Friday Feature:

Once again we made the trip up to Valencia, CA to the offices of the Valencia Sports Group (VSG). Some of these photos might look a little familiar from when we met with Greg Berg, Eddie Cole and Dave Ekins to learn more about Sunline/ARC a few months back. However, today we visited with Eddie to get an inside look at their other brand, SixSixOne.

SixSixOne is a manufacturer of motocross safety gear and apparel, including helmets, boots, chest protectors, gloves and some very popular under-jersey roost guards. With some cool new gear coming out for ’07, several big-name riders using their stuff, their popularity growing in the amateur ranks, and a pretty sweet logo as well, we thought you would enjoy learning a little more about the company and what they do…

Hi Eddie, it’s great to be back here in your office. Tell us a little bit about SixSixOne.

I retired from Answer Products in September of ’97, and we started this company in May of ’98. I played golf for a little bit and decided I wasn’t going to make a living playing golf, that’s for sure (laughs). We put together a business plan to do cycling worldwide for Axo, so our company name was actually Axo Cycling America. That’s how we started out; doing shoes and gloves for cycling worldwide.

We looked to diversify the product line, because we couldn’t make just shoes and gloves work, so as SixSixOne we came out with a small line of protective gear for cyclists and we got involved with a couple top riders. I know this is starting out as a cycling story, but we’re here to talk about motocross (laughs).

So we started out doing a couple helmets, elbow guards, and knee guards under the brand SixSixOne. One night we were over here at the Pizza Hut eating dinner, and we came up with the logo on a napkin. We liked the way the words came together, and by the time we were done with pizza we just liked the whole idea.

Do the numbers in the name SixSixOne come from your area code?

Exactly. Some other people had done area codes before, but we spelled it out and like the way it looked.

When we introduced the products in cycling, we had instant success. We thought, ‘well there’s really not a lot of people focusing just on protection,’ so we started to expand the line; we got into upper body suits, padded shorts and a few other things. Then before we knew it, the whole cycling side of SixSixOne was just doing fantastic.

We did that for about a year-and-a-half or so, but because of my motorcycle background, I was always interested in getting back into the motorcycle world. So we put together a small offering for motorcycle protection; hard chest protectors, knee/shin guards, elbow guards and a kidney belt. We took that to Parts Unlimited and they decided they would distribute the products. Once we partnered with Parts Unlimited, we grew quickly.

So fast-forward to today, you are now offering a full line of MX protective gear, including boots and helmets.

We started with the Flight helmet and boot, and then expanded our boot program with the Hurricane boot at a higher price point. We also added the Launch helmet at a lower price range. All of that happened in 2004/05, and now we are just getting into the 2007 product line, and we’ll continue with those two boots and helmets.

What would you say is your biggest seller?

Really, believe it or not, the number one selling item in the whole company is our pressure suit line; the Pressure Suit, the Assault Pressure Suit, and the SP-2.

Why do you see such strong sales of your pressure suits?

We were really one of the first people in that market, we have all the price points, and sometimes when your first you just have an advantage. Right after that boots and helmets are growing very quickly as well.

Probably 65% of our pressure suits are going to doownhill mountain bikers. They also go to snowboarders and skiers, and now they are really starting to catch-on with motocrossers and supermoto.

We actually developed a suit for Brian Deegan after he lost a kidney as a results of a crash. He came to us and asked for something that will pad his remaining kidney, so we developed a vest with kidney, chest and back protection called the Core Saver. We built it for him, but we started showing them to guys riding motocross and we had such a great response to the suit that we put it into production.

I know when we talked about Sunline and ARC levers there were a lot of big-named riders using your stuff. What about with SixSixOne?

It’s interesting because there are a lot of guys using our stuff whose names we can’t even mention because they have contracts with apparel companies that do a little bit of protection. Just a few top names using our products include Tye Davis on the off-road side, Nico Izzi, Eli Tomac uses our neck role, Brian Deegan, Tommy Clowers, Danny Smith, and Ryan Villopoto. Plus Tim Ferry will be using our boot this year. It’s great to produce a product line that people want to use it because they feel good about it and there’s a need for it.

A couple issues back there was a photo in our magazine of David Vuillemin with a SixSixOne upper body suit on.

We don’t have an official contract with him, but David actually sent me the photo. That was really cool.

What are some of the new products you have coming out for 2007?

We have two new helmets called the Icon and the Hex with new graphics and an updated liner. The price for the helmets is just $299, so their affordable as well. We have new graphics for our chest protectors with flat white and flat black. We also have some new gloves that we really like, and of course there’s the new Hurricane boot that just launched.

For people that want to find SixSixOne products, what do you suggest?

We prefer that they go to their local dealer, so start there. We do also have our websitee where they can learn more about our products and order directly. Fortunately most dealers stock our products and we encourage people to support their local dealer.

Thanks again Eddie, now let’s go to the warehouse and check out those new helmets and boots…