Oakland Gdns. biz marries biker style, safety

Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

From the outside, the Oakland Gardens headquarters of Heroic Racing Apparel looks like any other home, but inside owner Todd McNabney and operating manager Esther Hur grind away at a different kind of protective riding gear.

Heroic Racing Apparel was founded in 2006 with the motorcycle enthusiast in mind and set out with the goal of revolutionizing the way riders protect themselves, whether on the track or the street. The business has since been churning out custom-made and unique gear to keep riders safe nationwide.

“The biggest thing, for me, is being innovative,” McNabney said. “We focus heavily on keeping people safe because there’s a need for it.”

McNabney, who started riding in 1996, said he was growing tired of seeing so many bikers killed in accidents that could have been prevented if they were wearing the right protection. He started working with unique materials like kangaroo skin, cowhide, Kevlar and more to strategically stitch together a riding outfit that keeps people safe from head to toe from bike spills at speeds as high as 160 mph.

“A lot of kids want to make their mark,” McNabney said. “But there is no reason to go out and rush without the right protection. We can keep them safe.”

And what makes them even more unique, he said, was their ability and willingness to make custom gear for anyone interested.

One customer, McNabney said, wanted to say his wedding vows while decked out in a tuxedo-themed Heroic outfit, and the team started working on just that. Hanging in their headquarters was that man’s wedding suit: a black-and-white outfit that the groom could wear at both the alter and the race track.

McNabney also said he and Hur take Heroic out onto the road, right into riders’ faces, so they never have to leave the sport they love. Their makeshift workshop on wheels travels to pro races throughout the country and offers anything the rider on the go might need from gear and repairs to suit customizing.

“The idea is modernizing the look, but with safety and style,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

The standard suit takes less than two weeks to assemble, McNabney said, but requires lots of precise stitching made possible by the business’ antique sewing machines. He said he designed each piece of protection in such a way so that riders could have their gear look unique but be repaired quickly if needed.

“It’s not just dresses. It’s hard-core stuff,” McNabney said. “For us, it’s all about getting out and enjoying the sport.

But at the end of the day, McNabney said one of Heroic’s big pitches revolved around promoting a safe mindset while on the road, whether it is in the pro racing circuit or just simple street riding. In Queens, he said there was a big scene of street crews who ride together, and he hopes his gear could influence them to keep safety a top priority without having to sacrifice style.

“My gear protects pro racers at high speed on professional race tracks,” he said. “But gear alone doesn’t protect people. The decisions they make do.”

A custom suit on the Heroic website was listed for around $1,650, while accessories like gloves went for about $250 and helmets around $400, depending on the different features included.

Heroic Racing Apparel can be found online at heroicracing.com, or by phone at 917-846-3671.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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