San Diego Visit: 100% SoCal HQ

Road Tripping SoCal and Visiting Brands

Part I: Company Stops

Words & Photos by Chili Dog

With a long, cold winter wearing away at the northern part of the Wolf Pack, things were looking pretty bleak. The Southern California crew took pity from their towels on the warm SoCal beaches and invited the bedraggled northerners down for a week in the sun. We decided there was no better way to spend the week than a road trip down to San Diego, visiting a few brands along the way before ending up at Strait Acres to stay with Kyle and Rachael Strait. Despite the pervasive car culture that has made SoCal’s traffic famous, it is a mountain bike hub with a massive number trails and brands. You just have to know where to look. And be ready to sit in some traffic to get there.

After battling the 405 freeway for an hour or so we got into the flow and before long our stomachs were rumbling, it was time for a burrito pit stop. At a random whim we pulled off the I-5 just before Carlsbad. Lucky for us, Drew has a knack for judging things at face value. The sign was all it took for us to make a hard turn into the El Molino De Oro. A quaint little Mexican restaurant and panaderia. Our guess paid off with some of the best burritos and pastries we’ve had in a long time.

After filling up, it was time to head to our first stop, Commencal’s North American headquarters. The European brand’s HQ just finished moving to Colorado, but we managed to catch them just before everything got packed up. Although the showroom was mostly empty, there were just enough bikes for us to drool over.

We weren’t the only ones drooling over the bikes either as Stephane had to take break from giving us the nickel tour to help out a young dad who came in looking for a new bike with his son. The boy’s face lit up, his smile growing to an impossible size as he held Commencal’s grom-sized Supreme Jr. in his hands. It made us remember walking into a bike shop to buy our first bike. Granted they were nowhere near as capable as today’s grom machines. We decided to let the crew continue packing for the upcoming move and mounted up for the next stop.

YT Industries was next on the list. The company opened a new HQ in San Clemente, CA and we were keen to check it out. The unmarked building in an industrial complex may seem unassuming from the outside, but the inside is a whole other story. Hidden behind a door from the main entrance is a massive warehouse that holds their entire North American bike inventory.

There was also another surprise inside– freeride godfather and recent addition to the YT team, Richie Schley! He was there talking about his new bike and sorting out a few upcoming projects. Having grown up watching the New World Disorder movies, I was definitely a little star struck shaking his hand.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, the C.M.O., Inga Kaufmann, took us into a recently acquired addition. Another warehouse twice the size of the first. The adjoining building is supposed to be full of bikes once construction is completed. It’s safe to say YT are growing their presence in North America. Inga then took us upstairs to see the new office spaces where everyone works. For a company the size of YT, the number of employees at the office is surprisingly small.

San Diego Trip: YT's SoCal HQ

One of the coolest spaces in the building is the workshop where bikes are assembled and worked on. Aside from being immaculately clean (they actually apologized for the mess) it had a cooled beer keg on tap, and some sweet artwork on the white board. Apparently the mechanics at YT are also artistically inclined.

With a thorough tour completed, we headed out to get more Mexican food for dinner. No, you can never have enough Mexican food. With YT having embedded German presence in SoCal with regular visits from key German employees, they rented an impressive home overlooking the ocean and sprawling mountains of Camp Pendleton. After burrito coma #2 kicked in, Inga was nice enough invite us over for a post dinner dip in the hot tub, and even offered us a couple clean beds to sleep in! The house was a whole lot nicer than a Motel 6. Thanks Inga and YT!

We hit the road and aimed south for our next stop, 100%. The company is known for their flawless design aesthetics, and their HQ is no exception. We felt like we had just walked into a modern art museum. One adorned with goggles and historical moto paraphernalia. The building has an open floor plan, with two stories. The creatives get the top floor, while the other departments get the lower floor.

Inside, the show room was under construction, but they were nice enough to show us a few trick new helmets, goggles and glasses. It was at that moment that we fell in love with the most gorgeous 100% Aircraft helmet we’ve ever laid eyes on – the Aircraft Hotrod. It’s adorned with a glossy raw carbon finish, gold flake accents and red pin stripes. Yes, please. After we laid a fresh coat of drool over the helmet, we continued our tour, checking out their warehouse and awesome Barstow Cafe. One of the coolest employee lunch areas we’ve seen. And we’ve seen a few.

Behind the main building is a set of shipping containers turned into a hang out pad set right at the base of a tall dirt hill. Tables, a bbq, and a full kitchen inside a container make for one hell of a lunch break spot. If that wasn’t cool enough, a few kick ass motorcycles were parked out front. This is a place we could work at. Eventually we tore ourselves away, but not before one last longing look at that Aircraft helmet.

We packed up and made the short trip over to Maxima Racing Oils in Santee– one of the most interesting visits of the trip. Unlike the other HQ’s we visited that were mainly for offices and design, Maxima’s building is actually the mixing, packaging and distribution hub for the brand. The office space is only a small fraction of the footprint.

After taking a quick tour of the desks, Andrew Hursh showed us the small laboratory where the magic happens. Inside, the company’s chemists are constantly working to tweak, refine, test and develop products. They also keep batch samples of every product that leaves the building.

Next to the lab is the mixing facility. Square steel bins filled with raw ingredients stacked to the ceilings are ready to be combined to form the lubes and other products that Maxima makes. The combination process takes place in the next area, where massive mixing tanks churn the ingredients at precisely the right temperature and speed.

San Diego Trip: Maxima SoCal HQ

Base oils are mixed with the necessary additives to give them the wear prevention and friction reduction characteristics they need. A good portion of the warehouse is the bottling and packaging conveyor. It was mesmerizing to watch the bottles get rhythmically filled, capped, labeled and then boxed by hand. The conveyor supervisor has worked for Maxima for more than 20 years, his movements so smooth and effortless he could probably complete them sleeping.

Across the street is a second warehouse filled to the brim with product. According to Andrew, despite the seemingly endless boxes of product, the entire warehouse turns over twice a year. We of course went straight for the SC1, one of our favorite Maxima products because of its versatility to be used to make just about anything look amazing. We affectionately call it “New bike in a can”. Andrew was nice enough to give us a few cans along with some of our favorite chain lubes before we left for some lunch In preparation for our meeting with the biggest meat eater in the bike scene, we headed over to a local spot called Phil’s BBQ and tried to bulk up in case Kyle got tempted to pick us up over his head when we arrived at Strait Acres.

Stay tuned for Part Two to see what happens next!

We’d like to extend a special thank you to all the brands that let us check out their digs:

Commencal

YT Industries

100%

Maxima Racing

San Diego Trip: 100% SoCal HQ