi, who is still the president today.The acting Vice Presidents are his 3 children: Luigi, Augusto and Mariapia. They were participating in the Italian Trade Commission pavilions, both in the bicycle and motorcycle industries. Even back then they were asking me to work for them, but it just didn’t work until about ’98 when I decided to leave the Italian Trade Commission. That’s when I became their agent for North America.”

“Pro Grip was born as a company called Plastiche Cassano. Plastiche, as you can imagine, is plastic. Cassano is the name of the town they’re in. In the 90s they were noticing more and more that the world was becoming a market-driven type of economy, so they invested in the Pro Grip brand name and started marketing under that name. But they’ve been around for a long time as Plastiche Cassano, and you’ll still see the Plastiche Cassano name on a few items .”

“Of course, back in the ’20s there wasn’t anyone building grips out of rubber, and their factory featured a series of belt-driven lathes that were carving grips out of bull horns.  Early motorcycles and bicycles all used other materials, whether it was wood, cork, or bull horns.”

“It’s an interesting company history-wise, because it’s actually lived through the history of plastic materials. In the 20th century, every time a new type of material for grips was introduced, whether it was molded, injected, or carved, Plastiche Cassano was there. It’s a great company in that sense, because they bring a lot of technical tradition, and their major industry has always been the two-wheeled industry, whether motorcycles or bicycles.”

Grips

Continuing with his tale, Vince pulled out an assortment of motocross grips. “Grips are very personal things. There are people who will ride with a Renthal grip their whole life, and never try a Pro Grip. Same with Scott, and the same with other manufacturers out there. But I don’t think there’s any manufacturer out there that offers such a deep selection of grips like we do. We pride ourselves and our distributors that we’re able to sell our line very successfully because there really are a lot of choices. “

“We’re the ones that pioneered duo-density grips, and duo-density is what we like to pride ourselves on. You’ll see all sorts of copies on the market. Our whole mission is not just put products out there, but to have a reason for them. To offer something that’s a little bit different, whether it’s the material itself, or it could be a technical solution¿but offer some kind of solution in everything that we do.”

“Our 796 is probably our number one selling grip worldwide. It’s in the top two or three for every one of our distributors, and it’s probably what put us on the map as Pro Grip. The Shore rating, that’s the hardness rating, varies between the black and colored sections, and we put the softer section und your palm where you need it.”

[IMAGE 1] jun04/062604796grip.jpg

“Our finger grip is a rider-inspired idea. We’re not saying that it’s for everyone, but there are people who love it. They said, ‘I’m riding for dear life with my two weakest fingers. What do I do? Can you help those two fingers out, either with your materials or with your design?’ So that’s what we did. With just two humps and the lip on the end, it helps a lot. There are usually technical aspects to every part of our design. It’s not just aesthetics. I think an awful lot of the grip market is just aesthetics.”

[IMAGE 2] jun04/062604fingergrip.jpg

“Some guys will look at it and say, ‘That’s a bunch of crap, I’d never use it.’ Others would say, ‘Hey, let’s give that a try.’ They do, and stick with it forever. That’s what tends to happen with grips.”

Pulling out an extremely soft grip, Vince said, “No one really uses gel as a grip material. Gel itself is really a liquid¿but gel-feel is marketing lingo that we all use. The soft grips themselves are a great idea. They of course don’t last as long, but if that’s what people want, that’s what we have to come up with. But soft grips have a problem, they twist on your bar, so either you’re wiring them, you’re gluing them¿you’re doing something just to keep them on the bars. So what we did with our soft grip was we said, ‘Let’s do duo-density. So we did the harder material on the inside, because the harder it is against the tube, the less it will try to twist. It’s something you may never notice until you get a pair on the bars, but you’ll notice that they just don’t twist¿well, they’ll twist less than other gel-feel grips out there.”

