Between the Motos: Milt Reimer

Between the Motos Milt Reimer

July 17, 2017 3:00pm

You’ve probably asked yourself a bunch of times the last couple of years “What is this FXR gear?” It’s been popping up on Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross TV screens more and more lately. If you live in a northern state or in Canada, you might understand what’s going on. The company has been producing snowmobile products for a long time now, but has stepped up their moto gear and presence the last few years. The company is founded by an old racing acquaintance of mine up in Manitoba named Milt Reimer, and when I was up there visiting mom a couple of weeks ago (Hi Mom! Oh, Canada!) I got a tour of the place and talked to Reimer about how far he’s come with the brand.

Racer X Online: It must be pretty damn cool to switch the TV onto a race on Saturday night and see some really good riders wearing your company’s gear. The FXR name, I feel, has made a massive jump in the last two or three years.
Milt Reimer: Absolutely. It’s something unexpected and definitely a dream. Snow was always inspired by moto, and we were the first company that really took it there and just offered the bright colors, big logos, and just the motocross energy in what we do. Then to slowly transition into moto, because that’s where I grew up. That’s the most accessible form of racing there is, plus there is my core love of moto, and I ride all the time. So, you’re always developing gear. Nothing is harder on equipment than motocross gear because you’re hitting the ground when you don’t want to. It’s different than snow, so we’ve always used that as a development platform. The ergonomics and the fit … we just kept working on product design and development. All of a sudden you have product. Then you throw it out there and then slowly it gets into the market. Then all of a sudden you get it on some good riders. We’ve got some great guys. Hired Andy White and he started pushing the product. Great team of designers here. It just lets them really express themselves and all of a sudden people are starting to take notice. You start networking and all of a sudden you’re in supercross and it’s like, “Holy cow! When did we get here?” This is awesome.

Courtesy of Milt Reimer

It’s come a long way in design and colors and everything since the early 2000s. I guess that’s like you said, credit to the designers and you letting them just go and kind of have fun.
Absolutely. Most of the guys ride moto here. In the winter snow is so inconsistent, but summer there’s always dirt. So, a lot of our guys test a lot of moto in summer too, just so that you get to ride. So in the DNA of any product and any design, I use everybody’s influence in here to make those decisions. Once you get everybody on the same page you know you’ve got something that probably will get good traction out there. So, that makes it fun for all of them.

Can you tell us a little bit your background and starting FXR and all that?
Started racing moto in 1980 and working in a dealership from ’80 to ’90. I started as a wrench and you’re wrenching, doing parts, sales, service, all of that. Then 1990 I bought the dealership and ran that for six years. I dropped out of high school after grade 10 and I was thinking, “I need to learn a business and a company.” It was a Polaris/Honda dealership and I thought I could maybe get it to break even, but I really wanted an education in how to run the business side and what a dealer wants and needs, and what the customer wants and how all of that works. Then through all of that I started racing snowmobiles as well. I was all of a sudden thinking, “How is snowmobile race gear just so archaic? There’s nothing here that works.” Moto has everything and it’s all detailed and designed for a very functional purpose, but still has the goal of connecting emotionally with the customer with what it looks like. When do you see guys walking around in tight pants and neon colors outside of moto? So we’re thinking, let’s bring some of that over into snow. I started developing product and got really lucky with a local factory right here in Winnipeg and they helped me get it going. Shortly after we made our way into Asia and found some really good vendors there. Ultimately I think it was ’07 or ’08 we started FXR Korea ourselves and we have FXR Korea and FXR Vietnam. So, we’re one of very few. I think Fox has operations over there, as do we. We have an incredible network in Asia that is actually the core backbone because our snow business, even with moto going well right now, I don't know if it’s three percent of our business. So, when you’re in Minneapolis for the supercross or the Toronto supercross and you look in the grand stands and you see all the FXR logos, you know the snow and winter business is what fuels us, but our passion is moto in the same way that it is snow. Our guys just love going year-round. Moto really helps inspire our snow, and then our snow helps inspire our moto.

Reimer (left) and Shelby Turner (right).
Reimer (left) and Shelby Turner (right). Courtesy of Milt Reimer

We’ve now been able to position ourselves with the culture of X Games and the Snocross there and the Snocross American national series, and just a lot of great back-country riding. It’s a ton of fun. Snowmobiling, the profile has risen dramatically in the last 10 years. It just seems like there’s a lot of respect between the athletes. All the Snocross guys follow supercross. A lot of the supercross guys know what’s going on in snow too. So, it’s pretty cool. It’s becoming one big family. We just race and just love to ride. It’s never been about money or anything. It’s just about riding and enjoying what you do, and also developing product and working with great people. It’s all about the people here. That’s the fun in it.

