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Gear Review: 55 Collection Hard Jacket

Product: 55 Collection Hard Jacket Made in: Barcelona Cost: €480 (US $510)
It’s likely you’ve never heard of 55 Collection; the Barcelona-based leather goods company is relatively small and has only been on the scene for a few years. So, allow me to introduce you to a company that’s making some of the best-looking and unique motorcycle jackets out there at the moment.

Adopting the “non serviam” nonconformist attitude that seems to run through a lot of Spain’s motorcycling culture (check out the crazy/beautiful custom works of El Solitario MC, for example), 55 Collection’s jackets may split opinion because of the company’s willingness to make jackets that are fashionable – that is to say, jackets that have a strong fashion element. The old dudes will decry hipsterism or some such thing. And indeed, I’ll admit that when company founder Aitor Gonzalez offered me a chance to try out one of his jackets I naturally defaulted to the most conservative of his offeri…

What do I want?

I'd not likely be a chick magnet on a 250.
As I mentioned, the biggest revelation to come from my recent CBT experience was the suggestion I abandon my plan of starting out on a 250cc bike. Their advice, based on the fact I'll be training and taking my test on a 600cc, and that I am a relatively tall person, was to jump on up to something in the 600 range straightaway.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. It's thrown a cog into the whole daydream process. Before the CBT, I had a long list of bikes in the 250-300 range that I would sit and imagine myself on. The Inazuma, of course, or perhaps a GV250, but also the CBR250R (it's got ABS!) or maybe a Duke or even a Ninja 300 (also with ABS!). But when two instructors told me I'd be better suited to something larger, the 250 dreams slipped away.

Now there's a void. I don't know the targets upon which to fixate anymore. And a part of me wonders whether I really should be raising the bar of expectation so high.

When I think about it, one of the things weighing most in favour of a larger bike is pride. I'd feel slightly emasculated should I fail to take the advice of my instructors. And there is, too, the concern my skill level would raise far more quickly than my finances could respond. As such I'd find myself spending years feeling agitated I had been fearful of too much power, and waiting to set aside enough money to finally get the bike I should have bought in the first place.

But the thing is: I am fearful. Throughout my CBT experience I was gripped with a tension I felt for days afterward. Indeed, I'm not sure it has really gone away. Ever since, I have been suffering from insomnia and headaches caused from clenching my jaw. I feel often a sense of oppressive anxiety. I tell myself it is nervousness about other things but I think it may, too, be a fear of getting onto the road and discovering in a cripplingly painful way that I simply do not possess adequate skill.

Perhaps I would get bored on a 250. But isn't it better to be bored and healthy than regretful and in traction?

I think, too, about the money issue. One of the tactics I've employed over and over in attempting to sell the idea to my wife has been the financial standpoint –– cheaper tax, cheaper MOT, cheaper insurance, cheaper running costs, etc. Obviously a 250 is cheaper than, say, a 600 in all those aspects. There have been a number of articles on Cycle World lately singing the praises of the 250, which have again had me turning my head that way. I mean, if these are bikes that can be seen as legitimate for use in the United States, they must be good enough for the smaller, generally slower roads of the UK, right?

But even as I almost argue myself back to looking for a 250 my gut tells me to go bigger. What would you do?


  1. Honestly it's more a matter of comfort if you are tall - many of the 230s are just too cramped for some people. If you are really looking at sport bikes, the Ninja 300 is going to a much better choice IMO than the 250s - and should be more comfortable. Look at Honda's 500 cc bikes also - I don't know where the insurance break is in the UK but those will be more flexible.

  2. You won't get bored on any kind of motorcycle. I agree with Jim, it's more a matter of comfort, with your knees getting bent stiff. I'd suggest a taller bike, not so much a larger engine. Look at a dual-sport, perhaps the Suzuki V-Strom 650. Your knees will love for you it.

  3. Jim and Steve have given some good advice regarding comfort.

    I'm going to put this at the top before I start pontificating: Get the one that gives you a great big stupid derpy grin when you sit on it. No derp, no buy.

    It's pretty hard to get bored on a motorcycle (although, that's exactly how I feel on a cruiser w/ a windscreen...), but it is very easy to get frustrated with a low-powered machine in traffic. If you're going small displacement, you have to be OK with being the guy who never passes anyone. It's sailing vs. powerboating - both are good, but they require different attitudes.

