In this catch up conversation, we talk with the legendary Martin about his new baby – The TSG Pass helmet, 3D printed trucks and ISPO shenanigans. Photos by Ali Nas.
Hey Martin, how are you?
Hi Gbemi. I’m kinda lazy today. Need to work on a few different projects…
One is a skate project, yes. But it’s too early to reveal any details. Then I’m working on some new mountain biking pads for TSG and also a new bike helmet. Besides that ,there are some climbing related projects and my job in the timber industry.
Your sleeves must be really long, you seem to have a lot of things hidden up there!
Haha. Yeah, wearing a sweater today.
What’s your relationship with TSG?
Everything started with the design of my signature helmet. Things went well so we decided to do another helmet: The Advance, which is a mountain bike full face helmet. Right now I’m working on a enduro helmet which is a beefed up half shell targeted to faster single trail riding. It’s a cool job.
Photo by Gordon Timpen
Was designing your helmet something you’d wanted to do for years?
I’ve been working on helmets for a while now. I learnt how to build helmets by hand and laminated shells by myself which was a valuable experience. I felt it was time to take a step to the next level and design an industrial produced helmet.
Why does DH skating need the Martin Siegrist helmet?
When I started riding downhill skateboards, there was no DH skate specific helmet. My first proper full face with a visor was a Icaro skyrunner, in 2003. A few years later I met Beat Engel. He had a small full face with a EPS inner and a bolt on visor. It became my helmet of choice. However that one wasn’t certified. By the end of 2008 there was still no real downhill skateboard helmet so I decided to develop a DH skate specific helmet in my industrial design thesis.
Will this helmet make you faster down the hill?
There’s a chance it will make you faster… hopefully. Seriously, I think when you feel comfortable you’ll be faster automatically. The Pass helmet has a huge field of view.
Is safety or speed the cornerstone of this project?
We tried to combine both. A short chin guard is safer than a long chin guard. Short means closer to your face and therefore it can be slightly bigger and doesn’t interfere with your vision.
Who else was crucial to the birth of the TSG pass?
If it wasn’t for Ruedi Herger, the owner of TSG, there’d be no Martin Siegrist TSG helmet. And there’s also the demand coming from skaters all around the world. TSG’s been in the skate business for over 25 years. It was about time for them to have a full face skate helmet in their product line.
Why should people be racing with this helmet this season?
Because it’s safe, comfy and sleek! I think people should not just be racing with my helmet. It’s great for freeriding as well. Once you crash going faster than 35 km/h; chances are, you’ll hit your face. Artificial teeth look nice but they are damn expensive…
“Once you crash going faster than 35 km/h; chances are, you’ll hit your face. Artificial teeth look nice but they are damn expensive…”
What’s your job in the timber industry?
I’m working on some R&D for modern timber construction. Imagine a roof built of 10’000 different beams. All parameters need to be programmed so the CNC machine knows what to do. It’s some rather complicated 3D CAD work.
How important is designing things to Martin Siegrist?
Very important. I really enjoy creating things. I’m interested in the process, the development of things.
It’s been a while since our last interview, are you still retired from racing?
I achieved everything I wanted in racing. Chances are I will cheer on the side of the track for my favourite racers or join a freeride. We’ll see how business goes.
Who is your favourite racer?
There are a few names. Zak Maytum, Adam Persson and Erik Lundberg, the list goes on.
Is it back to full motion now?
Yes, my right wrist is better than my left wrist now.
Still living with the squirrel?
No, I moved back to Liestal a month ago. This is where I grew up and I’m also much closer to my timber job and mountain biking is so much better here than it is in Zürich.
You ride mountain bikes?
Yes, I’ve been riding mountain bikes for a very long time. Much longer than I’ve ridden skateboards. In DH skateboarding it can get very dangerous when you want to push your limits. There are a lot of crazy roads, but some of them are deadly to skate. You can challenge yourself with very extreme terrain much easier in mountain biking.
Are you as famous in mountain biking?
No. I was racing locally and took part in one enduro race 13 years ago and realized quickly that I could be very fast but bikes are expensive and racing is dangerous. So I decided to ride for myself and enjoy.
