FXR Racing: Aaron Wiebe Gives Me a Tour of the Successful Gear Company
By Billy Rainford
Perhaps a ‘rags to riches’ story is a bit of a stretch and FXR owner Milt Reimer may never have been accused of wearing rags, but I don’t think anyone could have imagined taking this company from an idea to dominant reality like FXR has done. Well, if you’ve ever met Milt, he may have actually imagined it and had it outlined on the white board in his basement in Morris, Manitoba, where it all began.
Morris, MB is a small town (pop. 1750) about 50k south of Winnipeg on Highway 75. This road is the artery that connects Winnipeg all the way down to Missouri in the south. Morris is the only town along Highway 75 where it is actually called ‘Main Street.’ It makes sense that FXR – an outdoor gear and accessory juggernaut – got its humble beginnings in this hamlet that was actually settled as a strategic location along the Red River for fur traders. The story of both Morris and FXR begins and ends with outdoor gear.
As the story goes, at the tender age of 17, Milt worked at a Honda and Polaris dealership in Morris. Milt was a motocross racer in the area and so working in the industry made sense. He worked there for 10 years before he bought the company. In Milt’s words, “everything was a step towards the next project.”
Milt continued as owner of the shop until he was 33. In that 6-year span, he worked on the business plan for FXR. He liked the word ‘Factory’ and ‘X’ is extreme. The ‘R’ is for racing. He had the name and the beginnings of a product line. Milt saw a need for high performance snow rider wear and noticed that nobody was really taking it to the level he envisioned in his mind’s eye.
Milt would work on designs in his basement and take his plans to a local garment manufacturer where he continued to fine tune the gear and his design skills. By 2005, FXR had progressed to the point where basement design and small local fabrication became unrealistic and manufacturing was moved overseas to meet demand. Milt feels that a major key to the company’s success is its “ever expanding product line.”
If you head over to their website www.fxrracing.com you will see exactly what he’s referring to – the product line is expansive! The different lines and categories the FXR line covers is summed up nicely in this article Milt wrote in the magazine they created for the Spirit Mountain Snocross ISOC National in Deluth, Minnesota:
This year my daughter Lauren came up with the idea that we should create a small magazine for Duluth highlighting many of the amazing teams and athletes we support and sponsor. It truly is our privilege to work with so many amazing people and team owners who put in the maximum effort to finance and run ultra-competitive race programs. Their passion and vision is vital to our sport and it allows their riders to focus on preparation and racing, pushing themselves to the limits and beyond, chasing podiums, wins and championships!
FXR is first and foremost about snowmobile apparel, racing, mountains, trail, touring and more. We are always developing and testing new products and concepts, pushing the limits of both function, durability and design, while working with our teams and athletes who share that same passion. It all started with Snocross racing right here in Duluth and has grown from there. Since then we’ve successfully integrated those ideas and technologies into multiple categories.
FXR MTN – Over the past few years we’ve been redefining the mountain category while working with some of our incredible backcountry riders such as Bret Rasmussen, Sahen Skinner, Tony Jenkins and many more. Together those three guys ride 300 – 400 days of the year, punishing products in the most adverse, conditions, testing performance, durability, fit, function and comfort and doing it all in style, with style. These guys push the limits in our equipment to ensure that our products meet and exceed their expectations so that you can ride with confidence.
Check out their up-to-date Facebook page too. I thought the article on the FXR Ranger Mono Suit was pretty funny. It sounds like, although the mono suit is a great idea on paper, some were hesitant to buy into its virtues…until they tried one!
I hope Sleddermag.com doesn’t mind that I’ve copy/pasted their FXR Ranger Review here in this article (read full article HERE), but it is a pretty good and witty read. Here are a couple excerpts from it:
What happens to a sledder that they decide to start wearing a mono suit aka onesie?
Sleddermag.com March 26, 2015
You know who I’m talking about— you’ve seen these guys around. There aren’t too many riders willing to toss convention to the wind and rock a mono, so those that do tend to stand out from the crowd. Were they dropped as babies? Do they have a passion for the colour purple? Do they suffer from some debilitating personality defect in which popular opinion fails to register? OR… is it possible that they are the enlightened few who have figured out how beat the system? Hmmm.