“We were also finding that a lot of our OEM customers in road, ATV and even off-road were going to some sort of pre-formed throttle tube with the grip molded on top. There really weren’t what we thought were decent aftermarket alternatives to that. What happens is that to change grips you usually have to try to take the old grip off, carve down whatever ridges were built onto the throttle tube, and then put an aftermarket grip on. We said, ‘For that market, for someone who wants an easier alternative, let’s see if we can come up with a product that replaces the throttle tube, grip, and maybe solve some other issues as well. Remember, Pro Grip is known for their materials science, so we’ve come up with a throttle tube material that actually fuses with our rubber products. The throttle tube material is a mix that has some carbon fiber in it as well. It fuses with the rubber. The tube itself has a little bit of a profile, but it doesn’t need it as much as some of the other OEM ridges on the throttle tube. So safety wiring becomes a thing of the past, and so has glue, because it’s one piece.”

[IMAGE 3] jun04/062604FN-800.jpg

“As far as fitment issues, you do have a two-stroke/four-stroke cable setup for off-road, but that’s not a big deal as long as you grab the right kit. With the splines on the throttle tube, you can also change the position of the throttle tube to align the waffles where you want. It’s a pretty straightforward solution for the throttle. But even on the clutch side, it’s a real easy locking system. Just slide it on, and use the Allen wrench that comes with it, tighten it down, and you’ve got a locked-on grip that’s not going anywhere. Again, it’s no glue or wire.”

“With more and more of the OEMs going to this type of system, it does go for around $30. But if you look at the price of a throttle tube and a replacement pair of grips it’s about where we are. But I think the solution of the grips not twisting, nothing else offers that. The other thing that some of our racers notice once they’ve used this system is that for the first time, the exterior diameter of the clutch and throttle is exactly the same. Usually there’s a one or two millimeter difference in diameter.”

“We’re in every single aspect of the powersports industry. Anything from snowmobiles to watercraft to ATVs. I think our grips compete both on a technical and a price level. We’re very competitively priced. I think we’re still under most of our competitors, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I keep telling Italy you should sell them for more. But we believe in fair margins, too. But in general it’s a successful combo between know-how and coming to market with the right prices and an interesting product.”

“Pro Grip can produce 100,000 pairs of grips a day¿and they’re often running at full capacity.”

Goggles

Having laid out just a small portion of the grip line, Vince said, “I think Pro Grip is an exciting company if for nothing else than the grips. We’ve actually sponsored quite a few people over the years. If you talk to Chad Reed he knows our product very well, because before he came to the states he was riding Pro Grip. A lot of the name riders that come from outside the states, we’ve already sponsored. Usually when they come here (laughing and rubbing his thumb and first two fingers together), something happens.”

But Pro Grip had sponsored all these riders, and one of them said, ‘Hey, you guys do plastic injection molding, why don’t you get into the goggle industry? Then you have a much larger billboard on the side of the helmet.’ Again, this is market-driven. It was a rider telling us, ‘You’re doing high-money sponsorship for the grips and you’re not getting the exposure you should¿so why not give it a try?’ We knew grips, and as a manufacturer we wanted to take it seriously just like with all our other products. But who would buy a goggle called Pro Grip?”

“Getting into the goggle business is expensive, because the average cost of molds for grips is much less than they are in goggles. But we are the manufacturer, so we’re the ones who own the molds. We’re not just designers. Being designers and manufacturers is a nice combo. There are guys who are just designers, or they just may be marketing people who know how to put things together. But we’re one of those companies that is a true manufacturer, and I think that’s what people notice and why our sales have gone so well.”

“Of course, number one is fit. But performance includes optics and anti-scratch and UV protection, all the other issues that every goggle manufacturer has to deal with. The very first frame we came out with was the 3300, and it was very successful for us. It’s now our economy line frame, and still has a nice quality strap, silicone bead, and if you compare it to other economy line goggles, it competes very well. However, I don’t think there’s any comparison in the lenses at this level. We came up with what we believe is the first successful no-fog lens back in 1995. This lens we actually came up with in the very first year, and we’re about to inaugurate our 10th year anniversary of selling goggles.”

[IMAGE 4] jun04/0626043300goggle.jpg

“Aside from the no-fog, we didn’t want to stop there. Around 1998 we came out with what did put us on the map. Light-sensitive lenses were something that they were toying with right from the beginning, but we came out with no-fog first. Again, it’s a study in materials and chemicals and making sure you can offer all the things you want to in a lens and still come up with a working lens. So we now have the light-sensitive and no-fog in the same combination. It does change enough¿and rapidly enough¿that in most riding conditions it’ll save you from buying a clear and a smoke lens.”

