The NEXX X.Garage helmet is the first of many NYC Motorcyclist tested, selected and endorsed moto products we will be reviewing. We talk to North American Director of Operations Ricardo Silva about the relatively new helmet line and the company’s big plans for 2017.
"With the addition of a new carbon fiber variant to the popular X.Garage retro helmet series for 2017 and the opening of a dedicated North American headquarters – based in New Jersey – earlier this year, NEXX Helmets is setting its sights on the niche US moto market and expanding westward.
A look at the Portuguese company’s 2017 catalogue reveals a series of helmets for riders from all segments of the motorcycle world: racers (X.R2), sports tourers (X.T1), dual sport (X.D1) and scooter enthusiasts (SX), and, most recently, the now broadly popular café racer set (X.G100 & X.G10).
NEXX has been around for 15 years, but is now looking at making a serious mark in the US, says Ricardo Silva, Director of Operations for North America, adding the X.Garage helmet series represents a culmination of unique styling and technology, combined with a refreshing artistic partnership with another Portuguese lifestyle moto brand – Maria Riding Company.
We wanted to give a unique twist on the design of the helmet, distinct curves, a stretched mouth with a wider chin piece up front to give a sport racer kind of look. And you can also see the helmet does not have a flat bottom … it’s a little bit rounder at the neck collar.
"We looked at what was on the market (in the retro space) and everything was the same, round retro helmets … most of them plastic,” Silva said, during a recent interview at NEXX North America HQ in Avenel, NJ. “So we wanted to give a unique twist on the design of the helmet, distinct curves, a stretched mouth with a wider chin piece up front to give a sport racer kind of look. And you can also see the helmet does not have a flat bottom … it’s a little bit rounder at the neck collar.”
Style-wise the X.Garage falls in the same ‘café racer,’ 50s and 60s inspired category as Biltwell’s successful economy-priced Gringo, the comparably priced Bell Bullitt, and even the highly expensive ($1000-plus) and somewhat exclusive Ruby Castel, now no longer available.
Pricewise, the European-manufactured premium full face NEXX X.G100 helmet sits in the mid-range – $399 to $499 – while offering high end finishes, fit and safety features. The open face X.G10 ranges from $230 to $250.
(NOTE: Stay tuned to NYCMotorcyclist.com for a helmet showdown review between the new X.G100 Carbon, the Bell Bullitt Carbon and Ruby’s Castel in December)
Silva says the X.Garage continues NEXX’s longstanding mandate to produce helmets with cutting edge materials – carbon and multi-fibers, unique styling accents and quality manufacturing. All aspects of the helmet are designed, produced and assembled in Portugal at a 200-plus worker facility, giving the company complete control over their products. Interiors are removable, skin friendly with antiallergenic and anti-bacterial properties, and are made with added performance X.MART Dry fabrics that keep the wearer cool and dry. Add the Maria Riding Company partnership and you have helmets designed specifically for a niche market.
“Our helmet has become who wears it,” Silva says, adding the Maria graphics which grace some of the X.Garage line are a nod to flat track racing. “(Maria) are into lifestyle, custom bikes, surfboards … this was one of the best things that we did was partnering with them. They’re already engaged with that niche and they know what the people with that philosophy of life want, need and like.”
“Most of the riders that use them don’t know that this culture comes from flat track, this scrambler, race look, all of that comes from flat track, that mixture between racing and vintage.”
This look – a slim but wide viewing eye port and a beefy chin bar with a single vertical vent -- is further enhanced with the addition of snap-on peaks in three different color options, and six varieties of tinted PC Lexan shields, also attached via snaps and elastic straps.
Available is six styles for the 2017 season, including several graphics options and carbon fiber & multi-composite fiber shell constructions, the X.G100 features reduced weight (1250-1465 grams / 2.75-3.23 lbs.) and impact resistance as well as aeronautical engineering and top-level sport technology. The X.G100 Carbon (available later this month), in particular, features a dark exterior contrasted by chrome trim and metal flake lines, with a deep camel color interior. The open face X.G10 comes in three graphics choices.
