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Oakley Factory Tour | Behind The Scenes Of Mountain Bike Product Development

Oakley Factory Tour | Behind The Scenes Of Mountain Bike Product Development


– This is Foothill Ranch,
home not of Bladerunner, but since 1998, of Oakley, one of the most important brands in mountain-biking, for probably the last 30 years. Now, we’re gonna take a good look around, all 600,000 square feet of the place, including the part, where millions of pairs of sunglasses are made, every year. Oh and before you say,
“Isn’t that Simon from GCN? “Cross-country mountain-biker?” Yes, I am and I’ve only
found one pair of bar ends in the whole place to show you and I’m not going to wear lycra,
not this time, anyway. (upbeat music) Oakley’s headquarters are
based in southern California, just south of LA, the building itself, is 600,000 square feet, most of which is taken up with manufacture. I’m not entirely sure
what it’s doing here, but this ejector seat from a B-52 bomber, is actually remarkably comfortable. And there’s four of them,
right here in the lobby, at Oakley, along with a
load of other cool stuff, given that anyone can actually
walk in off the street and come here, there’s a shop,
that you can buy Oakleys, there’s a customer service point, there is Greg Minnaar,
taking a starring role, fresh from winning the Pietermaritzburg World
Championships in 2013. But the first port of call for us, is the museum, that’s just this way. (upbeat music) Right, well this is
our first port of call, 1975 and a college
dropout named Jim Jannard decided that motorcross grips,
didn’t quite cut the muster. Basically, as one of your
two points of contact, no-one had really put that
much thought into them. So what he did, was went out and sourced a specific type of rubber,
that became grippier when wet, he then gave it
a catchy name, Unobtainium, and designed a very
eye-catching looking grip. So that was the first product, then the goggles came
next, motorcross goggles, which look like you could use
them today, quite frankly. Those are bloomin’ cool, but then, perhaps what we’re more familiar with, the eye-wear, starts just down here. (upbeat music) These ones, 1984, the very first sports protection eyewear,
was launched by Oakley. These are called the
Factory Pilot Eyeshades. Bloomin’ cool, quite frankly. Then, the Blades came
next, swiftly followed by the Razorblade, fully customizable. They reckoned at the time,
there were 22 million different customization options and this is kinda where mountain biking comes in, including a particularly
famous mountain biker, who’s carelessly left his
bike, in the Oakley museum. My absolute all-time mountain
bike hero, John Tomac, and this is one of his bikes, I guess from about 1991-1992, carbon
fiber tubes, titanium lugs, got Manitou forks on there, Shimano XTR, three chain rings, hah,
those were the days. And look, at those bar ends. Oh, look at the bar ends! That takes me right back, that does. Now, moving on from
John Tomac, there was a really, really important
point to those early Oakleys, that continues to this day
and that was they’re there to protect your eyes, as well
as making you look super cool. And this little display
here, sums it up very neatly. So those bottom lenses,
they’ve been shot at a distance of 12 feet with a 12-bore shotgun. And that? That’s all
that’s happened to them. Which is more than can be
said for the rest of you, if they’re on your face at the time. Then you go up one and that is the result of a high-velocity
impact, so the equivalent of a stone flicking up and
hitting you in the face and we’re talking about
flicking up fast here, that is over a 102 miles per hour. Then this top one, with this quite terrifying-looking implement,
is the high-impact test. So that 500 gram weight is dropped from a height of over a
meter, onto a pair of glasses and that is all that happens. And what it’s doing is
it’s simulating a crash, for example, where you
might end up landing head-first onto a particularly
pointy bit of bike, or maybe even worse, a
particularly pointy bit of tree, and if you’re wearing your glasses, then your eyes are protected. And so that was the fundamental behind all of the glasses that Jim Jannard and Oakley were designing,
as well as looking cool, actually, they’re designed to work. And the fact that
they’re designed to work, came before them looking cool. Have you ever wondered where
the name Oakley comes from? Well, if you had, here’s your answer. That is Oakley. Found in Jim Jannard’s English Setter. Ever wondered why Oakley
Mumbos were called Mumbos? Well that there, is Jim
Jannard’s cat, called Mumbo. There we go, bit of trivia for you. Now the museum continues back here, not just for the evolution of sunglasses, and protection, but also
with the aesthetic, as well. Now in here, we’ve got the X-Metal series, which came out in the late
90s, with cast titanium frames. Super cool. Then, if we keep going
further on, we’ve also got other products that start
to appear, like the apparel, the shoes, the watches
and now, another new development, well, at
least the last three years, which is helmets and for mountain biking, a new-new development, ’cause we learnt of their Dirt-5 helmet, which was actually announced just a few months ago, and is being officially
launched, very soon indeed. This is a particularly important
part in Oakley’s history with mountain biking, because
this, the aforementioned Dirt-5, is their first
