Nithrone “Custom seat covers”
Nithrone “Custom seat covers”
Nithrone seat covers are handmade in Yzerfontein. Located just off the R27 on the West Coast of South Africa, about an hours drive from Cape Town. The person behind the brand is Eric Groenewoud.
As a former Dutch professional windsurfer he has extensive knowledge in designing and manufacturing new products relating to the extreme sports industry, research and development and the importance of team riders and sponsoring. Having been a fanatic MX and Enduro rider on national level with a full Roof finish under his belt, those days there was just one medal class to enter in…. enough “ saddle hours” were clocked to tackle this venture without thinking twice.
With National team rider Dylan Donald #102 and Zygmund Brodalka Photography, we paid a visit to the Nithrone Zone MX/ Enduro track to do a little photo shoot in some seriously sandy conditions and had the opportunity to not only make new seat covers for KTM and Husqvarna but also put it to the test.
The workshop runs entirely off the grid by means of solar and wind energy thus allowing some carbon credits to ride your 2 smoker or thumper.
You can follow Nithrone on the following media platforms.
Homepage : www.nithrone.com
Moto ZA: Eric how did it come about that you founded Nithrone Custom seat covers. Knowing that you are a ex Wind Surfer that spent a good couple of years traveling the world on the World Champion circuit.
Eric: Yeah that’s been a long time ago however. We are talking 1987 to 1995 or so. Funny enough I was actually riding windsurf boards for YAMAHA Japan. In the late 80’s they gave the manufacturing of windsurf equipment a try and decided to put me on their equipment to go around the world and promote the gear. I never rode a YAMAHA bike however, but make a lot of seat covers for them now. Those were some good times. When I ended up staying in South Africa after my professional career I started riding bikes with friends and ended up doing MX and Enduro races nationally and also finished the roof. Later when my kids ended up riding bikes and started racing the seat cover production started in 2013. So we have been on it for a few years and made a few thousand covers and learned a lot.
Moto ZA: Now knowing this fact how did you end up here in SA, and got involved in the Motocross industry in South Africa?
Eric: South Africa was and is a great place to train during the European winter season and with the windy conditions it is pretty much the best place in the world for windsurfing and kite boarding. During summer there is tons of guys from Europe here to spent the SA summer. In the late 80’s there was also the Gunston Wave Sailing and GTI Slalom events in Big Bay and Table view that I came out for to compete in. In 1995 I decided to stay permanently in Cape Town to play in the ocean and start to make a living on other fronts. Its pretty hard to stay away from MX bikes here as there is a few tracks around and the free riding is plenty full as well. My mate was riding and his mate was the KTM sales person for Cape Town. So before I knew it I was on a bike and a few years later riding the Roof…… I have always been interested in bikes in Holland with a track nearby. But never managed to get my parents to allow me on a real MX Bike on the track those days. So a Puch maxi automatic moped 50cc was as far as I got to race around the house on our “farm” back in Holland.
Moto ZA: The Nithrone project you are running is quite unique in the fact that your seat covers are based on a very much green manufacturing process.Tell the readers what this entail.
Eric: Yeah we are Eskom free…all the time. Our workshop and whole farm runs on Solar and wind energy. So all the electricity we use for the manufacturing of our seat covers is “green energy”. So if you ride a Nithrone seat you have a few extra carbon credit points to burn in your two smoker of 4 stroke thumper….
Moto ZA: Nithrone has been around now for 3 years. How has the growth been and as we understand that the International market has greatly excepted your product since you started manufacturing these ribbed grippers seat covers.For instance the FMX fraternity world wide has taken a liken in it.
Eric: Yeah from the start we have been growing steadily. We are still a small company so we are constantly booked with orders. More and more orders coming in from overseas also. We have made seats for a lot of the world top FMX riders as they like their grip and styling looking bikes. The MX riders are loving the grip our seats offer for starts and cornering. The extra option to have your company logo or sponsors embroidered on the seat cover is also a big.
Moto ZA: What makes Nithrone different to the other companies out there in the world. As far as my research goes there is a load of mass production going on world wide but very few, that offers a full spec costumed seat cover.
Eric: Hard to say as I don’t know to much about the inside of other seat companies. I know that they are a lot bigger and around for longer… We are very custom and pretty much every seat we made is different. Unless its a order for a rider that wants multiple seats for his identical bikes.
All I know is that there is a few big brands from the States and Europe that are making aftermarket mass production gripper seats. Brands like Enjoy, One, BUD etc. Nithrone focuses on custom and personalized seat covers. Name embroidery and specific material and color choices/layouts made by riders. Pretty much every seat we make is different. Through research and development, trial and error we aim to continuously upgrade the quality and durability of materials, ideally we would prefer to source and support locally but sourcing a quality fabric can be frustrating in SA as many production facilities could not compete with cheaper imports and unfortunately closed down. Consistency and availability were therefore the biggest challenges we had to overcome which meant that we had to source and import from overseas ourselves. The greater part of our fabrics are imported now a days and with that said we still give regular feedback to the factories for improvement when it comes to quality and grip.
