Most people don’t realize this, or choose to ignore it, but the majority of riding gear that you can buy in India at a reasonable price, especially the leather stuff, is made in Pakistan.
Putting aside for the moment all the insanely intricate politics and history that neither I nor you are an expert on, and even forgetting about the unnecessary loss of life and needless wastage of money that it would entail, why would a biker want a war with a country whose people and their products might have quite literally saved your life, or of someone you care for, on multiple occasions?
The story of riding gear
There are 3 main countries where all cheap to medium priced riding gear is produced, Pakistan, Vietnam, and China. Different companies have different reasons to pick different manufacturers in different regions. The most basic factor in all such decisions is money.
Minimum Order Quantity, or MOQ as it’s popularly known as, along with per unit price, and quality of the finished product determines which brand chooses which nation to get their products from. For example, Pakistani vendors typically have the least MOQ, which means that your initial investment is relatively small. Their per-unit price might end being higher than a Chinese vendor, but that depends on a wide variety of factors. Also, the quality of Pakistan made products can be on the lower side when compared to something from Vietnam, but that’s also not always that straightforward.
Chinese manufacturers generally create the best products, but you have to order a shitload of their stuff for it to make any sense for them to create it. This means that only the giants of the riding gear world, like Alpinestars, can afford China, which makes a lot of sense for them, since the size of their business means that they end up getting well-made products at the cheapest prices, which they can then sell at a premium to customers who think it’s all made in Italy.
Only the top-level race suits and stuff is made in Italy, rest all is outside.
Vietnam falls somewhere between China and Pakistan. Their minimum order quantities aren’t astronomical, but their unit price and quality may not be as attractive as China.
To keep the product price under control, many manufacturers might use the same basic design, with subtle differences in logo placement, color schemes, and other small components, but with major differences in price. The last 2 photos of the black gloves show the TBG Sport glove, and the first 2 photos of the red ones show the AGV Sport Echelon glove. Not only does the TBG cost roughly half of the AGV, the AGV doesn’t even come with Knox SPS that the TBG does.
Even if the final stitching, packaging etc. is done in one country, many of the parts necessary to create the finished product must be imported from different places around the globe, Knox/SAS-TEC protectors being one good example. Also, the few companies that do manufacture their gear in India end up getting the raw materials from many different nations through a number of different channels.
Many manufacturers, before selling their products to the customer, might cut off the tags that say “Made in Pakistan” or even “Made in China” for that matter, just to reduce the negative associations some people might have with that particular country.
This situation is similar to what happens with iPhones and GoPros, just like everything IT is done in India, one way or the other, everything about manufacturing is done in China, with the raw materials being sourced from all over the world. These big brands and their giant marketing campaigns try really hard to make you forget that, and surprisingly, most people do.
So why am I telling you all this?
- Because customers need to start being aware of at least some of the marketing bullshit that happens behind the screens.
- Because there’s no glory in ignorance, start doing your own serious research about things that are important to you.
- Because you need to stop looking at any product as being something that’s made in one place by a couple of blokes that you like.
- Because people need to understand the level of global cooperation it takes to produce anything that makes your life better, and how self-destructive it is to hate someone else and wish to drop bombs on them just because a small minority of them are delusional about some different God than yours, or some of their immoral politicians will do anything for power, or some of their celebrity cunts can’t keep their fucking mouth shut.
- Because these factors affect the way your product warranty/support works in reality.
Warranty in theory
- Both Spartan and Rynox claim to provide 6 months of warranty on their gear.
- The wording of Rynox’s warranty policy is exceptionally sweet when compared to Spartan’s sheer arrogance.
- Spartan’s warranty policy actually contains the line “The company retains the right to reject any claim at its sole discretion”, which can be loosely translated to “If we don’t feel like you’re worthy of a reply to your complaint email, you can go fuck yourself”.
- As if that wasn’t enough, their apparel warranty ends in this line “Subjective concerns due to the use of apparel such as comfort, size, weight, styling, etc will not be considered as defects under warranty”. The big problem here is the “comfort” part, because that’s exactly the problem I faced with my Odysseus pants. You rarely get to try any piece of gear for more than 15 minutes before you buy it, in that time you can never tell if there’s any serious manufacturing defect that might fuck with long-term comfort and usability. What Spartan seems to imply is that they don’t give a single shit if you find out later that your pant is simply unwearable with the knee-guards in place.
- And the final cherry on top is this beauty “Motorcycle helmets/protective riding apparel are prone to getting soiled with sweat and dirt. We kindly request our customers to clean the product thoroughly before sending it to us for inspection. For hygiene purposes, products that are not cleaned will be charged Rs.500/- for professional cleaning before our staff will inspect it”. Are you fucking kidding me? You send me a product with a manufacturing defect, I use it and find out the problem, then you expect me to like sit around and wash it before returning it to your holiness, just to make sure my unclean body doesn’t come in any indirect contact with your pious bitchiness?
- Rynox has a 10-day replacement policy in case there’s an obvious manufacturing defect, something that Spartan doesn’t.
On the face of it then, Rynox’s warranty seems like a far better deal than Spartan, but things can be very different in real life.
Warranty in practice
Since my sour episode with Spartan, and the consequential ranting on the site, many people came forward to tell me about their bad experiences with different manufacturers. I have personally seen Rynox failing to even respond to an obvious manufacturing defect on one of their Nomad saddlebags well within the warranty period, emails didn’t help, and neither did posts/messages on their Facebook page.
