Boots are almost as important as a helmet when it comes to getting dirty on a bike and it is virtually impossible to ignore Alpinestars’ innovative and markedly cool Tech 10s in a wide market of choice. We took a trip to the company’s HQ in Asolo in northern Italy to see how the boots are constructed and why the footwear has become an emblem for a firm that prides itself on technical development and fierce links to racing…

Open a website, magazine or YouTube video and that distinctive ‘a-star’ logo will be in there somewhere. The fifty-two year old company that has grown across two bases – one in Asolo, Italy and another in Torrance, California to encompass almost five hundred employees – has also become synonymous with racing. Their roots might be in motocross and a state-of-the-art boot for Roger De Coster in 1971 that started the whole motorsports empire for Sante Mazzarolo and subsequently his son Gabriele but now the business is practically in every competitive discipline that involves a motor. And then some. On our tour of the modest but intimate setting in Asolo there is a whole showroom dedicated to Alpinestars’ push into the mountain bike and cycling world; the next frontier to benefit from an extensive catalogue of items that follow the firm’s mentality of quality, function and razor-sharp design tested on-the-road by the best and then thrown directly on to the shop shelves for us.

We’ve been to Asolo before. Two years ago we were provided with some insight to Astars’ efforts in body protection complete with neck braces, chest guards and other pieces geared towards off-road riding; meaning that Alpinestars can now dress you from neck to foot in their wares. Only the frantically packed helmet market remains aloof.

On this occasion we were allowed a sneak preview of the 2016 Techstar and Racer motocross gear that will be available and first seen in July (think lively colours, clear and big designs, black panelling as introduced for 2015 and some practical modifications for fit, weight and ventilation). What we were really after however was a detailed breakdown into how one of their most advanced and popular products among the two and a half million they make each year – the Tech 10 boot – is actually put together.

The boots themselves are manufactured in China but until 2006 they were actually churned out from the Maser building that was the original site of the Astars office back in 1965 and is now the development home and R&D site for the racing division. It is a small irony that Alpinestars have such a close connection between top level competition and their products yet the central office HQ is a mile away from this historic and important hub of their activities; never let it be said that geography is a barrier to greatness.

It is here among the exclusive MotoGP leathers for the likes of Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and co and racing suits for F1 stars that engineers are mulling over the next editions of the Tech 10 with 3D and 2D CAT computer technology. Personnel in another part of the site are constructing the allotted boots for Astars’ wide roster of racers. Before we are guided through the process in which a Tech 10 comes to life we see a cheerful lady working on a final check and cleaning cycle for some bright green and pink models. We are told that these garish ‘10s are waiting to be boxed and sent out to the U.S. where two prominent Supercross stars will buckle them up for the first time at Las Vegas and the final fixture of the 2015 AMA season. The worker is surrounded by boxes piled high with names like ‘Short’, ‘Millsaps’, ‘Herlings’, ‘Villopoto’ for perhaps the most unusual and star-studded ‘shoe rack’ to be found on any factory floor. Astars support over one hundred motocross and off-road riders around the world.

Tech 10s are part of an arsenal of motorcycle goods that are fired out to more than three thousand dealers in Europe and although Maser is located in what Press Manager Jeremy Appleton describes as “the silicon valley of shoe and footwear design” (Sidi and other brands are very close by) and feels distinctly Italian, the company has an international flavour with apparently twenty-two different nationalities on the books and English seems to be the first language in the office corridors. Much of the motocross gear is developed in the USA but the boots remain – with the history – back in Italy.

When the Tech 10 finally arrived in 2004 it was the successor to another acclaimed and best-selling boot – the Tech 8 – and surprised everybody with its augmented ‘booty’ and low cut. “To me the previous boot looked really old and it was time for something new,” says company owner Gabriele Mazzarolo in an exclusive chat. “The idea was to always have the double-hinge motocross boot. The ankle and the boot needed to move together and we have always tried to have our products provide not only protection but work together with the body and [this] became the Tech 10; it has since changed quite a lot through the various generations.”

Alpinestars’ obsession to evolve and advance saw the brand challenge their same position as a market leader with the ‘8. The Tech 8 would not go away (and indeed the Tech 7 is the biggest hit from their entire range) but its day as a flagship model of the boot collection was over. “The main thing was to have something new and that applied from the Tech 2 to the 4 to the 7 to the 8 and then the 10,” Mazzarolo continues. “People get comfortable with what they have and it is up to us to find something better and show them it is OK to change. I remember with Jeremy McGrath. He was so comfortable with the Tech 8 but we gave him something better and this is the typical idea of Alpinestars and comes from the riders’ own philosophies.”

To read the rest of the feature in the latest OTOR click HERE

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