16 Feb Taking Steps
For reasons that will become clear following an announcement next week, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately about 6D’s debut in the helmet marketplace over five years ago. At that point, we had already spent two years developing our helmet technology, making prototypes, and going to the lab, and I don’t think a day went by during that process that I didn’t wake up with the anxiety that I’d go online and see that someone else had beat us to the punch. We obviously wanted to be the first brand to introduce technology to motorcycle helmets, and we were also rushed because we had signed an agreement with the GEICO Honda team to have their riders wear the helmet during the 2013 AMA Supercross Series—we couldn’t have the guys show up on the start line wearing our helmet when no one had even heard of it before!
Ultimately, we were ready in time for our November 2012 announcement, which we made during a press introduction at the Factory Connection race shop in Corona, California. It was exciting to be able to tell the market about what we were doing and how much of an improvement our motocross helmet was over the traditional designs in the market.
Not long after that, we went to the annual motorcycle trade show in Indianapolis, which was the first time we showed our helmet to dealers. It was the same weekend as the Arlington Supercross, the first round of the 250SX East Region Series. The Indy show had organized a viewing party, and the whole industry was there, watching on TV.
“It was one of the most horrifying crashes I’d seen in a very long time.”
GEICO Honda’s Zach Bell was a rookie in his debut race. He got the holeshot in his heat race and was gapping the field on the second lap when he went to scrub a big jump. He caught his foot on the jump’s face, and it just peeled him off the motorcycle. Zack fell from about 35 feet in the air, with a forward velocity of 30-35 mph, and flat-landed straight to earth without his motorcycle. It was one of the most horrifying crashes I’d seen in a very long time. They cut to commercial with Zach lying there on the track, and I was pretty worried. Obviously, I was concerned for him, and I was also thinking we might be out of business before we really even got started! I was relieved to get a text almost immediately from a Factory Connection mechanic saying that Zach was up under his own power. In fact, he ended up qualifying for the main event that night through the last-chance qualifier—and then he had another big crash in the main event, which was really tough to watch. It was a rough start for Zach, but ultimately he was okay!
Zach ruined a couple of helmets at that night, but those crashes really validated the work we were doing, and as a company it ended up working out fine—you could say that first crash put us on the map. Right after Zach’s crash, our sales guy, Scott, got a text from one of his dealers saying, “Twelve helmets Monday morning please,” and things picked up speed from there. We started signing up new dealers, and we rapidly escalated to about 500 accounts around the U.S. and Canada. Dealers and consumers were happy with our helmet, and we were off and running. Since then, we’ve introduced helmets for mountain biking, youth motocross, and on-road motorcycles. We’ve sold helmets all over the world, and we’ve added warehouses in Canada and Germany.
Beyond growing our brand and protecting our riders, 6D’s mission has always been to build superior helmets and provide consumers with better technology. Our technology supports this goal and has also inspired the other manufacturers to improve their designs, which is great. In 2015, MIPS technology started showing up in some helmets, and Bell’s Moto-9 Flex was introduced not long after. In 2016, Leatt introduced a helmet with their 360 Turbine technology, and Shoei announced their M.E.D.S. technology last October. The FIM has actually developed their own standard that will be mandatory in closed-course road racing for 2019, and it was heavily influenced by 6D and the benefits of our ODS technology.
Some of these solutions are better than others, but the bottom line is that helmet manufacturers are now more inspired than ever to work harder. And while the testing data shows that 6D still leads the pack, we’re certainly aware that the others are working hard to bridge the gap. Our job is to continue to improve our own products, which leads back to what I alluded to at the beginning of this column. The official announcement is on Tuesday of next week, but in the meantime, the 2018 250SX East Region kicks off this weekend in Arlington. If you want a sneak peek, keep an eye on what’s on the heads of GEICO Honda riders Jeremy Martin, RJ Hampshire, and Cameron McAdoo on Saturday night….