Moto ZA: The name Nithrone, a interesting and unique one.In the back of my mind I have always wondered how you came about this name and the history behind it?
Eric: When I was looking for a name it was pretty much the period that Game of Thrones was on the television and Nitro circus were coming to town. So I figured lets mix up the two best things. Throne being the seat of the king and Nitro gas being a pretty potent racing fuel. Also turned out that www.nithrone.com was still available for our website.
Moto ZA: Eric you are quiet the entrepreneur, you have set up a couple of other companies before the current one.What was your thinking process to notice the gap in the SA market,for that matter the Africa market?
Eric: The seat covers that come in from overseas are all production made in China or Europe. To have a handmade custom seat cover in South Africa for the local market in all models and years was a gap in the market. Besides the popular brands and models we make anything for any bike. If we don’t have the template then we copy your original seat cover outline and turn it into any design you like. We offer fitting and foam rebuilding, lowering and high ring of seats base and also replacing hard foam with Aerogel soft foam for tour bikes.
Moto ZA: What other services do you provide? From seat covers to seat rebuilds and even a new unique idea of protecting the foam from the elements,especially water?
Eric: Besides the seat covers we offer the 3 mm EVA closed cell foam wrap. Just a little extra item to make the seat foam from the factory, that is open cell, waterproof so the water doesn’t get sponged in and make the foam heavy and break down. Something fairly easy to do by gluing it on before you staple the seat cover on. This also wraps around the sharp plastic edge of your seat base. We also get custom bike builders that need a complete foam build up. The old days of surf and windsurf board shaping comes in handy now when shaping the seat foam and building it up with various foam.
Moto ZA: What costs would you incur for a Nithrone seat cover?
Eric: Full size Gripper covers with strips and a 3 panel layout will cost you R 1050, you can add a further R50 for an embroidered name tag. The Courier overnight to your doorstep comes in at R150 and so does the Enduro clipper card pockets.
For a waterproof foam wrap add R100 and R200 for fitting if you sent your seat to us. All materials used are top quality vinyl’s that are imported from overseas suppliers. The Rand-Dollar exchange rate has lately not work in our favor but with no local production or suppliers of such materials available to the South African market we can at least offer our customers a quality locally manufactured product. Besides seat covers we also make custom bar pads and rally bike pockets as well as minor repairs on other brands where wear and tear has presented itself. For dual purpose and rally bikes we offer softer gel foam seats as well as the lowering and raising of such seats. We also do leather style seats for restoration projects on Street bikes like Cafe racers and Classic road bikes.
Moto ZA: How did Nithrone became such a know brand in such a short time?
Eric: From the beginning we have helped a lot of riders out with free seat covers to promote the brand, do testing for us and to give as much feedback as possible to improve the product. Riders like Dylan Donald and Caleb Tennant have been with us from the start and allowed for the product to grow and do the necessary changes to make it as comfortable and durable as possible. All in all we probably made anywhere between 150 and 200 seat covers just for various team riders in the FMX, MX and Enduro scene. Top riders from SA like Calvin Vlaanderen, Dylan Stokes, Nick de Wit, Anthony Raynard, Michael Kok, Richie van der Westhuizen, Stewart Couper, Neville Bradshaw Toni Jardine and International stars like Chris Birch, Javier Villages and family,Nick Enstrom , D’Arcy Morris, FROG, Clinton Moore, Kate Fuller and many more, are or have been riding with our seat covers. The list goes on and on with names of riders that are enjoying our products out there. In saying that we have to thank the local South African free riders and the international market for the loyal and continued support. More and more people starting to see that …..“If it’s not a NITHRONE it’s a NOthrone”.
Moto ZA: You are also heavily involved with your other passion, Kite surfing and supplies services to the kite surfing Industry?
Eric: Yes water sports like surfing , windsurfing and kite boarding have always been my passion. Kite boarding comes pretty close to the MX feeling. Jumping , speed and carving waves like they are berms on a MX track. I have had my own kite boarding brand that produced all sorts of gear. Now a days I just repair kites and also sell equipment. My kids are kite boarding so we are out on the water a lot. This is mainly summertime when the South Easter is blowing in the cape. In winter when there is less water action I end up riding on the MX and Enduro track at our farm to get some exercise done.
Moto ZA: Eric, finally what are your plans for Nithrone in the future, where would you like to take the business. Any new products and services you are planning to ad to this fast growing Brand?
Eric:The plan is to keep on growing and service our customer base with the best product possible. Maybe some more accessories like pockets and tool bags and a few clothing items to add to our products. If there is time for that…..as everyday seems to be taken up by seat cover production.