Milt Reimer is a 54-year-old motorsports enthusiast from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who launched the FXR Racing brand over two decades ago when he saw a need for high-performance snowmobiling apparel. Since the brand’s humble beginnings it has grown to be the market leader in the category, and has more recently branched out into motocross and off-road apparel. Over the past five years, especially, FXR Racing has gained traction in the United States, and the distinctive, color-blocked apparel can be seen in this year’s Monster Energy Supercross Series on riders like HEP Racing’s Kyle Cunningham, Dustin Pipes, Henry Miller and Tallon LaFountaine, as well as privateer Tevin Tapia and legendary racer Mike Brown. We’ve had the chance to test some of the brand’s apparel in recent months and can attest to its overall quality and function, with one of our testers even proclaining the four-war stretch Helium pants, “the most comfortable pants, ever.”
The morning after the San Diego Supercross, we flew to Elk Lake, Minnesotta, to attend the 2019 FXR Racing dealer show, not only to check out the new lines of apparel, but to try our hand at snow biking, too! Today, we had the chance to catch up with Reimer in between motos at Elk River Extreme Motorsports Park.
So Milt, how old is FXR, and what inspired you to launch the brand?
that's a good question; I think this is our 22nd or 23rd collection. I grew up riding dirt bikes and racing motocross, and then I started racing snowmobiles and realized that the gear wasn't at all up to the standards of snowmobiling. I started testing a lot of different products for snow use and ultimately ended up developing something that I thought worked really well. I found a manufacturer to develop it for me and start prototyping. Ultimately, it allowed me to have a platform to launch the brand with.
And where were you in life when you launched the brand? Were you a starving student?
(Laughs) I was actually. When I launched the brand, I had dropped out of high school at grade ten and went to work at the local dealer there working the parts counter and being a mechanic. The mechanical side really interested me and I worked there for 10 years before the guy shut the shop down and moved out West. So I bought the shop from him; it was a Honda and Polaris franchise. My goal was to do that for five years, and I figured that would be my university education, basically. I had to figure out exactly how the whole retail process worked, and everything all the way back to the books at the back end of it, too. At the same time, I said I'd only do it for five years and then sell it because I wanted to develop a product. I had always had a lot of innovative and creative ideas and I didn't know where I'd end up, but I knew I didn't want to end up at the dealership that I was at because the area was kind of a dead end. There weren’t a lot of opportunities. When I had the dealership, I started racing snowmobiles and that created the real awareness. Also, as a dealer, I was always looking for someone to come up with a decent and appropriate performance engineered gear, like how motocross was, and do it for snow. My influence was so heavy from moto and that's the perspective I had. The product has to function. You don't want to even have to think about it out there, that's the user experience. That's what led us to develop our products for snow.
So 22 years ago, was FXR line one of the first high-performance snowmobile clothing companies?
We're the original racewear company in snowmobile apparel.
Before that did people just wear snowboard or skiing clothing?
No, not even snowboard stuff. It was more like a Snap-On tool jacket, you know? Just a trucker jacket. That was the extent and the creative was just the colors and embroidery. What we did was bring in the ergonomics and the function. Also, we understood that in the winter there's a micro climate. It's the area right next to your skin and how you control that, is so important. You have to control your core temperature. For the super user, in snow, it's not about staying warm, although that's obviously important to keeping your extremities from developing frostbite. A lot of it is that you're actually building body heat and you want to release the heat. If you don't have the appropriate amount of venting and you don't understand the layering, you'll sweat too much and the wet clothing will make you cold later when your core temperature is lower and you stop. There's a whole science and a philosophy, and we created a lot of innovative ways to combat condensation and create breathable solutions for working in such extreme environments.
Okay, so from my understanding, FXR is the number-one brand in snow motorsports…
Yeah, we'll go with that [laughs]. We're the largest global brand in snowmobile apparel.
At what point did you decide to branch off into motocross and start making stuff for that?
That was already in 1998 or 1999, shortly after we started. We were always looking to diversify and a big core of what we did was riding motocross in the summer. Winter snow is inconsistent, but summer there's always dirt. For testing product durability and construction, the materials, the way that you sew things, nothing punishes more than hitting the ground on a dirt bike. It shreds products in ways you never anticipate. In snowmobiling, the wear is very different, but still; the extreme loads are there. Because the level of our guys is higher and we had a moto background, a lot of those guys had pro licenses, they love riding, and they just wanted to ride in their own brand of gear. It's completely organic in that way. We look at things and say, 'We can do that just as good or better.' It was a long progression and often we could launch because we had a great collection. We tried six or seven times through the years, but the snow was growing so fast that it took up all of our resources and all of our time and energy went into that. It slowly started to progress and we hired Andy White, KTM Canada's director of racing for 10 years, to take the reins and really network with you guys in the magazines, as well as teams and riders and athletes. We don't have an agenda because we have a profitable company in the winter. We don't need to make a miracle happen or overbuy and try to get rid of any extra product. We can live within our means and slowly grow at the grassroots level and sponsor racers. FXR is about racing and supporting people and being a part of their story and help them grow through their careers. The motocross racing is another avenue for that and it's a far bigger platform.
It seems like you guys made a massive push in motocross - in the United States at least - in the past two or three. I see it everywhere now, and you sponsor many of the pro guys in Supercross. It appears that you're making good strides right now.
Yeah, the program that Andy has put together with support, both with local top amateurs at the grassroots and also with guys making main events in Supercross through the LCQ. You get a lot of awesome T.V. off of that. Often an FXR rider will be the last guy on the starting gate, but when they pan the gate you see him first. Andy's like, 'This works awesome!' And we're all good with it. Those guys that we're sponsoring, they're really core. They're spending their last nickel to get out there and it's their life.
Has any of your technical knowledge gained making apparel for snow, transferred into your motocross line?
Yes, and vice versa. Our biggest goal is to develop products that function and fit so well, you forget that you are wearing it. The four-way stretch fabrics are really big in both of our lines, and the athletic cuts and ergonomics are heavily emphasized. In fact, some of our snow products like the riding vests have crossed over nicely into moto for colder riding days or on the starting lines in Supercross.
CHECK OUT THE 2019 FXR RACING LINE