X.Garage helmets have been certified by the Belgium lab for road safety, IBSR and meet ECE 22-05 homologation standards. In the US, the helmets fully comply with DOT standards. All NEXX helmets include a warranty issued to the original owner against manufacturing and material defects, valid for a period of two years.
Most of the riders that use them don’t know that this culture comes from flat track, this scrambler, race look, all of that comes from flat track, that mixture between racing and vintage.
First released in the US in late 2015 for the 2016 season, through a few select East Coast moto shops, the X.Garage series is only just breaking into the West Coast market, Silva says, recounting a bit of company history.
Prior to 2016, NEXX was distributed through partners in the US with diminishing success, he said. Earlier this year the company decided to commit more fully to the US market, forming NEXX North America as an offshoot of the mother company, NEXX Pro in Europe.
In its first year, NEXX North America has concentrated on building systems for customer support, organizing storage space for product – more than 3000 helmets are stored in the New Jersey facility – and in researching the North American market.
“And it takes time … every day is a learning process, believe me. I’ve been here for two years, every day, every dealer, every state,” Silva says.
Case in point, original plans for the X.Garage series had a larger selection of open face helmets in store for the US.
“When we were starting the collection to bring more products into the US we had on the table one or two others from the open face (series). But one of the things that I realized during our stay in the US … the consumer is changing. Here people are buying more full face helmets than open face now ... they are more safety conscious.”
For 2017, Silva says NEXX North America will be adjusting its priorities from inward facing to expanding the brand’s profile and sales efforts nationwide.
“2015 ‘til the end of 2016 we were looking in, looking into ourselves, where to improve, where to prepare ourselves, and to create a better team, so when we look into the market and we push our products out, we already have the structure of the back office, ready to support dealers, find our customers,” he says. “We’re still gaining our position here in the US … making our ground here. But everybody that receives or reviews the helmet, they are astonished mostly because they don’t know the brand, so they are expecting something lower than what we manufacture. People don’t expect that the helmet is so good, you know.”
Part of that change will see Silva relocating back to Portugal, where the company’s manufacturing facilities are currently being expanded, and the appointment of sale manager Ricardo Valentim to oversee this new expansion phase.
Valentim says that will finally mean more product availability on the West Coast, sold through boutique stores under NEXX’s Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policy.
The goal was to create a premium helmet brand. This is the reason why, since the beginning, our focus has been in carbon and fiber composite helmets, always thinking in design and innovation. To have our own design philosophy, to create something different is very, very important.
"We want the dealers to feel that they have a special product,” Valentim says. “And we have to have good partners too ... it's why we are talking right now. We need good partners who believe in us, who believe in our products because that is the first step. When you like something, when you believe in something, you will be the first guy to promote them and to defend them. So, we are looking for that kind of partner."
In Europe, those partnerships have even extended to include small batch production of branded helmets for the likes of Hugo Boss, Touratech and Swarovski. Valentim says the company is also looking for similar co-productions in the US, ones that are mutually beneficial to both parties. NEXX North America is currently in talks with Instagram moto culture favorites Croig (@caferacersofinstagram) to produce one special series already.
Ultimately, both Silva and Valentim see advantages in NEXX’s small business structure with the ability to act quickly on trends and these smaller co-branded projects to produce new and innovative designs aimed at what’s hot in the market right now.
That comes directly from the very refined vision of company founder and CEO Helder Loureiro, a biker himself who’s turned his passion into a business.
“The goal was to create a premium helmet brand,” Loureiro says. “This is the reason why, since the beginning, our focus has been in carbon and fiber composite helmets, always thinking in design and innovation. To have our own design philosophy, to create something different is very, very important.”
What the next trend will be neither Silva or Valentim can say right now. But they will be quick to react to riders’ feedback, wants and needs.