Industry Insights | Ft. Brandon Cretu

We talk to KYT Americas co-founder Brandon Cretu about road racing, getting into moto, and KYT helmets.

In this week's Industry Insights we talk to Brandon Cretu who is co-founder of KYT Americas. Brandon's background is a bit different coming from the road racing side of the two-wheeled sport, and it led him to import KYT helmets to the U.S. He is involved with a few companies and has a story I think our audience would find cool. KYT helmets is making a push here in America as a high-quality motocross helmet at a great price point.

For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.

Jamie Guida – Vital MX: What's going on Brandon? I'm excited to talk to you because you have a little different story than some of the guys I normally talk to because you are a road racer. Not so much motocross. I think that's going to be interesting.

Brandon Cretu: Yeah. This is a new world for me as we enter into this. I'm kind of learning, and it's exciting. It's different for me. I just got into riding dirt bikes not too many years ago. I love riding my dirt bike more than I like riding my road race bike anymore. I'm excited to get involved and see how we can learn more and get into this part of the world of motorcycling.

Vital MX: One of the main reasons we've got you on here is because you're also co-founder of KYT Americas. KYT Helmets was started over 20 years ago, and we will get into that. First, I would like to get into your background. You're a co-founder of multiple companies, including Ohvale USA, Thailand Moto Tours, and KYT Americas, and you raced Isle of Man's TT races. 

Brandon: My best friend and I co-founded Rise Moto in 2018, and we started as importers for Ohvale Motorcycles, a mini road race bike. It's used by guys that race MotoGP and World Superbike, and all these world championship-level riders use them to train. That way, they can be ready for their next race. A very popular way to train for road racers is on something smaller because it's cheaper and there's less chance of getting injured. There's easier track access, and cost is a big factor. So, we got involved with that. That bike, in particular, is used for youth racing as well. They have a bike for adults to train on and a very big youth contingent, where they have a World Series for it. It's like Loretta Lynn's, where they take all the top kids from every country to race for a championship. They send the top two or three for this big finale alongside MotoGP in Valencia, Spain, at the end of the year. The winner of that gets some opportunities and recognition within the industry and obviously has some doors open for them. I raced before all this, but that's how we started our business within the industry. They're trying to create a standardized platform for kids to get involved with road racing and then work their way through the ranks and the classes to eventually get up to the dream of racing professionally. People who organized the World Championship have also embraced it. They're promoting it worldwide to help build road racing in the same way that motocross has excelled over the years. That's how we got connected with KYT because KYT was looking for a US distributor. We had done so well with Ohvale, and we had such a good relationship with them, and they have a very close relationship with other brands in Italy, including KYT. KYT talked to them, and they put us in touch. 

Brandon Cretu

Vital MX: You grew up on the East Coast and got into road racing which seems more difficult to get into than motocross. There aren't as many tracks. Are there 'weekend warriors' that just go throw laps down on the weekend?

Brandon: There definitely are. For kids, there are pockets here and there throughout the country of organizations that have taken it upon themselves to start an academy-type thing where kids come and learn from step one how to ride a motorcycle on the track. They start on PW50s, and they progress from learning how to ride up to learning race craft and all of that. For adults or teenagers, it's a bit more accessible where you have racetracks around the country, and it's just like motocross. Certain clubs run racing series, and you just go there and have to take a racing school or a racing class to learn the flags and certain things. Then you go out, start as a novice, and put your time in, and if you earn enough points or whatever, you'll become an expert. Then if you earn enough points and get enough time under your belt, you can apply for your pro license with MotoAmerica and try your hand at nationals. So, I wouldn't say it's totally inaccessible. It's just a lot more expensive. I would say that's the difference. Tracks are probably further away for most people because you can find a motocross track no matter where you live. Whereas with road racing, I think the closest track is two hours for me. Then you're looking at the cost of doing it. For me to go for a track day to ride, the track day itself, and then a set of tires, you're looking at $500 just for that.

Vital MX: We complain about $50 or $60 to go to the local dirt bike track and some fuel. That's insane. I'm out.

Brandon: That's not even including food, gas, and consumables. A race weekend for road racing if you're going club racing and you don't have any sponsors and you're running at the front, you're looking at a minimum of $1,500 for a weekend of racing, maybe $2,000.

Brandon Cretu

Vital MX: You've also raced the Isle of Mann TT race. I'm pretty fascinated with this. 

Brandon: I've done it eight times. I started road racing in 2006. That was my first year of racing, and I didn't ride a motorcycle until I was 20. I didn't grow up riding dirt bikes because my parents hated motorcycles, so I never had that. I think that's why I'm so disconnected from motocross because most people that are into motocross grow up riding it with their families. They know all the local tracks and people and connect with the industry. I wanted to buy a bike and ride on the street with my friends. One thing led to another, and I used to watch races on TV, and it fascinated me, and I wanted to try it. So, I went out and tried a race weekend. I got my license, tried it out as a novice, and got hooked. I did that for two years, and then I was in a car accident and broke my neck. I was laid up in a recliner for seven months during that recovery time. I didn't even know what the TT was until before that time. I remember seeing it on YouTube, and I became fascinated. I was obsessed with it. I remember telling everyone that I was going to do that. No one believed me because, number one, it's an invitation-only race. You can apply to do it, but the organizers look at everything from your resume to your background and what you bring to the table regarding exposure or what country you're from. You have to be the whole package. They want people that are going to be there racing it seriously, not someone who's just trying to check it off a bucket list, and they want people that have the pace to do it and do it safely. One error, and you die. It's not like if I have a crash, and I can just dust myself off. It's a life-or-death place. You have to take it seriously and want to do it. Your head has to be in the right place. My first TT event was in 2010. I went over there and helped the team as a mechanic to learn the place, figure it out, meet the right people, and get my name out there. Then I went and did a smaller race in Ireland. It's called the Ulster Grand Prix, which is another road race. I did that to get my name out there and show that I was capable because I had never even raced as a pro before that. I didn't do anything other than some expert club races. Nobody knew who I was. I was just a regular weekend warrior guy. 