Could you maybe tell some people how big you are in the snow side?
We’re a 50-55-million-dollar company right now, and most of that’s snow. We’ve got distribution across North America and northern Europe. Actually the dirt world is really opening up central Europe and down into Italy, everywhere with what we do in moto and off-road there. Then through Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia into Russia. Global distribution—wherever there’s snowmobiling. Almost all of it is dealer-direct. We’ve got warehouses – there’s ones in Australia and Sweden. There’s one just north of Minneapolis and then there’s a Canadian warehouse. So, we’re able to do all of our global distribution out of those three centers. When we’re dealing with about 45-50 different factories in Asia, along with the network of everything that we do. We’re almost a logistics company, the logistics are one of the larger things that we do. We’re moving trade all over the world. We’ve done a lot of business with Yamaha through the years, globally as well. It’s just an enormous enterprise that is so incredibly complex and deals in so many currencies. It’s a handful, but it’s kind of fun.

Direct Motocross

A lot of this is Andy White’s job, but I imagine you have your finger on the pulse of it just because of your background and your enthusiasm and all that. Now that you’ve got some big-time motocross riders and supercross guys, what’s it like dealing with them now?
It’s the shared enthusiasm, really. I just love supporting racing. The first 10 Snocross kits we sold were to racers and they were sponsored—discounts, free product, whatever it was. So, the company started with that and that’s constantly what we’re doing, just supporting athletes. I know from experience when you’re on a tight budget, and I grew up like that, when you’re trying to make it work but you also want to look good and feel good. Also it’s just out of respect to the riders. These guys just put it all out there. They’re having fun, but there’s enormous emotional stress in motocross. There’s fear of getting hurt. There’s the results that you’re looking for. There’s so many little things that factor into it. As you get to work with these guys and support them and just be there emotionally for them as well, when you meet them, you learn so much from them and they learn about you. We’re true fans and we’re whole-heartedly behind them and we do whatever we can to improve their spirits. Even some of these cool vests that we’re making, for cool mornings when guys are doing motos and stuff. They just love them. All of that gives guys confidence and it just seems to elevate their performance level. Super cool to be part of that.

Obviously, being a proud Canadian company, you support the Canadian Nationals in terms of sponsorship dollars and retail. The U.S. scene is a foreign country for you. Do you wrestle with or do you always say, “I’m always going to support Canadian moto”? At the core, at the roots, that’s what you are.
We don’t really differentiate between the countries that much. We’re just involved where we can be. We just look at where the opportunities align themselves. A lot of it’s just networking and things just kind of fall into place. As riders and teams fall into place, we work with them and once we’re in with them we do our best to really help them out and present in a professional manner and give the guys great product and use a lot of their feedback in development. They’re testing the new gear at the highest levels. The dollar figure is higher in the U.S. too, to get in the game there. We’ve taken the avenue of really first starting off with a lot of these great local pros and amateurs. The riders in supercross who are making the mains through the LCQs, we get a lot of great TV time out of that. So, we really enjoy supporting that grassroots side of it and really building a strong base of FXR riders. Then out of that, it will start fueling bigger things as well. It’s just a matter of timing.

Direct Motocross

Is there a moment or two in supercross or motocross with the guys, this climb of FXR the last two or three years, was there a moment that you were sitting on your couch and you were like, “Wow, that’s really cool?”
The first one that pops right into my head is two seasons ago when Jimmy Decotis was riding for MX 101 and they brought him in to ride the 250 and Dylan Wright was the amateur Canadian prospect coming up that was also on the team. We were at the Calgary National, three rounds in, and we’re first and third on the box in the first moto. I was out there cheering the guys on. It was just one of those, “Wow!” moments. And the funny thing was, that was the year, that’s three collections ago, and it had actually been a carry-over from the year before. We’d have a bunch of guys wearing it, but they were running around in 17th place. Then everyone was all of a sudden saying, “That new FXR gear looks awesome on the podium.” We’re like, it’s not new, it’s a year old already! We were laughing. Boy, does it look a lot better when it’s on the box versus in 17th. We knew our designs were good, but just what the difference in having a top rider like Jimmy and the results that Dylan was inspired to get.

From there, the sales really started to take off. Jimmy’s got a really strong following. I’m always following him now, with his GEICO ride and everything they do. When a rider switches brands, to me that never matters. If we can help him along when he was in that place with us, we support him 100 percent if he gets a different ride or wherever he goes. We’re just part of your life journey.

Direct Motocross

You talk about your moto gear, you started in 1999 and 2000, so it took 13 years for you to stand on the podium at a Canadian National. That’s pretty cool.
Absolutely. Then I think the next ones are when our guys started making the LCQs and then making mains in supercross. Alex Ray is just a great example, and Cade Clason as well, these guys so often are just hanging out and talking to Rayn Dungey or just whoever. Those are meaningful pictures. Factory Ride is a term trademarked by us. Factory Ride is a concept and it’s just started to really grow where we create a lot of our product, but we’re creating the Factory Ride for the individual, not the factory rider. You can buy all of this gear together and outfit your team and the lifestyle, everything. It will be head to toe now what we have coming out.

I visited your place there last week and it’s nice to know that if this media career goes sideways it looks like there’s a job at FXR waiting for me. It seems like most of my buddies work there. It’s an old Manitoba motocross home.
For sure, let’s sign the contract.