“The lenses themselves are 1mm thick lenses, so it’s a thicker lens¿a good .25 over everyone else. In a drop ball test, if you put our goggles against almost any other goggle out there, we’d probably be the last one standing.  It’s good forfference in diameter.”

“We’re in every single aspect of the powersports industry. Anything from snowmobiles to watercraft to ATVs. I think our grips compete both on a technical and a price level. We’re very competitively priced. I think we’re still under most of our competitors, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I keep telling Italy you should sell them for more. But we believe in fair margins, too. But in general it’s a successful combo between know-how and coming to market with the right prices and an interesting product.”

“Pro Grip can produce 100,000 pairs of grips a day¿and they’re often running at full capacity.”

Goggles

Having laid out just a small portion of the grip line, Vince said, “I think Pro Grip is an exciting company if for nothing else than the grips. We’ve actually sponsored quite a few people over the years. If you talk to Chad Reed he knows our product very well, because before he came to the states he was riding Pro Grip. A lot of the name riders that come from outside the states, we’ve already sponsored. Usually when they come here (laughing and rubbing his thumb and first two fingers together), something happens.”

But Pro Grip had sponsored all these riders, and one of them said, ‘Hey, you guys do plastic injection molding, why don’t you get into the goggle industry? Then you have a much larger billboard on the side of the helmet.’ Again, this is market-driven. It was a rider telling us, ‘You’re doing high-money sponsorship for the grips and you’re not getting the exposure you should¿so why not give it a try?’ We knew grips, and as a manufacturer we wanted to take it seriously just like with all our other products. But who would buy a goggle called Pro Grip?”

“Getting into the goggle business is expensive, because the average cost of molds for grips is much less than they are in goggles. But we are the manufacturer, so we’re the ones who own the molds. We’re not just designers. Being designers and manufacturers is a nice combo. There are guys who are just designers, or they just may be marketing people who know how to put things together. But we’re one of those companies that is a true manufacturer, and I think that’s what people notice and why our sales have gone so well.”

“Of course, number one is fit. But performance includes optics and anti-scratch and UV protection, all the other issues that every goggle manufacturer has to deal with. The very first frame we came out with was the 3300, and it was very successful for us. It’s now our economy line frame, and still has a nice quality strap, silicone bead, and if you compare it to other economy line goggles, it competes very well. However, I don’t think there’s any comparison in the lenses at this level. We came up with what we believe is the first successful no-fog lens back in 1995. This lens we actually came up with in the very first year, and we’re about to inaugurate our 10th year anniversary of selling goggles.”

[IMAGE 4] jun04/0626043300goggle.jpg

“Aside from the no-fog, we didn’t want to stop there. Around 1998 we came out with what did put us on the map. Light-sensitive lenses were something that they were toying with right from the beginning, but we came out with no-fog first. Again, it’s a study in materials and chemicals and making sure you can offer all the things you want to in a lens and still come up with a working lens. So we now have the light-sensitive and no-fog in the same combination. It does change enough¿and rapidly enough¿that in most riding conditions it’ll save you from buying a clear and a smoke lens.”

“The lenses themselves are 1mm thick lenses, so it’s a thicker lens¿a good .25 over everyone else. In a drop ball test, if you put our goggles against almost any other goggle out there, we’d probably be the last one standing.  It’s good for protection and optics. We were also among the first to put the tear-off posts right in the lens. We’ve had good success with our tear-offs, and everyone seems to be moving that way, too.”

“These days the carbon look is our number one sku. From the goggle standpoint we’re very pleased with where we’re at. The Euro hurt us a little this year, because it went up so high, but we’re really pleased with the quality, and I think people always reward quality.”

[IMAGE 5] jun04/062604carbon.jpg

“Over the years we’ve added features, like roost protection on the cheeks and nose. We’ve redeveloped the foam. The foam is kind of always changing. We’re always looking for ways for dust to not penetrate and I think we’ve come up with a good solution here. We were the first to put that felt type of feel on the inside of the foam, and the final version here we call the triple layer. Last year we jumped to the 3400, and it was a solid gel. This year we went to a fade gel.”