Recently, a friend messaged me on Facebook about the story of his Rynox Inferno gloves. He owned the gloves for roughly a year, in which he did some 5-6 rides with them. On one such ride, this happened.
He contacted Rynox, and they naturally refused to do anything about it.
On a personal level, I don’t think Rynox is at fault there. Technically, their warranty only lasts for 6 months, and on top of that, there’s nothing much they can do in such case, as I’ve realized was the case with Spartan.
If you’ve read this article from the beginning, you might have noticed the fact that almost nothing is manufactured in this country. Most of these brands might have some basic facilities in India to make some of the cheaper items, but a majority of the big stuff is simply imported, some outside vendor makes it, sticks the brand’s logo on it, and then ships the consignment to India.
This has a very serious implication, this means that “repair” is not an option in most cases, even though the companies might include that word in their official warranty policies.
Think about it, what could Rynox possibly do about the glove in the photos above? They can’t repair it themselves, they don’t know how, don’t have the machines to make it happen. The only thing they can do is replace your damaged glove, and why would they give you a new one for free? What would they do with the old one?
Some rare brands, like ViaTerra, actually have the equipment and the skill to manufacture most things that they sell, which means that they have the ability to do real repairs. Some other brands, especially the smaller, upcoming ones, might just replace the damaged item, even if it’s outside warranty period, just to keep the customer satisfied. The bigger brands don’t need to do that.
Most brands keep a tab on the items that had manufacturing defects, they’ll keep them together at one place, take photos and share information with the vendor, sometimes even send some pieces back to them to make sure it’s not repeated. It’s not a 100% perfect system in any sense of the word, things are far from ideal, as they tend to be in real life.
How can you save yourself from bad experiences?
1. Stay informed
If you buy something from Cramster or DSG, understand beforehand that they have no reason to listen to you if you end up with something defective, they offer no warranty whatsoever. Both these brands are the oldest in the market, and don’t really have to push much to sell their products, so they might not care for negative publicity as much as some other brands may need to.
When you buy from any other brand, Spartan, Rynox, Alpinestarts, Dainese, whatever, understand the terms and conditions properly, ask questions, be forceful if you need to. Many dealers might push you to buy something with false promises, the manufacturer will not entertain your requests if you tell them the dealer said so.
What you say is irrelevant, it’s all about the official policy and the proofs that you have.
2. Try before you buy
Online shopping is easy, but the risks run higher as well. Don’t blindly buy anything just because there’s some stupid offer running at the moment. Go to your nearest dealer, steal from a friend who already owns what you want, try the thing, walk in it, run in it, squat in it, and most importantly, sit on your bike while wearing it. If the dealer objects, take your business elsewhere. If you can’t find any other dealer, find a different brand, there’s no scarcity of shit you can buy.
All riding gear needs to be a proper fit for it to be functional, comfortable and safe. It’s not like a fucking T-shirt that you don’t mind is two sizes too big, nor is it like that pair of jeans that needs a belt to keep it from sliding down.
If your jacket size isn’t correct, the protectors will be at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you boot size isn’t correct, you will have no feel for the levers. If your helmet size isn’t correct, you are just fucked, plain and simple fucked.
3. Use it as soon as you get it
If you do happen to buy something online after checking for the sizing and everything, still make sure you take it on a long trip immediately. Size checks can run for 15 minutes at max, there are many problems that start appearing only when you use the item for hours.
Almost all pieces of riding gear, especially the leather ones, need to be broken in first, so don’t worry too much if you feel discomfort, or even pain in the beginning. It took me a few days to get used to my new SOL helmet, gave me headaches to begin with, but once we became friends, things have been running great for more than 2 years.
The sooner you tell the brand about a manufacturing defect, the greater the chances of you getting a clean replacement, or at least a free repair. I made the mistake of waiting for too long, don’t do that, reach out to them immediately, that helps put a date on the the exact moment you let your grievance be known, after which time it doesn’t matter how long the company takes to respond, you’ve done your bit.
4. Save that invoice
Don’t try to keep hard copies, it’s impossible. Most dealers nowadays send soft invoices, which is awesome, keep them safe. If you do get a hard print, take a photo of it and save it in some email draft somewhere with a subject line that’s easy to search for.
The brand needs a proof of purchase, it tells them how long the customer had the product, how much of the warranty is left, and in some cases, can even tell them about the specific product itself.
Some manufacturers include information about the product’s batch, date of manufacture, etc., which can be retrieved from the invoice number. In case they are already aware of a manufacturing defect in that particular batch, your replacement will be swift and painless.
5. Don’t be silent
If you do feel like you’re getting cheated, if you feel the brand is doing something unethical, if you feel you are right and the company is wrong in light of the evidence you possess, speak out. Your first attempts must always be to reach out to the brand, emails, social media, any medium is fine, just be nice and reasonable. If that doesn’t work out, it’s time to rant.
Ranting helps not only put some pressure on someone doing something wrong, it also warns others not to get their leg stuck in the same shit bucket. Don’t try to be a smartass though, don’t withhold facts, don’t lie, don’t rant off against a company when you are the one who’s a moron, you’ll get bitten, and all your credibility will go swirling down the toilet.
I hope this article gave you some insight into the world behind gear brands. The point of this monologue is rather simple, use your fucking brain, don’t make emotional mistakes, don’t get taken for a ride. If someone does try to make you sad, even after you took all the precautions and tried to reason like a gentleman, fuck with their happiness until that burning sensation goes away from your heart.