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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…

220 miles (and a little more)

I look like a German fetishist.
Hitherto a week or so ago I hadn't taken any particularly long journeys with Aliona. Well, "particularly long" is a relative term, I suppose. For some people, perhaps 20 miles might be a long ride. It's all a matter of your experience. I'm still pretty green –– having now owned a bike for less than 3 months –– so my experience is such that the 110 miles to the Fleece Inn in Bretforton seemed like a pretty long distance.

Indeed, by the time I finally got back home, having racked up at least 220 miles in one day (I say 'at least' because I got lost several times en route), I was completely exhausted. Before that, the greatest distance I had covered in one day was 140 miles. And the extra 80 miles I tackled on my Bretforton trip just about kicked my ass.

Coming home, I started to suffer major lapses in concentration –– focusing too intently on just the car in front of me, changing lanes or turning without checking my blind spot, etc. The worst moment came as I was speeding toward a roundabout at 80 mph and suddenly realised that the massive truck ahead of me was stopped. Thank the sweet baby Jesus for good Honda brakes (ABS for the win, y'all), dry pavement, and the absence of any cars in the lane I drifted into while slamming the brakes. Because of them it was just a learning experience and I can, overall, look back on the day fondly. Here are a few pictures from the day:

The Monnow Bridge in Monmouth, Wales. Crossing the River Wye, the bridge was built in the 1270s. If you're reading this in the United States, try to wrap your mind around that: 740 years ago!

I got lost a lot. I've lived in the United Kingdom 7 years but British roads still confuse the hell out of me. What's wrong with road signs that actually convey pertinent information, guys? What's wrong with the occasional road sign to let you know what blasted road you're on? What's wrong with the occasional straight road?

Eventually I made it to the Fleece Inn, just an hour and a half later than I had originally intended. This is the beer garden –– a perfect place to spend a British summer afternoon.

The building is a farmhouse, built some time in the 1400s. In 1848, it was turned into a pub and remains as such to this day. It preserves its older feel, with very low ceilings and uneven flagstone flooring. It is a special enough place that it is, in fact, a National Trust property.

I definitely want to come back here with Jenn (she was at a music festival, so I was travelling solo), in the winter, when the pub will have an entirely different and cosy feel. That's assuming I can find it again! 

Not keen to jump back on the bike after having a beer (even though it was only 3 percent), I decided to rest and lounge in Bretforton's green for half an hour or so. You can see the pub over my left shoulder.

Bretforton's a pretty nice place to kill some time. The village consists of only old homes, many with thatched roofs. What I loved most, however, was the quiet. I just sat and listened to the sound of birds and felt the summer breeze on my face.

Eventually, though, I had to get back. Here's Aliona in the Forest of Dean, where I stopped for a rest, then decided to get in a little practice riding on gravel. There's a section in the latest MotoGeo episode where Jamie handles gravel like a boss. Upon seeing that, I decided I needed to get over my fear of the stuff.

All in all, it was a good ride. I got home, washed the bike, lubed the chain and took a very long shower. Slowly, slowly I am working toward being the sort of rider I want to be –– one who can travel particularly long distances. Like, say, to Spain...


  1. 220 miles is a good long jaunt. Way to go! The first time I rode from Phoenix to Flagstaff (~150 miles) I was destroyed by the time I got to Flagstaff.

    A little bit at a time. You'll be terrorizing Spain before you know it. I've got dibs on the Pyrenees, by the way.

    So, uh, how did the gravel riding go, by the way?

    Bretforton looks like perfect place to stop for an hour or two to recharge. Seriously, one of the things I really, really miss about living in Europe is going to have a beer/dinner/just hang out in a place that existed before the United States was even a country.

    1. I think it was you who told me that it can be done. So, I just held on and did it. The key is to enjoy the swerve. In that way it's like driving in snow. If this were not my one and only beloved bike I'm pretty sure gravel would be a hoot.

  2. Sounds like a great day even with getting lost and having the butt puckering moment at the roundabout.

    You were on two-wheels - that is always a good day.

  3. Chris:

    Getting lost is part of the adventure and creates fond memories. I don't know how you can get used to riding on the "wrong" side. I would be entering roundabouts anticlockwise and get mixed up. Good for stopping in time, and luck for lack of traffic. A lesson learned without incident

    Riding the Wet Coast

  4. 220 miles is a long ride, and is about what we do on RoadPickle. But sometimes its back roads, and sometimes the Interslab. I remember doing an Iron Butt ride and getting so weary that in the middle of riding it felt like my hands were upside-down. I kept having to squeeze the handlebars to reestablish my sense of grip.

  5. The trip up from Cardiff to Herefordshire and Worcestershire is lovely. Beautiful countryside and so much history and pretty towns and villages. What a wonderful day, I'm so envious of your trip.


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