mountain bike helmet. And Greg Minnaar here,
not just a pretty face, is a long-term Oakley
ambassador, has been consulting with them on the creation of this helmet. We’ve been teased with it before, but now it’s ready for release. And we’re going to have a quick chat, with a couple of designers. (upbeat music) Daniel, you’re the design
lead here, so you can actually tell us, why the
helmet looks like it does. You’re pretty much bound
by constraints, I guess, like making sure there’s
enough coverage on the head, so actually the safety angle is covered- – Oh yeah, the safety,
the penetration test, there’s a lot that is
regulating the helmet, to be safe, which also
drives a lot of the helmets in the industry to look
the same, you know, they look really similar
and so that’s kind of, it’s important at the end
of the day, to have these visual philosophies to make our helmet look cooler than the other
helmets on the market. So we actually backed up and really looked at the emotion of mountain biking and there was a lot of
interaction with Greg Minnaar during the development
process and we spoke with him, we kind of dug into the
emotion and watched his videos and at the end of the day,
as philosophical as it was, we realized there’s a big kind of dualism, going on, right? Mountain-bikers are very
precise, they’re really studying where they’re gonna
be, it’s almost surgical, like, what’s ahead of
them, whereas behind them, they’re throwing up dirt
everywhere it can look a little messy, it can be
a little not orchestrated, so I thought, “Well how can we incorporate “that emotion into the helmet?” And so, as small as it is, maybe something that not everyone might pick up, but we try to keep those
focal points very clear and simple towards the
front, almost clinical, whereas towards the rear,
we tried to break it up into these disintegrating forms and almost synthesize our own language, coming into this industry for the first time. – So the next step on from Daniel’s work, creating the aesthetic of the helmet, lies with Chad, who you are,
head of the engineering team. So you literally make the helmet, I guess? – Yeah, yeah, we take it
from Daniel’s sketches, and we turn it into a real 3-D form. – Helmet production at Oakley
started relatively recently, I guess and that was your
first taste of making bike helmets and snow helmets. – Yeah, yeah and so what’s
cool about it, is we’ve kind of turned the book
over, thrown it out, you know if you’re like,
somebody who’s been in the industry for years
and years and years, you kind of have your,
“This is what we do.” But we don’t have one of
those, “This is what we do”, so we just try, you know and thankfully, we’ve got some guys that
are pretty okay with it and so they’re like, “Yeah,
just make cool stuff.” And we’re like, “Okay, we’ll
make cool stuff”, you know. We’re gonna break stuff,
we’re gonna fail a bunch, but when we fail, we’re gonna learn and we’re gonna have
better stuff that way. – Yeah, so when we’re
talking specifics then, on this helmet, what’s
been the hardest thing for you to get right? And to realize in terms of this? – So the toughest thing, I would say, was getting the functionality
of these guys correct? – Okay. – So that we can actually
have your eyewear stay on your head. – This is totally unique,
isn’t it, to you guys, like? – Yeah. And so, as it being a
huge feature, we wanted to make sure, like,
making a feature like this is really easy, but making it work well, is really hard. You know, you can have
something that’s really clumsy, or it’s hard to actuate or whatever and then nobody wants to use it. But when you have
something that works great, and everybody just wants to try it, you know you’ve done your job great. – Now, as well as eyewear,
the visual performance lab has had to gear up to test helmets as well and Janu is going to give
us insight into research, not actually in here,
but out in the field, so then in the overall R&D process, the overall design process, we’ve got Daniel doing the
aesthetics, and then we had Chad making sure that
the whole thing worked and then your intels, goes
somewhere in the middle, to say, you know, “We need
therefore to make sure “that it’s well ventilated
and it’s lightweight “or whatever.” – Exactly so, where we’re coming from is, we’re providing information, to help them make better decisions. What we’re doing in user experience, isn’t the final say, but it’s
great directional information. If you’re searching for
“Which way should I go? “Or what’s most important
to the consumer?” I can definitely provide,
a deck of information that says, “This is more
important than that.” – Yeah. – And here are some
ideas of what to look at, for best in class, as we
think about bench-marking against which helmet is
most important to us. So, when we started the
project, we were noticing, out in the field, that
the helmets were beginning to interact with the eyewear
and from our perspective, was that the helmet’s fault? Or were consumers thinking,
“That was the eyeglass fault.” And, we couldn’t have it be our fault, so it was an opportunity for us to get engaged in the product development and have something to
say about how the eyewear and the helmet were interacting together. – And so obviously, at
the point where you’re out in the field talking to
consumers about helmets, you haven’t got one yet,
so you’re researching your competitors
effectively, and finding out exactly what people are
liking about their helmets and what they’re not liking or perhaps what they’re ambivalent about. – Absolutely, so one of the
