Tuesday, September 6, 2011 Updated: September 8, 5:05 PM ET
K-Rob starts protective apparel brand
By Alyssa Roenigk ESPN.com
Grindz protective apparel has built-in padding for learning to skate and BMX. K-Rob Jr., on the left.
Two years ago, after struggling with their now 6-year-old son Kevin to put on his pads before riding, four-time X Games BMX gold medalist Kevin Robinson and his wife Robin had an idea. "Every time he goes out to ride, he wants to wear the same pair of riding jeans," Kevin says. "But he doesn't want to put on his pads. How perfect would it be if those jeans were also his pads? It seemed like a simple solution to a big problem."
A rider known for pushing limits, Robinson took the painful road to an appreciation for safety equipment. Today, it's at the forefront of his mind before every riding session. "I wouldn't have been able to achieve any of the goals I've achieved without being safe," he says. "And it scares me to watch these kids riding without any safety equipment. They think they're invincible and I can tell them from experience they are not."
After nearly two years of R&D on the DL, Robinson (along with co-owners Robin and their friend Mike Fischer) is launching Grindz, a wearable protective apparel brand, at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, Sept. 14-16. Available in youth and adult sizes, the Grindz line is currently limited to pants -- khakis, jeans and skinny jeans -- and beanies, but shirt designs are in the works. "When you're learning to skateboard, the first thing you do is loop out and land on your tailbone," Robinson says. "You constantly fall and hit your hips when you're learning to ride a bike.
The man behind the Grindz: Kevin Robinson
Even a little padding helps to avoid the scraping and bruising that comes with it." To that end, thin Kevlar pads are sewn into the pants at the tailbone, hips and knees, and are virtually undetectable. "We wanted to start with a good, quality pant and then incorporate a set of pads, while keeping the prices as low as possible," Robinson says of the $59-69 price point. "They're fashionable and they look good. And except for at the knee in the skinny jeans, you can't tell the pads are even there."
Although initially conceived for the youth market, Robinson says the response from riders of all ages has been encouraging. "At the photo shoot for the catalog, the young kids were wearing them, but the 17- and 18-year-old guys were coming up and asking if we were going to make the pants in their size," Robinson says. (They do.) The beanies are also available in youth and adult sizes and although they are not meant to be a replacement for helmets, Robinson says they offer some protection for riders who are unwilling to wear a helmet.
For now, all Grindz products, which are machine washable, are available online at www.grindzco.com, which will launch shortly before the September trade show, where Robinson hopes to expand distribution. On Sept. 3, the company announced its first roster of sponsored athletes: young up-and-comers Zane Bradley, Ian Bradley and Kevin Robinson Jr.
And although his 40th birthday is sneaking around the corner, Robinson says the start of this company doesn't mean the end of his competitive career. "I'm by all means not done yet. I Just started riding my bike again," says Robinson, who's been hitting the gym hard after being sidelined by five surgeries to his right shoulder in the past year. "I'm healed and healthy, but after I'm done competing, I want to stay involved in my sport through my foundation, [the KRob Foundation, a non-profit that encourages, supports and mentors kids in his hometown of East Providence, R.I., through sports] motivational speaking and Grindz. I want to help keep the integrity of BMX and action sports long after I'm done competing."