[IMAGE 6] jun04/0626043400.jpg

“As you look at price points, we’re close to $50 on the high end, and you get the triple bead silicone, a high-end finish, and the light-sensitive lens. The mid-price is just under $40, and the economy line is just under $30.”

Clothing

“In ’98 or ’99 is when we got into the clothing industry as well. In the clothing industry, we are designers. We don’t cut and sew there. All the prototypes, all the models are made in-house, but the sewing is done elsewhere. We do pride ourselves on the sublimation in Italy. Sublimation in Italy is hard to compare around the world because of the cloth, the inks, and the machinery they have. It’s stuff that usually lasts and lasts, and doesn’t lose its color. Unlike a lot of lycra-like materials and polyester materials. You’ll notice after a few washes on others where colors are fading.”

“The jerseys themselves are made in Italy, and the pants are sewn in China like everyone because of price point. But the real reason we went to China was only price point. Their quality has come up an awful lot. At first when we did it we had some bad experiences with some suppliers over there, so we kept it in Italy probably the first three years that we produced clothes.”

[IMAGE 7] jun04/062604jersey.jpg

“One of the unique features on the pant are the pockets, which can also double as a vent. Most guys are using it as a vent as opposed to a pocket, but it’s there in case you need it. They’re very high quality, probably 35 different panels, and Kevlar-reinforced panels on the knees, and with additional Velcro adjusters on the waist.”

[IMAGE 8] jun04/062604pant.jpg

“The first pro Supercross team that we sponsored was Planet Honda. We didn’t sponsor a team this year, we had some individual riders, but we’re looking to go back into Supercross. It just got so expensive for us, for the amount of sales that we thought we’d step back and do some more grass-roots stuff, and that’s what we’ve done the last few years. But again, we’re sticking with making quality products that will last, and not fade.”

Other Accessories

Running short of time, Vince showed off some of the other highlights in the Pro Grip line, including everything from tank protectors for sport bikes, and their version of stick-on gripper material for MX bikes. They’ve also got a variety of other plastiche¿er, plastic items, including exhaust plugs, a sunglass line, and a variety of protective gear.

[IMAGE 9] jun04/0626045020-side-gripping.jpg

Vince wrapped up our meeting by saying, “If you consider Europe as a single market, that’s still our biggest market. But the U.S. is not far behind. If you take all of North America, we’re probably close to our European sales, but we’re very heavy in those two. Then we have a presence in almost every country in the world. For off-road in the U.S., we’re distributed through Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky, and Van Leeuwen Enterprises. Then we have another three distributors in Canada, and another one down in Mexico.”

[IMAGE 10] jun04/062604vince.jpg

“It’s fun to be in Italy, because there are so many other manufacturers in such a small place. Italy is the size of California, and in such a small place there are so many motorcycle industry manufacturers. So that when something new comes out, theyy are usually the first to see it amongst themselves, and that’s from boots to clothing to whatever.”

“There are some good examples of Italian companies. Alpinestars, AXO, that are doing great marketing, and always have. But in general, marketing has been a new field for them, because they’ve always prided themselves on the quality of the product. They figure word of mouth will sell. Make your product the best that you can, and it will sell.”

Contact:
Marazita & Associates (Agents for PROGRIP)
22048 Sherman Way, Suite 107
Canoga Park, CA 91303
tel: 818/887-9298
email: vmarazita@mindspring.com
www.progrip.com

otection and optics. We were also among the first to put the tear-off posts right in the lens. We’ve had good success with our tear-offs, and everyone seems to be moving that way, too.”

“These days the carbon look is our number one sku. From the goggle standpoint we’re very pleased with where we’re at. The Euro hurt us a little this year, because it went up so high, but we’re really pleased with the quality, and I think people always reward quality.”

[IMAGE 5] jun04/062604carbon.jpg

“Over the years we’ve added features, like roost protection on the cheeks and nose. We’ve redeveloped the foam. The foam is kind of always changing. We’re always looking for ways for dust to not penetrate and I think we’ve come up with a good solution here. We were the first to put that felt type of feel on the inside of the foam, and the final version here we call the triple layer. Last year we jumped to the 3400, and it was a solid gel. This year we went to a fade gel.”

