Milt grew up on a hog and grain farm in rural Manitoba, and like most kids on the farm there was a lot of heavy equipment around to operate, and of course the obligatory mini bikes to goof around on once the chores were done. Young Milt embraced both and with all the empty space around was able to build MX tracks; the farm equipment came in handy for building jumps and obstacles. As with most farms with dirt bikes, kids working with tools becomes a necessity. This was back in the mid-1970s when time was not filled with social media, cell phones and mindless video games. Hell, colour TV was the big thing and VCRs weren’t even available yet. This was a time when a kid’s place was outside running around and getting copious amounts of fresh air. As time passed, Milt’s passion was focused on dirt bikes. He started to get pretty darn good on the mini bikes, and as evolution would have it, he started racing full-on Motocross in 1980. From 1980 through to 1990 he progressed through the ranks and won many amateur Championships on his way to turning pro. Like many of us who hit the pro level, you soon find victories become harder and harder to achieve, but that never discouraged Milt.
During those ten years of racing Milt worked as a mechanic at a local motorcycle and snowmobile shop. Of course, being in a rural shop environment, his duties stretched the boundaries into all facets of the business including sales and customer service. By this time he knew and loved the business so in 1990, when the shop owner made a decision to move to British Columbia, they made a deal and Milt took over the business. He was on a five year plan to run the business and then go to university. When opportunity knocks you have to jump so he opted to work first then go to school a little later. As most shop owners know, life becomes very busy when satisfying loyal and paying customers. Milt became too busy to race moto so he decided to focus on the store.
By 1992, the racing itch got the better of Milt but this time it was with snow machines that caught his fancy. And what better place to race cross country sleds than in rural Manitoba. Perhaps that’s an oxymoron because most of Manitoba is rural with sprawling country sides with Winnipeg being its hub. The many beautiful little towns throughout provide an epic setting for high speed sled racing fun. Remember, the shop Milt bought also sold
snowmobiles so it was a perfect venue for him to showcase not only the snow machines he sold but also his motocross prowess. As you well know, when you are pretty good on a dirt bike anything with a motor comes naturally, and soon Milt was running up front or winning regularly in the gruelling two and a half hour, ultra-high-speed X-country races. He soon realized the sled gear of the day plain and simply sucked. It was not uncommon to sweat out ten pounds in a race and to suffer the negative effects of dehydration. These races are
held in sub-zero, freezing cold situations. Any type of modern hydration packs were yet to be invented. Furthermore, if you could even keep the liquid from freezing in the hydration pack, the drink tube would freeze almost instantly with the added wind chill from the speed, plus there were the added
complications of even fitting a drink tube in the tight confines of a snowmobile racing helmet. It didn’t
take long for Milt to start daydreaming about better gear for his new passion of racing on the sleds. So that year, for fun, he started sketching designs for snowmobile racing jackets and pants based on a cool, leather Honda street bike jacket he bought on clear out before he owned the shop. Nobody wanted to buy this loud Honda jacket with multiple colours and numerous embroideries, but he loved it even though it didn’t work well for winter use. So his hand drawn sketches and designs really started taking shape. He approached one of the larger motocross
apparel manufacturers and met with them with a very favourable response to produce his snow line. However, Milt was busy running the shop and they wanted him to basically commit full time to the project, but he wasn’t quite sure the timing was right for such a drastic move.
In 1994, he wanted some hats made and stopped by a local shop called Modern Headwear who specialized in custom hat embroidery, plus they manufactured custom corporate clothing as well. Back then manufacturing was not dominated by offshore companies, because Canadians actually made a lot of garments within our borders. The guys at Modern Headwear made jackets for companies like Freightliner and Mac tools, as well as the upstart
snowboard company, Arson. While poking around the shop, Milt happened to come across one of the designers and they began chatting. As chance would have it, all of his latest sketches were in his truck so he ran out, got them and showed the guy his handy work. The owners then came in and within ten minutes they said “Let’s make some stuff!” During 1994 and 1995 they were developing Milt’s designs together, but mostly with Milt’s input. He went on to win the Pro Can Am Cross Country Sled Racing Championship wearing his prototypes for two years running. By this time all his competitors and fellow racers wanted to wear the same clothing that the winning rider was wearing, which basically is the buzz that started it all.
With so much interest in his sled gear Milt shut down the dealership in ‘96 and focused solely on the snowmobile clothing line full time. The stuff he was producing was a hit on every level for his target audience. I asked Milt when he knew he made the right decision to close up shop and focus on gear. “Year one, right away I knew this was going to be something big; the response was phenomenal,” was his answer. And ya know what, he was right! In those early years, the company doubled every year, which was great, but considering he started from virtually
nothing as a one man gang that increase wasn’t that hard to attain. Reason being his products were fantastic and blew the doors off of any other rival products of the day. I then asked him about the name FXR and the name’s origin. He needed something that had not already been trademarked so this became a bit of a challenge to finalize something cool that was available and easy to remember. A lot of the names he came up with were already trademarked so from somewhere in his head this acronym FXR came into mind and stuck once all trademark infringements were cleared…or so he thought.