Opinions on the mono are pretty polarized. Most people either think they’re super cool or that they look like a clown suit. It’s kind of like the Apple vs PC debate, Beta vs VHS, Stallone vs Schwarzenegger. Both sides think they know which is better, but only one side is actually right!
To issue an informed verdict on this debate, I had no choice but to jump into a mono to see for myself what the lack of hype was all about.
So I grabbed the FXR Ranger Mono Suit, which is the crème-de-la-crème in the FXR lineup. The Black/Yellow style is not the most subtle of the three available, but I wanted to soak in the impressions of my fellow riding companions and I felt that a good amount of “flash” would be in order.
There remains two camps of rider out there, those who rock a mono suit and those still stuck in the medieval era of outerwear. Though the mono suit wearer remains firmly in the minority, I smell a sea change. As for me, I’ll be hanging with my mono bros. Sure, in the meantime I might take some jabs out there from wet-assed 2-piece conformists with closet jealousy. But that’s cool, because I don’t listen to them complaining about being hot and/or cold and/or wet either. And I know that once they try it, they might never go back. It turns out that the mono guys aren’t crazy, or peculiar, or anything else. They just like great outerwear.
That is a great read and hits the proverbial nail on the head. Well done. Get your Mono Suit now before they’re gone!
FXR Outdoor was newly introduced to our line up and pertains to all you hunting, fishing, ATVing and outdoor enthusiasts. Partnering up with Realtree™ has allowed us to incorporate their signature camo into our ever growing line of apparel. In doing so we have built a great relationship with Cabela’s Canada and are expanding into Cabela’s USA. They, along with many of our dealers carry a wide variety of outerwear which is geared towards living full throttle in the outdoors!
FXR Active and Lifestyle – We bike, run, ski, boat and love being “Active” in all aspects of our lives. For most of us motor head enthusiasts, living an active, outdoor lifestyle is a natural fit. We are continuously cross-training and finding new ways to stay fit and keep active, just ask any of our athletes who would agree that keeping the momentum going during the off season is crucial.
FXR MX – Because I LOVE MX!!! I raced MX for years and still ride multiple times a week. Its simply the best form of exercise known to man and is great for both the body and mind. We’ve found a lot of designs and features cross over between MX and Sno-X. Our riders say FXR MX gear fits better, is more durable and can easily outlast all of the current top MX brands out there. Plus our MX Racer Support program is always open for resumes!
FXR MC – All new this spring, FXR MC is a small collection of highly technical, hi-performance/adventure motorcycle apparel as well as a few basic street pieces. FXR MC is a great platform for our HydrX Pro waterproof/breathable development, advanced fit and function development which allows us to test new technology on a year round basis. Motorcycles, particularly hyper-motard style are my latest passion and I’ve discovered that Minnesota has miles of scenic, twisty roads that need to be explored and enjoyed!
We love what we do and truly appreciate being a small part of the snowmobile industry and the crazy, fabulous people that share our passion!
Did everyone see that part where he said, “Plus our MX Racer Support program is always open for resumes!“? What are you waiting for?
I got the chance to check out the Canadian company’s head office on the outskirts of Winnipeg after the final western round of the 2014 Rockstar Energy MX Nationals in Regina. I had just come from spending a couple days at Kyle McCannell‘s house in the tiny Manitoba town of Pilot Mound. While I was there, FXR had invited their many sponsored riders and employees over to the Prairie Hill MX track for a day of riding, bench racing, and bbq. It was a great day and still stands as the most riding I’ve had the chance to do in many years – I went wheel-to-wheel with an 85cc rider for the better part of…30 minutes.
Here are a few shots from the FXR Ride Day at Prairie Hill MX:
It was after we spent the day riding and laughing that we headed north-east across the province to Winnipeg. I should mention that of all the riders in attendance it was Milt, himself, that put in the most laps on the track. He barely stopped for lunch!
