ALT Rider is a company owned by Jeremy LeBreton,
right now they are very busy as everybody gets their bikes ready to ride once Corona Virus diminishes, I got him to take some time out of his day to answer a few questions
Tell us about ALT Rider, what were your humble beginnings?
We oddly started right in the economic downturn of 2009. It wasn’t an ideal time economically to start a company, but it was the right time for me.
I had been Vice President of Touratech-USA for four years, and while we accomplished a lot at both the USA operations and in Germany, there was very little cooperation with the Germans. Ultimately, we didn’t own the USA reseller and as a result we missed a lot of opportunities.
I had Previously worked at Moeller Design and Development (a rapid prototype house) in Seattle, gaining the skills to design products from the ground up and take them to market.
The sum of those two career experiences, combined with a passion for riding, led to starting AltRider. I just thought we could do it differently, maybe a little better.
How long have you been in business?
Why do you make parts for motorcycles, what inspired the passion?
Really, it was the significant growth in the ADV niche at that time. Hell, the time around the Long Way Down and Long Way Around period, even BMW could not make the bikes fast enough.
Being involved with product development is probably one of the coolest aspects of the business, but add on the factories we get to work, it’s extremely stimulating and full of smart people.
And how exciting to try and run a company…
Can you give us a basic shop tour?
We’re in process of getting a new building so not much to add here except if you are in the area stop in and say hi when we move and we’ll gladly give you the nickel tour.
What was your first product, and do you still make it/ sell it or something like it?
We first started with a full array of parts for the V-strom. It was an affordable bike, we did an amazing amount of business with a bike that was not that popular for an adv bike. While we don’t make those parts 10 years later, it was where we started. Once in a while we hear from a happy 1st gen Vstrom owner.
You started with protection parts but now also do make luggage can you explain a little about how you feel both lines of products interact with each other for a total package?
The 2 are similar in the fact you’re really are designing with deliberate parameters when making parts and luggage for motorcycles.
Always pursuing light weight and functionality- which means smart designs. This leaves us with many challenges in material selection strength versus weight.
One of the many challenges is the way the vibration of just the motor on road travel can work harden metals. That means where you weld, how you weld, and gauge thickness is all done deliberately.
Another example is also ingress/ egress; how much time it take to get in and out.
I think smart efficient design is getting lost to buzz words and marketing wank. We now have an overabundance of attractive buttons, clips, pockets and features that sound great for SEO, hang tags and marketing material that are not needed and driving cost and weight. This is how adv riding gear has a top selling 14 lbs $1000 jacket…
DualControl Brake System, can you explain about this and how and why you developed this product that is very unique?
This one is easy, I love to teach and do many clinics and presentations from the old IMS days, to BMW MOA, to off road clinics. I love to share all the MacGyver tricks I was taught as a young rider, and when teaching riding position and off road technique the brake lever always comes in play.
I explain in detail how easy the mistake is to think downhill is safer sitting, and how the rear brake can do so much to help balance but out of reach while your body is way back.
So you need a tall brake, but what about sitting the other 60% of the time? So I tell them BMW did a brilliant job with the GSA lever but go walk the rally or event and see how many are rusted stuck…and it would cost us $280 to sell them which is what one costs.
So finally after telling riders that for years I gave in and we made this simple, but effective, static solution It’s about the same as how I would often reach down and bend the BMW lever out when borrowing other bikes to have a high spot on the lever while riding off-road.
The OEM lever has a triangle on the inside of the brake lever that once bent out is about 3/4 inches taller.
How do you test your products before offering them for sale, any unique methods?
After 10 years we have learned was gauge or material thickness works, what is the limit of how long any crash bar should be before having a mounting strut. This has all been learned from some seriously hard riding.
Sadly, not many decision makers at these moto companies are real die-hard riders. A great example is when the Africa Twin came out everyone rushed skid plates to market and there were 2 brands that later learned that under hard riding, the front fender (which is painted and spendy on that bike) gets ripped off.
We found this while doing our pre-run video. We could hear but couldn’t figure it out. So we set up a slow-motion rig at the bottom of a significant G-out to record a series of hard hits, and found the 57MM fork assembly can flex well past 2” in the right circumstances.
We used this data to correct the crashing of the fender that others missed. Even with unlimited computing power you couldn’t define all of the parameters to analyze the crash bar for all real-world crash scenarios.