advantages to where we work here at Oakley, we have some of Orange County’s best mountain biking,
right across the street from our office and we
have a pool of employees that are avid mountain bikers. So what we did was we teamed up with 15 of the most ambitious mountain-bikers here in the building, and we asked them to ride in 12 different helmets that we bought, so we could understand, what do they like about the helmets? What do they not like about the helmets? And hopefully, in the end, we can get to what’s missing from these helmets. For us, looking at those
comments and pulling the analytics out of it, gave us a really sure-footed drive, as to
say, “This is the direction that we should be moving with the helmet.” – As for the manufacturing itself, well I can’t tell you
how fascinating it was, which is a shame, because I
actually can’t show you either. Oakley are understandably guarded about exactly how they do it. From the raw materials
entering the facility, through the molding of lenses and frames, right up to the iridium coating, for sunglasses though,
it doesn’t stop there, they head right back up to
the Vision Performance lab, for more testing, to
ensure that the glasses meet Oakley’s stringent standards. So this is Wayne, who heads
up the Visual Performance lab. Which is kind of like
the R&D center of Oakley, is that right? – Yeah, it’s where we do a
lot of our functional testing and performance evaluation,
validation, things like that. – Cool, and can you show us round? Can we see what’s going on in there? – Happy to show you, not
many people go back here, so, I hope you enjoy it. – Nice, come on then! – So here’s a lab. We share this lab with our quality team, they’re always testing products off the manufacturing floor. From our side, the R&D side,
we’re trying to validate new technologies, innovations, and how that really fits
within our performance [Inaudible] our products. – So what tests have you got
rigged up at the moment, then? What have you been
researching most recently? I guess there are the
new eyewear, you’ve got what, the advancer nosepiece? – Yeah, you know we’ve been
working on that for a while, but we have a couple of
tests set up to showcase that for you and-
– Cool. – … how cyclists can really
leverage that technology. So one thing that’s really
valuable for us in R&D and super-valuable for cyclists, is this environmental test chamber. – Okay. – In here, I can simulate any condition, any humidity level, any temperature and we learn a lot about products, especially when it
comes to fogging, right? And advance is really built
around anti-fog properties. – Okay. – And at some point, you get hot enough, you’re going slow enough, chances are you’re gonna fog your lens. – Yep. – I’m sure you’ve
experienced it, especially- – I’ve experienced it. – … in the UK.
(laughs) – And one thing we learned
from being on the field, is consumers will solve that problem, by sliding the frame down their nose. – Yeah. – And by doing that, you’re
just creating airflow. Right? So, we took a long look
at that consumer behavior and we realized, okay, we
can do a better job than that existing, solved by, what
people are doing naturally. – Yeah. – So this advancer mechanism,
just pulls the frame off, away from your face far
enough, to get enough airflow, to eliminate that fogging situation. – Okay. – So, what we had to learn, is how much to advance this frame? – Okay. So he looks like he’s
been in there for a while. – Yeah, this test chamber,
along with this head form, this head form is actually
to mimic a sweaty human. – Yeah? That sweats? – Yeah, this guys sweats. The chamois on there is to mimic some skin and the system in here
heats up this water enough to create steam and fog, right? – Yeah. – So we gotta- – You made a sweaty head?
– We made a sweaty head. – That’s amazing, to test
your eyewear, fantastic! – It’s been invaluable for
eyewear and goggles, for sure. – Yeah. (gentle music) – Now I’ve just popped round
the side of the factory, to come and check out the
legendary Oakley dirt jumps. And I must say, I don’t quite know why, despite knowing I was
coming with my crazy, dirt-jumping skills, they’ve actually made the jumps themselves, off-limits, which is a bit of a shame, really, because I was gonna
show them how it’s done. But, never mind, they’ve
had some half-decent riders on here in the past and you’ve gotta be half-decent as well, because look, you’ve gotta jump over a tree, straight out of the blocks. Mad skills. Now, as well as the giant dirt jumps, that thank God, I’ve not
been allowed anywhere near, there is a pump track, out in the backyard of Foothill Ranch, as well,
but even more importantly, for me, is the fact that those hills, in the near distance there,
that’s Whiting Ranch, which apparently some of the
best mountain bike trails in this part of California
and it probably explains why there are so many mountain bikes, knocking around the
offices just over there. Because most people in
there, ride those trails, during and after work. There can’t be all that
many brands that have a tank in the car park, but Oakley
is certainly one of them. I’ll have to check out
with Martin, to find out where the order for the GMBN one’s gone? Anyway, this does seem
like an appropriate point to bring our factory tour to a close. Do make sure you give it a big thumbs-up and if you want to check
out some more videos here on GMBN, then why not click on that one on screen now.

