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Meet Tony Bracalente of Ryder Gear

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Bracalente.

Tony, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I am a 12-year US Navy Submarine Veteran. I have a degree in Engineering from USNA and a master’s degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University and have been certified as a Nuclear Engineer by the US Dept. of Energy. I separated from the Navy in 2015 and began my civilian career working in tech here in San Diego. I have always had a passion for motorcycles, safety, and fashion. While serving abroad in Italy, I had the opportunity to meet professionals in the motorcycle racing community, as well as professionals in the motorcycle leather business. From Ducati to Dainese and many others, they helped me begin my journey to create the highest quality and most unique motorcycle safety gear and leather garments in the world. I reach back to this group still to this day. Shortly after moving to San Diego and starting my tech career in San Diego, I began experimenting with some design concepts I had for leather racing suits. Using my network, contacts, and a Janome HD3000BE sewing machine in my living room, the first Ryder Gear designs were born in 2016. Although Ryder Gear didn’t officially exist yet. Before long, the gear I was making began to be noticed and I was making gear for friends, then friends of friends, and when requests from other countries began to come in, I decided to expand and make a full business out of it. I joined with partners to create a logo, trademarks, obtain safety certifications, and align a professional supply chain. In January 2018, Ryder Gear was officially born. We have been growing, changing, and improving ever since.

Now, nearly five years later Ryder Gear owns over five trademarks, has dozens of approved designs, three sponsored professional motorcycle racers, attends track days charity events, works with hundreds of clients, and has shipped gear to dozens of countries. We do all of this while always maintaining the core principle that each piece of gear we make is tailored to the customers’ exact needs. We specialize in ensuring that all genders, body types, design tastes, colors, and patterns are represented and tailored too. Our gear is not mass-produced but instead bespoke for each individual to provide the maximum level of personalization, safety, comfort, and style. We do the custom design projects our competition won’t touch, and we excel at it.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Oh boy! Smooth road, absolutely not, but each and every bump has been worth it! Our business model was highly event and tradeshow driven. We run lean and do not have a brick-and-mortar storefront, so the majority of sales are at motorcycle events and trade shows or online. However, nearly all sales prior to 2020 had an in-person touchpoint before an online order. So, when COVID hit and all in-person events were canceled, our revenue went from steady month over month growth to nothing at all. We had to completely reinvent the business plan to maintain operations and keep the team employed, paid, and working. I am very proud to say that I managed to lead my team through that without losing anyone or having to let anyone go. It was especially challenging time as we did a trade show on the east coast in January 2020 (right before the pandemic) and on the way home the logistics company accidentally destroyed tens of thousands of dollars in leather gear. That was a tough blow, right before the pandemic. I do have to credit my team for their hard work, creativity, and fortitude that got us through, and I have to say thanks for the disaster loans that became available to bridge the gap until we were back on our feet. Coming out of that challenging time, we made investments in improving our supply chain robustness, quality, and speed. We are also poised to launch two brand new products. We will be releasing a line of racing suits with built-in electronic airbag systems and another top-secret project that’s a collaboration with ROAME LLC. ROAME CEO Adam Timmerberg and I met at a Ducati event in Little Italy and a Ryder Gear x Roame collaboration was born. More to follow on that in the coming weeks.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Ryder Gear LLC specializes in custom leather motorcycle safety gear. We design and manufacture CE II safety-certified racing suits (1PC & 2PC), jackets, pants, boots, and gloves. We make each piece of gear to fit each client. We offer standard sizing and made-to-measure which includes 28 points of measure on each person. We make gear for all genders, body types, needs, and styles. The majority of our customers are people who do not feel represented by the gear sold in stores by major brands. Most of our customers do not properly fit into standard sizes or are female and tired of the major brands that try to force women into gear actually made for male bodies. Ryder Gear is distinctive in design, color, pattern, and by the technology we use. We offer gear with state-of-the-art components. Our gear is top-grade cowhide or kangaroo (outside CA) with carbon fiber, laser printed titanium, SAS Tech inserts, triple stitched with kevloc, and keptotec fabric. We can make leather in any color and employ both screen printing and digital imprinting (think tattooing) in our leather production. This makes any pattern, no matter how intricate, possible.

Custom fit appointments are available locally or at events where we are exhibiting.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Yes. The biggest lesson is in flexibility and adaptability. Covid 19 taught my team and I to think outside the box and find new ways to engage customers in order to attract more business. Anyone who works in the custom business (wedding dresses, business suits, cars) they will all tell you how challenging it is to gain business over the internet. Asking potential customers to spend thousands without seeing or being able to touch a sample is very difficult, but when COVID 19 hit, we had no choice. We could not show customers our gear face-to-face, so we got creative.

Pricing:

  • Racing Suits $1249 and up
  • Full Custom Suit (The Works) $2199
  • Jackets $549 and up
  • Boots $369
  • Gloves $269

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Tony Bracalente, Scott Bunner, Robert Scholten, Anthony McCord

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