With the brand and the business growing exponentially, he was blindsided by a legal document that arrived in and around ‘98/’99 saying he was being sued by Harley Davidson over the name because they had an existing motorcycle line called FXR. Milt had to travel to the US to face the allegations and defend himself against the mighty American “HOG” manufacturer. Harley ended up with a little egg on their face, because Milt had trademarked the name before Harley Davidson and won the lawsuit! The brass at Harley realized they kind of goofed up, and upon meeting Milt and grasping a better understanding of his company and its goals, realized there really was no infringement and there was no real reason both could not share the acronym FXR. Once
this misunderstanding was clarified, the two actually ended up getting along really well, so upon a handshake they agreed to let each other use the name and to never bother one another over such trivialities again. I thought this was a pretty cool part of his story, which at the time must have been a wild ride for him. To this day, Milt harbours no ill will towards Harley Davidson; on the contrary, he says, the whole episode reinforced what good people are involved in the powersports industry. This theme of good people in our industry is something that Milt mentioned often during our conversation leading up to this article, and something he believes helped on his road to success.
Milt also attributes his Pro Motocross background as a major key to his success not only in business but also in his personal life. Let’s face it, to race motocross at virtually every level you have to have a relentless desire and attitude to keep pushing forward. As your racing progresses through the ranks, the more tireless this attitude to forge ahead becomes. If we transfer this Pro racer never-say-die attitude towards business, big things can happen and Milt is a testament to this. When FXR first started, the main focus was on snow wear, and to this day the snow line remains a huge part of the company’s success. They make very technical wear for some of the harshest winter environments on the planet, from boots, helmets and gloves, and of course with the world famous trail and race snowmobile suits, FXR has you covered. They sponsor literally hundreds of riders globally and it’s hard not to see FXR riders at such events as Snocross races and the X-Games. Pick up any snowmobile magazine and chances are, many of the test riders will be decked out in a modern FXR riding suit. Upon checking out FXR`s technological and revolutionary advancements, it’s no wonder that global sales have soared in recent years. Take, for instance, their ACMT (Advanced Climate Management Technology) that is more breathable and waterproof than the competition’s with strategically located venting zippers to keep your temperature balanced right where you want it. From traditional snowmobile suits to floater suits to help keep you safe and buoyant in the event of an open water mishap, the design team at FXR have left little on the table as far as safety is concerned. Style you ask? They have you covered there too with some jackets incorporating over five hundred thousand stitches including embroidery to make a real fashionable statement for the end user.
So what has been the secret to FXR`s massive success and global appeal? Right from the start, Milt wanted to establish a dealer direct network, which he has achieved everywhere but in Russia. Milt says by sticking to a modest business model his dealers have become partners of sorts, which opens the dialogue directly with the people on the front lines that fit and sell to the public. For those partners they are rewarded with products that are in demand and asked for by name by the discerning consumer. Milt also stresses that ex-Motocross racers make some of the best employees and employs many likeminded racers in his organization. Milt feels the perseverance and problem solving abilities of racers make them an ideal choice for helping propel the company forward. Let’s face it, racing is a rewarding and humbling experience and you have to learn how to both win and lose gracefully. People involved in racing also have an amount of mechanical know-how that many of the general population have missed. Combined with so many other factors that result from a life of motocross, you have what Milt considers idyllic employees. And Milt needs a lot of employees to keep the ball rolling forward. Three years ago, Milt had seventeen full time staff that has now grown to forty full timers. Three years ago, he built a new 45,000 square foot head office and distribution centre in Oak Bluff, just south west of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and has distribution centers in Minnesota and Sweden. The company now produces leading edge products in a dozen countries including forty different factories equating to roughly four hundred overseas
containers shipped annually. I asked Milt about product design and the steps required to go from the drawing board to production, and who’s in charge of new product development. Milt is still the lead designer and usually establishes the platform and direction of a product or product line, but has a team dedicated to the development of new products as well. Former Canadian Pro Motocross racer Matt Hamm is Milt’s right hand man and is tasked with the role as team leader, who has a dedicated group working within the design team. Milt says “Everyone works together to agree on new styles and changes; usually three or four examples are tweaked before hitting the production line.” The results and their overwhelming popularity are clearly evident. Factor in the fact that the Snow Line catalogue alone has 280 pages of cool stuff, what you are left with is a staggering amount of
product to choose from. Add to the fact that FXR has co-produced OE products for Yamaha since 2002 in Canada, the United States, Russia and Finland, you know the quality has to be top notch for a company like Yamaha to be associated with them for such a long period of time.
Tens of thousands of hours go into the production of the catalogues, and every year FXR hosts 65 (the maximum feasible amount) of their world’s largest accounts to their new product launch. The launch location changes but what doesn’t is the buzz this event creates for the lucky attendees. The gang at FXR put a lot of work and thought into these events, which are quickly becoming the dealers’ favourite corporate event in their calendars. Of course once business meetings are done, good times are the order of the day. Unwittingly, these product launch meetings have evolved into big buying parties so Milt could not be more proud of his team, which he commonly refers to as “family.” Milt’s dedication to not only his products and dealers but to his employees as well has earned FXR an EDC (Economic Development Canada) Award in Manitoba that puts them in the same company as previous recipients Boeing Aviation and New Flyer Industries who manufacture large buses. The EDC’s Emerging Export Award is a huge honour for any company, but for a company like FXR that started with such humble beginnings I think it makes this even more special.