Vital MX: That's a really interesting path you took.

Brandon: I went from the weekend warrior to doing this race in Ireland. I got my name out to the organizers to give me a chance. I did well enough at the Ulster Grand Prix for them to say, "Hey, you're in. We'll take you." I was also an American, which is a big deal for them. This is a big market for them in terms of TV and exposure and everything. They want people from all over the world. Ideally, they'd have someone from every country in the world, but mainly people from the UK and Ireland go. So, I did that from 2010 to 2016, then stopped in 2016 because that last year didn't go well for me. I wasn't feeling it anymore. Again, it's a life and death place, so if you're not feeling it, you should not do it. At that point, I'd quit my job because I had gotten an opportunity with a team to race full-time. I was traveling the world, racing world endurance, and doing all kinds of stuff with this guy that owned this team. I had other aspirations at that point with World Endurance, and I got to do a lot of really amazing stuff. That all ended in 2018 when the guy I was riding for passed away, and the whole team folded. That's when my best friend and I started our business, leading us here. 

Brandon Cretu

Vital MX: You mentioned you've been riding some dirt bikes. What type of riding do you enjoy?

Brandon: Around the time I stopped doing the TT and started riding full time, I also wound up getting my first dirt bike. I got it because I wanted something for cross-training. Road racers are one of the few motorcycling disciplines that try to find every type of bike they can ride. We look for ways to be better road racers. We're like, "Let's get on a flat track bike, let's get on a motocross bike, let's get on an enduro." Road racers embrace that. So, I got an enduro bike and didn't do it that much. It led me to take it more seriously as we started our tours in Thailand around 2017. Originally, we started doing road tours. We offer road tours in northern Thailand from November through February every year. Then about a year after we started the tours, we realized there was a big opportunity to start off-road tours as well. We were connected enough that we could have people teach us the trails and show us where to go and where not to go. We also had connections where we could buy our bikes, have somebody build them, and keep them for us while we weren't there. So, we went down that road. We then said, "We never even rode enduro. We don't know what the hell we're doing." So, we rented bikes from someone while we were there and went and rode. My first time doing it, I sat down the whole time because I am a road racer. That's all I do. You sit and lean off the bike but don't stand on it when you're riding it. We both went through fire, teaching ourselves how to ride enduro and dirt bikes. Fast forward to now, I would consider myself a decent enduro rider, and that's mainly what I do. I have a place 15 minutes from my house. I'm extremely fortunate to have a place where I can just put my gear on at my house, ride to the trailhead, and then it's private property. It has a 17-mile proper enduro loop on it. All the guys that ride there are fairly talented, and I go there and ride with them. It's upped my game. I really enjoy it.

Vital MX: That probably ties in well with KYT Americas and their helmets.

Brandon: Now we sell an offroad helmet, so it's been nice to try to connect into that world. During that time, we've been able to connect with Graham Jarvis, who is now a KYT-sponsored rider. I think most people in the dirt bike industry know who he is. He is unbelievable. We have him on board and over in Europe KYT sponsors Taddy Blazusiak, and Camden McLellan on the JM Honda team. We don't have anyone in the US for Supercross or motocross right now, but we're looking to get into the industry here regarding off-road and motocross. They're involved over in Europe. I don't think people here are familiar with the brand because we introduced this about two years ago. You probably have heard of Suomy helmets. Around 2010, KYT bought Suomy, and now they manufacture all of Suomy's helmets and share their marketing, design, and development out of the office in Italy. So, all the manufacturing is done in Indonesia for Suomy and KYT.

Brandon Cretu

Vital MX: What do you feel is different, or where does KYT excel? 

Brandon: For our off-road helmet, we excel in the weight of our helmet. I came from another manufacturer before I started with KYT, and I loved their off-road helmet. When I switched to KYT, I said, "Holy shit." I have a previous neck injury, I broke my C1, so it was a serious injury, and I always have issues with my neck. The weight and aerodynamics of the helmet, specifically with road racing, but then crossing over into off-road, plays a huge factor for me with how comfortable I am and my fatigue after I'm done riding. This thing weighs half of what my other helmet weighed. Hands down, it was the lightest helmet I had ever worn as far as motocross. Also, we excel with our price point for the helmet's features. We're a mid-price point motocross helmet. Ours retails for around $380ish. So, it's not your cheapest motocross helmet, and it's not your most expensive. We're giving people a very light and super safe helmet for about half the price, or maybe 30% less than what these higher, more expensive helmets would be. I think that's our big selling point. They're among the best you can buy in terms of safety and protecting your head.

Brandon Cretu



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