91 comments on “Oakley Factory Tour | Behind The Scenes Of Mountain Bike Product Development

  1. with I could have some of these goggles. loved seeing the old bikes. I'm gunner post another video on my channel soon cool if you guys could check it out.

  2. Everything was awesome, but the R&D lab was out of this world!!! Thanks si, the new Gnbm member!!!!

  3. Oakley and Troy Lee Designs is just for rich kids who need to feel special. Much less money squandering, way better value, and the same safety from Oneal and 100%.

  4. I reckon it'd be a bit shitty to have a pointy bit of either a bike or tree hit you in the eye during a crash if you had no eye protection on. Really don't think I could choose which is worse. 😎

  5. I sold Jim a bike a few years ago.
    It was stolen then recovered shorty after. Pretty cool we got it back.
    Super nice guy.

  6. I would love to have one of the Oakley bike helmets I use literally a tricycle helmet LOL love the videos keep up the awesome content I got a nice bike hack I would like to send to you and I just don't know how to get it to y'all

  7. Thats right near my house! Oakley hooked our highschool mountain biking team up with glasses and gloves back in the day. They even gave us some custom glasses with our teams colors on them! We used to go to their dirt jumps and pumptrack for skills clinics. I am very thankful that they wanted to help us out and that they are such a great company. Great video!

  8. Really like the part where you showed his dog and his cat while telling us how he came up with names. Pretty cool. Overall a great video and tour. That helmet will be my next, but for now I need to pick up a full face. Oakley has never disappointed me in any of their products so I'm looking forward to a helmet maybe next year for the new season.

  9. That sweaty head clone seems fine for product testing. Oakley may be branching into specialist clothing next, if they were to put a clone of Si inside that testing area. 😂

    (That is why I prefer short-sleeved XC jerseys on off-road runs: I sweat loads, too. 😁)

  10. lol I can't believe there are people asking about Si. He's just on loan from GCN 😁 👍 You can have custody of him on weekends but we will need access to blake from time to time 🤣 We haven't seen you Mr Ashton over our side for a while, your always welcome on the darkside. We have some questions that need answering on the breaking of little Dan Lloyd 😜

  11. A climate chamber! I had no idea so comprehensive. Oakley is one of my few brand loyalties. I will only wear Oakley sunglasses.

  12. I was really disappointed with my last set of Oakleys. I've been a huge fan for 16 years now, got my first pair of REAL sunglasses at 14, brand new Juliets. Since then I've had several pairs of various designs, but the first time I ordered prescription lenses from them, the first set of lenses was defective, sent them back for repair, the second set, the front coating started flaking off within 6 months…. I got the cold shoulder from both Oakley, and my retailer, each blaming the other. It's really a shame such an awesome company seems to be going the way of most other huge companies, and not caring about QC and just sales sales sales…. It also doesn't help that when you order anything prescription they won't have anything to do with you, they just refer you back to the retailer…

  13. Helmet looks really nice….I had Oakley shorts and jersey about 16 years ago and was really well made and very subtle styling, which I prefer to all the leary troy Lee stuff…. Shame they now don`t seem to offer a range of Mtb clothing in the UK.

  14. As much as I like Oakley, when I went to purchase replacement lenses for my half-x's about 15 months after buying them they told me they no longer make them – yet I can still get replacement lenses for my circa 2003 straight jacket's :-S When the hinge mechanism on the half-x's sheared off earlier this year (yep, can't buy the part either!) that was it – pile of Ti sitting in the man drawer.

  15. Loving the new presenter and his smooth calming voice.

    Haha watched the GCN version the other day, so was good to see their MTB product too!

  16. My neck of the woods! If you're still in town and want to ride Whiting across the street, check out the annual Poker Ride Saturday 10/13 https://letsgooutside.org/activities/2018/10/13/whiting-ranch-poker-ride-2018/

  17. Not sure if anyone has posted this below, but was I the only one that thought the helmet designer was describing a mullet?

  18. Being different for being different sake, oh designers. Don't you just love leaving the back of your lenses open to wheel spray (not always water) with rear glasses clips.

  19. What is Si saving up for? He's everywhere! Love all the channels, GMBN, GCN and EMBN… Not watched the triathlon one yet. But who knows if if I will get tri-curious in the future… Nah, too much running involved 🤣

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