How challenging is DH mountain biking?
I’m not riding DH, I’m more of a trail guy: 10 years ago my style of riding was called freeriding, then all mountain and now enduro. Whatever. I ride single trails and my focus is on the down. It’s easy to understand that roots, rocks and loose dirt are much more difficult to read than a paved road. A single trail is usually about 30 to 50 cm wide. There are trees on the side of the trail, or a cliff you could fall off or jump down. There’s such a big variety of features and so many different conditions.
Are there any parallels between mtn biking and DH skating?
I think you need good balance for both activities.
Do you still have limits to push in skating?
Of course I still have a lot to learn in skating. I was gonna skate bowls more and I’d need to learn how to grind. I was living close to the new bowl in Zürich but now back in Liestal I’m really close to the forest so you see I’m going back to bikes at the moment… There are some more things I can learn in longboarding but I’m not super motivated to do so. I learnt how to ride fakie and do some of the standup slides two years ago. It just doesn’t make so much sense to me. I’m interested in riding. Clean lines, steep roads. I don’t mind to put a hand or a foot down.
Is there a AllAroundMTNbike?
Not that I would know. There’s pinkbike.com, you should check it out should you be into riding two wheels in the dirt.
What skateboards are you riding right now?
I’m using a Airflow Pump 81 for commuting. It’s a slalomboard with no camber. Awesome to pump and ride through cities. My freeride setup is a Fuse with Attack trucks and blue powerballs.
How has your relationship with your sponsors evolved since you stopped competing?
One of them did, yes. I’m happy to be working with Chris Chaput / Abec 11. He has so many crazy ideas.
Are you designing new wheels?
Wheels are not such an interesting topic. We all know what’s fast, what grips and what slides. Boards are way more exciting. Trucks could be more interesting, but there’s no money in the truck business. I’d love to design a injection molded or 3D printed metal truck.
You don’t think there’s more evolution in the wheel industry?
Wheels will always be round. Of course someone might find a new polyurethane that lasts longer and creates nice skidmarks but that’s not really my business.
Not if Shark Wheels have their way!
Kickstarter for the win!
How do you thinks trucks can be improved upon?
I’m waiting for the days when metal 3D printers will be more affordable
Would an injection molded truck perform better?
No, but it would look better and would be cheaper and require less resources. Look at a CNC truck. Production always starts with a block of material. Injection molded or 3D printed only takes as much material as you can see at the end. Of course you can recycle the off cuts.
3D printed trucks, the next generation?
Maybe. In ten years or so.
What innovations have gotten you most excited in the last year?
I get excited seeing new useful technology, whatever it is. Robots and such.
How has 2014 gone for you?
It started pretty good. ISPO was crazy. So much positive feedback. It’s rewarding. My helmet is about to be released and I finally have enough work to pay my bills. As mentioned before, I moved back to Liestal, which was a very good choice. I enjoy being back to where my life happens.
When this helmet is released, will you finally be able to buy that Porsche 911?
If the sales skyrocket then maybe yes. Haha.
Was this your first ISPO?
No, I’ve been to ISPO for a few years already. Tradeshows are interesting for industrial designers.
What gave you the biggest smiles there?
Without a doubt goofing around with Valeria Kechichian!
On a scale of 1 – Valeria, how famous are you?
I think she’s off the scale!
What sort of projects would you like to work on?
I enjoy working on sports equipment. Almost anything. Visit my website http://www.mrtn.ch or http://martinsiegrist.com and don’t hesitate to contact me.
Will the TSG pass come in your signature red colour?
No it comes in white with red pipings and red logo. Thinking about a sticker kit maybe…
Can we expect a signature half shell for skating in the future?
No other brand has as many different half shells as TSG does. You better check out their website: http://www.ridetsg.com
It’s been super fun finally having this chat with you. Nice to meet you, stoked for future shenanigans. Congrats on the helmet. Stay rad!
Thanks for your time and effort Gbemi! And I can’t wait to see people ride with my helmet. So stoked.