On your website you say, “100% American-made accessories and gear”, this sets you apart from most other manufacturers, why make everything stateside?
It really is the right way to do it. It allows us to control quality, address problems (they happen everywhere but I’d rather it be here where I have good relationships) and we need to be able to quickly turn through the expensive prototype process. There is also amazing talent here in this Pacific northwest from the tech hub to the manufacturing corridor tied to Boeing.
Where do you get your inspiration, your thoughts, and ideas, do you accept suggestions from customers/ friends?
Never. (just kidding). We almost get too many ideas. The customer feedback is huge and we pride ourselves in the fact that we will make revisions to our designs for many reasons; ergonomics, ease of install, improve functionality etc…. that we get from feedback from our loyal customers.
Honestly, our customers are some of the best research: smart people putting lots of real miles on their bikes and providing feedback.
I also ride every weekend, unless I am snow biking, so I get some ideas there.
Do you have a product in your line that you feel is genius, but the public doesn’t buy too many of, but you feel they should, could you highlight that?
We used to have the Fuel Share system It’s a great way to transfer fuel between bikes without a hassle, and now that even my 2 stroke is fuel injected, it can save you in a bind. Ultimately, no one bit, so we couldn’t support the product with such high minimums at manufacturing.
Can you explain some of the different materials you use for your protection parts and why you use them so the layman can understand your process?
We use a wide range of materials, its easy to say we use stainless steel all the time because its better, well that is not actually always true.
Stainless fasteners have a common misconception as stronger or better. They are just different than steel fasteners. we do use SS 90% of the time for anti corrosion properties, but when the fastener is small and the head has a small driver such as M5 or smaller allen key, we will turn to zinc plated steel to dramatically reduce the chance of the user stripping the fastener.
When we need substantiation clamping force, such as our sidestand foot, where we spend alot of time getting fastener locations as close to the foot as possible we want lots of clamping forces so we spend the extra cost and spec. zinc plated torq fasteners. This ensures our Sidestand foot has a high likelihood to stay on years later after lots of savage riding
We utilize Aluminum in our skidplates for the weight the strength ratio and we always TIG weld the seams for a craftsman look and the strength needed for impact
From the beginning we chose to use SS for our crashbars, that is not an easy option when SS is twice the price of mild steel. but we build our products to be really used. we ourselves wouldn’t want mild bars because we know we will crash and don’t want to see rust running down our bars after we have used them.
Materials is long and interesting aspect of product design, i am always finding myself learning something new. Google galling if your not familiar another valuable tool to put in the toolbox of knowledge…
Has the development new technology changed the way you can produce your products?
YES 3-D printing makes for quick mockups, sintering, and the scanning technology is huge for us. A few years ago, we also did our 1st 3D printed metal part.
ALT Rider is based in the US and Europe, ADVrider has a lot of Australian and South African readers where the best place for them to buy your products?
In Europe, AltRIder.eu of course we operate that warehouse as well. In Australia, Jason at Barrett products is a great shop. Sadly, over the years we had a few small guys in South Africa, but we are actively looking for a new distributor, if you know a good company please connect me.
How long did it take from an original idea, to design, to prototype, to the final product on the shelf, and what do you use to assist in the design process?
That varies widely and can range from 4 weeks to 6 months, depending on bike availability and whatever CAD data the OEM will support us with, if at all.
We utilize a lot of the CMM lasers to capture data and then we have about 10 years of tricks and secrets we have figured that really help. Sadly this market is getting saturated with knock offs and cheaper import product, so we have to be a bit more careful.
Do you have any new products coming out for 2020?
We have a lot on the plate, this is going to be a big year. We have a full lineup on the Yamaha T7 and Africa Twin 1100 (Honda changed everything just enough to make us retool everything).
We are also working on some composite products that I cannot talk about now, but eager to debut.
Do ADVrider and its inmates play a big part in your business?
Great Question. Since the beginning I mentioned ADVRIDER in all my presentations and interviews as the most powerful research tool out there. We need to get more active.
Alt Rider makes some seriously great videos not just on their products but also on riding technique, well worth subscribing to their YouTube channel
The main thread – The AltRider Feedback and Support Thread
Africa twin video riding sand, we will do a series on the Yamaha T700 and make it a point to really offer good riding tips this time:
Great sand scenes:
You can see more about Alt Rider using the links below.