My guide for this adventure was none other than Aaron Wiebe. Although he kept getting confused and trying to get this mannequin to follow him around the building (if you have no idea what I look like, don’t worry about that one), Aaron was a gracious host and all around good guy. Aaron is the Sales and Marketing guy at FXR. You probably remember him from his Pro racing days. He will be the first to tell you that he didn’t exactly set the world on fire back then, but he was usually the one with the biggest smile, and some would say that means he won.
He was easily distracted by the amazing Manitoba landscape that sat just out of arm’s reach out the window…of the basement?
This set is, of course, used to shoot various products for magazines and just to give the basement a more rustic feel than the harsh reality of being in the industrial section of southwest Winnipeg.
This is where they do the ‘real’ photography. They are very busy with photo shoots here in the studio as they are always producing new products for market.
I snooped around downstairs and found this Jay Burke transfer being readied to be pressed onto one of his race jerseys. FXR has been a big supporter of Jay Burke’s program over the years. I could dig back many years to find photos of Jay at various tracks proudly sporting his FXR gear.
One corner of the floor is covered in helmets. They never rest and are always product testing with athletes trying to get the fit, feel, and function perfect before they go out to retailers and onto the heads of their many customers.
As Milt stated in the Deluth article, they have an ever-expanding line that now includes and Outdoor segment. You will see lots of this ‘Realtree‘ gear around the track and on the streets this year. You will even find FXR gear in the huge chain, Cabela’s. They have partnered with ‘Realtree signature camo.’ You probably remember seeing riders like Jay Burke, Kyle Swanson, Jared Stock, or Ryan Millar all sporting this look at the races last summer.
As I wandered the building, I sort of got the feeling I was keeping people from their ‘real’ work. Fortunately, everyone was kind enough to keep themselves from telling me to get lost and I was able to see the process from design to testing to shipping.
FXR has entered the very competitive ‘first layer’ market with their new Performance Layerwear. I remember looking for a new snowboard and someone said to me, “Why would you buy a snowboard from a ski maker? Buy one from a company that specializes in snowboards.” It made sense then for that sport and it makes sense for snowmobiling too. FXR has the knowledge and the ‘real world’ testing put in in the mountains to ensure this stuff is what you need between you and your outer layer when you’re shredding the powder out west or hitting the groomers in the east.
Even when you’d think a jacket is ready for market, there are still many questions to be asked and answered. I was impressed with the attention to detail that went into getting this riding jacket just right. I know dissecting the competition’s product is nothing new, but the way FXR attacked this was nothing short of inspirational. They were quick to point out the pros as well as the cons to other jackets on the market. It’s this fanaticism that makes sure nothing goes out the door that isn’t better than the rest.
I’m sorry. I made them stand like this to replicate the cheesy paparazzi show TMZ. I thought I was pretty funny! I think Milt should have been standing on the other side though. We’ll get it right next time…
Milt is an avid cyclist and road rider as well. It takes a certain kind of person to take a company from start-up to world leader and Milt is that kind of person. There will never be any moss growing on this guy. You can tell he runs his life like he runs his business, and that’s full throttle!
Aaron took me through the warehouse that is away from HQ and then we headed over to their corporate store in the mall.
I want to thank the entire FXR gang for extending their welcome last summer. In a world where fewer and fewer brands are homegrown, FXR stands alone in Canadian motocross. Some have come and gone but few have shown the staying power and even world penetration that FXR has. If you go to the FXR website and look at the ‘Dealer Locator‘ tab, you will see just how wide-reaching their influence is. Snowmobiling may be their bread and butter, but speak with Milt Reimer for more than a few seconds and the subject will always turn to moto.
It’s great to hear that they will be getting much more involved with Canadian moto in 2015. Word on the street is that you will be able to look for FXR signage this summer at the Canadian Nationals as well as see their gear on the MX101 Yamaha squad. Good things are ahead for this Canadian success story, and with the growth and size of sledding worldwide, the sky is the limit.
FXR – Factory Racing.