    Speaking of attitudes - there are vast differences in 600cc bikes. A 600cc Honda Shadow (or other cruiser that size) is unlikely to surprise you. The power delivery is... deliberate. The handling is pretty predictable. Braking is adequate. A Kawasaki KLR (a dual-sport) will have similar attributes.

    On the other hand, a 600cc R1 or GSXR will be likely to make you - as a new rider - wet your pants. They have powerbands with "surprise!" spots, quick handling, and powerful brakes. I'd personally like to see you continue riding, so you might avoid these at first.

    As I recall, you are about the same height as me. I would suggest you look at the Suzuki SV650 (which has apparently been replaced in the last couple years by the SFV650). They are comfortable, nimble and predictable. Also the power delivery is such that it's fun and friendly while you get used to the bike at lower RPMs. Eventually, when you're ready to let loose and wind it up, well, it won't disappoint you.

    Also, there are about 100-gajillion SV650s on the road, so you'll never end up cursing how hard it is to get parts for your rare bike.

    Back to the KLR 650 - they are cool if you like Mad Max (I do), and will be super simple to work on. They are also cheap and there are a lot of them around. And if you want to go down a dirt road, well, have at it.

    I would also recommend you check out one of the new Triumph Bonnevilles. They've got leg room, they're predictable, and they are chick magnets. Your wife will not be able to resist you when you're looking all James Dean on that baby is what I'm saying. Also, Triumph's reliability has improved considerably since the days of Lucas electrics and oil leaks. Apart from that, I have it on good authority that they are easy to work on.

    All of this, of course, is dependent on your budget. If you have to have a new bike, well, a 250 is going to be a lot cheaper to get into than a 600.

    Magic words: Big Stupid Grin.

  4. Jim's right on the matter of comfort and I would suggest taking out a Suzuki Inzuma 250, CB500, etc., and see how they compare in terms of leg room and knee bend. Instructors will always recommend bigger bikes because for one, they generally look more like 'real' manly motorbikes (Marlon Brando rode a mean-looking Triumph Thunderbird 6T 650cc in the film The Wild One - imagine him trying to lean menacingly on a Yamaha YBR125 instead) and two, they have seen so many kids on buzzy sub-400cc bikes causing noise and havoc in the local neighbourhood. There is no such thing though as a 'proper' motorbike, except in one's mind. One thing though, if you do get a big bike you will probably get accustomed to its acceleration (sometimes handy to have when escaping from a car driver unknowingly pushing you into the kerb or into another car on the road) as well as the higher speeds on tap. For some though, they will soon lose touch with reality as regards road traction on two pieces of small rubber on tarmac. Over-confidence in both the bike's and one's own ability after a prolonged period of incident-free riding can lead to that unexpected accident in the first year of owning a powerful bike. I've been there, despite thinking that I am generally a careful biker and not one to take risks. Have a look at my recent post "Who's not paying attention?" The biker is always at fault in such a scenario because he should have the knowledge, assuming it was taught him, that he will generally be invisible to other road users. I'm not sure either whether all bikers religiously do 30 mph in a 30 mph zone if there's no cameras or people about. I've seen very few toodling along when they're sitting on a 750cc speed machine from Japan!

  5. Chris, you slay me. I love reading your posts. Your honesty is beautifully refreshing.

    Have you read any of my posts on about my trials of keeping my new Ninja upright? She is a lovely and incredibly spry 500cc and I was unprepared for the power she had. Although I had previously ridden a Yamaha Roadster 1800cc, it had all of its power on the lower end. My Ninja Katie bubbles just under the surface with the excitement of a puppy. The slightest pull on the throttle and she's roaring.

    Don't stress so much. You will learn and learn what is right for you. Buy a ride to last. Buy the one that gives you a boner. Thats the one for you. Be patient with yourself. It will be fine. :)

  6. For some reason, it's near impossible to find a KLR650 in UK. They just don't exist. The BMW GS series must have completely wiped them out of the market. Here I am, on my XTZ660, thinking green laning and wondering how much it will cost if I break the plastic bits, tried to do a search on & MCN and could not find a single KLR650 to buy.


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