[IMAGE 6] jun04/0626043400.jpg

“As you look at price points, we’re close to $50 on the high end, and you get the triple bead silicone, a high-end finish, and the light-sensitive lens. The mid-price is just under $40, and the economy line is just under $30.”

Clothing

“In ’98 or ’99 is when we got into the clothing industry as well. In the clothing industry, we are designers. We don’t cut and sew there. All the prototypes, all the models are made in-house, but the sewing is done elsewhere. We do pride ourselves on the sublimation in Italy. Sublimation in Italy is hard to compare around the world because of the cloth, the inks, and the machinery they have. It’s stuff that usually lasts and lasts, and doesn’t lose its color. Unlike a lot of lycra-like materials and polyester materials. You’ll notice after a few washes on others where colors are fading.”

“The jerseys themselves are made in Italy, and the pants are sewn in China like everyone because of price point. But the real reason we went to China was only price point. Their quality has come up an awful lot. At first when we did it we had some bad experiences with some suppliers over there, so we kept it in Italy probably the first three years that we produced clothes.”

[IMAGE 7] jun04/062604jersey.jpg

“One of the unique features on the pant are the pockets, which can also double as a vent. Most guys are using it as a vent as opposed to a pocket, but it’s there in case you need it. They’re very high quality, probably 35 different panels, and Kevlar-reinforced panels on the knees, and with additional Velcro adjusters on the waist.”

[IMAGE 8] jun04/062604pant.jpg

“The first pro Supercross team that we sponsored was Planet Honda. We didn’t sponsor a team this year, we had some individual riders, but we’re looking to go back into Supercross. It just got so expensive for us, for the amount of sales that we thought we’d step back and do some more grass-roots stuff, and that’s what we’ve done the last few years. But again, we’re sticking with making quality products that will last, and not fade.”

Other Accessories

Running short of time, Vince showed off some of the other highlights in the Pro Grip line, including everything from tank protectors for sport bikes, and their version of stick-on gripper material for MX bikes. They’ve also got a variety of other plastiche¿er, plastic items, including exhaust plugs, a sunglass line, and a variety of protective gear.

[IMAGE 9] jun04/0626045020-side-gripping.jpg

Vince wrapped up our meeting by saying, “If you consider Europe as a single market, that’s still our biggest market. But the U.S. is not far behind. If you take all of North America, we’re probably close to our European sales, but we’re very heavy in those two. Then we have a presence in almost every country in the world. For off-road in the U.S., we’re distributed through Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky, and Van Leeuwen Enterprises. Then we have another three distributors in Canada, and another one down in Mexico.”

[IMAGE 10] jun04/062604vince.jpg

“It’s fun to be in Italy, because there are so many other manufacturers in such a small place. Italy is the size of California, and in such a small place there are so many motorcycle industry manufacturers. So that when something new comes out, they are usually the first to see it amongst themselves, and that’s from boots to clothing to whatever.”

“There are some good examples of Italian companies. Alpinestars, AXO, that are doing great marketing, and always have. But in general, marketing has been a new field for them, because they’ve always prided themselves on the quality of the product. They figure word of mouth will sell. Make your product the best that you can, and it will sell.”

Contact:
Marazita & Associates (Agents for PROGRIP)
22048 Sherman Way, Suite 107
Canoga Park, CA 91303
tel: 818/887-9298
email: vmarazita@mindspring.com
www.progrip.com

-road in the U.S., we’re distributed through Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky, and Van Leeuwen Enterprises. Then we have another three distributors in Canada, and another one down in Mexico.”

[IMAGE 10] jun04/062604vince.jpg

“It’s fun to be in Italy, because there are so many other manufacturers in such a small place. Italy is the size of California, and in such a small place there are so many motorcycle industry manufacturers. So that when something new comes out, they are usually the first to see it amongst themselves, and that’s from boots to clothing to whatever.”

“There are some good examples of Italian companies. Alpinestars, AXO, that are doing great marketing, and always have. But in general, marketing has been a new field for them, because they’ve always prided themselves on the quality of the product. They figure word of mouth will sell. Make your product the best that you can, and it will sell.”

Contact:
Marazita & Associates (Agents for PROGRIP)
22048 Sherman Way, Suite 107
Canoga Park, CA 91303
tel: 818/887-9298
email: vmarazita@mindspring.com
www.progrip.com