The fame of FXR’s apparel line is massive in Europe, and being a Canadian company across the pond is a huge boon for not only sales but for public relations too. Many Europeans love Canada, and Canadians for that matter, which is a very well-known phenomenon; so well-known, in fact, that many American travellers put the Canadian flag patch, sticker or button on their person in the hopes of better treatment by the local European residents while on vacation. Milt stresses that being Canadian in Europe is huge. “Canada Goose is the current number one wearing status symbol in many European countries, and FXR is right there for sportsmen and women.”
This is a Motocross magazine so let’s start talking moto and moto gear. FXR has been quietly making stylish but, perhaps more importantly, high quality, and durable off-road riding gear for a long time. They have sponsored many Canadian riders and teams over the years, and are passion driven when it comes to moto. With snow gear sales so huge, it’s no wonder the MX line even exists, but at FXR it’s totally about the enthusiasm for Motocross. Remember brand founder Milt Reimer had a solid ten years of MX racing under his belt before ever racing a snow machine. Milt informed me that “Motocross is a total loss for us; it’s all about passion and basically a write off for marketing purposes, but the MX coolness rubs off in the snow gear.” So, in a sense, it’s the snow sales that
subsidize the MX gear and MX involvement. I asked if the moto line could ever become a viable commodity. “We have been cautious in motocross because lots of brands come and go, but now we have goals of expanding the MX line with some new products with entry level price points.” This is exciting news because I think, given a choice, most Canadian riders would want to support a Canadian company before supporting a brand from elsewhere. FXR has stuck with Canadian-only motocross teams and riders to date and will continue to do so. I asked Milt of all the riders he’s helped support over the years, who would be his favourite. “Hands down Marco Dubé. He was one of my heroes, and when the opportunity came to sponsor him I was thrilled. Marco was previously wearing
Shift gear and it was the year he went privateer Honda. He stayed at my house and practiced on my track the week leading up to Regina (at the time the closest National to Milt’s home) and got on the podium that weekend!” At the time, Marco, who had a grand career and was a big celebrity in his native Quebec, was starting to get older in this young man’s sport, so Milt spoke with Marco about a possible career after motocross. Marco would have none of it! Retirement was not in his vocabulary; Marco was a racer and loved racing so much he could not even enter into discussion about life after motocross. Milt used to joke with Marco that he would be a lifer with FXR, much to Marco’s protests, but as fate would have it this could very well become a reality, because Marco Dubé has retired and has become a very successful representative for FXR in Quebec and shows no signs of slowing down in the business world.
FXR shows no sign of slowing down either. With new ideas and new products being tabled regularly, FXR is now in the outdoor gear business and has taken a stab into the ever growing world of adventure motorcycling. They just did a deal with Cabela’s to make seam sealed, stylish gear for the outdoorsman and outdoorswoman. I have seen people wearing this stuff on the street and it looks amazing. FXR obtained the rights to use the coolest camouflage patterns on this line, and it looks to be a big winner not only in style but on the sales floor as well. Hunting and fishing is huge in North America. Ice fishing was just named the fasted growing winter activity, so this should bode well for FXR’s ACMT and floater suits. Milt and his team are also very proud of their new Adventure line of motorcycling gear. “The new Adventure jacket is good to minus 20 Celsius and the most technical jacket we have ever produced. Waterproofing is the biggest issue, and this new line exceeds virtually anything available out there.” The Adventure line, which includes several different options of jackets and pants, will be introduced in what Milt would call a soft launch. “We will start off with about 300-400 jackets and be looking for adventure riders to help test and put the products through the paces.”
After a lengthy but very enjoyable conversation, I asked Milt for his parting words. “Take the passion of motocross into your everyday lives, be it both work and family… also follow your dreams and work hard.” Very sound advice. I then asked about any other heroes or people he admired. “Of course Marco Dubé, but I think Mark Stallybrass and the CMRC deserve a lot of credit for what they havedone for motocross in this country.” It doesn’t take Milt long to rhyme off name after name of riders who have had their careers rejuvenated in the Canadian series, and it’s truly evident that Milt knows and follows the scene. He still races Old Timers motocross and rides moto about three times a week on his home track for fun and to stay in shape. He is just like one of us who can’t get motocross out of his system.
It’s clearly evident that this story is about one of the most successful apparel companies to ever come out of Canada, and it’s refreshing to see and feel the passion that goes into every FXR product. So if you are in the market for new gear, why not look into giving FXR a try. There is very little doubt you will ever be disappointed as the quality is top shelf. I want to thank Milt Reimer, Matt Hamm and my old buddy Aaron Wiebe from FXR for making this story a reality. You will be seeing a lot more of FXR this summer when the Nationals roll around. Remember to support those who support the sport!