We Go Behind the Scenes of the SixSixOne Radia Goggle R&D.

SixSixOne have added yet another string to their bow in the form of the Radia goggle, aimed at providing high quality without breaking the bank.

With a long line in protection, helmets and clothing, how does a brand like SixSixOne go about developing a goggle? Pete had a chat with SixSixOne’s Brand & Product Director Andy Gowan to find out what that process involved in producing the Radia goggle.

Photos by Ben Winder.

Key features:

  • Large and small sizes
  • Perfect fit for 661 helmets
  • Double density foam comfort
  • 40mm strap with silicone grip for added security
  • Anti-Fog & Anti-Scratch smoke mirror lens as standard
  • Tear off pegs
  • Spare & option lenses available
  • Tear off and roll off system available
  • £39.99 RRP
  • SixSixOne.com

What was the impetus for offering the SixSixOne Radia?

The 661 product range, in the grand scheme of things, was quite narrow, so we’ve been looking at directions in which to broaden the offering, but still make sense, i.e. complement the existing range. Goggles was an obvious choice as we make helmets, and they also fit firmly within the protection world.

We’ve got a number of new product lines set to introduce over the next couple of years too, this is just the first one. Also, and slightly tongue in cheek, it’s very frustrating to see our brand’s helmets with someone else’s goggles on there

Once you’d decided to create goggles, what happened next?

Next is finding a good supplier, and one who can make a product that ticks all the requirements boxes, quality build, a price that enables us to hit the market with the right sale price, etc. Most importantly, it needs to be a supplier that’s easy to communicate with and gets the brand and direction you want to go in, this was even more important this time around as Covid-19 took any possibility of visiting them off the table.

We’ve done this particular project entirely remotely and met people from the factory only twice, but we’re really happy with the factory we chose to work with and they’ve got a reputation for good product, some very notable names in the MTB, MX and Snow markets also have products made there.

How many people are involved in that process and what do they do?

Quite a lot really. I’ve led the project (Andy Gowan, 661 Brand & Product Director), but there’s been a number of other people involved at various points. Lead sales & marketing people have been involved in the colour and graphic direction and choices, a lot of different riders have tested various prototypes and samples over the 18 month development cycle and guys from our team in Asia have been involved in the QC process at the vendor.

Then there’s the staff at the vendor themselves, the tool makers, sample development team, etc. So, in short, I don’t really know, but it’s certainly a lot more than just me doing the designs in the office here.

What did you know you wanted to do with these goggles?

The number one driver with the Radia goggles was to stick to the 661 promise, “to produce exceptional quality protection delivered at an affordable price point”. We also wanted to create a goggle that really complements our Reset Helmet, a high-quality product that defies its price-point.

At the same time we also wanted a product that didn’t just work with our products, but was attractive enough price, function and design wise to be considered a legit option for anyone looking for a goggle. Another driver for the goggle was to be able to offer it in different sizes, so that we covered as many riders as possible, our smaller size on this goggle suits our XXS and XS helmets perfectly so is a great option for smaller riders and kids.

How difficult is it to nail down size, shape, lens and strap?

The number one rule when developing a product is expect it to take longer than you want it to. We actually had usable samples in July 2019 and here we are a whole year later getting product to market. We were pretty lucky really, we got the frame shape and fit nailed very early on, then it’s all the finicky details like the tint of the grey lens, we probably used 20 different tints before settling on the one to supply, and ideally each one needs to be used in as many different light conditions as possible.

Merida Big.Trailtea

Then daft little details like the silicone on the strap, because of the price point we wanted to hit, we couldn’t get too wild here (or on any of the features to be fair) so you have to continually weigh up if adding additional cost brings extra value to the consumer and whether or not they will feel it’s worth the extra you need to charge.

On this goggle, keeping it to a single silicone stripe was the best cost-wise, but then you need to work out how thick it needs to be to stay in place well, but not too well that you can’t adjust position etc, easily. But, to be fair, this goggle has been significantly easier to develop than a helmet or pads.

Do industry trends heavily affect design decisions?

Absolutely, we’ve had many discussions on the look, appearance and features needed in gravity eyewear. The type of lens options, spares and most importantly price point needed to make an impact in an already stacked eyewear scene. You also need to be pretty good at guessing where things will go because you’re working on a product that’s generally at least a year out.

What’s the process of weighing up rebadging an existing goggle with tweaks, or designing your own?

Pretty simple really, it’s primarily down to finances and how quickly you want to get to market. The quickest, cheapest & easiest way is obviously to order a goggle from a vendors catalogue in whatever colours you want. But you need to be happy with the fact that very likely some other brand will pop up with the same product with a different badge.

If you have a bigger budget then you can get more involved from basing it around and existing frame and making some changes to doing the whole thing from scratch. Time is a big factor with starting from the very beginning, but also tooling costs are very high, so you need to be confident in how well your product will sell when you hit go on having a heap of injection moulding tools machined.

Does it take long to get a working prototype in-hand?

In this case it didn’t take too long, about 3 months from the start of the project. It’s not always that way though, helmets, for example, can take significantly longer as it’s a much more involved engineering product to develop and you need to be very close to the finished product before you have something you can safely use. Pads and gloves on the other hand are quicker as there’s generally no heavy tooling to do before the product is usable.

How many prototypes did you make before settling on what would be the production model?

It was just a few frames, but we were lucky in that respect and got to something we were happy with very early. Lenses we had significantly more, about 20 for those. Once we were happy with the features we moved onto another round of colour and graphic samples, but again we got that right and were happy with them very early. It doesn’t always go that way though. For example, a set of pads we’re working I think we’re on prototype number 10 at this point and still have some parts to change.

Beyond prototypes, what form did your testing take?

Actual testing of a prototype by a rider is always the most valuable feedback, but we do other lab testing for things like chemicals to make sure what the goggles are made of isn’t harmful in any way and there’s UV transmission and impact testing on the lenses.

How important are athletes to testing new product?

Vitally so. The team behind 661 are all riders, and we review new products in the office before taking them out to the local trails for real life testing ourselves. We’re lucky in that we have some awesome trails very close to the office, and product testing is a great reason to be out riding during work time.

We do also appreciate that our riding abilities do have limits and we aren’t going to be putting the product through it’s paces as thoroughly as a better rider, so we have a local group of trusted test riders who are all way better than we are, that we use for initial feedback and then we get our athletes and ambassadors into product as quickly as we can to get further feedback.

Did you have a Eureka moment when you knew you’d got it right?

I think for me it was using them in the alps last summer for the first time in really bright conditions and knowing that we’d hit the nail on the head and got the combo right. Then the confirmation of that came at Eurobike when we first showed them to our trade partners to really positive feedback, further backed up by strong orders from them.

Distributors are generally very cautious on a new product, and I was expecting an even bigger level of caution as it’s a new product sector for us, but that didn’t transpire and there was a very pleasing level of enthusiasm for them.

You can check out the SixSixOne Radia goggle on their website here.

Check out our other product development interviews on our Features page here.